Making the Switch to Bikepacking Bags

I have been on three tours and each time I return home with a list of items I will not be taking on my next trip. My last trip was a little over a year ago and I am reviewing in preparation for an upcoming trip. Not unlike my previous preparatory stages I am trying to lose some equipment. I will be shedding the racks and pannier bags on my upcoming trip. I have seen a lot of upstart companies that produce a new type of bicycle bag. No racks are needed and they offer a more streamlined form factor. They refer to these bags as “Bikepacking” bags. The BicycleHobo is making the conversion to a bikepacker.

That is to say I am converting to using bikepacking bags. I will still be a bicycle tourist. I don’t think my style of riding and intended routes qualify as actual ‘Bikepacking’. I mainly stick to the pavement whenever possible and that screams ‘Bicycle Tourist’.

Have you heard of Bikepacking? I first stumbled upon ‘bikepacking’ on the MTBR message board and later at a website called Bikepacking.net. It’s a hybrid off road touring and some of the equipment applies a very creative look at how we carry things. 100% rack free smartly supported bags.

I stole this list from a post user ‘Rainer‘ here at MTBR forums entitled ‘Bikepacking gear bags – who makes ‘em?’

The thing is I have no idea how I would place my equipment around my bicycle with these new bags. Lets look at the bike and equipment used on my last adventure and start stripping away some additional items. First the bicycle fully loaded:

It’s a hardtail. A 1994 Specialized Sworks M2 FSX. I am running a set of Axiom Champaign pannier bags and a Nashbar handlebar bag. I have about 40 pounds of gear on the bike, but I’m guessing that 12 pounds of that is the bags and stuff sacks I am using. I want to get the total weight of the equipment and bags down to 20 lbs using a rackless bikepacking set up.

Here are the contents of my pannier bags:

The first casualty is my cook set pictured below. I was sadly disappointed by my alcohol stove. Most of the items below should be identifiable: Heineken beer can as my cook pot & lid, Two small tupperware containers with cut out lids duct taped together function as eating bowls screw together to form the container, sporks, lighters, wind screen, small patch of scouring pad, and I have a visine bottle that was filled with dishwashing liquid duct taped up to prevent leakage, and a minibull design choke hazard alcohol stove. The stove is a piece of work. I love it but I cannot make it work correctly. The aluminum beer bottle that compliments my hobo hygiene set up will be a good dual purpose boiler pot and I will be looking to add a super cat or hobo wood stove. I will eliminate a good deal of the items below and my new set up will be smaller, lighter, and will work better.

My toolset is kind of a joke already so there can be no stripping this down. I will probably add to it. Some other items I travel bare bones with are clothing. I will be adding some clothing to the equipment list and some rain gear.


My Electronics and Solar kit is getting cut also. It works but I will be switching to a dynamo hub on my next ride. The orange brunton battery will make it into my next kit as a back up battery. The backup battery caries about two full charges for my smart phone and can be charged from solar, an outlet, a laptop, a car, etc. One quality smartphone greatly reduces the need for a lot of the items in this photo including all kinds of wires and a hardrive backup. I was very concerned about ‘power’ and this solar set up worked, but I was seemingly always out of cell phone range to be an effective blogger. Connectivity is an issue that is weightless and completely out of my control.

I have completely retired my tent and will be using a combination of four items as my sleeping kit:

  • Silnylon tarp
  • Water resistant Bivy sak
  • Lightweight sleeping bag
  • Bug shelter

I am still researching the right products to use. I already have a bivy but in hot buggy weather it can only be described as a bummer. I have the tarp and sleeping bag also. I am looking for a versatile bug netting. I’ll miss the tent but not the extreme bulk and weight. I will also be replacing my 20″ wide thermarest mattress to cut even smaller. All of these items should fit in one of the bikepacking ‘harnesses’ that I am starting to see online. With some additional pockets I could my daily needs e.g. smartphone, sunscreen, sunglasses, maps, gps, etc.

My handlebar bag was heavier than the contents inside of it. I did stock this up with food each day and it worked but I was constantly adjusting it to hang the correct way. I don’t think it was made for my riding style or position on the bike and it is heading to ebay. Everything that I won’t need for the trip…and I mean everything…will be placed on ebay.

I would not return to this set up. I covered 3000 miles in 38 days and cycled some serious country to include: Lizard Head pass, Cottonwood pass, Independence pass, Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park and had no problems. I just don’t like the bulk of the bike and I love the new bags and ideas I am seeing in bikepacking. I can cut gear and still be comfortable by shedding the nearly 12 pounds of bag and rack weight.

Here is how I see my set up tentatively without ever seeing a bikepacking bag in person:

Large Seat Bag – Clothing, food, toiletries with rain gear strapped to the outside

Tank Bag – Complete tool set.

Handlebar Harness – Complete camping set up: sleeping bag, pad, netting, tarp, bivy, wool outer layer top & bottom, wool socks and hat with additional outer pockets for daily items and bucket bags for water and addtional.

Large Frame Bag – Water reservoir, water filter, cook set, lock, pump, tires, flip flops

BicycleHobo Recomendations:

Brooks Saddles Imperial B17 Saddle: This saddle is the known by bicycle tourists the world over as the STANDARD by which all touring saddles are judged.


Topeak Road Morph G Bike Pump with Gauge: It works like a regular floor pump and you will thank the gods that you opted for this over smaller inefficient pumps.


Leatherman Wave Multitool: You will want to keep this someware where it is easy to find because you will be using it all the time.


Revelate Designs Frame Pack: Add some bikepacking bags to your set up and better distribute your load.


Thermarest Prolite Sleeping Pad: I opt for the prolite sreies to prevent hyperventilation when trying to inflate bigger, noisier pads.


Garmin Edge 500 Cycling GPS: Getting lost is only fun when you can afford to do so. This thing is made for cyclists and adventurers.
Making the Switch to Bikepacking Bags was last modified: October 15th, 2012 by hobo

4 thoughts on “Making the Switch to Bikepacking Bags

  1. Very interesting, you are far from being the only one considering and performing this kind of transition. I did several trips through Germany during the last years. After first knowing about these new way of carrying items on the bike (from the Salsa Fargo thread on MTBR I think), I slowly went to assembling a full kit myself, mix from bag makers and DIY bags. I do a bit of mountain biking as well, and the bikepacking idea fits nicely with some future projects in which the touring bike will be replaced by the MTB.

    Glad to discover your website !

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