Bikepacking Gear

Congrats on Alain and Drew for their 2-day GNR this past weekend! That’s two long, hard days!

I didn’t see a topic for bikepacking gear, but this is something I’ve put a lot of thought into (although I don’t have a spreadsheet like Alain). I started researching gear back in about 2016 and even in the short time since then, a lot of new options have appeared for bags etc.

In 2020, I just did one bikepacking trip (Simcoe County Loop Trail, which people do in a day, but my sister, brother-in-law and I did in 3 days at a relaxed pace - we added loop up to Awenda for a total of about 250 km in 3 days).

Anyway, my gear list has evolved since 2016 and I continue to make changes over time. As of last September, here’s my list of gear:

Since then, I’ve bought a Revelate frame bag that fits my Salsa Fargo perfectly. It holds a ton of gear, though I haven’t bikepacked with it yet.

Any questions/comments, let me know!


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Wow, I can’t believe you manage to fit all that in your handle bar bag. What I really need is a bag of holding, please.

Any thoughts on bikepacking with a rack and panniers instead of a under saddle pack/bag?

I’m considering panniers to start so I can get by without the need for too much ultra light gear … well I don’t own ultra light/small gear and not going to buy / can’t afford it yet. And from the GNR trip last year, I used a saddle bag and did not have enough space (Taryn was so nice and carried the tent & sleeping pad I borrowed from her and I carried her bivvy bag and ultra small sleeping pad)

I’ve done some internet “research” on the debate between bikepacking bags and panniers, but interested to get some local thoughts.

I know I would have to pack the panniers well so things don’t bounce around on rough terrain.

I’m using my CX bike - Liv Brava
My initial thoughts of bags:
Got it covered:

  • Handlebar dry bag with voile straps
  • small handlebar bag - home made - about the size of a water bottle
  • top tube bag
  • feed bag/s (don’t own, but looking at making 1 & maybe buy a second one)
  • half frame bag - home made

This would be untested/new:

  • Rack - (need to buy, maybe Axiom if available)
    • Strap tent & rolled sleeping mat (or maybe yoga mat) to the top
      Panniers - need to buy - maybe something cheap for a first year

Love to hear people’s thoughts, experience, advice.


Hey Dan. You should be able to get a lot into a handlebar dry bag depending on how much space you have between the drops. I think back rack and panniers occupies a middle ground with respect to speed and maneuverability. A combination of full frame bag and large seat pack is great for either higher speed aero efforts or single track nimbleness. I think anything in between is fine with panniers. Maybe consider a compromise of a rear rack with a large dry bag strapped to the top tucked out of the wind but very stable. Make sure you have the necessary frame mounts.

I think panniers would work well on the road and to a certain extent gravel, but my experience with them on rougher terrain was a lot less pleasant.

@DrewMolnar I have 38cm width drop handle bars…not much real estate up front :rofl:

Good call on mounts, I have checked and I’m good on the frame near the axle & would need a seat collar piece for upper attachment point

@jeremyhaak what did you notice that was bad on rough terrain?

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There might be other bags out there that are more secure, but the design I had bounced slightly on the frame, which eventually caused one of the bolts to loosen and come out and almost cause a pretty bad mess with my wheel/bike.

From experience, I suggest using zip ties to provide insurance on the frame attachments (if the pannier rack can’t move relative to the frame, it can’t loosen a bolt in a frame mount.) Also I recommend packing some zip ties for emergencies.

Dan, I would be happy to loan ultra light one-man tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, inflatable pillow, pannier rack and Arkel panniers if any of that helps. I also have some small compression bags and a larger one that I used for sleeping pad and bag on the handlebars. The only issue is that I won’t have all the gear in Waterloo until Aug 16.


Yes, you most certainly can bikepack with a rack and panniers. I know because I’ve done so on the BT700 as well as in the Colombia mountains. So some crazy terrain.
I love these from Arkel: Dry-Lites Saddle bags - Waterproof saddle bags | By Arkel
They hold more than a rear saddle bag but are not as bulky as typical panniers. Plus they don’t make any noise on rougher terrain. And not very expensive.

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Thanks for the offer David :grinning:
I don’t have a date in mind yet for an adventure, but if it is after mid-August I might take you up on the loan offer.

@mkadey is the BT700 really a test of gear?! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
Thanks for the suggestion on the saddle bags!


Have you looked for a seat collar? Giant has the silly shaped D-Fuse post that is propitiatory (and are awful for stock). My old TCX had an adaptor for the back of the bike, I think they changed the design so it is now integrated so you will need to find Giant’s specific clamp. The second annoyance will be you might be a little more limited on weight due to the carbon post.

I used to commute on panniers in the winter in the dark on gravel, they are fine if you adjust them so they are tight to the bike, a little play can lead to lots quick.

I don’t envy trying to fit a frame bag on a bike the size of yours! But a small bike and lack of options means you will have to pack light which is a good thing.

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Why can’t things just be simple.
Yeah my bike has the internal wedge clamp style. Maybe I do a bush mechanic trick and try to make a regular seat post with mounting points work. I’d imagine the bulk of the force on the rack would go down to the lower mounting points on the frame and the seatpost attachment is more of a stabilizing point.

There is the benefit of not being tempted to take excess gear but it’s balanced against the capacity to take enough gear :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

That’s how it works for my bike. The load is centred over the rear dropouts, so I figure that would be where the bulk of the weight is carried as well.

Bike companies like to make life difficult :frowning:

Your right on the weight being largely on the rear maybe you could use c clamps on the seat stays. Probably better than attaching anything to the seat post. Although the post is replaceable.

Here is what I did on my bike (thanks to Ziggys):

That is a little bolt with a ring top that fits over the bolt in the seat tube clamp. It in turn is attached to the strut that fastens to the rack.

Has worked well on two multi-day bike packing trips.

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that’s a clever bit of work.

Just throwing my 2cents in. I also toured in some rugged terrain with panniers. 1h+ long rugged downhills in Colombia and some pretty darn rugged stuff in Costa Rica. I also did a good chunk of the rougher stuff on the BT with full panniers and a dry sack.

I would still bikepack with panniers partially because my small MTB frame with 29" has pretty much zero room for a triangle bag or clearance for a seat post bag btwn the tires and the base of the seat. Panniers are super easy to pack and take on and off (add a velcro strap for extra security if the seat post clamps aren’t great, and I used a shoe lace to tie the bottom corner of the pannier to the rack to stop the incessant rattling worked really well for over 1000km of gravel and rugged). I have the Ortlieb Classic Roll Top 20L/s.

However, I would not go fully loaded on the back again. Adding a roll bag or even a small front bag will distribute the weight better. Or of you’re comfortable with it, take some weight in a camelbak/backpack.

I bought a cheap $10 aluminum seatpost to put the rack on and had two uprights made for the thru axel. Oh yeah, had to order a special thru axel from Robert Projects.

I won’t be bikepacking in the near future so if you want to borrow or try bags etc.

I have:
Arkell Double Roll 25L Seat Post bag
Pair Ortlieb Roll Top panniers.
20L dry sack (Matt has a 13L?)
A very small and simple front harness that I haven’t had a chance to use.
Axiom rack.

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A quick trip to Ziggy’s helped out. Marta had one of the giant d-fuse seat post clamps with mounts :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: and I picked up bontrager pannier rack. So this part of the set up was not as daunting as I feared.

Now just to reach out to the kind people that have offered to lend panniers and test for heel clearance, or go with the Arkel bag recommendation that comes so highly from @mkadey. :thinking: I did a test with my 2WheelGear briefcase pannier and it worked ok, so that was reassuring.

Thanks to everyone that has commented. It’s great to be able to learn from your experiences and pick up tips and tricks on using panniers.

Here are some photos for you viewing pleasure…I still need to trim the excess on the extensions that connect to the seat post mount and I know the light would be blocked with by anything on top of the rack. If you see anything else that is a concern though, please let me know.

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I also have issues with heel clearance, but you can mount the panniers pretty far back on the rack, so it’s not really a problem. Matt’s mini panniers don’t really get in the way and they’re a soft bag rather than a rigid pannier like mine. If you decide to come try his out, you can try mine at the same time :slight_smile:

Usually you can mount the light on the pannier rack. Or on your helmet, which is my preference.

Turns out I am picking up my gear on Friday then leaving on Sunday, so if you want to borrow tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad (all ultralight ) or compression sacks or handlebar bag before the 16th, this weekend would be the time.