Group test: Bikepacking bar rolls
Traditional handlebar bags have been popular for day rides and touring for years due to their ‘under your nose’ convenience, easy-to-organise box design, and their capacity to accommodate maps and light mounts. They’re rattly on rough ground without a support frame, however, and their boxy, lidded construction can make them hard to stuff bulky gear into.
That’s where stuffsack-style bar rolls come in. Perfect for cramming with bulky but light kit like sleeping bags, bivvy bags and down jackets, their soft, rounded design can also strap directly onto the handlebar to keep them more stable and quieter. If you’re going far enough, fast enough then they’re arguably more aerodynamic than traditional bar bags as well.
Different sizing, strapping, weatherproofing and accessorising priorities mean that choosing the right one for your bikepacking needs isn’t always easy. Hopefully this test of four medium-capacity, standard drop-bar-compatible bags will help.
Alpkit's latest bags use X-Pac X11 fabric, a lightweight organic ripstop cotton with a recycled polyester waterproof backing. Untaped seams make a drybag liner advisable. The 14L tube rolls closed at both ends and has webbing daisy chains top and bottom. Two straps thread through these to compress the contents and lash the bag onto the bar. There’s a stiffening square on the back and a light clip patch up front, but no head tube strap so the bag is free to bounce around. There are no bar spacers either, but it’s less than half the price of the other bags. Weight: 250g.
Affordable bag in eco-friendly fabric that bounces in the rough
Apidura is one of the original bikepacking brands. The bags’ minimalism makes them a racers’ favourite. The 9L Expedition pack is super compact (the 14L is £104) but has clips for adding an auxiliary 4.5L accessory pocket (£50). There’s a bungee for spare clothing, while key areas are reinforced with Hypalon (rubber dinghy fabric). Waterproofing from the ultrasonically welded fabric is excellent, and despite the low weight the bags have an excellent reputation for durability. There are dedicated 7L and 11L Backcountry bags for flat bars. Weight: 300g.
Minimalist but super tough and weatherproof compact bag
Ortlieb's handlebar-pack has a belt-and-braces bar attachment strategy, using broad rubberised velcro sub-straps with latched-buckle webbing straps over the top. The double-depth bar pads provide hand room, and the stiffened roll has a head tube strap for security. I tested the smaller 9L bag (15L is £125) but its fixtures and durable fabric still make it fairly heavy and pricy. The bag is so well sealed it has to have an air release valve for use after being rolled shut, so rain is no issue. There’s an accessory pack add-on for £60. Weight: 450g.
A waterproof, bombproof bag for life with multiple fixtures
Restrap's bar bag is the only stuffsack-and-holster design here, which makes it the heaviest. Despite being ‘Small’ it’s the joint biggest at 14L so you’ll need to line up the separate dry bag evenly. It’s the thinnest material here too, which causes some concern. Spacers give you the top of the bar back for hands, lights, etc, and there’s a hod-top bungee for stashing a jacket. The QR bar buckles use a cam action to keep them tight, while lower straps loop up under the fork crown for excellent stability – but perhaps more paint rub. Weight: 310 + 160 = 470g.
Versatile drybag-and-holster. Good stability but a thin sack
The Alpkit bag is the simplest, least stable, and needs a waterproof liner. I’ve little durability data on the lightweight fabric but the bag is keenly priced and the UK factory backup is excellent.
The Ortlieb sits at the other end of the engineering, price and weight spectrum but gives tons of lash-on options, full bar use, and bombproof, weatherproof performance.
Restrap’s new combo impresses too, although the lightweight drybag is very thin and the mounting system adds potential paint-wear peril.
Apidura’s Expedition bag is cleanly executed, compact, lightweight yet durable, and very weatherproof at a good price for the quality. You’ll need to add spacers to get your bar tops back.