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Bike packing volume myth?

Old 12-19-20, 04:10 AM
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imi
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Bike packing volume myth?

In short: “less volume = less weight”
This came up in the aerodynamics thread, and rather than continue to derail that discussion, I’ll start a new thread.
The premise is that the greater the volume of bags you have, the more you will pack. Thus bikepackers with their smaller bags are forced to pack smaller/lighter.

I tour with a rear rack, two panniers, and a handlebar bag. A pretty standard traditional set up, though I can add a front rack and two smaller panniers if ever the need arises.
Out of genuine curiousity into bikepacking set ups, and inspired by the discussion in the other thread, I did some homework and calculations.

My touring rig:
Tubus Logo Rack: 800g
Ortlieb Backroller Plus panniers: 40 litres,1680g
Ortlieb Ultimate 5 handlebar bag: 7 litres, 630g

Total: 47 litres, 3110g (6.9 lbs)


A bikepacking rig based on Ortlieb bags:
Seat Pack Large: 16.5 litres, 430g
Handlebar bag: 15 litres, 420g
Frame pack: 6 litres, 230g
Cockpit bag: 0.8 litres, 82g
Backpack: 18 litres, 611g (recommended on bikepacker.com)

Total: 56.5 litres, 1773g (3.9 lbs)

So, the first eye-opener for me was that although the BP rig was 3 lbs lighter, it was 10 litres bigger! (this is due to the size of the backpack, a very small 8 litre backpack would result in exactly the same volume).
Following the logic of the bikepackers in the other thread, this would result in the bikepacker packing more gear into their bags, thus negating the weight advantage!

This is of course not the whole story, as on my rig I can strap my tent to the rack and add a front rack and panniers: Tara and Front rollers: 25 litres, 1440g (3.2 lbs) bringing me up my “fully loaded” capacity (72 litres, 10.1 lbs), although this is something I rarely need.
There is no reason on earth why I should not pack as weight/size weenie for the same tour conditions as a bikepacker. This results in me still being 3 lbs heavier, and thus the BP rig would be the better choice.
However, if for any reason I need to pack more gear, food, water, than the 56.5 litre bikepacking set up as calculated above, I’d have to wear an even bigger backpack. To be honest, I would hate touring with even the tiniest backpack.

Now to the second eye-opener. The price! My touring rig (without front rack and panniers) would cost USD $245 from the usual online stores in Germany I buy my gear from. The bikepacker rig would cost $625 (I estimated $100 for a lightweight 18 litre backpack).

In conclusion, there are advantages and disadvantages to both set-ups. The bikepacking set up is lighter, more streamlined for narrower trails and aerodynamics but has limitations to extending the carrying capacity, and is far more expensive (and less durable?). I imagine a BP rig is a lot fiddlier to attach/detach and to get to stuff as well.
So, sorry for the long post, hope it has been a fair comparison. This exercise has taught me a lot and changed my views somewhat

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Old 12-19-20, 04:52 AM
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Bike packing is an awkward solution looking for a problem.
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Old 12-19-20, 05:27 AM
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ah, the weight may be the same, but it's the look that counts.

coolness factor reduces coefficient of fred by cherry pie squared.

deduct points for research and bringing fax to the table.


you get nothing! you lose! good day, sir!



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Old 12-19-20, 05:33 AM
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56 Pounds of gear ( carrying some canned goods which was Old Hurricane food). Bike 33lbs. Rider 215 lbs
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Old 12-19-20, 05:35 AM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
ah, the weight may be the same, but it's the look that counts.

coolness factor reduces coefficient of fred by cherry pie squared.

deduct points for research and bringing fax to the table.


you lose! you get nothing! good day, sir!
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Old 12-19-20, 07:00 AM
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Wearing a knapsack is the last thing i want to do riding a bike, but in a riding situation offroad where panniers just are gong to be a liability, i guess I'd have to, but don't do trips like this, yet.

clearly "bikepacking" is a thing, it's new, it's fast looking, it's cool looking--- Lets face it, most of us here are old fasts that 20 somethings cringe at.
Coming on internet forums and endlessly debating old guy minutia doo doo.

bikepacking,com and endless YouTube stuff is way more visually neat, and I love all stuff bike so I love it all.
bikepacking.com is a great website, I really like checking in there, I just don't have friends who do this sort of riding and while I'd love to do more off road stuff, life just gets in the way and time is limited, so I stick to the equipment i have and have a great time still anyway.

would love to do some gravel etc trips, I really enjoy being on loose surfaces and pushing to the edge of traction, even at my old fart age. It's probably the real minimalist thing that could be annoying.

but again, its all cool.
And fun
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Old 12-19-20, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
Wearing a knapsack is the last thing i want to do riding a bike
I used to say the same thing. Then on one trip in the desert southwest I wore a camelback full of ice and found it comfortable enough. I figured that was mostly just because I was enjoying the wet and cold of the melting ice. Then a few years later I wore a little backpack that I carry for going to the store or toting extra food and water when necessary for a longer stretch and found that when it wasn't needed for the extra capacity I still wanted to wear it. So I guess it wasn't just the ice, the backpack wasn't bad after all.

Since then I have been enjoying using a little UL backpack with not much stuff in it. It is nice to have a few items automatically go with me when I get off the bike to go into a store or diner or go for a short hike or whatever. I never put more than a few pounds in it, typically no more than 2 or 3 unless there is the need for carrying water for a long stretch between restock points. While it is only 2 or 3 pounds It is a significant portion of my load when packing ultralight. Also it is a great way to have the things I expect to need throughout the day easily at hand.

I find that I like to use something like either the 2.5 ounce Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil pack or my old REI Flash 18 pack at a bit more robust 9 ounces. I really like them both and which one I take depends on the usage expected. In either case I don't find it all that much different than carrying a bunch of stuff in jersey pockets and when I expect to wear the backpacks I am likely to forgo the jerseys in favor of a tech tee.
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Old 12-19-20, 09:31 AM
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I also have no desire to carry a backpack. And yes, when I have been in campgrounds where bikepackers also camped, they always seemed to wear backpacks.

That said, I typically tour with four panniers of stuff that would be hard to do with a bikepacking setup. I also carry more water, the bike packers that I have met in campgrounds often ran out of water an hour or two before they got to camp, their first question was - where is the water?

Originally Posted by imi View Post
...
Now to the second eye-opener. The price! My touring rig (without front rack and panniers) would cost USD $245 from the usual online stores in Germany I buy my gear from. The bikepacker rig would cost $625 (I estimated $100 for a lightweight 18 litre backpack).
...
I believe that Ortlieb still requires that their dealers in Europe not ship to USA. My Ortliebs came from the UK, but that was over a decade ago before the prohibition. Too many USA sellers were complaining that they could not compete with the lower cost sellers in Europe, thus Ortlieb added that prohibition on their European sellers to keep their higher margin USA sellers happy.

Often Sierra Trading Post has the best price on Ortiebs, but stock and selection is limited.
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Old 12-19-20, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I believe that Ortlieb still requires that their dealers in Europe not ship to USA.
I live in Europe and buy either from Germany (Bike24, Rose etc) or the UK, though that may change in a couple of weeks with Brexit.
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Old 12-19-20, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by imi View Post
I live in Europe and buy either from Germany (Bike24, Rose etc) or the UK, though that may change in a couple of weeks with Brexit.
Oops, did not notice that.

But most of the users of this forum are from USA, so it also is a clarification to them.

I have bought from Bike24, Starbike, Wiggle, Pro Bike Kit, PlanetX, SJS, Bikeinn, and maybe a few others.
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Old 12-19-20, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
...
But most of the users of this forum are from USA, so it also is a clarification to them.
No worries, thatís why I wrote the prices in USD 🤑
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Old 12-19-20, 10:22 AM
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Capacity means freedom

I just got back yesterday from a three month tour. I had four panniers, a handlebar bag, and a lot strapped to the rear rack. It was heavy, no doubt, but not as much as it looked like. Had a ton of warm things, both to wear and sleep with. In fact, since I'm fairly big, one of my sweatshirts couldn't even fit an a bikepackers' setup, to say nothing of my other sweatshirt, sweatpants, extra blanket, and multiple pillows. None of these things weigh very much. I don't even want to think about how I could have survived the last month without, however.

I also don't know how I could have brought enough supplies up to Joshua Tree without my huge capacity. I would have had to go down the mountain to the store every day. Once I got my hands on enough water, didn't need anything for four days. Even though it was super difficult to get all those things up the hill, it was easier than doing it multiple times. Plus, I was able to bring things from further away, which meant much cheaper than the store in town.

I know one thing, I couldn't have done without any of my warm stuff. I would have never went to the high desert at all, but rather been forced to stick to the Southern Tier and take my chances with the dune buggiers who congregate the desert that time of year.
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Old 12-19-20, 12:13 PM
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Volume and cost. Bikepacking first.

Revelate Design Viscacha: 15 L, $150 (in 2000)
Revelate Design Harness with Salsa side load bag: 13L (for bag) plus 5L (Big Agnes Fly Creek tent), $85 plus $400 for tent
Revelate Design pocket: 2.8L, $70
Oveja Negra snack pack: 0.5L, $50
Oveja Negra Superwedgie, large: 4L, $95
Salsa Anything bag (2): 7L, $70
Rock Brother’s pockets (similar to Revelate pocket): 7.5L, $50
Camelbak Mule: 12L, $115

Total (volume, cost): 66L, $1075

There’s a rack on my bikepacking bike as well...Airy Titanium, $250

Road touring

Ortlieb Front Roller Classic: 25L, $170
Ortlieb Rear, Roller Classic: 40L, $190
Ortlieb Ultimate 6, large: 8L, $110
20L stuff sack for sleeping bag: 20L, $30
Tent: 5L, $400
Camelbak Mule: 12L, $115

Total: 110L, $1015

I have two Tubus racks on the bike...Cargo and Tara. About $200 for both.

Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. When it comes to putting all the stuff together, the traditional pannier system is far easier to deal with. There are only 4 panniers, a handlebar bag, tent, and sleeping bag to deal with.

2015-04-23 07.38.13 by Stuart Black, on Flickr
2015-04-23 06.25.21 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

If, for some reason you have to carry the bags somewhere...like the stupid circular stair at Harper’s Ferry...it can be done in one trip. The handlebar bag goes over the shoulder, the tent under one arm, the sleeping bag under the other and each set of bags in each hand.


The bikepacking set up is far more involved. I did a trip (pre-Covid) in the Colorado Rockies that involved using a bus service my state has. I had to put the bike on th front of the bus and the driver made me take everything off the bike except the little gas tank. I had to carry the wedge bag, the seat bag, the harness, the two fork leg bags and the pocket system for the micropanniers (not in the pictures below). And I had to do it down a narrow bus aisle. They are difficult to carry because they don’t fit together well and they are many different shapes and sizes.








The bags attach to the bike really well and they are very useful on narrow trails (not the fork leg bags) but they are a hassle to carry if you have to do so. They also take a lot more effort to remove...because they stick to the bike so well in rough terrain.

I do carry more stuff on a road tour because I do actual cooking. On the bikepacking bike, I carry a small tea kettle, a stove, and some untensils. On road trips I add a pot set. In both situations, I carry several days of food. The bikepacking is freeze dried to save weight and I’m likely not to find any kind of store on the routes I use. Existing on freeze-dried for more than about 5 days is less then desirable but that’s about the longest I’ve gone on backcountry bikepacking.

On road trips, I still carry about 3 days of food because I’ve found that I’m not always near a grocery store when I camp. It pays to have food along, especially since HelMart has hollowed out small towns.

Weight wise, I’d say it’s mostly a wash. Bikepacking might have slightly less weight due to the volume but the more bags add up. I also carry a water filter on bikepack trips that I don’t carry on road trips. I might carry more fuel as well, depending on how long I’m going to be out.
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Old 12-19-20, 12:21 PM
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In the end it just means more variety of stuff on the market.

Just because someone sells something as bikepacking or touring or gravel riding doesn't mean you can't buy it and use it to haul your grandma's hand-knit socks to the football stadium across town, or whatever seemingly bizarre but normal to you things you want to do.
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Old 12-19-20, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by waddo View Post
Bike packing is an awkward solution looking for a problem.
well, it does enable one to use any bike for touring, not just one with rack attachment points. Would be a bummer if you couldn't use a road bike for touring.

Also if you plan on travelling via hiking trails with a mountain bike panniers are simply not an option. They won't last even if they stay on for reasonable periods at a time. And you can't attach racks on a full suspension bike.
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Old 12-19-20, 12:36 PM
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Yeah, we haul different stuff and have different solutions, so it's great that there's a wide variety of bags to fit our needs.
I've gone through a number of different ways of carrying a guitar. Here's two: with a full size hard case on the side, and my latest, a 3/4 size soft case on the top.


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Old 12-19-20, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
And you can't attach racks on a full suspension bike.
While I agree with much of what you’ve said, I gotta disagree here. It’s not impossible. It’s just a bit more difficult. My YBB above is a full suspension bike that has a rack.


It wouldn’t be impossible to add a rack to this dually. I could use the brake bosses and Tubus rack clamps. As long as I kept the load small...similar to what I use on the YBB, it wouldn’t have much effect on the suspension.



It’s not terribly practical but it could be done. This bike probably wouldn’t make a very good bikepacking bike anyway. The front triangle is a bit small for a pack even in the large size frame.
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Old 12-19-20, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by downtube42 View Post
In the end it just means more variety of stuff on the market.

Just because someone sells something as bikepacking or touring or gravel riding doesn't mean you can't buy it and use it to haul your grandma's hand-knit socks to the football stadium across town, or whatever seemingly bizarre but normal to you things you want to do.
That depends on what you want to do. For road touring, panniers are by far the best solution as is a traditional touring bike. I have 25L and 40L bags but I could probably get by with just two 25L sets. If Iím not bashing through rocks however, panniers just donít cut it...even ones with great attachment systems like the Ortlieb. Iíve toured off-road with panniers and it was less than ideal. On a 300 mile trip, I had to stop several times to retrieve bags that had flown off.

Rollins Pass, 8/10/85 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

Iíve also done off-road tours with trailers which is even less ideal. I donít necessarily like bikepacking gear for the reasons given above but trailers are worse then either panniers or bikepacking gear.
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Old 12-19-20, 02:20 PM
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I did not expect to see a grocery store for at least a week and a half when I took the photo, and at that point had not seen one for six days, so this segment of this trip might be the heaviest I ever packed:



Frontloaders, 25 liters.
Backloaders, 40 liters.
Rack Pack, 31 liters.
Handlebar bag, roughly 8 to 10, I will call it 9 as a guess.
Drybag between Rack Pack and seatpost, probably about 8 liters at the time of photo.
Raingear strapped on top of front rollers, probably about 3 liters (great spot for that, available at a moments notice without even openning a pannier).
Small triangular bag on top of top tube and strapped to seatpost with two tubes and patch kit, less than a half so rounding off to nearest whole number at zero liters.
Nobody else appears to be including water in volume, so I won't, but that is three bottles, one liter each.

That adds up to 116 liters excluding water. I do not want to know what it weighed. But about 40 liters of that was food, so volume got smaller over time.

No backpack.
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Old 12-19-20, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
That adds up to 116 liters excluding water.
Absolutely fantastic photo and rig! Where is it?

I do believe that would qualify even on BF as "fully loaded"
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Old 12-19-20, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by imi View Post
Absolutely fantastic photo and rig! Where is it?

I do believe that would qualify even on BF as "fully loaded"
Photo in my previous post would have been when I was on the way north towards Hveravellir on F35 in Iceland, heading across the island.

This photo was taken a little later that day. This was when the road was still good. I met an Italian going the same direction, we each were photographer for each other at that spot. He was on a Stumpjumper, four panniers, rack top bag, handlebar bag.



A few hours later that day the road got a bit more cobbley. When you see something in the road that is smaller than a tennis ball, you do not bother trying to miss it.




I had owned my Nomad for three years at that time, it was overdue for its first tour.
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Old 12-19-20, 04:51 PM
  #22  
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FWIW, on my most recent tours I have used neither panniers nor typical bikepacking bags. I went with alternate setups using a bar roll (or in one case a big handlebar bag) and stuff sacks strapped on the rear rack. If you pack light and split the gear between the bar roll (maybe 3 or 4 pounds), rear rack (maybe 5 or 6 pounds), and a little backpack (maybe 3 or 4 pounds). Those numbers are just the gear. Some food gets squeezed in where it will fit. Water is in bottles on the frame and supplemented as needed depending on resupply access. Sometimes I need to carry a few bottles in the backpack.

Not often, but now and then there may be a day when I need to carry water for a 24 hour period. In that case I load the backpack pretty heavy. I don't like it but the weight goes down as the day goes on.
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Old 12-19-20, 04:58 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I used to say the same thing. Then on one trip in the desert southwest I wore a camelback full of ice and found it comfortable enough. I figured that was mostly just because I was enjoying the wet and cold of the melting ice. Then a few years later I wore a little backpack that I carry for going to the store or toting extra food and water when necessary for a longer stretch and found that when it wasn't needed for the extra capacity I still wanted to wear it. So I guess it wasn't just the ice, the backpack wasn't bad after all.

Since then I have been enjoying using a little UL backpack with not much stuff in it. It is nice to have a few items automatically go with me when I get off the bike to go into a store or diner or go for a short hike or whatever. I never put more than a few pounds in it, typically no more than 2 or 3 unless there is the need for carrying water for a long stretch between restock points. While it is only 2 or 3 pounds It is a significant portion of my load when packing ultralight. Also it is a great way to have the things I expect to need throughout the day easily at hand.

I find that I like to use something like either the 2.5 ounce Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil pack or my old REI Flash 18 pack at a bit more robust 9 ounces. I really like them both and which one I take depends on the usage expected. In either case I don't find it all that much different than carrying a bunch of stuff in jersey pockets and when I expect to wear the backpacks I am likely to forgo the jerseys in favor of a tech tee.
I can see your take on it, abd I realize that a lot of smaller knapsacks have really good back foam shaped and with air channels to reduce sweating.
and I do believe the ice water thing on hot days.
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Old 12-19-20, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
I can see your take on it, abd I realize that a lot of smaller knapsacks have really good back foam shaped and with air channels to reduce sweating.
and I do believe the ice water thing on hot days.
I think that they are not for everyone, but I suggest that it might be worth giving one a try if it seems like it might suit the needs of the trip, even for folks who think they will hate it. The chance of success goes up a lot with one of the smaller comfier models and a very light load.

On the ice water thing, yeah in 100* heat it was awesome. With a big camelback filled full of ice and then topped up with water the ice lasted all day. Of course that meant carrying the whole day's water from the start.
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Old 12-19-20, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I did not expect to see a grocery store for at least a week and a half when I took the photo, and at that point had not seen one for six days, so this segment of this trip might be the heaviest I ever packed:
Damn!!! That's a lot of food you have haul. Kudos, Im impressed.

I travel both ways, panniers or bikepackingish. I use my own setup and not official bikepacking gear. I much prefer the feel of the bikepacking setup. When I travel that way I have minimal stuff, thus very lightweight. When I travel with panniers I expect periods without easy food supply, tho' never like Tourist in MSN
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