Personal setups » Economy Bike Packing
I’m mostly a bike tourist, but I recently looked at how you could apply some bike packing ideas to carry gear on a bike tour. My usual set up is a front Ortlieb handlebar bag and a Carradice Camper saddlebag. I don’t use a backpack as I can fit all my gear and supplies necessary for an extended tour into those two bags.
Recently, I realized that my front Ortlieb Classic and my Carradice Camper bags weigh 3.5lbs. I tried to console myself with the thought that a single Arkel touring pannier weighs the same, but it was no good, my bags are one of the heavier items of my touring gear. Now that I tend to tour on a Cervelo RS, my bike and gear weight is 38lbs, so my bags are almost 10% of the weight I carry.
Lightweight and ultralight tourers are always looking to save some weight so I wondered if the rackless world of bikepacking could help. The bikepacking approach has a lot in common with my rackless traditional saddlebag set up, but uses lighter nylon stuff sacks. A drawback of these is the difficulty getting at stuff at the bottom of the sack. The traditional saddlebag has a nice big opening making it easy to pack and find stuff. Also bikepacking seems to use an awful lot of bags…….
a seat bag (Booster rocket) = 11oz
a small frame bag = 9oz
handlebar harness (mission control) = 12oz
gas tank = 4oz
backpack = 12oz
…and the weight quickly starts to add up, even if you do use material that’s lighter than cotton duck. Another consideration is that these bikpacking bags are mostly made by small businesses, so they can be expensive, with a complete set costing several hundred dollars. I wondered if the truly ultralight minded (and budget concious too) could just use a couple of dry sacks strapped to the bike. That would be lighter and less expensive. Tough 20L and 10L compression sacks and some cam straps could carry your gear in a way that’s almost as convenient as a bike packing set up for a fraction of the cost and they’d weigh well under a pound.
So here is my attempt at “bikepacking”. Using a 20L eVent Seat to Summit compression sack on the back and the 10L size on the front. The bags are far from full and I have packed my all the gear I just used for a three day tour to Portland; so tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, cooking equipment, clothes food etc.
The seat pack needs no extra straps. The bag is held against the seat post by the thick fabric band on the bottom of the bag. This needs the seat post to be removed and slipped inside the band….so this is not a quick release bag. Then two of the compression straps are threaded through the saddlebag loops, but the saddle rails would work as well. Some tightening of the straps and it’s very stable.
The front takes two cam straps to attach the bag to the handlebars and one compression strap is threaded through the bike frame to stop the bag bouncing up and down. The tent poles are strapped to the top tube in this picture, but they are better carried underneath the front bag. The cost is about $70 and the weight is under a pound reducing my bike and gear weight to around 36lbs. Other bags would be lighter and less expensive, but not as rugged. The set up is not particularly convenient, but it is solid.