Bikepacking Bags: The Big 3 + Tips for Choosing the right set-up

female bikepacker pedaling down remote dirt road on the White Rim Trail in Utah's Canyonlands

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Bikepacking bags are a big decision when it comes to choosing the right gear for your set-up. You want to find the balance between carrying all the essentials (plus maybe some luxury items) and not weighing down your bike too much so that you can only manage to pedal a few miles a day.

I’ll preface this post by saying that there is no one right way to pack your bike or carry your gear. It’s also important to point out that different trips are going to require different bikepacking bag setups. For example, if I’m heading out on a two-night mostly singletrack adventure I’ll choose different bags than if I were to head out on a two-week gravel ride.

This post is meant to give a broad overview of what types of bikepacking bags are available and when you might use them, and provide a few tips on how best to pack your bike for bikepacking.

Let’s dive in!

The Big Three

There are a lot of different options when it comes to bikepacking bags, but most set-ups will have the big three:

  1. Frame bag
  2. Handlebar roll/bag
  3. Seat post bag

Below I’ll run through each bag, what they’re best used for, and my top picks for each.

Becky standing next to Cathedral Valley sign with loaded bikepacking bike

1. Frame Bag

Frame bags a designed to fit within the frame triangle of a bike. The problem is, there are very few bikes that have the same frame measurements. This means you need to measure your frame triangle carefully before buying a frame bag.

Better yet, you can order a custom-made frame bag that is specifically cut for your bike. They are more expensive, but you’ll be getting a product that actually fits your bike.

If you plan on bikepacking with a full-suspension bike, a custom frame bag may be the only way you can go in order to fit around the rear shock.

Tips for choosing a frame bag

When choosing a bikepacking frame bag, there are a few things you want to look at to make sure it is high-quality, durable, and will actually fit your bike:

  • Assess its zippers: Many companies either try to cut weight or reduce costs by slapping on low-quality zippers. A broken or stuck zipper can be a huge pain in the butt when you’re out in the middle of nowhere. Make sure that whatever frame bag you choose has a burly zipper that won’t fail you after a few tours.
  • Take measurements! Seriously. This will save you time, money, and headaches. Make sure the frame bag you want will actually fit the front triangle of your bike. Most good bikepacking bag brands will have a sizing tool on their website or instructions on how to measure your front triangle.
  • What shape do you want or need? Frame bags don’t just come in a triangle shape. For example, you can get a simple top tube bag that runs parallel to the top tube to allow room for a water bottle or rear shock underneath, among other alternative options.
  • Decide how you want to attach it: Most bikepacking frame bags attach to your bike with velcro straps, but there are other options. Some bags have braze-on attachments that allow you to screw into braze-ons on your frame for extra stability. Others can be laced on for more of an aesthetic look.
custom frame bag

Rogue Panda Custom frame bag

Rogue Panda has long been a favorite for bikepacking gear because they really care about the quality and functionality of their gear.

Their frame bags are totally customized to your bike and they can make a bag for virtually any make and model. Plus, you get to choose fun colors and patterns!

>> Where to Shop:

universal frame bag

Ortlieb Frame Pack

If you don’t need or want to go the custom frame bag route, check out the Ortleib frame packs. It comes in two sizes, 4L and 6L, and fits most rigid or hardtail bikes.

Made with Ortleib’s legendary waterproof material and burly zippers, these will last a long time.

>> Where to Shop:

2. Handlebar Roll/Bag

I feel like the bikepacking world is still trying to figure out the best way to attach a bag to the handlebars.

Currently, there are two options:

  1. A fixed roll that stays on your bike throughout your ride
  2. A handlebar harness that allows you to remove a dry bag for easier access to your gear.

I’ve used both, and I definitely lean toward the harness because it’s more versatile, but the roll is a great option, too, and can be more secure.

TIP: Whichever design you decide to go with, it’s a really good idea to apply some bike protection like electrical tape to the areas on your bike frame and fork that will come into contact with your handlebar bag to prevent abrasion and wear.

Fixed rolls

Fixed handlebar rolls are meant to stay attached to your bike throughout your bikepacking trip. They’re usually a bit tricky to strap on initially, but once you have them attached they shouldn’t bounce around or come loose.

Gear can be loaded and unloaded into the bag on either end and then compressed by rolling down the ends and snapping the clips together.

Choose a fixed handlebar roll if:

  • You want a bag that is securely attached to your bike at all times, reducing as much bounce and movement as possible
  • You don’t need to bring your gear into your tent, hotel, or out of the rain
  • You won’t be using public transportation (which usually requires you to remove your handlebar bag)
handlebar roll

Ortlieb Handlebar Pack

Again, I think Ortlieb makes high-quality and durable gear and their handlebar pack is no different. It’s definitely not the lights roll out there, but it will keep your gear dry and secure. It also has some webbing on the front, so you can stuff a jacket or extra layer without needing to open it up.

It comes in two size options: 9L and 15L.

>> Where to Shop:

Handlebar harnesses

Handlebar harnesses are designed to work with a removable dry bag that can be loaded and unloaded into the harness.

The harness stays on the bike throughout your entire trip, but you’re free to remove the dry bag whenever you want.

Woman bikepacking attaching handlebar roll to front of bike in dispersed campsite
Michelle securing her dry bag back into the Rogue Panda Canelo handlebar harness

Choose a handlebar harness if:

  • You want to be able to remove your dry bag from your bike
  • You want to be able to choose different size dry bags depending on how much gear you need to carry for each trip
  • You need to work around mountain bike cables (fixed handlebar rolls will work with mountain bike cables, but they’re typically a lot more fiddling you need)
handlebar harness

Rogue Panda Canelo

The Rogue Panda Canelo handlebar harness is relatively new, but it has undergone a lot of R&D. It’s pretty cool. It does take some finagling to get it on, but once it’s secured, you really don’t have to touch it during your trip.

It’s designed to be used with any dry bag, which you can also purchase from Rogue Panda.

>> Where to Shop:

3. Seat Post Bags

Seat post bags for bikepacking have come a long way over the last few years and now there are a number of options to choose from.

Like the handlebar bags, you have two options when it comes to saddlebags:

  1. A fixed bag that stays attached to your seat post
  2. A harness with a removable dry bag

If I had to choose between a harness-style and a fixed bag, again, I prefer the harness. Being able to remove your bag from your bike makes camping and packing up a lot faster and easier.

On the flip side, fixed bags can typically hold more gear and you can really compress them down tight so it doesn’t sag or jostle around.

In the future, I do think that most brands will be moving toward the harness system for saddle bags.

HAVE A DROPPER POST? Some seat post bags are compatible with dropper posts (see the Rogue Panda Ripsey below), and others are not. If you want to use your seat post bag on a dropper post, the Wolf Tooth Valais may work. You’ll have better luck using it with smaller-sized seat post bags (10L or less) and you will lose a little bit of range on your dropper post.

seat post bag

Rockgeist Gondola

If you want a fixed seat post bag, the Rockgeist Gondola takes the cake. It’s designed to be compact and stable, and it can be used with dropper posts.

If you buy from Rockgiest, you know you’re getting quality gear.

>> Where to Shop:

seat post harness

Rogue Panda Ripsey

The Rogue Panda Ripsey consists of a lightweight injection-molded harness that cradles a removable dry bag.

Simple in its design, it’s remarkably stable and light. Plus, you can opt to use it with the Wolf Tooth Valais clamp to make it compatible with your dropper post.

>> Where to Shop:

Mountain bike resting against trail sign in Prescott, Arizona. Bike has a seat post bag
Testing out the Rogue Panda Ripsey seat post bag in Prescott

Additional Bikepacking Bags

The frame bag, handlebar roll, and seat post bag are the biggest ticket items when it comes to bikepacking bags, but there are lots more options for carrying gear.

Panniers + Rack

Panniers are a good option if you need to carry a lot of extra gear, but I don’t recommend using them if you don’t need absolutely to, especially if you’re planning on doing singletrack-heavy bikepacking.

Large panniers can get in the way of pedaling or hike-a-biking and they can make your bike ridiculously heavy if you’re not careful with what you fill them with. They will also bounce around a lot on rocks and roots no matter how secure you try to make them.

That being said, sometimes you need to carry a lot of extra water or gear, and in that case, having panniers on front and/or rear racks can be helpful.

For a rack, check out Old Man Mountain Racks, which are designed to work on pretty much any bike regardless of braze-ons and dropouts. I’m also really curious about this Aeroe system, which looks pretty rad.

Here are a few panniers to check out for bikepacking:

Becky standing next to fully loaded bikepacking bike looking back at camera with expansive views of Utah's Canyonlands and the White Rim Trail behind her
I used two Ortlieb Gravel Panniers on my 4-day White Rim trip because I needed to carry 12L of water

Cockpit & top tube bags

Cockpit and top tube bags are great for small items like a multi-tool, snacks, sunscreen, and other items that you need frequent and easy access to.

There are a ton of different options out there. Here are a few of my favorites:

A Backpack

I actually prefer to wear a backpack on short 1-2 night trips, especially if it’s singletrack heavy. You’ll find that mountain bikes just don’t handle the same when loaded with gear, so if you want optimal fun on downhills during your trip, a backpack is the way to go.

bikepacking backpack

Osprey Mira 34/Manta 32

Designed for overnight missions, the Osprey Mira (women’s) and Osprey Manta (men’s) are perfect for short bikepacking trips.

They have a 3D mesh back panel for airflow, they’re super comfortable and distribute weight well, they have a water reservoir, and they can hold a ton of gear.

Mountain biker riding bike on singletrack trail in Colorado with beautiful mountain views.
Andy wearing his Osprey Manta backpack on our San Juan hut-to-hut trip from Telluride to Moab

Bikepacking bag companies

Now that you have a good idea of the different types of bikepacking bags available, I encourage you to go do your own research into brands, styles, and products. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.

Here is a list of bikepacking bag & gear companies to get you started:


Just getting into bikepacking or looking for more tips? Check out these related bikepacking posts.

What are your favorite bikepacking bags? Do you have any tips or recommendations to add? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I find the Aeroe rear frame unit to be spectacular, 3 cradles can be attached. And it fits and attaches securely to any bike. The attaching mechanism is amazing, like no other. It does require torqueing the hex bolts to 4 NM, so a small torque wrench is required. They also have a handlebar cradle, which I have not yet purchased.

  2. Thanks so much for your blog posts. I’m a road bike tourer rather than single track, but your advice is helpful for all who load up a bike and go for an adventure. After reading a lot of reviews, I decided to get a set of Ortlieb panniers for bike touring. I managed to grab a set of Ortlieb Back roller plus pros off craigslist (new still in the box) for half the cost of a new set from the store. Plus an additional Ortlieb single back roller on craigslist for $30…score!!!
    Here’s a question for you…anything that you bring with you that’s just for fun? I personally bring a sketchbook, watercolor pans and travel watercolor brushes instead of a camera. Thanks again,

    1. The Ortliebs are a great choice 🙂 What do I bring just for fun… I’ll either bring a book if I’m doing a trip by myself or a travel cribbage game if I’m riding with a friend. I wish I was more artistic!

  3. Becky, I have obtained a JPaks LLC (Denver, CO-entrepreneur) has superb top tube paks that he sews himself and good choices of sizes: SnakPak is the smallest (9.5″), Footlong (12.5″) and then the FarvaPak at 15 in. Either Velcro or snap-on. Great zips and nicely sewn. I have a Footlong and man it holds loads of snacks, phone, small camera, multi-tool and keys. You might want to check Joe’s handiwork out.

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