Bikepacking has become the term coined for any bike bags not deemed to be part of "conventional touring" - that of two rear panniers, two front panniers, and a rectangular handlebar bag with a clear top for easy map reading.
With the introduction of ultra-distance road rides and off-road touring, the idea of super-light bags that attach to logical empty spaces on the bike: the space between your handlebars, the space under your saddle or the front triangle of your frame, has led to the introduction of new fabrics, intelligent design and exquisite finishing.
But this concept is nothing new. Carradice for one has been making expert saddle bags for decades - ask any seasoned Audax rider, many swear by them (and many just swear - that's what you get with these long-ride types). Taking up the made in Britain baton for the new wave of bikepacking bags is Restrap. Based in Leeds and manufacturing right in the city, these former fixed gear riders know how to make a tough pedal strap or urban backpack so were ideally suited to the difficulties and challenges of bikepacking bag manufacture. Founder and designer Nathan was recently bemoaning to us the fact that they had to import a specific type of Velcro - every other component is either sourced domestically or from the Yorkshire region itself.
While healthy competition from stateside brands such as Porcelain Rocket remains, Restrap is fast becoming one of the top choices when it comes to kitting out a bike for any distance.
In order to better illustrate the potential of Restrap and bikepacking bags, we took their full range and set up our in-house Twin Six Standard Rando with the various bag configurations one might consider over varying distances.
Extra food, snacks, phone and keys, just pop them in a top tube bag
Longer days require more clothing, waterproofs or warm layers stashed in a frame bag. A change of gloves is our top tip - take warm ones for cold starts and mitts with extra padding for the mid-afternoon weariness
Adding a grab bag (great for food or even a water bottle) is a great option when the road gets bumpy. No reaching around to jersey pockets or leaning down to bottle cages as you tackle tricky gravel sections
A saddlebag has enough space for a tarp/bivvy/sleeping bag or alternatively a change of clothes after a night in a b&b - we'd choose the latter
As one of the origin points for bikepacking, the ultra-distance race is where these bags excel. Carrying more than fits in these bags and that extra weight means you'll struggle to make the cutoff
The long tour or road ride, perhaps retracing a race route at a more sedate pace. Those big daily mileages mean Bikepacking's weight savings are where to look, jelly baby stuffed grab bag and all