Outer Shell Drawcord Handlebar Bag + Stuff Sack Harness Review
Outer Shell’s beautifully crafted Drawcord Handlebar Bag is a multi-purpose accessory bag that offers the convenience of one-handed functionality, and when paired with their optional Stuff Sack Harness, has the ability to stow a drybag up front for added packing space. It just might be the ultimate all-in-one handlebar bag for commuting, long day rides, and bikepacking.
Plenty of bikepackers out there, myself included, rely on a bicycle for our daily commute. This past winter I usually took advantage of a large Wald 197 front basket, tossing in a small backpack, work shoes, lunch bits, and anything else I required during the day. It worked great for commuting, but I’m still not totally sold on the added weight of my front rack and basket combo for bikepacking. I’m also a firm believer that the gear we use for bikepacking should be easily transferable to day rides, commuting, and other genres of riding where some extra storage could be useful.
As we saw with Cass’ review of the 137 Basket Bag, Kyle over at Outer Shell is creating some interesting, well built gear, so as you can imagine I was quite excited to get my hands on the Drawcord Handlebar Bag. As expected, it’s a damn good looking bag. The careful choice of fabrics and attention to detail are apparent, both of which are driving forces behind the gear Outer Shell is producing. Whether I was delivering baked goods to friends in downtown Kelowna, riding to work, or packing up for the long haul, the Drawcord Handlebar Bag remained classy as all hell, and exceptionally durable.
At first glance, it may appear to be just another simple handlebar mounted bag. However, after some significant use this winter and into the spring, I have found both the attachment system and one-handed accessibility of the Drawcord Handlebar Bag to be quite different from other alternatives out there. Two cam-locking buckles and webbing secure the bag to the handlebar on either side of the stem and a simple shock cord loop fastens around the head tube or steerer tube to help keep things in place on bumpy terrain. Although it may not seem like a selling point, I appreciate the simplicity of the lower head tube attachment. As this area is prone to dirt build up, the shock cord will rub a bit less than webbing or buckled alternatives, and provides some give when bouncing down the trail. The cord lock loop is also quick to attach and remove, so bringing the bag inside your tent or into the cafe to keep an eye on it and its precious contents becomes a no brainer.
The exterior storm flap can be easily opened and closed with one hand, by way of another simple shock cord loop that hooks around your stem or head tube. Beneath the flap is an expandable drawcord section that helps keep the weather out and the contents inside. The X-Pac lined storm flap with drawcord closure isn’t completely impermeable to the weather outside, but after several long rides in light rain and wet falling snow, I’d trust the bag to protect most electronics I carry with me. Once again, this closure can be operated with one hand because of Outer Shell’s unique “drawcord lock system.” The simple shock cord closures hold firmly, allow for a bit of stretch, and are easily replaceable if they ever wear out.
The power of simplicity continues down into the bag’s interior as well. The main compartment features a slender zippered compartment that’s big enough for a wallet, money, or valuables that require some extra safekeeping. This pocket, the interior, and the storm flap are all lined with X-Pac for added weatherproofing, and PU-coated Cordura is used everywhere else. There are a total of three external pockets on the front and sides that are big enough for some snacks, multi-tool, wallet, or keys. However, since these external pockets do not zip or clasp, you might be at risk of things bouncing out when the roads get rough – something to keep in mind when packing.
What Fits Inside
– MSR Trailshot Microfilter
– Crankbrothers M17
– Voile strap
– Vargo BOT 700
– Trangia Alcohol Burner
– Nalgene HDPE bottle (with fuel)
– BioLite Charge 20
– iPhone cable
– Ripe banana
Packing A Camera
For camera-toting readers out there, the Drawcord Handlebar Bag makes a fantastic camera carrier as well. For an additional $8.00, you can purchase the Outer Shell Camera Padding Insert, which uses high density foam for added protection against the bumps and rumble of the trail. With the foam insert installed, I had no problem fitting my Olympus mirrorless camera with a mid-length 12-40mm lens attached, leaving a bit extra space for a few cliff bars or my ultralight Outdoor Research rain jacket. I usually packed my camera with the lens facing towards the top, which seemed to be the most secure way to store it. When using my shorter prime lens, I could position the camera sideways to leave a little more room on one end of the bag for snacks.
Larger DSLRs may not fit comfortably inside the bag, especially when using the optional padded insert, but it would still be a realistic place to store extra lenses and other electronics you might want at hand. It’s safe to say that most mirrorless and point-and-shoot style cameras will have no problem fitting in the Drawcord Handlebar Bag, as well as some smaller DSLRs.
Outer Shell Stuff Sack Harness
The optional Stuff Sack Harness converts the Drawcord Handlebar Bag into a bikepacking-friendly harness and bag setup, or can also be used as a standalone harness when the handlebar bag isn’t needed. What I like about this setup is how modular all of the components are, allowing you to tweak your front end to suit your needs with a few changes to the straps and buckles.
The harness uses the same locking-cam buckles as the handlebar bag to secure onto the bars, and, you guessed it, the same shock cord loop to secure down on the head tube. The harness is made from a semi-rigid plastic material, similar to that of a super thin cutting board, that does a pretty good job of holding a dry bag in place. I found that the thin plastic material created a somewhat slippery surface for my dry bag, causing my load to rotate around on bumpy terrain, no matter how tight I cinched it down.
Outer Shell claims the harness will hold any cylindrical object from 4” to 9” in diameter, and I found my Porcelain Rocket Nugget to be about the perfect size when paired with the handlebar bag. The harness comes with five foam spacers that can be used on the handlebar straps or the head tube cord to provide extra clearance for cables and to minimize rubbing and scuffs from the plastic harness on the head tube area (extra spacers are available to purchase for $1.00 each).
It’s not quite as simple as clipping on the handlebar bag when you decide to use the Stuff Sack Harness as well. Some rerouting of webbing and a bit of adjustment is needed. It took me a bit of time to get everything set up properly, which is different than some of the plug and play options like Revelate Designs’ Egress Pocket or the recently announced Porcelain Rocket Horton. I also found the handlebar bag tends to sit higher up on my cylindrical dry bag than I expected, slightly tilting the contents towards my bars. It looks as if an oval dry bag would help overcome this, and it just so happens that Outer Shell sells some SeaLine options on their website as well.
Rather than trying to explain how to set up the Stuff Sack Harness with the Drawcord Handlebar Bag, Outer Shell put together a detailed video outlining the process:
- Modular system works for a variety of purposes including bikepacking, long day rides, and commuting.
- High quality build and clever design.
- Thoughtful material choices that make sense.
- One-handed accessibility for camera or snacks.
- Handmade in California.
- Not completely waterproof.
- Adding the handlebar bag to the Stuff Sack Harness isn’t an immediate swap, and requires some adjustment at first.
- Stuff Sack Harness’ plastic material is a bit slippery when paired with certain dry bags.
To give you an idea of size, the Outer Shell Drawcord Handlebar Bag is 8″ x 4″ x 5″ (20.3 x 10.2 x 12.7cm) with a 3.5″ expandable drawcord section and can fit up to six 12 oz. cans. It comes in nine color options as well (this one is ‘Charlie Brown’).
- VOLUME: Six 12 oz. cans
- WEIGHT: 280g (Handlebar Bag), 120g (Harness + 4 foam spacers)
- REQUIRED CLEARANCE: 5″ (12.7cm) between centre of handlebars to top of tire
- PLACE OF MANUFACTURE: CALIFORNIA, USA
- PRICE: $90 (Drawcord Handlebar Bag), $40 (Stuff Sack Harness)
- Manufacturer’s Details: OuterShellAdventure.com
It’s hard not to love the Outer Shell Drawcord Handlebar Bag. It’s got style, function, and several useful features that will appeal to different types of riders. The bag is a solid, accessible camera hauler if you’re into taking photos from the saddle, and have a relatively small camera. It’s a fantastic standalone handlebar bag for long day rides or commuting, or paired with the optional Stuff Sack Harness for a full-on bikepacking handlebar system. I wish switching between the different modes was more seamless and I often found my drybag was sliding around inside the plastic harness, though these are the only gripes I have with the bag. Overall, it’s a super high quality and great looking bag that will check a lot of boxes for riders looking for a multi-purpose handlebar setup.