What are bikepacking bags and how do you pack them?
Bikepacking bags are a sleek, lightweight and low-drag alternative to pannier bags or backpacks for cyclists that need to carry luggage for overnight or long-distance trips. In this article, we’ll explain the different types of bikepacking bags, how you use them and offer up some top tips on how to pack them so your adventures run smoothly, even if you’re riding in the rough.
Not sure what bikepacking is? Well, it’s the bike-based version of backpacking, taking everything you need for a self-supported trip on your bike, whether it’s an evening down in the local woods or a self-supported multi-day epic to a far-flung corner of the world. Bikepacking is a fun and affordable way to have adventures and these bags will let you take everything you need to keep you comfortable.
There are generally three main components to a normal bikepacking luggage setup; a front roll, the frame bag and the saddle pack. You can also add other elements to boost your carrying capacity, such as oversized cages mounted to the fork or a top tube bag.
The MERIDA bikepacking bag range has been designed to work perfectly with our go-anywhere SILEX bikes, but the bags will fit to many other mountain and road bikes without any issues.
MERIDA TRAVEL saddlebag (click here for details)
The saddle pack is one of the most iconic parts of the bikepacking setup and it’s also one that can carry a huge amount of kit. It’s attached around your seat post and is held in place by straps that feed under the saddle rails, with one side using a fast and secure magnetic Fidlock attachment. Like all of the MERIDA bikepacking bags, it’s made from a tough waterproof ripstop fabric that’s joined using sonic welding so there aren’t any holes around the seams to let water in.
This pack has a capacity of up to 21 and a quarter litres, though as it expands and contracts with a roll top, you can put as much or as little as you like in here. It’s best suited to fairly lightweight but bulky items such as clothing and bedding. If you stick too much weight it causes the pack to flap about and having weight high up will also lead to unpredictable handling when riding.
There’s an elasticated band on the top that’s great for stuffing a waterproof onto so it’s quick to hand, while a side entry zip means you can access kit at the bottom of the bag without issue. There are also loopholes on the rear of the pack that you can thread a rear light onto or use with an additional strap for extra carrying capacity. As with all the MERIDA bags here, the detailing is reflective, so you’re more visible and safer when riding at night.
MERIDA TRAVEL framebag (click here for details)
Frame bags are excellent for storing heavier things that you still need fairly easy access to as they keep the weight central and relatively low down, which upsets the bike’s handling much less. This one comes with a removable organiser and divider, so you can get everything arranged neatly or you can take it out to maximise storage. The organiser is bright yellow, which makes it much easier to see what’s in there, especially in low light.
The framebag is a good place to put heavy items that you still need fairly easy access to, such as your toolkit, pump and spares. You can also stick in a hydration bladder in here if you need a lot of water and won’t get a chance to refill en-route. It’s also a good place to pop arm and leg warmers, so they’re really easy to get to if the weather starts to change as well.
To suit both larger and smaller bike frames, we make two versions of the TRAVEL framebag, with the larger option having 5.5 L of storage and the smaller one having 4.6L. Which one you’ll pick depends on how much space you’ve got in your bike’s front triangle – and obviously if you’re on a full suspension bike then it might not be possible to fit a frame bag here at all. You might also lose access to your water bottle cages – though a bike like the SILEX has plenty more bottle cage mounts to choose from. You could also use a side-access bottle cage too.
MERIDA TRAVEL handlebar bag (click here for details)
As the name suggests, the handlebar bag is secured with padded straps that go around your bars and also your head tube or fork crown to prevent any excess movement. It’s got a maximum capacity of 17.4L and it uses a double-ended roll-top design, so you can get at your kit from either end. A bit like the seat pack, it’s well suited to bulky kit that’s not that heavy, as having a load of weight on the bars can make the handling feel a bit odd, though you do adapt over time.
It’s a really good place to put stuff like your sleeping bag, mat and bivvy bag, as you can roll them all up together and squash them down. Doing this means it’s easy to set up for the night as you simply undo the bag, empty all of your kit and you’re set.
Once again, there’s an elasticated cord on top, so you can stuff clothing, a map, or anything else you like on here. There are also some straps on the front so you can attach a lightweight tent or a tarp with poles if you need a bit more shelter.
MERIDA EXPERT STRIPE top tube bag (click here for details)
Another addition that’s really useful on a bikepacking ride – or any longer distance ride – is a top tube bag. It attaches to both your stem and top tube and it’s a really useful place to keep any things you want close to hand, such as snacks, a phone or a camera. Again, it’s waterproof, so your kit will be safe inside.
MERIDA TRAVEL forkbag (click here for details)
If you really need to maximise on-bike storage then these cages and their forkbags are very useful and really versatile. They mount to the fork mounts on the fork of the SILEX, but they can also be attached with the included ties and padding if your fork doesn’t have any.
You can either mount stuff directly to them, such as a large capacity water bottle, or you can pop other items you need to keep clean and dry inside the drybag, which is then attached via straps.
Of course, getting your bikepacking bags set up is very much a matter of personal preference. You’ll need to balance how long your trip it, how many luxuries you want to take and what sort of gear you’re using, but hopefully this guide will have given you a solid starting point for experimentation – which is also a great excuse to go out and have a bikepacking adventure!
To find out more about the MERIDA range of bikepacking bags and our other on-bike luggage, please click here.