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Bike packing vs touring setups

Old 01-06-16, 07:24 AM
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Bike packing vs touring setups

Hi All:

This is just a question of curiousity. Recently, I've been reading about bike packing with an interest in how much (or little) stuff is carried in a "standard" bike packing setup with a roll off the handle bars, a frame bag and a pack off the back of the seat (plus maybe a small bag on the top of the top tube). It seems that compared with a "standard" touring setup with 2 rear and 2 front panniers, a lot less can be carried which I see is fine for a short trip but a couple of things caught my attention.

A frame back that fills or mostly fills the triangle leaves little if any room for a water bottle or two: what do these people do for water?

I understand the idea that having everything narrow improves bike handling and aerodynamics (this was brought up in one blog article where two fellows, one packed like a bike packer, the other more like a bike tourer, were riding into a couple of days of headwinds) but I don't know if that is sufficient to warrant such limited gear. One fellow didn't bring a tent but wrapped himself in a "space blanket" to ward off cold one night and light rain another. Others pack only 1 pr of undies (and this was not an overnight trip but one of several weeks) and very minimalist in terms of other clothes too.

Have I simply read about "extremists" who have used bike packing setups for multi-week trips or is this typical?

I must admit that I plan to carry too much in my touring setup and need to work on trimming things down and I like the idea of a bike packing setup for short trips (but I'd need to find a way to carry a couple of water bottles).

Thoughts?
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Old 01-06-16, 07:55 AM
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There are various possibilities for water bottles, depending on how you're packing your gear. Some bikepackers use camelbacks. Some use seatpost-mounted bottle cages - aquarack does one, and you'll find other examples on wiggle, chain reaction, various online suppliers.

As far as the amount of gear that can be carried is concerned, of course tastes differ. We have tourists posting here who manage to get 20lbs of gear, including sleeping bag and tent, into a large saddlebag plus a handlebar bag - no need for a frame bag, and 20lbs of gear, carefully chosen, will keep you comfortable on a multi-week tour. If you search this forum you'll find plenty of packing lists ( @nun is especially informative in this respect) for various weights.

Personally I tour on-road and am happy using panniers, even though these days I'm unlikely to have much more than 25 lbs. If I'm not camping and out for less than a week I'll take a road bike with a Carradice saddlebag - maybe 15lbs. Obviously frame bags can be massively helpful if you're doing a lot of off-road stuff, especially if it's remotely technical.
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Old 01-06-16, 08:03 AM
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I think you're on the right track. I've done my share of "traditional" touring but my last big tour was a few years ago. I'm looking to get back into it again and I've been reading a fair amount of bike packing in preparation for my next tour. I figure anything you can do to lose weight is a real plus.

It's a real eye opener when you figure out how much bags and panniers weigh. The promise of soft bags is that you save a lot of weight for the containers for your stuff.

I'm not entirely convinced about the need to lose a rear rack though. The rear rack is sturdy as heck and I'd like to be able to carry something more than 15 or so liters on the rear which is about the capacity of most rear backpacking bags I've seen. I guess it can go as large as 24 if you use a carradice camper longflap which is not lightweight in any case.

I don't know if you've seen this website, Ultralight bicycle touring

The blogger is an iconoclast and entertaining. He's serious about shedding weight on a bike but still uses a rear rack.

There was a thread someone started here which pictured "tourists" and "bikepackers" as "us" against "them." I thought the idea was nonsense. There are plenty of different ways to tour and I do not understood the need to criticize people who tour in a different way.

Personally I think the bikepackers and the lightweight evangelists did a nice job of revolutionizing how we think about touring and that's a good thing in my book.

Last edited by bikemig; 01-06-16 at 08:09 AM.
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Old 01-06-16, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
I think you're on the right track. I've done my share of "traditional" touring but my last big tour was a few years ago. I'm looking to get back into it again and I've been reading a fair amount of bike packing in preparation for my next tour. I figure anything you can do to lose weight is a real plus.

It's a real eye opener when you figure out how much bags and panniers weigh. The promise of soft bags is that you save a lot of weight for the containers for your stuff.

I'm not entirely convinced about the need to lose a rear rack though. The rear rack is sturdy as heck and I'd like to be able to carry something more than 15 or so liters on the rear which is about the capacity of most rear backpacking bags I've seen. I guess it can go as large as 24 if you use a carradice camper longflap which is not lightweight in any case.

I don't know if you've seen this website, Ultralight bicycle touring

The blogger is an iconoclast and entertaining. He's serious about shedding weight on a bike but still uses a rear rack.
Yes, I've seen this site before and it sure is entertaining.

I chuckle at a couple of things:
  • rain pants and gloves in the hood pouch of his jacket???
  • I think his toothbrush has been wittled down for weight and size savings, I don't see reference to toothpaste but yet he carries a razor, wouldn't that be one of the things to ditch
  • cycling gloves with a compass???
  • I've seen his route notes, they are very minimalistic

It seems to me that his goal is less about enjoying the trip but rather a demonstration of how little he needs to travel as fast and as far as he can but that may be wrong and just my impression, nothing else.

I need to do more touring with my current setup to learn more about what I TRULY need and where I can cut back. Right now my experience is too limited and my goals are too lofty (2-5wk tours in the next few years) to consider serious cutbacks.

Yes, I forgot that some bike packers carry backpacks, something I'd rather do without, and some have gear or bottle racks on their front forks (which defeats one fellow's goal for a more aero profile).

I agree about the rear rack being really beneficial, even if you don't hang panniers off of it, you could add a trunk box or just strap any or all of your tent, tarp, sleeping bag and bed mat to the top of it.
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Old 01-06-16, 08:33 AM
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Another option would be a lightweight rear rack, Arkel Dry-Lite panniers (18 oz), and a 15-20L dry compression sack on the rack. Revelate is also about to release a handlebar bag that should weigh around 4-5 oz. This set-up would be less than 3 lbs total.
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Old 01-06-16, 08:36 AM
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You could also go with light weight bags like the arkel dry lites on the rear rack (28 liters) and still have the top of the rack to strap things on. I use a jandd rack pack duffel bag (15 liters). Duffel Rack Pack

I think that combo (43 liters) plus a front bag or front roll will do it for me in terms of carrying capacity. Speaking of the front roll I'm not entirely convinced by the bikepacking rolls I've seen for a road touring set up. From what I've read, they tend to work better on flat bars than drops esp. with STIs. Plus I like the map case that comes on a traditional front handlebar bag so I think that's what I'm going to use.
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Old 01-06-16, 08:50 AM
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Bike packers generally carry a water bladder in their frame pack. No need for and higher capacity than water bottles
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Old 01-06-16, 09:01 AM
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The bike packers that I have seen in campsites carried backpacks for some of their gear and carried water bladders in their packs. But they were often carrying too little water, this past September I was doing some mountain biking while car camping. Every group of bikepackers I met (three groups) had run out of water on their first day and one of those groups made a six mile detour to get more water. And September was not that hot in North Dakota, they would have been fried if it was August.

Do not rule out mixing and matching gear from both worlds. I recently bought a frame bag (about 5 liters), I planned to use it instead of front panniers (20 liters) on a lighter weight trip, but for unrelated reasons that trip never happened. But the frame bag will likely get used soon instead of the front panniers. Thus, the plan to use a bikepacking type frame bag with rear panniers. The frame bag I have allows one bottle to fit in the triangle and I can hang a bottle below the downtube, so I have the water thing pretty much figured out.

I also have a really big handlebar bag, so that takes the place of hanging a bag from the handlebars.

I have a Carradice Nelson Long Flap, so I have no desire to replace it with a newer style saddle bag.

But I will not start wearing a backpack like the bike packers I have seen.
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Old 01-06-16, 09:21 AM
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I just did a four day trip in the Florida Keys with a full bikepacking setup http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/10...-planning.html, and although I was careful as to packing, I took everything needed, including a 2-person tent. If I would add anything, it would be a lightweight daypack to carry food from the store to the campsite for dinner at the end of the day, but as it is, I was able to tuck away food here and there. Last summer, I did a trip in Cape Cod with panniers, and was able to carry absolutely everything with room to spare. I think the key is the Revelate Harness and a 15 liter drybag, with compression bags inside. It holds a lot.



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Old 01-06-16, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
Hi All:

This is just a question of curiousity. Recently, I've been reading about bike packing with an interest in how much (or little) stuff is carried in a "standard" bike packing setup with a roll off the handle bars, a frame bag and a pack off the back of the seat (plus maybe a small bag on the top of the top tube). It seems that compared with a "standard" touring setup with 2 rear and 2 front panniers, a lot less can be carried which I see is fine for a short trip but a couple of things caught my attention.
I think you are confusing "bikepacking" with ultralight touring. There's crossover, of course, but bikepacking started as an approach to off-road touring from a mountain bike perspective. Revelate Designs was an early designer and builder of equipment for off-road bikepacking. Their designs work better on flatbar mountain bikes than on road bikes. Some of their designs are throwbacks to 1890 to 1900s bags but they have also made some innovative changes.

Prior to Revelate, bikepacking off-road was a rather difficult affair. I've toured off-road with panniers, with a trailer and with the Revelate bags. The Revelate bags are by far the way to go but you are limited in what you can carry. Riding off-road with panniers limits the kind of roads you can ride because of clearance issues. Riding off-road with a trailer can have a severe impact on the bike's handling...downhills are particularly difficult since the trailer pushes the rear of the bike up as you brake.

The Relevate (and similar systems) make the bike easier to handle over the other methods, even on steep drops. I probably wouldn't ride much single track because the added weight makes the bike into a beast but it's possible over the other methods. You don't have as much space nor the ability to carry as much stuff as with the other methods but you probably don't want to carry as much stuff off-road.

Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
A frame back that fills or mostly fills the triangle leaves little if any room for a water bottle or two: what do these people do for water?
Since most of the bikepacking riders I've seen are coming at this from a mountain bike perspective, they usually use a Camelbak. Mountain bike riders aren't as hung up on Camelbaks as road riders seem to be so it's just another part of the equipment. In fact, the Camelbak can be an integral part of the bikepacking system. It's a place where you can carry more stuff like rain gear or food.

Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
I understand the idea that having everything narrow improves bike handling and aerodynamics (this was brought up in one blog article where two fellows, one packed like a bike packer, the other more like a bike tourer, were riding into a couple of days of headwinds) but I don't know if that is sufficient to warrant such limited gear. One fellow didn't bring a tent but wrapped himself in a "space blanket" to ward off cold one night and light rain another. Others pack only 1 pr of undies (and this was not an overnight trip but one of several weeks) and very minimalist in terms of other clothes too.
I think this is something that road tourist are co-opting from the off-road bikepacking idea. The original idea of off-road bikepacking wasn't about aerodynamics but was about where you could hang bags and equipment without them snagging on trees, rocks and other trail obstacles.

And I think you are again confusing bikepacking with ultralight touring. There are aspects of ultralight in bikepacking...you don't want to be dragging a whole bunch of weight up steep, rocky mountain passes but, at least here in the high mountains of Colorado, you don't want to be depending on a space blanket to ward off the cold.

Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
Have I simply read about "extremists" who have used bike packing setups for multi-week trips or is this typical?
There are lots of people who do ultralight touring and are perfectly happy to sleep under a space blanket or wear the same clothes day in and day out. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that for the individual. If they want to suffer that much on a bicycle tour, that's their choice.

For me, I feel that there is already enough suffering during touring and I don't need to add to it by washing my laundry every night, using an inefficient (and dangerous) stove, sleeping in a cold sleeping bag, forgoing bug protection, cutting off the end of my toothbrush, wearing a hair shirt, or any of a number of other weight reducing methods. I've had some people tell me that they don't have to forgo any comfort whatsoever but I don't believe them. If you are going to reduce your load down to some of the levels that I've seen, you have to give up something...sometimes lots of something.

Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
I must admit that I plan to carry too much in my touring setup and need to work on trimming things down and I like the idea of a bike packing setup for short trips (but I'd need to find a way to carry a couple of water bottles).

Thoughts?
Trimming weight often costs lots of money. I doubt that you are going to find too many sub 2 lb tents for what you can buy a 7 lb tent for. Same with sleeping bags and cooking equipment. My touring equipment has been an iterative process that has evolved over years of touring. I used to carry a 7 lb tent. I now have a 3lb two person tent and a sub 2lb single person tent. I have a 3 lb cold weather bag instead of a 5 lb bag and a sub 2lb warm weather bag...sometimes I wish I had both on a tour, I've replaced cookware and stoves many times over the years as they have gotten lighter. But none of it has been cheap.

I do, however, keep the bikepacking idea and the regular road touring separate. I do off-road bikepacking with a mountain bike for relatively short trips while I keep my regular 4 pannier setup for trips that range further afield. I am planning on 1 to 2 week off-road bikepacking trip here in Colorado this summer but the logistics are much more difficult for that trip then a 5 week regular road trip.
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Old 01-06-16, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
It seems to me that his goal is less about enjoying the trip but rather a demonstration of how little he needs to travel as fast and as far as he can but that may be wrong and just my impression, nothing else.
I call this the Tour de France syndrome. I see it on organized tours like Ride the Rockies (which I have never done) all the time... too much "de France" and not enough "Tour".

Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
I agree about the rear rack being really beneficial, even if you don't hang panniers off of it, you could add a trunk box or just strap any or all of your tent, tarp, sleeping bag and bed mat to the top of it.
I don't have pictures of my Relevate design setup...I lost the camera before I got back to the truck...but I used a Racktime Trunkit bag on my rear rack for carrying just a bit more equipment on my last off-road trip. It has fold down sides...short panniers, really...that came in handy for small items. That trip was part bike and part fishing so carried my flies and flyfishing gear in the rear bag. My rod was wrapped with my tent and sleeping bag on the handlebars.

One note on the Relevate Harness that alan s has in his picture which is what I use for my off-road touring. It's not a solid a mount as a traditional handlebar bag. I found it tends to bounce a lot, even with the harness as tight to the bars as possible, and, with a suspension fork for off-road riding, it's limited in how much you can stuff into it. His bag looks like it is already resting on the fender and any bump is going to drive the bag down on the tire. His fenders provide some protection but it is easy to rub holes in your bags if the bag hits the tire too much.
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Old 01-06-16, 09:38 AM
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Good words @cyccommute, thanks
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Old 01-06-16, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
I just did a four day trip in the Florida Keys with a full bikepacking setup http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/10...-planning.html, and although I was careful as to packing, I took everything needed, including a 2-person tent. If I would add anything, it would be a lightweight daypack to carry food from the store to the campsite for dinner at the end of the day, but as it is, I was able to tuck away food here and there. Last summer, I did a trip in Cape Cod with panniers, and was able to carry absolutely everything with room to spare. I think the key is the Revelate Harness and a 15 liter drybag, with compression bags inside. It holds a lot.


Nice looking set up; I'm curious, how many liters capacity do you have with that set up? Agreed that a small minimalist light weight backpack can be a good thing to take on a tour.
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Old 01-06-16, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
One note on the Relevate Harness that alan s has in his picture which is what I use for my off-road touring. It's not a solid a mount as a traditional handlebar bag. I found it tends to bounce a lot, even with the harness as tight to the bars as possible, and, with a suspension fork for off-road riding, it's limited in how much you can stuff into it. His bag looks like it is already resting on the fender and any bump is going to drive the bag down on the tire. His fenders provide some protection but it is easy to rub holes in your bags if the bag hits the tire too much.
There is a good inch between the fender and the harness, and no possibility of rubbing. Also, there is a strap at that point holding it clear of the fender. The rubber handlebar mounts and an additional strap on the fork eliminates any movement in the harness and drybag. This could be a later design than what you are using. I don't think there is any more movement in the front than you would get with a traditional handlebar bag, and actually, probably less, since the drybag is packed tightly and everything is strapped tightly. It feels totally integrated with the bike, without any bouncing or movement. Much more solid than front panniers for sure.
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Old 01-06-16, 09:54 AM
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Your comfort level isn't dictated by the type of bags you use (ie panniers vs bikepacking), but by what you pack. Advances in lightweight materials and design now allow you to pack everything you need to be comfortable on an extended tour into a surprisingly small volume and weight. Also there are lots of choices now and you can mix and match equipment to come up with your own solution. Don't be constrained by what others have done, but here's my setup and a gear list which was mentioned a bit earlier in the thread.




https://wheelsofchance.wordpress.com.../25/gear-list/
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Old 01-06-16, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Nice looking set up; I'm curious, how many liters capacity do you have with that set up? Agreed that a small minimalist light weight backpack can be a good thing to take on a tour.
The Terrapin drybag is 14 liters and the REI drybag is 15 liters. Also have a S2S drybag, Jerrycan, Gastank, Travel Pouch (small) and Tangle (large) frame bag, which add perhaps another 15 liters.
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Old 01-06-16, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
I just did a four day trip in the Florida Keys with a full bikepacking setup http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/10...-planning.html, and although I was careful as to packing, I took everything needed, including a 2-person tent. If I would add anything, it would be a lightweight daypack to carry food from the store to the campsite for dinner at the end of the day, but as it is, I was able to tuck away food here and there. Last summer, I did a trip in Cape Cod with panniers, and was able to carry absolutely everything with room to spare. I think the key is the Revelate Harness and a 15 liter drybag, with compression bags inside. It holds a lot.
I agree with the idea of a lightweight daypack, I got one (it was cheap and didn't last but the idea was right) that was very lightweight and folded into its own pouch about half the size of my closed fist: the purpose was to have it to go out to get groceries. It was about $10, the Salomon one I saw a few months later was over $100 and likely larger and stronger (but 10x more?).
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Old 01-06-16, 10:15 AM
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My frame bag for the Karate Monkey only takes up the top 1/2 of the frame space, room for bottles below. Other options include fork mounted cages for carrying bottles and bags. One more is a cage on the bottom of the down tube, though I think it might be a dirty option.
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Old 01-06-16, 10:20 AM
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Yes, bikepacking doesn't necessarily mean less stuff, but it usually does. Just like "normal" touring doesn't mean 4 panniers and a rack top bag, even though that's the picture many people summon when they hear "loaded touring."

I've been trying to pare down my touring gear, and I've found I can get my "essentials" in to two, backroller classics which hold, I think, about 20 liters each. That doesn't include food, usually, although I can get some meals in the panniers if they're not susceptible to squishing.

One pannier is entirely devoted to sleeping: Tent, associated hardware, sleeping bag and other insulation, etc. On my last trip I found that the sleeping pannier's contents can also be put in a compression sack and tied to the handlebars. So about half of my gear on the handlebars. Maybe 20 liters. Revelate's handlebar bag is listed as having a 15 liter capacity, so it's close.

Their Terrapin bag is listed at 13 liters. I don't see numbers for the frame bags, but I think between 5 and 10 liters makes sense. So frame bag + handlebar bag + seat bag = right around 40 liters. The same capacity as my two Ortliebs.

Of course if you're used to traveling with 4 panniers and a rack bag, then you've still got two small panniers and a rack bag worth of space to worry about, but many people already travel with less than that. And the bikepacking set up has room to grow, too: some people use a backpack, and some strap a couple of liters of gear to each fork leg using something like the Salsa Anything cage.

So I do think you can approach "normal" touring capacity with a bikepacking set up, but it's also possible to do "normal" touring with less gear.

Water can go in the frame bag, off the seat, or in a cage mounted to the headset cap. I have a bottle cage mounted on my fork.

For me, I plan to move to more of a bikepacking set up for my Troll. Sleeping stuff is already moved to the handlebar bags. I hope to get a frame bag. And I'll probably keep the rear rack for now. Maybe get some smaller panniers for the rear rack instead of a seat bag. We will see.
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Old 01-06-16, 11:47 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
[*]I think his toothbrush has been wittled down for weight and size savings, I don't see reference to toothpaste but yet he carries a razor, wouldn't that be one of the things to ditch
.
Do you have any idea how heavy a BEARD is?!
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Old 01-06-16, 11:55 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
I agree with the idea of a lightweight daypack, I got one (it was cheap and didn't last but the idea was right) that was very lightweight and folded into its own pouch about half the size of my closed fist: the purpose was to have it to go out to get groceries. It was about $10, the Salomon one I saw a few months later was over $100 and likely larger and stronger (but 10x more?).
You don't need to spend 10 times more for a lightweight small 18 liter bag. REI makes a good one, REI Flash 18 Pack - REI.com

This one converts into a stuff sack and weighs all of 12 ounces.

Another option is this from Jandd which weights 19.5 ounces but holds 26 liters: Masada Convertible

I like using this bag on trips. I prefer not to carry backpack while riding (but I'll use a camelback in hot weather) but I don't mind a fanny pack. The masada convertible is a fanny pack where I keep my valuables on a trip and it converts into a backpack for day trips and/or picking up the day's groceries.
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Old 01-06-16, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I used a Racktime Trunkit bag on my rear rack for carrying just a bit more equipment on my last off-road trip. It has fold down sides...short panniers, really...that came in handy for small items. That trip was part bike and part fishing so carried my flies and flyfishing gear in the rear bag. My rod was wrapped with my tent and sleeping bag on the handlebars.
Fisherman here as well. Would love to see how you packed the fishing gear in a photo if you get around to it some time. Kudos.
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Old 01-06-16, 12:57 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by goldleaf View Post
Fisherman here as well. Would love to see how you packed the fishing gear in a photo if you get around to it some time. Kudos.
Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures...I lost the camera. I used a Sage (I think) 7 piece, 3 wt pack rod with a Ross reel in a short Simms case. The length is slightly longer than my tent's packed length. It fit well in the Relevate harness I have along with my sleeping bag and tent. I have a Fishpond chest pack like this one. It's not that large but will hold a couple of medium sized flyboxes and the other bits of stuff I need like leaders, tippet material, dry fly dressing, tippet cutter, etc.

I didn't carry waders or boots...way too heavy but I did carry a pair of sandals and water proof socks that weren't water proof at all...at least not for wading. I couldn't get too deep but for streams and walking around on beaver dams they worked well enough.
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Old 01-06-16, 01:03 PM
  #24  
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another thing to consider is having to buy more stuff. The Revelate stuff is very well made, when I have seen it in stores you can see that the stitching and everything is really good quality and they will last a long time. In my case, my bikes all have rear racks on all the time, and as I commute, using panniers is just so handy because I can put a little or a lot on the bike in seconds.
Sure, it would be neat to have a set of Revelate type stuff, but as I would hardly ever use it, I just stick with panniers.

all this said, some people go out to restaurants a lot, or drink in bars, or whatever, so in the end, having some well made outdoor stuff is not a waste of money--but I guess it comes down to what sort of touring you want to do and how much fun you will have, along with how much you'll actually use the stuff.

My camping stuff isnt particulary small nor light, so I would have to buy new other stuff to fit into small frame bags and or change my expectations of what is comfort for me. That said, the super small compact one man tents that are about $250 or so are not super expensive, so already this reduces the size of your tent volume on the bike.
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Old 01-06-16, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
There is a good inch between the fender and the harness, and no possibility of rubbing. Also, there is a strap at that point holding it clear of the fender. The rubber handlebar mounts and an additional strap on the fork eliminates any movement in the harness and drybag. This could be a later design than what you are using. I don't think there is any more movement in the front than you would get with a traditional handlebar bag, and actually, probably less, since the drybag is packed tightly and everything is strapped tightly. It feels totally integrated with the bike, without any bouncing or movement. Much more solid than front panniers for sure.
I have the same harness. I haven't found it to be that tight, certainly not as tight as a good handlebar bag nor anywhere near as solid as front panniers...at least not something like Ortliebs which are a very positive mount.

Mine wasn't loose on the bars but it did have rub issues on the tire and my bag is about half the diameter of the one you are carrying. I can't carry a larger bag because I use it with a front shock and so have less room but I could see the bag bouncing down as well when I hit an impact as well as hear the bag buzz the tire. I'm just saying that it's something to watch for with the harness.
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