Wanderlust Monida Insulated Bag: Not just for winter…
The Wanderlust Monida is a new insulated water bottle/cargo bag designed specifically for cold weather cycling and winter ultras. And although this particular review was conducted on Cuba’s balmy dirt roads — a 10 day trip which was anything but a frigid affair — we found the Monida to be a versatile bag with plenty of hidden perks.
The first on the market of its kind, the Monida is a hybrid between a fork mounted cargo bag and a water bottle parka. Until the Monida, with no commercial options available, bikepackers resorted to making their own insulated bags. Otherwise, the most notable off the shelf alternative was the Outdoor Research Water Bottle Parka. However, the Parka was designed as a mountaineering accessory and lacked the appropriate mounting systems for bikepacking. The Monida has a removable insulated sleeve, offers just over 3L of carrying capacity, and is available in Multi-Cam or Black. Like many of Wanderlust’s Bags, the Monida finds its identity in integration and versatility. The bag can easily be mounted in a variety of manners such as a handlebar roll, stem bag, and most commonly with a fork mounted cargo carrier such as the Salsa Anything Cage. Use it as a bottle carrier to keep your water from freezing, to insulate a toasty thermos of cocoa, or even as an extra cargo carrier. While this aspect may interest many winter fatbiking enthusiasts, we used these bags to keep our water cool and store extra gear.
Even though I personally appreciate the idea of minimalist packing and ultralight touring, I’m never able to give up my many accessories. Bikepacking is my chance to get away and practice what I love. That usually means I’m carrying a host of unnecessary doodads, such as a Kindle, a sketchbook, a watercolor kit, and my camera with several lenses, just to name a few. Furthermore, I do everything in my power to avoid wearing a backpack while touring. This commonly leaves my bags packed to the brim and zippers threatening to split. Fork mounted bags have been a good solution to my quagmire. And while there are many fork bags on the market, the Wanderlust Monida has its own unique characteristics.
The Monida’s most notable feature is its insulating foam insert which gives the bag a rigid form, a characteristic not present in other stem bags. The Monida is thus able to retain its shape which makes for easy stuffing of a tent or clothing. When additional space is needed, the foam insert can be removed. But be warned, it’s a pain to put back together. I’d be interested to see Wanderlust incorporate a plastic insert in the sleeve; causing the bag to retain its rigidity when the insulation is removed.
I’m not fully prepared to review the insulation’s effectiveness in a cold weather setting. Mostly because these were tested in Cuba, which isn’t known for its snowy winters. The insulation was enough to keep a bottle cool for several hours during 90°F days. However, all indications show that the Monida should be able to keep water from freezing for a long day in single digit temperatures.
While the Monida doesn’t insulate as well as a thermos, it offers similar advantages. And for those who don’t mind adding a few extra ounces for the sake of comfort, the Monida will help a thermos stay warm much longer. Venturing into the backcountry with a thermos is a lot like packing a camp pillow (which the Monida doubles as); it’s terribly inconvenient, but sure is sweet if you happen to bring one along. Alternatively, in his Winter Bikepacking Guide, Dave Gray recommends using single wall unfinished Klean Kanteens. They can be heated straight in the fire or on a stove top. Packing bottles upside down also helps in subzero temperatures when water bottles tend to freeze. This way, water can still be accessed even if the bottom is frozen. Couple that with using a chemical hand/foot warmer in the Monida and frozen water shouldn’t be a problem.
The Monida is constructed with lightweight 400 denier coated nylon packcloth and uses a YKK Uretek Coated water-resistant zipper with two sliders. The insulated open-celled foam is covered in fleece; adding extra insulation and frictionless installation of a bottle or cargo. While originally this bag was designed as a water bottle carrier, we primarily used them for cargo in Cuba. Our toolkit in one bag and extra food stuffed in the other. During afternoon squalls I wished for a more water-resistant material such as X-Pac or tarpaulin. That being said, those materials are heavier and more costly.
At 11″ tall x 4.75″ diameter the Monida has more than 3 liters of capacity and will snugly fit a 48oz Nalgene with the insulation in place. The Monida is similar in size to its competition; the Salsa Anything EXP Bag sits at 4L. And the aforementioned non-bikepacking specific water bottle parka from Outdoor Research comes in 3 different sizes, the largest being ~2.7L. The insulation also provides excellent protection for the contents therein. For instance, the Monida works well for storing an extra camera lens or two (my 70-200L 2.8 fits snugly even with the tripod mount).
Wanderlust has gained a reputation for versatility in their products. The Monida’s combination of a daisy chain system and webbing-reinforced velcro straps makes for a plethora of mounting options. Generally mounted to the fork, the Monida can also be used as a stem bag or a handlebar roll. The Monida is outfitted with two daisy chain systems, one of which spans the circumference near the top while the other runs vertically.
When mounted to the fork, a cargo carrier such as an Anything or Manything Cage is necessary to support the bag. Typically these carriers are fastened to the three-pack bosses on a fork (prevalent in Surly and Salsa bikes, or the Chumba Ursa 29+ Backcountry build). Many forks lack the bottle mounts needed to attach these carriers and require some DIY ingenuity with pipe clamps or King Cage USB Mounts. Depending on the cage being used, the bag secures differently. The original Anything Cage is the ideal mate. The Monida’s included 2″ webbing-reinforced velcro system makes for painless removal and installation. The velcro system is very secure and doesn’t crush the bag like straps tend to. Alternatively, the Anything HD plastic cage can also be used. That said, the bag still needs to be strapped down with Salsa Straps, Surly Junk Straps, or something similar threaded through the daisy chain system. Depending on the length of your wheelbase and geometry the Monida/cage configuration can also be mounted under your frame.
The Monida can also be used an oversized stem bag, made possible by the daisy chain system that circles the top of the bag and the velcro straps. It’s worth noting that because of the large diameter of the Monida, it’s entirely possible to have knee clearance issues when pedaling out of the saddle. But this was never a problem on the CHUMBA URSA because of the long top tube and lengthy stem. The Monida’s size also presents issues with handlebar mobility, especially when a handlebar roll is also in use. But this should only be a problem when riding slow technical singletrack or attempting the fruitless but joyful endeavor of track-standing. Wanderlust also promotes the Monida as an undersized substitute for a handlebar roll. Using the daisy chain system, the bag is strapped sideways to the handlebar and accessed from the side. Moreover, it can be integrated with the Wanderlust Pinion Pocket to make a nice compact handlebar system.
- Versatility – The Monida can be mounted in at least 4 different places on the bike.
- Daisy chain system – Makes for a multitude of mounting options.
- Webbing-reinforced velcro strap system – Quick and easy removal/installation into a Salsa Anything Cage
- Large size makes it a great place to store big cylindrical items, such as a lens or a huge burrito
- It’s not waterproof
- Zippers are a bit small, especially if you’re wearing heavy gloves/mittens
- WEIGHT 200 grams Black/220 grams Multi-cam
- DIMENSIONS 11″ tall x 4.75″ diameter
- PRICE $60 (sold individually)
- PLACE OF MANUFACTURE Texas, USA
- CONTACT WanderlustGearUSA.com
This is the first bikepacking specific insulated bag on the market, as far as we know. You’d expect this bag to have been designed from a company based somewhere like Alaska, so it might be surprising to find out that Austin, TX-based Wanderlust Gear USA filled the need. My one small complaint with the bag lies in its lack of water resistance. While it is designed as a water bottle tote where being waterproof isn’t at all necessary, it is also advertised as a cargo carrier. This gripe withstanding, the Monida is an excellent option for a host of cycling exploits. Whether it’s being used on long expeditions, winter explorations, or even just a casual day out, the Monida is an adaptable piece of kit.
Again, Wanderlust shows their commitment to versatility by providing a multitude of mounting points and removable insulation. It even comes with extra velcro straps to facilitate more creative configurations. The Monida can be an insulated drink tote, a dedicated cargo hauler, or an oversized feedbag. And like all of Wanderlust’s gear, the Monida is built in the USA.