Best bikepacking bags: Top handlebar, saddle, frame and snack bags real-world tested

·19 min read
 (Chrome)
(Chrome)

There is no trip more freeing than a bikepacking expedition. Setting out on the open road, with all that you need to survive strapped to your bicycle is the ultimate self-sufficient, eco-friendly adventure.

Finding bikepacking bags that will endure all terrains, changeable weather, and not weigh you down on those toughest of climbs however is a challenge in itself.

Luckily, we’ve done that part of the hard work for you. Cycling from London to Amsterdam, we put the top bikepacking bags on the market to the test.

Pedalling through wind, sun and rain, across gravel, road, grass and (unfortunately) sand, we put the top brands through their paces on a five-day bikepacking trip - and not all of them survived.

From large saddle packs, to custom frame bags, bar bags with enough space for clothes and snack packs for those vital energy boosting drinks and bars - we tried them all.

Scoring on durability, capacity, ease of mounting, style and value - read on for our verdicts on all the bags you need for your next bikepacking adventure.

Apidura Expedition Saddle Pack

Durability: 6/10

Capacity: 8/10

Style: 9/10

Value: 7/10

Best feature: Large capacity

Weakest feature: Stretch in the seams during longer rides

Overview: Priding themselves on lightweight bags, with the versatility to endure anything from crossing continents to just getting to and from work, Apidura has a huge range. We tried a full bikepacking rig including the large expedition saddle pack, handlebar pack and frame pack as well as the handy top tube pack, food pack, and frame packs.

The expedition range is designed for long tours and is made from a three-layer laminate fabric which is impressively lightweight, and highly resistant to tears. It also boasts welded seams, creating a watertight seal that ensures the bags are completely weatherproof.

The range is smartly designed and offers great capacity - larger than many on the market - for longer trips. Installation is generally simple, with multiple straps which ensure stability. However, after five days of hard riding, we did see some give in the seams of both the handlebar bag and seatpost bag, requiring extra straps to prevent the bags from sagging.

The frame bag comes in two versions to suit both tall and compact head tubes. We tried the 5L, which fit perfectly on a 52cm bike frame and was a decent size for essentials. The two zip pockets here were a real bonus for keeping smaller items secure, as was the protected battery/hydration hose port.

The smaller bags such as the top bar bag and the forks bags provided great extra storage, and come with simple designs. The inner fleece lining of the top bar bag was a nice touch to ensure protection for valuables like sport cameras, phone screens and lenses. The fork bags feature an easy to use universal attachment system for use with any fork cage.

Overall, the smaller bags from Apidura performed well, and the larger packs would likely be fine for shorter rides, and stand up well in wet conditions. However, for long-distances requiring heavier packing, I’d be wary to rely on the straps and seams of the expedition range.

Buy now £132.00, Sigma Sports

Ortlieb Handlebar bag, 15L

Durability: 8/10

Capacity: 9/10

Style: 7/10

Price: 8/10

Best feature: Overall build quality

Weakest feature: A couple of other colour/design options would be welcome

Known for their products’ strength and extreme weatherproofing, Ortlieb have long been a big player in the bike bag industry and for good reason. For this trip, we tried a full bikepacking setup, including the large Seat-pack, 15L Handlebar Bag, Frame pack and Cockpit-pack.

The overarching takeaway on testing all of these was the fantastic build quality across the range. Made in durable, and water-resistant fabrics, this set kept all luggage clean, dry and safe. These bags survived several crashes between London and Amsterdam, and while scuffed, showed zero sign of rips or tears.

The large Seat Pack from Ortlieb is 16.5L, making it smaller than others we tried, but ample in space for a few days away. With a roll-top closure, it sits well even if not fully loaded, and feels extremely waterproof. A valve on the side of the pack also allows easy compression to maximise capacity. This is enhanced even more by the elastic drawstrings on top which allow for an extra jacket to be stowed.

Ortlieb’s 15L Handlebar-Pack also features roll closures at both ends, providing easy access and good water resistance. Double compression belts allow for efficient packing, as well as the attachment of extra equipment wanted in your cockpit. With a structured interior, this was one of the best handlebar bags we tried when it came to stability, remaining secure across all terrain. High luminosity reflector patches also add handy visibility to the front of your bike.

The Frame-Pack RC Toptube is unique in its design, featuring a roll top which tucks into the bike frame triangle. This makes great use of its full capacity, as well as reliable weatherproofing, however it does make access a little more fiddly than a standard zip. Its strong velcro straps fasten securely to the frame at 5 different points, leaving zero wobbles possible. Leaving plenty of space in the triangle of your frame for water bottles, the bag’s also extremely easy to install and remove.

Weighing in at just 82g, Ortlieb’s Cockpit-pack is super lightweight and compact. With a single-zip opening, it’s easy to open one-handed while riding, and ideal for storing anything from snacks, to a small camera. The rigidity of the exterior also makes it highly secure for peace of mind if stashing high-value items.

Overall, this set screams quality. Made of extremely durable materials, and structured throughout, these bags are both strong and secure across any terrain. Easy installation and smart features such as air valves to maximise capacity are the cherry on top to a range we’d happily rely on for a longer bikepacking trip.

Buy now £105.00, Sigma Sports

Chrome Doubletrack handlebar sling

Durability: 10/10

Capacity: 6/10

Style: 10/10

Value: 10/10

Best feature: Versatility for use on and off your bike

Weakest feature: Limited capacity - I’d love to see larger versions

Overview: A cycling stalwart, Chrome has long been the go-to for messengers and commuters looking for the ultimate in endurance backpacks and slings, so we were very excited to try their newer range of bike bags in a bikepacking scenario. Since the long track from London to Amsterdam featured a fair amount of off-road riding we opted not to attempt panniers which are Chrome’s largest touring option, and instead tested some of their smaller packs including the handlebar sling, frame bag, feed bag and saddle roll.

On my narrow drop bars, the doubletrack handlebar sling was a perfect fit, offering 5L of space for the essentials I needed to access while on the move. Three internal mesh pockets, and Chrome’s signature roll top makes access extremely easy, with items smartly organised and secure.

What makes this bar bag really special however, is its dual purpose as a sling once the wheels stop. With a couple of simple strap adjustments once you’ve arrived at your destination, the handlebar sling can be whipped off the bike and over your shoulder, negating the need to carry any extra bags for evenings or non-riding days. The capacity was perfect for a day exploring Amsterdam, and the smart magnetic fastening felt super secure.

Chrome’s doubletrack framebag is the same, featuring a stowable shoulder strap for use off the bike and a quick access zip pocket. Made using Chrome’s legendary water resistant nylon on the outside, and a consciously constructed recycled polyester lining, this along with the whole range is extremely tough and durable - with longevity guaranteed thanks to Chrome’s lifetime warranty.

Chrome’s doubletrack feed bag also offers great convenience on and off the bike. With several attachment options, it can be mounted on either the stem, handlebars or worn on a belt.

The size is also impressive, easily able to fit a bottle of wine - as any ride through France may demand. The padded protection of this pack also comes in handy in such instances, as well as the bag’s great stability.

Overall, the Chrome doubletrack range proved fantastically versatile for a bikepacking trip, offering the same quality and style the company’s known for along with great functionality. These bags will certainly be a new staple in my future touring setup.

Also available at Alpine Trek

Buy now £63.00, Chrome

Tailfin Alloy Aeropack, 20L, with pannier mounts + 2 x 5L mini panniers

Durability: 10/10

Capacity: 8/10

Mounting: 10/10

Style: 10/10

Value: 10/10

Best feature: Impeccable design and quality

Weakest feature: It’s a push to find any, but slight fit issue with smaller bikes

Overview: Sitting at the top end of the market, renowned for their high-tech, lightweight and chic designs, I was really excited to try Tailfin’s bags - and they did not disappoint. After quite some time spent studying the various specs, I opted to try the Alloy Aeropack with pannier mounts - choosing alloy over the carbon option for more robustness while off-road.

The Aeropack is an all-in-one system, attaching at the seat post and axle, with the base of the large seat pack acting as the rack top. I went for the quick release axle-mounting which really did mean it took a matter of seconds to get the entire system on and off the bike, and also purchased an extender which is recommended for frames under 51cm to give more distance between pack and saddle.

The engineering, manufacturing quality, and attention to detail on the Aeropack is extremely impressive. This feels like the Apple of bikepacking solutions. The design is ultra slick, and its performance is just as great as its look. Easy to install (once you work out how), once the Aeropack is on the bike, it’s not budging. Thanks to the seat pack integrating with the rack itself, there is zero sway possible while riding, making this a joy to ride with, even over rough terrain. Similarly the detachable panniers are fully locked in place with a simple, yet impressive design taking just one pull of a lever to get on and off.

When it comes to capacity, the top bag is 20L, and panniers range from 5L to a whopping 22L. I was trying to pack ‘light’ so opted for two 5L, giving me a comfortable 30L total. Given the impeccable stability, I was able to pack these to the brim, providing ample space for five days worth of gear. My single quibble about this whole system was that even with the extender, on my 49cm frame and short seat post, the saddle did hang over the bag somewhat, meaning I had to pack back-heavy to fit it on.

On both style and durability - again the Aeropack gets top marks. Made from high-performance laminate material, with high-frequency welded seams, the bags are entirely waterproof and extremely hardy with zero chance of ripping or stretching. The design is clean and smooth, with no loose straps and the roll-top opening means gear can be easily accessed while on the go.

This kind of quality doesn’t come cheap, and the price is higher than others we tested, but in my opinion value for money is entirely fulfilled here. Right down to every tiny screw or clip, the Tailfin system is designed to perfection and will endure any adventure you challenge it to, making it worth every penny.

Buy now £415.00, Tailfin

Alpkit Glider frame bag

Durability: 8/10

Capacity: 7/10

Style: 9/10

Value: 7/10

Best feature: Capacity and convenience of cockpit gear

Weakest feature: Overcomplication of rail and harnesses for handlebar and saddle packs

Overview: Alpkit is another that offers an entire bikepacking rig to suit most bikes and trips. From London to Amsterdam, we tried a whole-bike setup including the large handlebar pack, saddle pack, frame bag, stem cell and fuel pod.

Upfront, we ran the 13L Kuoka handlebar dry bag, mounted with the Kanga handlebar - a flexible fibreglass harness designed to ensure ultimate stability and increase tyre clearance. The two products are purchased separately, and while the dry bag was ample in size, and impressively water resistant - made in X11 and Cordura fabrics - the harness felt like a slight overcomplication.

Installation however, was efficient, with three quick-release buckles and an extra set of loops on the back which came in handy for attaching things like a Bluetooth speaker while riding. The setup was indeed extremely stable across rough terrain, with the locking clasps ensuring no slippage, even when fully loaded. However, after five days of riding, the harness itself did begin to tear at the join to the fork. While this was a little disappointing, it didn’t impede the ride itself, and in fact highlighted well the importance of Alpkit’s 25 year alpine bond which offers warranty against defects. The company also offers a full repair service on all kit, including other brands - an impressive commitment to reduce waste.

On the rear, we ran a Koala tail pack with Exo rail support, which again are bought separately. The initial installation of this was somewhat fiddly, and the “universal” bolts supplied were not long enough for a standard seat post. However one mounted, the rail made taking the tail pack itself on and off extremely swift. At 13L capacity, it’s not the largest of saddle packs and capacity was a slight issue on a longer trip. The dual system was extremely stable, however with no sway or sag.

Alpkit’s 2.6L Glider frame bag was a decent size, with a very handy inside pocket for smaller items like change or lip balm. The bag attached to the frame via a selection of velcro straps which featured a smart rubber side to prevent any scratching to the frame. The Glider was easy to install and allowed for good access while riding.

The two smaller bags in Alpkit’s range also seriously impressed. The 1.8L Stem Cell, and 1L Fuel pod both offered impressive capacity in the cockpit, fitting all essentials such as passport, card wallet, portable chargers and all-important drinks and snacks. The Stem Cell also featured a very handy opening on top which allows a charger cable to pass through to your phone or GPS unit. Both were extremely easy to install with sturdy velcro straps and remained wholly stable throughout.

Made in X11 fabric with an all-organic cotton face Alpkit’s bikepacking fabric is climate neutral, made from plant based and recycled materials and manufactured in factories that only use green energy. The kit looks smart, with attractive red accents, and once installed were enjoyable to use.

Making their bikepacking bags on the edge of the Peak District, Alpkit is an independent brand borne out of the founders love of adventure and despair at failing, overpriced kit. For the price point, the range offers good stability and style with the only downside being the need to buy both a bag and rail/harness for the larger packs.

Buy now £74.99, Alpkit

Wizard Works Framebagracadabra frame bag Large

Durability: 10/10

Capacity: 8/10

Style: 10/10

Value: 9/10

Best feature: Signature style

Weakest feature: Can’t fault

The brainchild of founders Harry and Veronica while halfway through a year-long bikepacking trip, you know Wizard Works’ bags are designed ultimately with the needs of tourers in mind - as the magically named Framebagracadabra frame bag and Voila Stem bag proved.

Made with a recycled plastic bottom and elastic webbing at the top to take strain from the zip, the frame bag is ultra sturdy even when fully loaded. During our testing, this bag was packed to the brim with tools, clothes and toiletries and never waivered, nor showed any sign of stretch in its material or attaching straps. A mesh pocket inside also made for easy organisation.

At 1.65L, the Voila Stem bag was the largest snack pack we tested, and features a dense foam padding which perfectly protected precious snacks and drinks for the road. The one-hand bungee opening system also made access a breeze while riding. The floating liner of the Voila is the kind of feature only a true bikepacker would think of adding to the design - allowing easy disposal of any crumbs or debris which built up over several days of riding.

We tested both bags in Wizard Works’ renowned ‘splatter’ design which adds a fantastic splash of colour to any bikepacking setup.

With any Wizard Works purchase, there’s also a well-justified feel-good factor in buying from a small business doing all they can to give back in every aspect. All their bags are ethically manufactured in London and the company gives at least one per cent of sales revenue back to grassroots campaigns working to combat climate change. They also work to promote diversity in cycling and only supply independent bike shops.

Buy now £99.00, Wizard Works

Miss Grape Cluster 20 Waterproof, 20

Durability: 4/10

Capacity: 7/10

Style: 7/10

Value: 7/10

Best feature: Durable, weatherproof material

Weakest feature: Weaker straps effect stability

Miss Grape promises hardy bike bags designed for adventures, but without a hefty price tag. Handmade by Italian craftsmen, with practicality at the core, these bags are designed to last a lifetime.

On our trip, we carried Miss Grape’s largest saddle bag - the Cluster 20 - along with the Internode 5 frame bag, and the Bud snack pack. All made from a highly water resistant fabric, these bags aren’t letting a drop of rain in. Extremely resistant, the material is also impressively tough and tear-resistant. The underside of the Cluster saddle bag is even double coated, meaning it acts as a mudguard which can stand up to whatever track you throw at it. It’s this weather and stress-proof fabric quality that Miss Grape is best known for.

The look of the bags is simple and classic, featuring just small accents of colour and a reflective stitch for extra visibility while riding at night.

Installation is straightforward, with strong velcro straps and an under-seat buckle attaching the Cluster saddle bag, allowing extremely fast mounting. However, when fully loaded we experienced some swing.

The Internode frame bag similarly fastens with strong velcro loops which attach to the top tube. This offers a strong fit, with little movement and zero irritation to the spinning legs alongside it. After a few days riding however, we experienced some stretch in the stitching which attaches the loops to the bag itself, causing the bag to begin to sag. With such issues however, Miss Grape’s lifetime warranty has you covered, offering repair or replacement of any bag which shows defects in the material or build.

The Bud snack bag was our favourite of the Miss Grape bags, featuring three mounting points on the handlebar, stem, and fork head. At 1L the Bud offers great capacity, with the added bonus of exterior mesh pockets to hold even more.

Overall, we were impressed by the hardiness of Miss Grape’s material, but sadly it was let down by the straps which attach to the bike. These would therefore be a great option for day trippers or commuters, but weren’t quite stable or sturdy enough to endure a longer bikepacking trip.

Buy now £150.00, Miss Grape

Dyed in the Wool Custom wedge frame bag

Durability: 9/10

Capacity: 9/10

Style: 10/10

Value: 8/10

Best feature: Perfect fit

Weakest feature: Hard to fault

Overview: Dyed in the Wool specialises in custom bike bags - handmade to order with a huge array of colours and designs available. The bags are vibrant and striking, and fully customisable in terms of size, fit, and features such as pockets or dividers. Since I ride a small frame, frame bags have always been extremely tricky for me, so I jumped at the chance to try something specially made to my bike’s dimensions.

I opted for a triangular frame wedge, filling about 75 per cent of my frame but leaving just enough space to retain my rear water bottle. From a photo of your frame, Aleks and Charles deduce exact dimensions for a pattern which is then sent back to you to print and try before the bag is created. This process achieved an absolutely perfect fit on my smaller bike, finally utilising the space that’s sat empty for so long.

The design too was fantastic as the team used a patchwork of colours matched to my tyres and bar tape. Of any bags I’ve owned, this is the one I’ve had the most compliments on. The fabric is a 600D TPU cordura with an inside coating which makes it waterproof. DITW states that the finished bags are not waterproof due to the stitching, however in moderate rain showers, the frame wedge showed no sign of moisture during my testing. With a strong weave, the bag also has excellent strength, and feels resistant to abrasions.

In terms of mounting, DITW provides two options - straps or lacing. Lacing - which I chose - does take slightly longer to install, but provides ultimate stability and looks great criss-crossed across the frame. The eyelets for the lace are also reflective, providing an extra bit of visibility.

Fully customisable, I also opted for an extremely handy outside pocket, which proved immeasurably useful for things like gloves or sunglasses on the go.

Overall, I was really impressed with the custom bag from Dyed in the Wool. With fantastic colours, a perfect fit, hardy material and a solid build, the bag looks great, performs perfectly, and feels extremely secure. The compliments on this bag never stop. This is definitely the brand to choose for something a bit special.

Buy now £170.00, Dyed in the Wool