M Rackless Carry Systems for Lightweight Bikepacking

by David Chenault

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Article Summary:

The system of frame bag, seat pack, and backpack has proven itself functional, highly adaptable, and lightweight. A frame bag places heavier items low and in the center of the bike for better handling, and items like maps and food close at hand for easy access while riding. Seat bags have evolved rapidly since Boatman's original, with the most common contemporary incarnations being highly adaptable. A seatbag can carry a large percentage of the kit for less technical sections, thus removing weight from the pack and thus stress from the butt and feet. A lightweight, small, stable backpack can then take more of that weight and bulk back for technical sections, when having a lighter bike makes riding easier, safer, and more enjoyable. There is a good reason why variations of this rig have become almost universal amongst discerning bikepackers. A lot of folks add a handlebar harness for yet more gear. I've never seen the need for so much stuff, hate having weight on my bars, and thus don't use them.

Variations of this system apply to the three types of bikepacking outlined in the introductory article. Dirt touring favors more weight on the bike and less on the back, and places fewer demands on the pack as far as stability and compression are concerned. The last photo in the introductory article shows Chris Plesko's Tour Divide setup, which used a very light backpack only when lots of food and water needed to be carried. Under comparable, non-technical circumstances, heavy items like food can be placed in the seat and frame bags, with clothing and sleeping gear in the backpack. For technical riding, the reverse can be effective. For hellbiking and winter riding, a rear rack might be efficacious. Both of the seat bags tested for this article max out at 800 cubic inches, a generous but not munificent volume. Lots of insulation, foam sleeping mats, and weird shaped things like packrafts are better carried on rear racks.

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