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Mountain Bike Touring (Bike Packing) Panniers or Saddle/handle/frame bags? (Or both?)

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Mountain Bike Touring (Bike Packing) Panniers or Saddle/handle/frame bags? (Or both?)

Old 05-21-15, 08:58 AM
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Mountain Bike Touring (Bike Packing) Panniers or Saddle/handle/frame bags? (Or both?)

Hi all,
I wasn't sure where to ask this, so I'll just stick it here.

I want to get into bike packing, but I'm not sure which bags I should invest in. Most "bikepackers" I see have very large saddlebags that hold their tent, their sleeping bag strapped to the handlebars, and everything else on their back or in a frame bag/steering tube bag.

Now, I'd like to do some road bike touring as well, so while I'm not against all of the bags mentioned above, is there a reason I see them more often than panniers for off road touring?

Should I just bite the bullet and buy the relatively expensive rack that'll fit on my mountain bike and buy panniers for it and my road bikes?

EDIT: Another problem is that my mountain bike doesn't have eyelets and it does have disk brakes. Apparently you need a pretty special type of rack for that. (They ARE available now though.)

Last edited by corrado33; 05-21-15 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 05-21-15, 09:40 AM
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you left out trailers.

double wheel babybuggy style
single wheel bob cargo deck
single wheel ultracycle to hang panniers on
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Old 05-21-15, 09:43 AM
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Think about how much volume you plan to take. If you think you can do it, go for it. But I know that I will have too much volume so I will continue to use panniers. I however recently bought a frame bag because I will not use front panniers on my next trip and I was looking for a bit more volume capacity.

I was going to make a frame bag, but I found a really cheap one so I bought it instead. When I was thinking of making one, I did some of my research at this link:

DIY / Make Your Own Gear (MYOG)
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Old 05-21-15, 09:48 AM
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Adventure cycling has a webpage with info on this which you may find useful.

Bikepacking & Off-Road Touring | How To Department | Adventure Cycling Association

You may want to register for their forum page and post the question there as well.

The advantage to frame bags is weight savings. A rack weighs a fair amount and panniers tend to be heavier than frame bags. Plus you'll run into one of Murphy's laws with panniers (the amt of stuff you carry will expand to fill the available space).

Also depending on how rough the stuff is you are traveling through panniers can be an issue.

The reason you don't see this set up as often for on road touring is partially history (bike touring started out with panniers) and partially comfort. You really have to go lightweight to use only frame bags. Plus the pay off to going lightweight is somewhat less for bike riding than for hiking. In hiking, you deal with the weight whenever you are moving. In bike touring, you really only deal with the weight going up a hill. It is not as big a deal on the flats or downhill. You are less aero though.
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Old 05-21-15, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
Think about how much volume you plan to take. If you think you can do it, go for it. But I know that I will have too much volume so I will continue to use panniers. I however recently bought a frame bag because I will not use front panniers on my next trip and I was looking for a bit more volume capacity.

I was going to make a frame bag, but I found a really cheap one so I bought it instead. When I was thinking of making one, I did some of my research at this link:

DIY / Make Your Own Gear (MYOG)

Hmmm. DIY gear seems interesting. The first thing I thought of when I saw a saddle "sling" was "I could make that."

Considering I already sew, this may be the way for me to go. I was hoping to find a pattern, which one of the links you suggested provided. Thanks!
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Old 05-21-15, 10:48 AM
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Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour Rack







This is one option for front/rear racks with the optional attachment to use panniers. I've seen guys use the "rack-less" all bag setup and some who use a frame bag, rear rack, small panniers (ones used for front), etc.

There are companies that make small panniers made for bike-packing.

Depends on what you're carrying, where you ride (on/off road), etc. I was gonna get into bike-packing when I had my SS 29er, but never did.

Check out bikepacking.net if you haven't already. Great forum with a lot of info.
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Old 05-21-15, 11:49 AM
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I've been experimenting the other direction. I have a mountain bike, where I already had a rear rack, but not front rack. Eventually, I'd like to be able to take an extended trip with some off-road (e.g. Great Divide Mountain Bike Route), and trying to figure out what works best. Not necessarily all at the same time, but following has been some of my experiments:

- I can put two panniers on my back rack, that works fine.
- I have an Extrawheel trailer and have used that in the past. The trailer tracks the rear wheel very well (even better than my Bob), though I notice I'm pulling extra weight and wonder if it has a disproportional drag on soft stuff
- I got a Revelate Tangle frame bag. So far I really like it, particularly as an alternative to carrying on my back.
- I also got a Revelate Sweet Roll bag that hangs from the handlebars. I can pack my tent in there, though I've noticed that I don't want anything too heavy on the handlebars
- I've seen seat bags, though don't have one and haven't tried.

Personally if I were to get only one thing, I would end up with racks on all the bike and then be able to switch panniers back and forth between mountain bikes and road bikes. However, as a way of augmenting things further, I am impressed with the frame bag, so/so on something hanging from my handle bars, and so/so on a one-wheel trailer off-road (though on-road it works pretty well). I don't mind some weight on my back, but want to avoid too much top-heavy weight as well.
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Old 05-21-15, 12:02 PM
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Panniers aren't used often for off road riding becaus they stick out and can get caught on things at the side of a trail.if you can work something out without a rack you'll save a lot of weight and also be able to use your bags on a wider variety of bikes. Also just because you see people with backpacks doesn't necessarily mean that you have to use one too. If you thing carefully about your gear you can fit eveything you need into 2 or 3 bags.....a saddlebag, frame bag and a handlebar bag or roll should suffice if you pack carefully
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Old 05-21-15, 01:30 PM
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My long time preferred method for on and off pavement/single track touring is two smaller front panniers on a high mount front rack and a dry bag stuffer on top of the rear rack. Enough volume for the Divide Ride for me without the backpack some bikepacking rackless setups failure to mention or picture.

Frame size and over all bike design dictates the frame bag volume. I have a large frame and frame bag volume to match. Currently I am mixing both old and new methods with even smaller front panniers than usual, frame bag and my usual dry bag stuffer on the top of the rear rack.

I tried several seat bags but could not reduce my required volume of shelter,quilt, pad and clothes that come with a larger rider on a large frame. Each situation has these trade-offs of volume, weight and comfort required for each person. No one size fits all this time.

Over time I have reduced the weight carried and the volume needed to carry it without compromising the comfort I prefer. Yet I have enough capacity for extra water and food for times away from re-supply points. Many minimalist bikepacking setups seem to work best for shorter trips and more frequent re-supply points.

Good luck in your bikepacking experiment.
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Old 05-21-15, 01:58 PM
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Bushwhacking the frame bag narrow frontal will be beneficial .
road paved oer gravel panniers will be OK

BoB trailer. particularly the one with rear suspension can do single track

as can the Extra Wheel , which is a bigger wheel and can take panniers instead of the Bike , say with a suspension Fork
And with or without panniers On the bike.
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Old 05-22-15, 05:13 AM
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Just went on my first bikepacking trip last week riding the ~900km Mawson trail in South Australia over 11 days - will be doing more trips!

Set up - all Revelate Design bags

Large Sweetroll
-Enlightened Equipment Relevation quilt -1C
-Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1
-Klymit Inertia X frame
(these three weigh under 2kg)
-Clothes including down jacket

Large pocket
-Electronics
-Toiletries
-sunscreen
-some snacks
-first aid kit

Gas tank
-PLB
-camera
-lip balm

Tangle frame bag
-tubes
-spare jetboil gas canister
-repair kit
-maps
-toilet paper

Viscasha saddle bag
-food ~4-5 days worth
-Jetboil Zip stove

Also carried a small daypack with a 2litre bladder for additional water when water sources were further apart and some food

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Old 05-30-15, 02:02 PM
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I've had good success with a transverse saddlebag, ala Carradice. I followed Gypsybytrade and Logan's example and made my own for my dirtbag bikepacking/touring setup. At approximately 23 liters it's downright cavernous. My only recommendation would be, if you use it with a rack, don't sew on any of the metal D rings on the bottom of the bag as they tend to rattle at times off road.

I might try using a mini-rack with it, but the blackburn rack was $10 at a coop.
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Old 05-30-15, 02:26 PM
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The bikepacking bags aren't necessary unless your route includes singletrack and lots of hike-a-bike. A rack and panniers even on a bike with disc brakes is pretty much fool proof. Even though I've used bikepacking bags on the last several trips I've taken, I think I'm going to go back to panniers. The small weight penalty would be a sacrifice made for convenience, and to my eye anyway, elegance.
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Old 05-31-15, 08:58 AM
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Like the guy above me said, bikepacking-style bags make a lot of sense if you're riding off-road, especially rough trails and technical stuff or single track where you want your bike's handling to be as similar to unloaded as possible. Their weight advantage also applies on-road: an entire bikepacking luggage setup weighs about as much as one Ortlieb pannier.

But if you're riding on roads, you may find that the convenience of panniers is worth the weight penalty. You have to be really on the ball with packing when you have bikepacking bags. There just isn't that much space, and volume is more of a challenge than weight most of the time. With panniers you can be a little more lax with your setup, bring more luxury items, and spend less time messing around with the way things are packed to make them fit. And you're less likely to simply reach the capacity of your bags.

It's a tradeoff like anything else. For off-road tours, I've been happy using bikepacking bags, even though I'm not a minimalist enough packer to be able to get away from using a daypack as well, which I'd prefer not to. But there's a simplicity and convenience to using panniers that's worth a lot even if it does mean a few extra pounds of weight on a road bike.
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