My Bikepacking Set Up
After my King Alfred Cycle report I thought it might be helpful to go through my general bike packing set up. This is the set up I have used for other multiday trips and thought you may find it helpful if you are starting off to build your own set up, or perhaps already have a set-up and could steal some ideas.
With any bikepacking set up the aim is to distribute the weight where possible, and plan ahead of what kit you will need for certain parts of the day.
You want to have the kit you need quickly readily available when you need it, and not be rummaging around in the bottom of bags. Any dry or valuable kit needs to be protected from the elements and any potential falls. Finally you need make sure the bags aren’t going to impede on the ride handling or efficiency.
Bike: Marin Nicasio+
This is now my go-to bike for both road and gravel. I have used my hardtail and aero-road bike with the frame bag below, but the Nicasio+ is the most practical for what I need when bikepacking. It also has a lot more attachment points for kit as well.
Saddle bag: PlanetX PodSac 9 litre
Recently I posted a review of this product on my website which you can find here. In this bag I put everything I don’t need until I stop for the night. It doesn’t get opened at any point during the day.
Toiletries – toothbrush and toothpaste, anti-histamine, paracetamol
On the elasticated bungee cords on the top of the bag I put my Hi-Vis gilet as it’s then easy to access should I get chilly or a little shower, plus doubles up as a bit of safety on the black saddle bag. I also have a light attached to the strapping should I need it.
Frame Bag: Apidura Backcountry
For my frame bag I use the Apidura 4.5 litre Backcountry Compact option, with a review of it here.
I try and put my heavy items here so they are close to the frame and not able to swing about, and pad it out with some clothes so they don’t jiggle about.
Electricals – powerbank, chargers, cables
Microphone and lapel mics
Bars and sweats
Emergency cash and card, along with important phone numbers (This bag is never removed from my bike, and has an internal zipper so you won’t accidently pull this out with other kit)
I am not overly happy with this set up of what goes in here and how it is organised, and do think it can be improved. The electricals are in their own little bag which means when I stop at a café or pub, I just take this out nice and easy, and I can then charge up all my kit. This is my heaviest bag, and it only becomes a hassle if I need to get lots of stuff out, but I do feel there is room to improve.
Ultimately my aim is to have my heaviest stuff in here, and this bag is heavy. So I am happy from a handling perspective I have the right stuff in here. If I needed to take a stove and gas for longer or remote trips, it would go in here. With the metal cup/bowl incorporated into my saddle bag sleep stuff, or on the outside of my saddle bag on the bungee cords.
Handlebar bag: Thule Stormshield
I have done a full review on the handlebar bag on this website and also as part of a YouTube video so you can find out my thoughts. It has a practical clip-on system attaching it to the handlebar which is helpful, but from a size perspective it’s not the largest compared to others which could be a limitation for some people, and may eventually be a limit for me as well.
In my handlebar bag I try and have the stuff I need access to when riding on the top and stuffed at the bottom some clothes I don’t need to touch until the end of the day
T-shirt, shorts, socks and boxers
Food and sweats
The clothes which are in a dry bag at the bottom of this bag are for when I stop at the end of the day and I get changed from my cycling kit. They have another function of offering cushioning to the Go Pro kit as well. After my ride on the King Alfred I definitely wouldn’t put my Go Pro camera and tri-pod in here again. Even though it’s one buckle to undo it’s a hassle, and a barrier. For my next trip I would definitely get a bottle/food pouch to go on the handle bar – something like this but I would need to try in person rather than buy online. A top tube bag would also be possible to hold my Go Pro, but the one I have is too small unfortunately, and I like the set up of the pouch as the camera couldn’t ‘jump’ out if it was bumpy.
My advice here would be try and not having anything too heavy in here. It will jump around lots and you don’t want it effecting your handling. I know some handlebar bags are like a stuff sack, but this would frustrate me not having easy access. I love the top buckle access and it makes it so practical. The ability to detach from the bike with ease makes any café stops easier and safer as you can take your valuables.
Top Tube Bag
This is a small bag that attaches on the top of the top tube and the base of handlebar tube by the headset. Originally bought for triathlons it’s designed to carry gels and bars in a race and is fairly small. There are ones now which are a lot bigger than this which could carry phone, Go Pro and other bits much easier.
In here I put a variety of things, or spill over from the other bags of kit I need to hand. So I won’t list it as it changes daily and on the ride, but could be bars and sweats, microphone, or sun cream.
It’s not the most practical size if I am honest, but does help if I am struggling for space in the main bags to put stuff here. Having the bars and sweats visible helps you remember to eat as well – which is a bonus of having them here and easy access.
I think if you are going to go for this option go bigger than this, and ultimately don’t get a triathlon one. It’s not practical as it can’t house anything other than bars.
I keep all my repair stuff in a red bottle that sits in a bottle cage on the underneath of my downtube (seen in the picture above). I have decided to put it here so that is nice and low in terms of centre of gravity, easy access when I need to, and out the way of all my bags.
In my homemade tool bottle is:
2 x metal tyre levers
Section of spare tyre
Puncture repair kit
Black Gaffer tape wrapped around the bottle also
Here is a link on how to make a homemade tool bottle – it’s ace and I love it! For day-to-day commuting I take out the tape, repair kit and zip ties, and replace with a tube.
Do not do this!
I do not carry a rucksack, even a small hydration one. I have in the past and it’s just not that much fun. You get sweaty and you have to work harder in your upper body to hold yourself upright.
When I am in a position that I need bigger carrying capacity I’m really not sure which option I will go down. I would be tempted to get the fork bags for my clothes/soft stuff. I have heard good things on them and it saves me buying a bigger frame or saddle bag. I wouldn’t really be set up for really large scale trip in the bike packing set up. I would in that instance just use panniers most likely. I have the rack and two options of bags so it would seem odd to spend more money upgrading the size of all my bikepacking bags when I have a good option already available.
How do you have your bike set up?
What amazing suggestions do you have that you want to pass on?