A DIY Longflap Saddlebag for Minimalist Bike Touring

Created with classic styling, this longflap saddlebag is like a Frankensatchel, timeless waxed canvas cobbled with modern materials and a few extra useful features.

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A while back I ran across photos of Nick’s setup and was inspired to abandon panniers and try this minimal style of packing for our next bike tour. I generally find that a slimmer bikepacking setup makes for a more pleasurable ride than the wide payload of panniers, especially on single track and dirt, which is where my heart lies. On our last tour I simply carried too much stuff. I also had too much space, which naturally gets filled if available. So I decided to give the saddlebag method a try and make it the heart of my luggage setup.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag - Surly Troll

Modern materials, like plastic side release buckles and nylon webbing, give this classic saddlebag design some useful features.

It’s astonishing how much can fit in a saddlebag of this size. The Carradice Camper claims a generous 24 liters and this bag has about 23. Within its cavernous recesses I can basically fit all of my clothes, a Macbook Air, a toolkit (tubes, tools and spare parts), a pair of binoculars, toiletries, and an assortment of cords for electronics. The ‘longflap’ can also be employed to cinch down additional items, usually tube-shaped, such as tent poles, a rolled jacket or compressible pack.

DIY Long Flap Saddlebag - like Carradice Camper Longflap - for bike touring

A daisy chain, d-rings and a handle were features I wanted on the top of the bag.

DIY Long Flap Saddlebag - like Carradice Camper Longflap - for bike touring

Cordura Deneer fabric was used to make a cinching top.

DIY Long Flap Saddlebag - like Carradice Camper Longflap - for bike touring

The two dominant items inside are a Sea to Summit Travel Light Garment Bag (M) containing all of my clothing and a padded laptop bag for a MacBook Air.

I thought about simply using the Carradice Camper longflap, but I wanted to create something of my own, with a couple more features and slightly different specs. Similar in size to the Camper, but with a few extra bells and whistles, this longflap saddlebag was built to take a beating. The planning and construction process took a while, longer than I’d care to admit, but was a learning experience, and I am pretty good at the helm of a Singer as a result.

DIY Long Flap Saddlebag - like Carradice Camper Longflap - waxed canvas

The saddlebag being modeled on Gin’s Surly Troll; I still haven’t gotten my frame… hopefully this week, the clock is ticking.

DIY Long Flap Saddlebag - like Carradice Camper Longflap - for bike touring

Gray waxed canvas and drab nylon webbing make up the overall look of the bag.

Saddlebag Specifications

  • 22.5” wide X 8.5” long X 10” deep
  • About 23 liters capacity

Carradice Bagman QR

A Carradice Bagman QR makes it easy to attach and detach the bag from the bike.

DIY Long Flap Saddlebag - like Carradice Camper Longflap - waxed canvas

Two daisy chains along the bottom of the bag make it easy to strap down to the Salsa Minimalist rack.


The saddlebag is made from #8 cotton duck, hand waxed with Otter Wax. Here is the material list. Note: I estimated most of the measurements, after the fact, so if you are interested in making a similar bag, order a little extra… or feel free to ask for more details. Most of the materials were purchased from RockyWoods.com and links are below.

DIY Long Flap Saddlebag - like Carradice Camper Longflap - waxed canvas

The long flap in use…

DIY Long Flap Saddlebag - like Carradice Camper Longflap - waxed canvas

… cinched down with tent poles and packable North Face Verto 26 liter backpack.

Surly Troll - Longflap saddlebag

Gin’s used dog collars as pocket straps for her version.


Here are some detail shots. Pay no attention to the stitches, I’m slowly getting better.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag

One inch grosgrain ribbon binds the edges of the pocket tops.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag

A lot of intricate stitching around the various webbing attachments.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag

Stitching the pockets on the side panel was extremely tough.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag

Bottom daisy chains.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag

Two holes for the straps or bagman attachments. Screws hold the inner dowel in place.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag

Grosgrain around the flap; a layer of Cordura to make the flap more durable and water repellant.

How to Make a Long Flap Saddlebag (in pictures)

Actually, this isn’t a how-to at all, just a few snaps of the process and measurements of the various panels. If you would like to attempt to make one of these, give me a shout on FaceBook and I’ll be glad to help with any details.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag

The seven main panels and reinforcement strips.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag - Make Your Own

Pockets with corners cut; white lines show stitch lines to sew inside out. The grid in these photos is in inches.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag - Make Your Own

Side panel with lines showing where pocket is sewn.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag - Make Your Own

Pocket top.

Waxed Canvas Saddlebag - Make Your Own

Main panel with reinforcement strips.

Otter wax canvas saddlebag

Otter Wax Heat Activated Fabric Dressing melting in hot water. Applied using a stiff brush and melted further using a heat gun. Cotton Duck stiffened up nicely once the wax cured.

Otter wax canvas saddlebag

Gin waxing her bag.
  • D$

    Wow, those are great. You guys are getting really good at sewing.

  • Thanks, it’s therapeutic. Made a tool roll last night, just for the sake of sewing.

  • D$

    That’s neat. You should sew me some jammies.

  • A v e r y nicely done DIY tutorial on a longflap. Both this and the previously featured are nicely crafted. Thanks for sharing the patterns and instructions. I do need to point out that “denier” needs not be capitalized as it’s not a type of fabric but rather is a descriptor. For instance the 200d fabric and 500d fabric used in your project are fabrics with two different ‘weights’, the 200d being lighter less durable than the 500. Keep up the good work and by all means share these types of projects – they’re excellent!

  • How about some waxed canvas chaps.

  • Thanks Sam! Fixed ‘denier’ in both places, thanks for the clarification; I think I just pasted from Rocky Woods directly…

  • D$

    Now you’re talking

  • The overall quality of your tutorial MORE than outweighed a little grammar so worry not.

  • Moo Dang

    Nice work, If you don’t mind, how much did this project cost?

  • Thanks. I honestly don’t know because I bought more material than I needed (I have also made a framebag and a tool roll). Plus my wife used some of the materials for her bag. I would guess you could do it for under $40 if you already have the sewing machine and search for good prices on materials…

  • I gave it a little more thought and I think it may be hard to do it for under $75 once you factor in all of the hardware, wax, bolts, washers, dowel rod, etc. Of course, there may be items you can appropriate that you currently have on hand. But the real reward in making a bag isn’t the financial savings (versus purchasing one), it’s the act of making in itself. Also, if you wish to make multiple items, it helps to buy larger quantities of material, then you can reap more of a financial reward. Sorry to ramble, I was just thinking about it…

  • Logan,

    The photo looking into the saddlebag, with the drybag and Macbook inside, makes me feel like I am looking into my own bag. I understand the perception that the ‘old-fashioned’ hardware on the Carradice bags must be fiddly, but in actual use, they are quite convenient and durable. However, the stitching is not. Over time, I have reattached nearly all the leather straps to the bag. Nylon closures like this are a great idea.

    Both bags look great! Put me on the list for the next one, when you return from Africa. If you need to get rid of some extra fabric, I’ll take one just like Virginia’s. Both bikes get framebags as well?

  • Thanks Nick! Yeah I have used Carradiice stuff quite a bit. My biggest complaint is the way they do rivets. I had 2 pop on my Super C panniers. I also feel like their waterproofing is slightly under par and I really like the way the Otter Wax (can) goes on, in and through the canvas. I do like the leather straps and such though; I might have considered using leather if I had the tools to do it. I really just wanted to get my hands dirty and make one. I am slightly addicted to sewing now; I made a tool roll the other night just because I saw a piece of fabric that needed to be something. Gin’s going sans framebag and I think I am going to bring a Tangle bag and drybag within a fork cage.

  • Moo Dang

    Thanks for the info. I’m lazy and my projects tend to get out of hand. So cost savings are a big motivation to DIY.

  • David

    WOW! I keep saying “wow” outloud. Thanks for the post, very inspiring

  • Thanks David!

  • Katherine

    I’ve really wanted to make a saddle bag for my new bikepacking set up and this is super inspiring. Any chance you’ll post more detailed step by step (even just an order of operations would be very helpful) for those of us a little less brave? Sweet job, you should be very proud!

  • Hi Katherine… thanks! I am a little busy getting ready for our Africa tour (in a week and a half), so it might be hard to do a detailed step-by-step. However, I can give you a quick rundown; I know this is very loose, as it was a pretty complicated process, but I hope this helps:

    0. I would recommend waxing all of your cotton before construction… you can do so by applying Otter wax bar on the duck (as they instruct), then putting the duck in a pillowcase, tie it off, then put it in the dryer for 15 or 20 minutes until the wax absorbs. — if you don’t tie the pillowcase, you’ll have wax all over your dryer.
    1. Make the main panel (mine was about 14 x 40″) with the reinforcement strips
    2. Make the pockets: a) Sew them inside out – the bottom corners of the pocket and the pocket top; b) sew the straps to length on each pocket part; c) once the straps are sewn on, stitch the pocket bottom to the each side panel (8.5 x 10″ with rounded bottoms) — see photo above with the pencil lines drawn; d) stitch the pocket tops along with the straps and d-rings for a shoulder-strap addition (if you wish)).
    3. With these parts in pace you can use binder clips and pins to put the bag together and get the feel of where the straps need to go and how long; go ahead and do all of the straps on the main panel at this point.
    4. Do the bias binding around the entire flap and begin sewing the side panels onto the main panel. This is where is gets really tricky. I would advise doing a hand loop stitch on the corners of the side panels where the curves meet to hold it together or you will be wrestling grosgrain.
    5. Once you get that together, your overall bag is in place. Now create the cinch fabric. Do so by looping the end and sewing it off so that a drawstring can be threaded through later. then overlap that on the rim and stitch around the front and two sides.
    6. The final step is adding the dowel rod to the top back (cut to length of bag). Add two half inch holes where the saddle loops are, to 1/8″ holes where you will bolt in the dowel. I used a hole punch set, put a block of wood underneath and hammered with a rubber mallet to make the holes.

  • Amy

    those are really freakin awesome bags! i am very impressed with you two. i think you might have found your calling. looking forward to seeing Gin petting lions in the upcoming posts!

  • Thanks! 4 more days…

  • Cass

    What a great looking bag! I dig plastic buckles – simply for their speedy access – over the more elegant leather straps.

    I do like Carradice’s Bagman QR, but it’s worth popping in a few drops of loctite to the pins on the sliders, as I’ve had them work themselves loose. Running them upside down, as you are, is a great idea and will hopefully help.

    You taking your Fuji X100?

  • Thanks! I’m actually just coming up for air from making a framebag for my ECR. Hmm, so where would you put the loctite? Do the sliders screw in? I am actually taking a 6D on this one. I hate the heft, but FF and great lenses were calling for this trip.

  • Cass

    Interesting… You weren’t tempted to go the mirrorless route then? Fuji or M43?

    Apparently it’s best to remove the retaining pins, add some loctite or adhesive, then reinsert, tapping them back into place. Unfortunately, if the pins fall out, the spring causes the slider to shoot out, never to be found. I carry a spare slider/spring/pin, and a couple of leather straps. In the event that you lose the sliders, you can always remove the plastic brace, and just hook the leather straps round the metal mount. You might have better luck running it upside down – all of mine dropped out from below.

  • I was tempted. And if Fuji offered a FF mirrorless, I would have definitely done it. I just can’t bring myself go down in sensor size with 4/3. The XE-2 was second on my list, and the new Sony FF came out a little too late. I suspect Fuji or one of the big players will come out with a great mirrorless FF model sometime soon and I would probably switch; it’s pretty amazing How a DSLR it can grow into a behemoth. On my last trip to Africa I took a D7000 with a long zoom and a wide angle and was pretty content (not on a bike though). Thanks for the tip on the sliders, I will look at that today…

  • Cass

    My 5dMk2 is on its way to the grave. Now I have to figure out what to replace it with… m43, Fuji, Sony or another Canon body. It’s kind of overwhelming…
    Have a great time in Africa, look forward to the photographic results…

  • Bummer, just from shutter use, or did you kill it with bump-filled rocky descents? It is overwhelming. I have the tendency to over-research things and photography equipment has taken up a large chunk of my time, that’s for sure. I like the direction Nikon has taken the F6, but it’s still heeaavvy. I bought the 6d because of its good IQ and the fact that it’s the lightest FF on the market (prior to the Sony). Plus I got a refurb at a pretty good discount. I am hoping Canon jumps on the old-style, smaller-package, mirrorless bandwagon. I guess you could always hold out to see what develops, but, like choosing a good campsite, there will always be something slightly better right around the corner…

  • Cass

    I’m still secretly hoping the Mk2 can be repaired, but fear it’s a sensor issue – according to similar problems in the forums. Replacing a sensor doesn’t make economic sense – up to $1800 apparently (I paid $1100 for the body, second hand, in really good condition.) I’m putting it down to water ingress/moisture, though I expect the shaking around didn’t help…

  • Locke

    Nikon is making a very light full frame camera. The DF. 1.56lbs. Guts of a D4, with the body of a late 50’s SLR. Full Magnesium Alloy body as well. http://kenrockwell.com/nikon/df.htm.

  • Karl Sadler

    just landed on your page after googling DIY saddlebags. This is brilliant, not just this project but lots on your site. Really inspiring, thanks for getting things up. I have a lovely old Singer from my grandmother, and this looks like the perfect winter project to practice my sewing skills! Awesome! :)

  • Do you have an actual list of dimensions for this project? amount of fabric needs, etc? I’m intrigued by this project

  • Hi Cliff. Sorry, I do not. You should be able to get some of the measurements from counting squares on the fabric cutting pics, but other than that, I put the bad together piecemeal. I could put dimensions together when I get back (I am currently on tour in East Africa)..

  • That would be great if you have time. Really want to do this as a personal project but the counting squares option is a little too vague for me to attempt

  • Rob

    The bag looks fanastic and I’m just about to take up the same project myself with a few alterations! Before buying the fabric I wanted to be sure of the dimensions you used. So I used photoshop and the image you posted with all your cuts of cotton to measure the different pieces. Since I knew the dimensions of some of the pieces from a comment below I was able to pretty accurately estimate the sizes of the bits. I can’t be sure as I haven’t gotten around to getting the stuff and making it yet but for anyone else looking to make this the rough dimensions I’ll be using are:
    1x Single long piece to form bag body and flap: 100 x 35 cm
    1x Wider central reinforcement strap: 50 x 15 cm
    2x Narrower reinforcement straps: 50 x 6 cm

    2x Side panels: 21 x 25 cm
    2x Pocket body: 28 x 29 cm
    2x Pocket tops: 25 x 14 cm (The bottom horizontal side of the pocket tops is also 14cm long)

    I’m going to get 100 x 100 of cotton which will cover it. Thanks very much for posting this great design, I can’t wait to get making it and cycling with it.

  • Carradice bag lady

    Very interesting article. No substitute for proffesionalism and experience. Can you make this as easy as I do ? I bet not !!!!!
    Fascinating how the pockets are tough to do. One a minute is achievable now there is a challenge.

  • Agreed on all points. One a minute is amazing… I think I wrestled with a pocket for an hour. I love making things though, so it was rewarding… and still going strong on tour after 7, 500 kilometers of some burly riding. Cheers!

  • Car

    Looks great! Tempted to make this – how is the waterproofing along the seams? Also, any chance of more interior shots? Newish to sewing and not sure how you finished it inside. Thanks a lot!

  • I will try and post a follow up once I get back to the states in a few weeks… with more shots. Thanks!

  • chiakaivalya

    That bag is so damn beautiful! The grey waxed canvas and green webbing is such a nice combo. and the buckles are lot more convenient than leather straps (i love my little carradice saddlebag but would be annoyed if i had to open and close it often!) I can imagine having a single bag being more balanced than having 2 panniers at the back (I never am able to pack them to equal weight!)
    Bookmarking this DIY and will make definitely challenge myself to make this one day!!

  • Thanks. I am loving it. Not sure about balance, but I love having only one bag…

  • Jack Luke

    You’re so onto the right thing with the buckles as opposed to the leather straps. I did an identical, albeit way less pretty, mod to my Carradice saddle bag. One cold and wet ride was enough convince me that I didn’t need saturated leather in my life.


  • Yeah, definitely allows for easier access as well…

  • NL

    Thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
    <3 the sharing :)

  • AndrewO

    Is the dowel the 16″x1.5″ leather strap? If not, what is it and what do you use the leather for?

  • Elizabeth

    Hey, it looks like this bag really addresses some of the issues i find with the carradice bags. Any chance that you are back somewhere comfortable and ready to give step-by-step instructions?

  • Kara

    While researching on a new touring bikee I came across your blog. Really enjoying it, and all your DIY projects! Really liked Gin’s used dog collar detail. Lots of inspiration.

  • Thanks Kara! Good luck on your tour bike planning.

  • I know I asked a year ago, but thought I would follow up to see if you had ever put together the measurements.

  • The length of the main panel is 40″ (the width is 14.5″ as you can see in the grid photo above). The rest you can get by counting the grid squares in the photos above. Cheers, Logan

  • Whoops, just saw this replying to another comment… really late, sorry. It is used to as a layer to sew in the inside top front to shield the fabric from the dowel rod.

  • Joe

    Hello Logan,

    I’m diving in. Just going to make one of these!

    I have a question: Do you wash your cotton duck before waxing? How? I’ve read mixed reports on why or how to wash duck before using it. I figure whatever method you used to keep your bag alive across Africa is a pretty good way to do it …

    I saw your other reply about waxing the cotton before sewing. That seems like the way to get the best water protection from the material. That would have been my other question…


  • Hi Joe. I didn’t wash it… and thinking back, I think I would wax it after sewing again (using the stove/brush method). The reason being that it coild be pretty taxing on a sewing machine…

  • Robin Brodsky

    Hello there,
    I’m intrigued by the use of the saddle bag as an alternative to panniers. I noticed however that you have lots of clearance height wise between the saddle itself and where the bottom of the saddlebag sits in relation. My first generation Salsa Fargo does not have nearly that much clearance. The bag would sit much higher therefore raising the center of balance. Any suggestions on something like this for lower clearance?

  • You could try a smaller bag such as the Swift Industries saddle bag… or a seat pack like the Revelate Viscacha or Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion…

  • Max

    Hey Logan,
    I have recently made two versions of your bag design and am failing to complete the most necessary part of the process, attaching the bags to my bike. I cannot find a Bagman QR for any reasonable price online, where did you purchase yours? In addition, have you seen any memorable DIY designs for attaching a long-flap style bag to saddle loops/handle bars?

    Thanks for all the great bag beta!

  • Hi Max. I think I ordered mine directly from Caradice. You can also just loop any straps directly. Short leather straps are the traditional way of doing it. http://www.stevelange.net/2009/03/27/carradice-nelson-longflap-saddlebag-review/

  • Maybe it’s a temporary hiccup, but the images seem to have stopped loading just as I’m about to start this project! Any chance they can make a comeback?

  • Hmm, they seem to be loading fine here. Sure it’s not your connection?

  • They’re loading now, must have been a temporary hiccup with the CDN. Thanks!

  • Anton Buhler

    Hey Logan,
    thanks a lot for uploading this project! I’ve been looking for such a DIY project for a long time :-)
    I would be very happy if you could send me the exact measurements/shapes or a blueprint for this project.

  • Sorry, don’t have them. your best bet is to read through the comments where I answered similar questions…

  • Brent Holiday

    This is beautiful work. I hope to make a bag like this from some extra sailcloth for my next trip. I love the dog collars too. Does the width of the bag lead to any rubbing on your legs when pushing up hills?

  • Yeah, maybe a little. Nowadays, I much prefer a proper bikepacking seat pack, such as the Revelate Terrapin, but these are classy looking.

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