Push Your Boundaries with a Modular Approach to Bikepacking

If our extensive kitgrid library has taught us anything, it’s that there are countless ways to carry bikepacking gear to suit terrain, conditions and riders. Unsurprisingly, most riders begin with a saddle bag and a frame bag, but it’s easy to build out from there to suit the length of your trip and the conditions you will encounter. Read on to discover how a modular approach to bikepacking can help you push your boundaries and embrace bikepacking year-round.

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Three bikepackers ride down a gravel road alongside a green hill with cows on it just after dawn

 

Most bikepackers have a favourite pack or pack combination. Whether it’s the frame pack or top tube bag you never remove or the saddle pack, frame pack and handlebar roll combination that has been on every trip you’ve ever done. It’s your go-to and it fits your usual kit perfectly, allowing you to embrace the bikepacking adventures you enjoy; from overnighters to racing and longer tours.

But it can also be limiting. You can’t quite fit your rain gear or there’s not enough space for a thicker sleeping bag or down jacket, so you cancel plans when the weather turns. There’s nothing wrong with saving bikepacking for perfect conditions, but by embracing a modular approach you can easily expand your regular setup to try new kinds of adventures. It might be a trip to a colder, wetter climate that’s been on your bucket list or just the desire to enjoy a crisp autumn sunset and sunrise on a nearby hill or mountain with friends.

Rather than looking at a bigger saddle bag that you might only use once or twice a year, consider instead how you can add storage to the unused parts of your bike to free up the space you need. It might be as simple as moving your toolkit or adding some space for food. Creating space elsewhere frees up existing space and suddenly that extra toasty sleeping bag fits in your saddle pack and you’re ready to face a sub-zero night in the hills. Rather than doubling up on kit, you’ll be expanding your bikepacking setup and more likely to find yourself regularly embracing new challenges or saying ‘yes’ to those slightly wilder invitations.

A bikepacker rides along a coastal path with kite surfers in the background

Two cyclist sit bathing in the glow of the sunrise in front of a bike covered in bikepacking bags

A cyclist adjusts the gas inlet on a camping stove with a boiling pot of water on top

Accessory packs are an obvious starting point for expanding your setup. An Accessory Pocket on a handlebar roll adds significant space for snacks and layers and is a great place to relocate some of the items you carry in your frame bag. Food pouches are another under-utilised pack for freeing up space. A single food pouch might carry all the food you need or simply provide the space for the extra you require over your normal setup. Pairing two food pouches creates endless possibilities for carrying snacks, water and anything that doesn’t need to be kept dry but takes up precious space in your waterproof packs.

Top tube packs are the one place where we might break our rule about not using a larger pack for one-off trips and a smaller pack for more usual expeditions. That said, we believe that the versatility of top tube packs means it’s one of the few places where you’re likely to get a lot of use out of two different packs. A Long Top Tube Pack (whether Racing or Backcountry) adds serious capacity to a setup. For some, they’re overkill for shorter rides but essential for longer tours, so it’s not rare to have a smaller top tube pack as a ‘daily driver’ and swap in a Long Top Tube Pack any time you’re heading a bit further.

Luckily, bike manufacturers are also making it easier than ever to add accessories to bikes. Where once bikes with mounts were ‘special’, now more bikes feature accessory mounts, particularly in the gravel and adventure world. Fork mounts, whether two or three bolts, allow for the mounting of cargo cages, like the Innovation Lab Cargo Cage (which is compatible with both two and three-bolt mounts). If you just need to carry some water, a Nalgene bottle and a Voile strap is all you need. If you need to carry cooking equipment, extra layers and things you want to keep dry, then an Expedition Fork Pack adds significant space to a setup, particularly if you use a pair.

A closeup view of an Expedition Cargo Cage Pack mounted to an Innovation Lab Cargo Cage on a downtube

Accessory mounts are also common on downtubes. With the addition of a cargo cage, this can be another great place to carry tools and spares or even more water. With the limited clearance created by your chainring, a smaller pack like an Expedition Cargo Cage Pack will be required (these packs are also great on forks if you don’t need as much space as an Expedition Fork Pack). If you don’t have accessory mounts on your downtube, don’t worry, the Expedition Downtube Pack attaches securely to most downtubes without the need for a cage.

The modular approach is something we embrace ourselves at Apidura. On a recent end-of-season overnighter, the team used accessory packs and a modular approach to boost their setups to deal with the incessant rain and freezing temperatures. We didn’t require much extra kit, but the kit we needed had to fit somewhere!

I’m usually a big fan of the ‘fast and light’ approach to bikepacking and tend to carry a bivvy to sleep in or simply find some cover and lie out in just my sleeping bag. While I can generally fall asleep just about anywhere, I hate getting wet, so knowing heavy rain was forecast, I decided to carry my tent. With my three-season sleeping bag taking up all the spare room in my saddle bag, this meant reaching for my Cargo Cages and Fork Packs. As we were planning on cooking, I also had to free up space for my stove, extra food and cooking utensils. Fortunately, a Cargo Cage Pack created just enough space to move the tools and spares out of my frame pack to make room for everything.

-Chris Herbert / Apidura
A bikepacker wearing an orange jacket rides on grass alongside deep ruts full of puddles
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