Salsa EXP Series Bikepacking Bags: First Look

In addition to the new army of adventure-ready bikes, Salsa introduced a full line of bikepacking bags this week at SaddleDrive, their trailside dealer event. Here are details about the EXP Series as well as pricing and photos of each…

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2016 is certainly shaping up to be a record year for new bikepacking bags. This week at Saddledrive, Salsa announced their bid for a piece of the pie — the EXP Series. Considering their history as innovators in bikepacking accessories, namely the Anything Cage HD and waterproof Anything Bag, it’s no surprise to see these products come to light. Mike “Kid” Riemer, Salsa’s Marketing Manager states, “Bikepacking is an integral part of the experience that Salsa promotes, encourages, and takes part in. Doing our own line of bags allows us to design them with the features we want, create new solutions, tailor fit for our bikes, and frankly, to help consumers enter the bikepacking world.” Note the term ‘experience’ thrown in there. When asked, Mike EXPlained that the name of the pack line came from their favorite three words: EXPedition, EXPlore, and EXPerience.

Salsa EXP Series Bikepacking Bags

The Anything Cradle and EXP Series Dry Bag

The most inventive and interesting product within the EXP Series is the new Anything Cradle system. When it was teased back in May alongside the release of Redpoint, the Anything Cradle was the first bracket mount handlebar roll system we’d seen. Of course shortly thereafter, Specialized released their Burra Burra Harness, albeit a completely different system sharing only in the general premise of a hinged handlebar bracket.

Salsa Anything Cradle

The system consists of three components, the Cradle with forged bracket arms, the Dry Bag, and the Pouch. Its injection-molded parabolic rack mirrors the Anything Cage HD, in both aesthetics and build quality. It bolts to the bracket arms via 4 allen bolts, a nice modular touch should either component have an issue. The forged arms are surprisingly long and certainly free up plenty of space for electronics, hand positions, other accessory bags, cables, or the extruding hydraulic cable housings that are common amongst the current crop of SRAM brakes. The hinged arms secure to the handlebars at a close proximity to the stem which also makes room on the bars, compared to wider strap systems. Each is clamped by a single allen bolt.

  • Salsa Anything Cradle
  • Salsa Anything Cradle
  • Salsa Anything Cradle
  • Salsa Anything Cradle
  • Salsa Anything Cradle

Suiting its name, you can use any existing dry bag within the Anything Cradle, but Salsa offers their own EXP Dry Bag with a volume of about 18 liters. The Dry Bag is a fully waterproof welded design constructed out of 420D Nylon with TPU lamination and PU coating. It features a centrally located slot and small Velcro OneWrap strap to hold the bag in place while the straps are applied during installation, a nice touch. It also has slots for the straps to keep the bag from moving side to side when fully installed. The Cradle itself has a three slot strap weave design which allows the webbing to be threaded through the cradle in a way which eliminates the straps from slipping.

On first inspection, the Anything Cradle is a really interesting and seemingly solid take on a handlebar system. There are a few concerns, as noted below, but the crew who tested it on the Gila River Ramble claim that it’s a bomber system, even when fully loaded and used on rugged trails. We’ll be excited to do a more extensive test and report back.

  • Volume (Dry Bag) 18L
  • Pros Modular system; Sturdy; Frees up handlebar space; waterproof bag
  • Concerns Cradle arms are very long/leverage; Perhaps too much leverage with heavy load
  • Price $99 with Dry Bag/$75 without
  • Availability Late Fall

EXP Series Front Pouch

The Front Pouch was designed to integrate directly with the Anything Cradle. It’s features an extremely weather fully welded design including a welded YKK #5 waterproof zipper. Salsa chose two types of material for the Pouch that you will find carried through the other bags in the line. The most visible is the rather unique matte gray 500D Nylon, which is thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) laminated and polyurethane (PU) coated for water resistance. Like the other EXP bags, it also employs a layer of heftier 1000D TPU laminated polyester at a few places subject to abrasion, such as the rear of the bag. Also at the rear of the bag, it has several slots in the outer material allowing the Anything straps to pass through and carry the weight. Additionally, Salsa added a shock cord with bar-stitched tabs at the front for added utility.

Salsa Anything Cradle Pouch, EXP Series bikepacking bags

  • Salsa Anything Cradle Pouch, EXP Series bikepacking bags
  • Salsa Anything Cradle

The Front Pouch has a nice look and size for an accessory bag. And the fact that it’s [almost] waterproof is another major benefit. Stay tuned for a deeper review of the Anything Cradle, Pouch and Dry Bag.

  • Volume 1.7L
  • Pros Fairly large; Attractive; Highly water resistant
  • Concerns No possibility of zipper replacement should it fail
  • Price $149.99 (complete Cradle system with Dry Bag)
  • Availability Late Fall

EXP Series Toptube Bag

Our second favorite of the EXP Series is the Toptube Bag, if not for any other reason than the aesthetics and strapless out of the box integration with several of the new bikes, including the Cutthroat, Woodsmoke, and Mukluk. Although it does come with a universal strap to enable it to be mounted to any other bike, the Toptube Bag’s ideal application is probably with Salsa models that feature the bolt mounts. The reason being that because the bag has only one position for the strap, it could be limiting when used with certain frame packs. Also, the steerer tube strap is fixed toward the bottom of the front of the bag, which also may be an issue on some bikes. Unfortunately, the steel frame Fargo didn’t get these mounts, nor did the Timberjack.

Salsa, EXP Series Toptube bag, bikepacking bags

  • Salsa, EXP Series Toptube bag, bikepacking bags
  • Salsa, EXP Series Toptube bag, bikepacking bags
  • Salsa, EXP Series Toptube bag, bikepacking bags
  • Salsa, EXP Series Toptube bag, bikepacking bags
  • Salsa, EXP Series Toptube bag, bikepacking bags
  • Volume 1.2L
  • Pros Fairly large; Attractive; Highly water resistant
  • Concerns Might be too big for some; Non moveable strap positions
  • Price $49.99
  • Availability Late Fall

EXP Series Cutthroat Framepack

Salsa rolled out their Framepack line with a version specific to the Cutthroat. Ultimately, there will be similar bags for the new Woodsmoke, Timberjack, Mukluk, and Fargo. Like the other bags previously mentioned, the Framepack features an extremely weather resistant design with fully welded waterproof zippers. It has a Velcro divider on the interior for separating a water-bladder or other items, and a D-ring at the hose exit to keep a water-bladder from compressing itself in the bottom of the bag.

Salsa EXP Series Cutthroat Framepack

  • Salsa EXP Series Cutthroat Framepack
  • Salsa EXP Series Cutthroat Framepack

The hallmark characteristic of the Framepack, and the one that will help them sell, is the ability to have a perfect fit design for a new bike, right out of the store. And it’s a nice looking bag, although not without flaws. One might be concerned with the zipper as we all know that frame bag zippers break. The newer Ranger frame bags feature a zipper twice this size. However for those who need a bag for just the occasional trip, this will more than likely be fine. Another oddity I would take issue with is the width of the bag. It’s very slim, and for folks who like to use a frame bag for sleeping gear, a cooking pot, or other such bulky items, the Framepack will fall short. However, for a water bladder or other such slender items, it should work well.

  • Volume 3.5L(S)/4.5L(M)/5.2L(L)/6.1L(XL)
  • Pros Matte gray is a nice minimal aesthetic; Highly water resistant
  • Concerns Way too slim; Not good for overstuffing
  • Price $119.99
  • Availability Late Fall

EXP Series Seatpack

The EXP seat pack is pretty basic in design and very similar to a lot of other bags currently on the market. However, Salsa created the bag with a fully waterproof welded design using mostly 500D PU coated nylon with the more durable 1000D material strategically placed in high wear areas. Like most seat packs in this class, it attaches via two seat rail straps and a single seatpost strap.

Salsa EXP Series Seatpack, bikepacking bags

  • Salsa EXP Series Seatpack, bikepacking bags
  • Salsa EXP Series Seatpack, bikepacking bags

A couple additional touches to note are the blinkie light slots at the bag’s rear (when rolled), and the shock cord system at the top. Overall the seat pack has a nice minimal design with a few likable features. However, without a stabilizer system, it seems as if it would have quite a bit of movement when loaded towards capacity.

  • Volume (Dry Bag) 6-14L
  • Pros Good size range; Fully waterproof
  • Concerns No stabilizer system
  • Price $119.99
  • Availability December
  • mikeetheviking

    Dang, Way to go Salsa! Everything looks killer… that fabric looks good! Absolutely loving the H-bar bag system! A+

  • Ian Connelly

    Is it just me or is the trend towards making gear only in black (especially in light if the identically hued Specialized bags)? PR or ON or even Apidura were smart to not make only monochrome gear imho.

  • Doug Nielsen

    Ok so these look awesome BUT–the seat pack is identical to Revelate? However, I do love the look of these. The harness system looks killer!

  • Yeah, the seat pack is pretty consistent with most others, although it’s waterproof.

  • Yeah, color is nice… Both Salsa, Ortlieb and Spesh probably chose a uniform material based on PU coating. I would imagine doing several colors would substantially up the overhead; just a guess though.

  • JP

    Where are all of these bags made? Salsa was using US manufacturing (revelate) for their old bags.

  • I know they will continue to use Revelate for many frame bags for bike models that aren’t listed above. I will try to find out where the new ones are made and update this …

  • Jonathan Whitney

    Regarding the anything cradle: I would agree that the arms seem a bit long. From the side shot of the arms, it would appear that a machine shop could easily make them a good bit shorter. I might actually pick this up and do that as I have access to a mill and this looks like a huge improvement on my previous DIY harness.

  • Hunter

    Actually, I’d say the Oveja Negra bag is a little different, as it also has a single, centered rear compression strap to cinch the roll closure down. The EXP is more in line with the Revelate bags and many others that just have the two seat rail straps and the seat post velcro.

  • Steve Fuller

    Of all of these, the front cradle system is of the most interest to me. I’ll be interested in what their suggested weight limit (if any) will be for the system once it ships. I’ll also assume that this won’t be usable with any carbon bars due to the pressure from those clamps. :)

  • Daniel

    Regarding your quote: “the Anything Cradle was the first bracket mount handlebar roll system we’d seen.” I guess you never looked at the Blackburn Outpost handlebar system? That’s been out over 1.5 years. I know it looks cheesy but I have been blown away by the stability.

  • Yeah, we need to give that a look as well!

  • Jamie Lent

    I’m very intrigued by the anything cradle. My bike has cable stops mounted on the head tube, so no amount of cable slack or foam spacers will prevent them from being crushed by a handlebar roll. I’ve taken to using aero bars and strapping a drybag to the underside of the bars, which spaces it out far enough to not crush the cables. However, I’d love to not need aero bars to carry a front bag.

    The issue I’ve seen with all these front mounts (Salsa, Blackburn, and Specialized) is that they are WAY overbuilt for my needs. My sleeping kit that I usually shove up there falls in the 1-3lbs depending on the season, so adding a 1lb hunk of mount is comically inefficient. I have grand ideas of a super low profile version of the Salsa mount using a slightly custom Manything Cage…

  • Dan Clark

    I’m just curious if anyone knows what the distance is between the arms of the Anything Cradle where they mount on the handlebar so that I can figure out if they will work with aero bars?

  • Mark

    Seatpost bag looks good but the frame bag and top tube bag looks cheap

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