The Best Bike Handlebar Bags: Decade in Review
In our ongoing Decade in Review series, we take a thorough look into the site’s 10-year archive and identify the gear we’ve tried along the way, choosing our all-time top picks in a variety of categories. For this installment, we share what we consider the best bike handlebar bags for touring and bikepacking. Find the full list of our editors’ favorites here…
Not long ago, we celebrated a pretty big milestone: BIKEPACKING.com’s 10-year anniversary. The official decade date was October 17th, 2022. To commemorate the occasion, we started a new series to showcase the best gear we’ve tested throughout our 10 years of reviewing bikepacking equipment. The Decade in Review series asks our editors and a rotating cast of experienced bikepackers to reflect and share their all-time favorite gear from the hundreds of options they’ve tested over countless kilometers on dirt roads and rugged singletrack. Following up on our other “best of” roundups, including our favorite handlebars, saddles, and pedals, we’re delving into another range of products that we’re asked about frequently: the best bike handlebar bags for touring and bikepacking.
There are quite a few types of handlebar bags these days: handlebar rolls, harnesses, top-loader bags, cradle racks, rando bags, and many other permutations. With all those options, it was surprising to see just two camps form in our list of nine editors and contributors. Find out how it shook out below in our time-tested list of what we consider the best bike handlebar bags on the market. Each includes details on where the bag is made, pricing, thoughts on what makes it stand out, and a few photos. Note that many of these handlebar bags are available at your local bike shop, and we encourage you to buy them there if you can. If you don’t have access to a local shop, we’ve included links where they’re available online.
Logan Watts link
Made in USA / 165 grams / $150 at Campfire
It’s a tough ask for me to identify what I’d consider the best handlebar bag. I’ve tested dozens of really great bags over the years, and I often switch types depending on the genre of bike I’m riding. For instance, I usually reach for a top-loader if I’m riding a drop-bar bike or a rigid mountain bike—specifically, the Bags By Bird Goldback or Teardrop.
However, my preferred two-wheeled format is a short-travel hardtail mountain bike. To me, they make the ultimate go-anywhere, do-all-terrain bike. At the moment, there’s no better and more versatile type of handlebar bag that jives with a 120-130mm suspension fork better than a handlebar harness system. They allow you to pack a slender roll bag to keep the vertical space to a minimum and not interfere with your front tire. Plus you can pack them long and expand the load by strapping other items in or onto the harness. In short, they hold more and are easy to unpack and pack off the bike.
My go-to handlebar harness system is the Revelate Pronghorn. It’s super simple, lightweight, and has proven incredibly durable on many big trips. I’ve been using this one regularly since 2018. I also love the fact that I can pack it off the bike and use the bag as a seat around camp and a bear bag at night. It ticks a lot of boxes. The Stratex bag is also 100% waterproof, and it’s long, so it can easily fit my tent and entire sleeping system without issues. Using a harness also provides the ability to strap additional items to the outside. Lastly, I’m a big fan of the single-side opening as you can better pack items tightly with plenty of leverage.
Swift Zeitgeist and BXB Goldback
Virginia Krabill link
Made in USA / 587 grams / $208 at REI
On short adventures, a harness system is a great option, but for longer, multi-day tours, a top loading “saddlebag” is a must. They offer unparalleled ease-of-access to gear, and they are generally much easier to pack. With a roll or harness system, I invariably have to pull out everything I’ve packed before I can locate what it is I’m looking for, and, if it’s raining, that often means getting my quilt wet. With a saddlebag, I can usually find what I need quickly. I also feel that the top-loader gives me more freedom to re-arrange all of my gear as needed. That’s particularly valuable on extended trips when what I’m carrying (namely food) tends to vary quite a bit from day to day.
My favorite bags at present are the BXB Goldback and Swift Zeitgeist. They’re so forgiving. When I’m really conscientious about my packlist, everything fits inside perfectly and cinches down to a tidy little package, and when I haven’t taken the time to really nail down my gear selection, or I’ve got a surplus of consumables, these bags still accommodate and secure everything with the extendable flap and drawstring inner liner.
Road Runner Jumbo Jammer, etc.
Cass Gilbert link
All my favourite handlebar bags are top-loaders, including Roadrunner’s Jumbo Jammer, Tribulus’ Endover, BXB’s Goldback, and the Fabio’s Chest by Ron’s Bikes. This is largely because I find this style of front bag very practical, being easy to pack and easy to access, no matter the shape or density of your cargo.
Similarly, top-loaders also double up well for day-to-day riding and commuting duties (they’re great for grocery runs), which isn’t always the case with specialist bikepacking gear. Right now, my go-to bag is the BXB Goldback M. I love its classic lines, modern detailing and fabrics, great colour ways, and general durability. My other bike is running a Tribulus Endover, which is super lightweight (on par with the lighter roll bags on the market) yet highly expandable and very stable. A downside to these bags is that they’re not 100% waterproof, so I pack an extra dry bag if rain is in the forecast.
Outer Shell Handlebar Harness
Emily Bei Cheng instagram
Made in USA / 295 grams / $60 at Outer Shell
My favorite bikepacking handlebar setup is the Outer Shell Handlebar Harness paired with the Outer Shell Drawcord Handlebar Bar Bag. Its inexpensive, minimalist design uses two Voile Straps, and we all know Voile Straps are basically bombproof. I like the optionality of pairing the harness with a variety of stuff sack sizes. On my gravel bike with drop bars, I use a generic 10L dry bag, which holds my sleeping bag. On my mountain bike, I can fit larger volumes.
A drawcord handlebar bag can be threaded onto the Voile Straps of the harness to become a convenient access point while bikepacking. A drawcord looped over the bike stem secures the lid closed, making it easy to open with a single hand while riding. None of that fussing with zippers or clips on bumpy trails. I like to stash snacks in the handlebar bag along with a puffy jacket, which I throw on to retain warmth every time I stop for a snack break or a photo op. Because of the modularity of this set up, I can use the same handlebar bag standalone on my day rides too.
Lucas Winzenburg link
Made in Montreal, Quebec / 725 grams / ~$190 at Atwater Atelier
After many years of cramming things into handlebar rolls and harnesses, I’ve come to appreciate the freedom and packing ease of top-opening handlebar bags. They’re simpler to use and lend themselves better to non-bikepacking activities such as grocery runs and making coffee outside, despite their downfalls of requiring a little more real estate and typically not being waterproof. I also appreciate that many of these bags can be run behind the saddle, making them more versatile than front rolls for folks who mostly ride on less technical terrain and don’t need to run a dropper.
Among the handful of top-opening handlebar bags in my collection, my hands-down favorite is the Montreal-made Marauder from Atwater Atelier, which is offered in three sizes to fit a broad range of setups and makes organizing and accessing gear a breeze. It has a cavernous interior pocket that seems to absorb my whole bikepacking kit, and the two expandable side pockets are great for storing quick-access items like snacks and tools. Its HDPE lining helps it keep its shape no matter how full it’s packed, everything snugs down tightly into place with the included straps, and there are a whopping 20 modular attachment points where you can affix pouches, lights, and other accessories. With it’s simple Cordura construction and variety of lively color options, it’s got a good laid-back vibe, too, which counts for something in my book.
Jess Daddio link
Made in North Carolina, USA / 409 grams / $185 at Rockgeist
I spent 40 days on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route faffing about with a handlebar bag cradle I loathed. It makes me cringe thinking about how many hours I wasted repacking, restrapping, and dreaming of punting that handlebar cradle into a trash can. The handlebar-bag-that-will-not-be-named had to be perfectly packed and centered (which I could never do), the straps often came loose and caused the bag to hit the front tire, and, eventually, the cradle just flat-out broke. So the fact that I never have to think about the Rockgeist BarJam Harness system while I’m on a bikepacking trip is precisely why it’s my favorite.
Loading up is as simple as stuffing my sleep system (quilt, pad, pillow, dry clothes) into a RockGeist Ultra PE Drybag, strapping it into the harness, cinching the entire load down with Voile Straps, and rolling out. It doesn’t jiggle or wiggle. I don’t have to be conservative on rowdy descents (although I probably should for my sake, not the bag’s). And design-wise, it’s everything I need and nothing more.
Revelate Harness system
Joe Cruz link
Made in USA / 416 grams / $95 at REI
I’ve been using the Revelate Harness system since 2010. It’s durable and versatile, and it’s just the right size for the space I have between bar and wheel. It’s the workhorse of my carry format.
On big trips, a lot of my gear is in the fully extended Saltyroll, with food in the frame bag and the tent/inclement weather shells in the saddle bag. I arrange things so I can take the roll with me into the tent and have everything I need. It’s perfect. The other cool thing is that the harness can be used to carry all manner of things, such as a packraft or an armload of wood.
Outer Shell Handlebar Harness
Miles Arbour link
Made in USA / 295 grams / $60 at Outer Shell
When rough and rowdy singletrack is on the menu, I have hard time choosing anything but the Outer Shell Handlebar Harness. Redesigned in 2021, the harness is based around a durable semi-rigid plastic sheet (similar to a thin plastic cutting board) with various slots that allow for simple adjustment depending on your setup. Two beefy 32″ XL Voile Straps hold the system in place, wrapping around both the dry bag and the handlebars, resulting in a slip-free setup that doesn’t require tightening throughout the day. It’s simple yet incredibly effective.
When some additional packing space is needed, you can easily add on their Drawcord Handlebar Bag to the setup. It features an easy-access lid that secures via a shock cord loop around the stem, three small exterior pockets, a zippered interior pocket for small items, and a one-handed drawcord that cinches down to keep the weather out and contents secure. For point-and-shoot cameras and mirrorless setups, Outer Shell offers an optional Camera Padding Insert ($8 USD) made from high-density foam to provide some extra protection from the bumps and vibrations of the trail. At just $60, the Outer Shell Handlebar Harness is a steal, too!
For less technical riding and gravel, I really like the Bags by Bird Piccolo and find myself switching between the small and large version often, depending on my needs. Top-opening bags are a pleasure to use, easy to access on the go, and BXB has definitely raised the bar when it comes to overall quality and craftsmanship.
Rogue Panda Canelo Harness
Neil Beltchenko link
Made in Arizona, USA / 226 grams / $125 at Rogue Panda
Over the last few years, I’ve used a lot of harnesses from Revelate Designs, Oveja Negra, Bike Bag Dude, Alpamayo, Outershell, Salsa, Miss Grape, and Wildcat Gear, but I keep finding myself reaching for the Rogue Panda Canelo Handlebar Harness. At just six ounces, it uses an ultralight carbon fiber bar that’s secured through two precision-cut spacers. This makes a lightweight and ultra-stable system and provides extra clearance for cables and levers in front of the handlebars. The harness is attached to the bars using the same grippy straps Rogue Panda uses with their other bags, and it has three compression straps that loop around the carbon bar to secure a dry bag in place.
Another nice differentiator on the Rogue Panda Canelo Handlebar Harness is the GlidePlate, a headtube-mounting system designed to stabilize the entire load and protect your bike’s paint and headbadge. This small, semi-rigid component is made from a layer of lightweight HDPE plastic stitched to a layer of grippy rubberized fabric. Rogue Panda recently launched a new version, helping solve a few of the things I felt could use improvement, such as fixing the carbon bar in place relative to the harness, using a lighter weight foam instead of the rubber spacers, and refining those spacers to help better fit bikes with shorter headtubes, ensuring proper tire clearance.
Although I’m a massive fan of the Glideplate, it is now sold separately, which means the base price is now $25 USD cheaper. I’ve also been testing their Gila Dry Bag with this system, and I really enjoy the small 12-liter version. It comes with taped seams, so it does an excellent job of keeping water out and has proven durable. Plus, it acts great as a rear rack bag. Overall, it’s an exceptional, reliable, and lightweight system that has consistently performed well for me.
What’s your favorite handlebar bag? What do you think makes the best handlebar bag for bikepacking and bike touring? Let us know by joining the conversation below.
Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.