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Bikepacking bags have come a long way in the past decade. The materials are of higher quality, the designs are sleeker and almost all bags are fully waterproof.
So, where to from here?
Many bag manufacturers are now offering stabilized bikepacking bags and harnesses that promise a better user experience.
After trading in the rack and pannier set up, adding rack supports back on your bike may seem like you’ve come full circle. But there are a few reasons why it makes sense to offer stabilized bikepacking bags, past keeping them still.
Note: This article was originally published in 2018 but has now been updated in March 2022.
The Advantages of Stabilized Bikepacking Bags
Regular bikepacking handlebar packs naturally rest against the shift and brake cables of your bike. Unless you’re running really long cables, you might be hampering the performance of your brakes and gears. A stabilized handlebar pack will allow you to lift the load off your cables to prevent any performance hindrances.
Reducing Paint Rub
Handlebar packs often have a strap that fits the headtube of your frame to keep it in place. Over time, this strap will have a go at your paint, along with any other parts of the handlebar pack that are touching your frame. The obvious answer is to fit some clear tape to your headtube so that your paint doesn’t get scuffed, but that’s not necessary with a stabilized bag set up.
Eliminating Front Bag Squeak
Along with regular handlebar packs rubbing on your frame, they can also make an infuriating squeak as you slowly turn your handlebars. You can have a squeak-free bike by using a stabilized front bag.
Eliminating Bag Sway
Ahh, the dreaded tail wag of a bikepacking seat pack. The more modern seat packs are pretty good at eliminating this, but with a sloppy pack job, even the best will wiggle around a bit. Stabilized seat packs use rack supports to ensure that your rear load is stable at all times.
Sometimes the gap between your seat and tyre, or handlebar and tyre is limited. This often means fitting smaller diameter bags with reduced capacities. Many of the stabilized bags increase this clearance by allowing you to lift a handlebar pack higher, or by cinching down a drybag further back behind the saddle.
The Disadvantages of Stabilized Bikepacking Bags
The biggest downside to a stabilized system is that they’re way more susceptible to damage. If you come off your bike or accidentally drop it, you can damage the somewhat fragile rack supports (your bags will be fine). Some products listed here are more durable than others – before buying, it’s prudent to research whether these products are lasting the test of time. I normally search the name of a product plus ‘broken’ or ‘cracked’ into a search engine (eg. ‘Arkel Seatpacker broken’).
While most handlebar and seat packs are in the 300-450 gram range, the stabilized gear is anything from 400-1500 grams, but more often than not, it’s >600 grams. This may be a concern for those who are racing but won’t make much of a difference to your overall pack weight otherwise.
Front Stabilized Bikepacking Bags and Harnesses
Aeroe Spider Cradle // 479 grams or 170z (without dry bag)
The Aeroe Spider harness allows you to attach any drybag you like to your handlebar, although Aeroe sells a dry bag with webbing in the right spots to suit the harness straps. The maximum luggage weight on this harness is 5kg/11lbs.
Arkel Rollpacker 15 and 25 // 680-748 grams or 24-26oz
This dual-access bag has an accessory bag attached to the front, and it’s all supported with two arms that swoop under the bag to hold it in place. It’s available in either a 15-litre or a rather monstrous 25-litre configuration suited to flat bars. The maximum capacity is 7kg/15lbs.
Blackburn Outpost Elite Handlebar Roll // 795 grams or 28oz
The original Blackburn Outpost was one of the first stabilized bags. The latest version, the Outpost Elite, uses a plastic handlebar mount to attach the harness, and once your drybag is locked in place, two straps keep your bag riding high. The drybag that is provided with the Outpost Elite is 14 litres and the system has a maximum load capacity of 3.6kg/8lbs.
PDW Gear Belly // 1026 grams or 36oz
The Gear Belly uses a handlebar mount to secure the harness in place. It offers cinching straps on both the inside and outside of the harness which ensures your drybag is going nowhere. The Gear Belly without a dry bag is 850g, and it’s 1026g with a Revelate Saltyroll with a 15-litre capacity. The cradle has a 7kg/15lbs capacity.
Salsa EXP Series Anything Cradle Top or Side Load // 640 grams or 23oz
The Salsa Anything Cradle is one of two products that will easily fit a front accessory pouch for a phone, wallet or food. There are two models to choose from: the “Top-Load” is a rolltop drybag that is suitable for drop bars as the bag width is fixed, and the “Side-Load” is a conventional dual-access dry bag. The volume works out to be a touch smaller on the Top-Load model (12.7L vs 13.7L). The handlebar mount can support up to 3.6kg/8lbs and will fit onto 31.8mm or 35.0mm diameter handlebars.
Swood Twisted T-Bar + BXB Goldback Bag // ~1100 grams or 39oz
The Twisted T-Bar takes up a headset spacer slot to support a front bag like the Bags x Bird Goldback you see pictured. As this is a new product, I’m keen to see whether it’s tough enough for long-term off-road use.
Vap Cycling Butterfly 2 // 660 grams or 23oz
Vap Cycling recently unveiled a neat stabilized harness kit to hold a drybag. The mounting kit includes an aluminium structure (two different lengths) that bolts to your handlebar and offers four points for the sling to grab on. The front section doubles as a light and GPS mount, or alternatively, a location for some bar-ends should you be using the optional aero bar elbow pads. The harness is made from a non-slip fabric called ‘Rubbotex’ which is used in the nautical industry, and it’s reinforced with two glass fibre sticks to keep the harness rigid even when not fully filled. The mounting kit and harness weigh in at 490g, which is boosted up to 660g when using the 11-litre dry bag.
Vincita Strada Handlebar Bag // 1.1 kilograms or 2.4lbs
Little known Thai brand Vincita produce a really neat harness called the Strada, which uses a Klickfix handlebar mount to attach and remove your harness from your bike. The supplied dry bag is relatively small at 8.9-litres, but the harness will fit a 15-litre dry bag if you use a flat handlebar.
WZRD Ritual Rack LITE // ~1.2 kilograms or 2.7lbs
The Ritual Rack handlebar is custom made by WZRD Bikes and integrates a dry bag cradle into the handlebar itself. This option is not cheap at all – expect around US $400 for a bar built to your every specification.
Rear Stabilized Bikepacking Bags
Aeroe Spider Rack // 971 grams or 28oz
This seatstay-mounted rack allows you to cinch a drybag to the top as well as up to two Aeroe “Quick Mount Pods” on either side. The rack will support a rather hefty 16kg/35lbs.
Arkel Seatpacker 9 and 15 // 640-720 grams or 23-25oz
The Seatpacker is the narrow bikepacking seat pack option by Arkel. It uses a mini-rack that mounts to both the seatpost and saddle rails to ensure the bag is free from tail wag. Given the design, it can be mounted to a dropper seatpost too if you’re that way inclined. The Seatpacker is available in 9 and 15-litre sizes and will handle 5kg/13lbs.
Note: A friend’s Arkel mini-rack snapped on the Baja Divide route. It’s worth researching whether this product has been recently updated, or alternatively, keep some hose clamps on hand.
Arkel Rollpacker 15 and 25 // 817-900 grams or 29-32oz
The same front Rollpacker bags can be used on the rear too, but you’ll need to purchase the quick-release saddle rack. If you have a limited distance between your saddle and tyre, you can mount these 15 or 25-litre bags on top of the rack (pictured) but if you’ve got ample clearance, hang it underneath the rack for a lower centre of gravity. The maximum capacity of this system is 7kg/15lbs.
Blackburn Outpost Elite Seat Pack // 572 grams or 20oz
The Outpost Elite uses a metal structure that mounts to the saddle rails to minimise bag sway. As the rack does not connect to the seatpost, it makes the Outpost Elite suitable for both dropper seatposts and carbon seatposts too. The maximum capacity is 4.8kg/11lbs.
Carradice Bikepacking Seat Pack // 600 grams or 21oz
This 12-16 litre seat pack (and the specially seat-rail-mounted rack) is made by Carradice, who have been making bike bags for almost a century. It’s available in black, neon or camo and will comfortably carry 3kg/6.6lbs. For heavier loads (6kg/13.2lbs) you can connect a compression strap from the saddle rails to the tab on the underside of the bag to ensure it gets the right support.
Carradice Super C with Bagman QR Support // 1.5kg or 3.3lbs
Carradice have been making canvas saddle bags for a very long time, and there are now more than a dozen models to choose from. These saddle bags can mount directly into the saddle loops behind Brooks saddles, but it’s recommended to use Carradice’s stabilizing rack (called the Bagman QR) that keeps your bag stable and allows you to install or remove the bag in seconds. The Bagman QR support (pictured) is good for up to 10kg/22lbs but is not rated for off-road use.
PDW Bindle Rack // 350 grams or 13oz
The Bindle Rack is a popular option for those with minimal clearance between their seat and tyre. You can use the included straps to cinch down a drybag such as the Revelate Terrapin pictured here. The maximum capacity is 5kg/12lbs and is not able to be used with carbon seatposts.
Rockgeist Mr. Fusion Seat Pack // 560 grams or 20oz
The Mr. Fusion seat packs consist of a dry bag and harness system that’s supported by a mini-rack. You can get the dry bags in large (8-12 litres) or XL size (10-15 litres). The mini-rack is not suitable for carbon seatposts.
Roswheel Off-Road Seat Pack // 600 grams or 21oz
Roswheel makes medium and large-sized seat packs (8-litre or 15-litre) that are suitable for off-road riding. A 27.2mm or 31.6mm diameter support rack keeps everything stable, but like similar rack designs – these are not suitable for carbon seatposts.
Tailfin AeroPack Carbon and Alloy // 600-780 grams or 21-27oz
The AeroPack is a little different because the rack connects at both the seatpost and rear axle. The included 20-litre dry bag ends up sitting on top of the rack where you’d normally find a standard seat pack. Two long cinching straps allow you to expand your volume even further if you need to by adding an extra drybag as pictured. Given the solid rack design, the Tailfin is good for 12kg/26lbs.
Topeak Backloader X Seat Pack + Backloader Wishbone // 723 grams or 25oz
The Backloader X harness is designed to be used in conjunction with the optional Topeak Backloader Wishbone. With the harness connected to the stabilizer, bag sway is significantly reduced. A neat feature is the bottle cage mounts on either side of the Wishbone that add extra water capacity. The Topeak bikepacking harness is available with either 10 or 15-litre dry bags.
VAP Cycling Kangaroo Seat Pack // ~600 grams or 21oz
VAP Cycling makes a rear bikepacking harness with lower rack support. The system comes with a 15-litre dry bag and you can get the Kangaroo rack for 27.2mm, 30.9mm or 31.6mm diameter seatposts. This bag/rack combo is not suitable for carbon seatposts.
Other Bikepacking Bag Stabilizers and Protectors
Stabilizers: Woho, Topeak, Williamly, ECYC, Rhinowalk, Minoura
These products are designed to stabilize any seat pack you like, but please note: they get mixed reviews regarding whether they do an effective job. Woho came up with this rather simple stabilizing bracket that has now been copied by a handful of manufacturers. These brackets mount directly to your saddle rails and cradle either side of your seat pack to stop bag way. The bottle cage mounts on either side of the bracket are a bonus.
Rockgeist Armadillo Dry Bag Protector
And lastly, you can simply mount a rack to your bike and strap down a dry bag using rubber straps. If you are planning to do this, please protect your dry bag from wearing against your rack on bumpy roads. Rockgeist makes a bag protector called the Armadillo. Alternatively, you could cut some plastic to separate your dry bag fabric from the metal rack.
Click HERE to see the complete list of bikepacking bag manufacturers and HERE for my roll-top, basket bag and saddlebag resource.