I’ve had a few queries on how best to use and pack frameless bike packing bags. I use the Apidura ones but I’m sure these tips will cross over to most others. Without big bulky panniers there’s limited space to play with for packing kit so you need to be selective about what kit you really need. The advamtage is you can travel incredibly lightweight and spread the weight so you ride like your bike’s unloaded. They do need to be packed with some logical thought to stop them sagging or swinging about and this blog is intended to help you do that. A well packed bag lets the bike ride naturally without feeling off balance and is by far the most enjoyable way to take kit on bike trips.
This blog is all about what I’ve learnt over the last 3 years using Apidura bike packing bags. Review on the classic bags when in Kazakhstan here.
Review on the Dry bags here
Here I am focusing on shorter weekend trips rather than on our longer rides.
How to pack frameless bags for best performance
1. For the saddle packs ALWAYS start by tightly cramming clothes right into the thin wedge end. Any gap here causes the pack to sag and indent so it doesn’t hang well. Then use a sleeping mat or Tent/bivvy bag along the length to give linear structure. Fill in the gaps with clothes tightly crammed in to leave no empty space.
This picture shows how I effectively organise stuff in the saddle pack.
2. Roll the back up from the bottom to shed water better and clip together at the sides, making sure to tighten every strap firmly twice in rotation because compressing one side strap, requires the other side to be re-tightened.
3. To attach the saddle pack: loosely use the velcro to hold in place, then fix the seat rail clips in place. Then reattach the velcro straps super tight and high as possible up the seat post. Finish by tightening the saddle straps again.
4. The bar bag opens both ends. Personally I keep one end rolled down and I zip tie the buckle shut. This makes it quick and easy to load but also stopped wandering hands in sketchy places.
The bar bag is the place for a sleeping bag as this fits well and is great use of the space. To use the full length I stick a pan with stove inside it at one end. Attach as tight as possible to the bar then loosely use the lower strap around the head tube or even to just the cables to stop it swinging about. I then squeeze it between the drop bars to keep it stable and out the way of the brake levers.
5. The large size bar bag can rub on the wheel on smaller frames with shorter head tubed bikes. Double check the height difference or go smaller. Likewise it might look to hang out of the way on a suspension fork, but when compressed a bit it may well rub on the tyre still so double check.
6. The frame bag suits odd bits and pieces and food as it gets eaten means the bag empties and this is the only bag that doesn’t need to be fully filled to work well. I would also put stuff I need during the day in this, like maps, sunglasses, snacks, GPS unit etc.
7. If you are taking a decent SLR camera on an off road bikepacking trip use a backpack. The bike bags might be waterproof but don’t give too much protection against the rough and tumble and will damage the camera. A backpack also means the camera is easy to access at all times.
8. Water needs to be attached to the frame direct don’t put bottles in the bags, it’s a waste of space. In Scotland a filter bottle is great as there’s so much fresh water you rarely need to carry much. On drier tours I used Topeak clips to attach two more bottles on the rear seat stays, others use them on the fork legs both great ways to add water.
9.Watch for wear on the frame when packing your bags. Any contact with the frame after just a day ride can destroy paint work with the Scottish grit. Put protective tape on bars and frame where needed. Even under the velcro frame bag straps is a good idea. Or buy a raw Titanium frame like the Tripster and it will just polish itself!