The range of bikepacking bag options is exploding. Whether you prefer bespoke equipment or products from commercial manufacturers. If you are looking for bike luggage, you’ve never had it so good.
Your choice will probably be predicated by your ideal combination of variables – weight, durability and water resistance.
First Among Bags!
Arguably one of the most practical bags is the toptube bag. It sits up against the headtube, for quick and easy access to food or electronic devices for example. We’ve had the Topeak Fuel Tank on test across numerous bikepacking trips and long distance rides.
Originally, Topeak’s only option was the Fuel Bag in either 0.5L or 0.75L . The range has now expanded to include the 0.75L Toploader and the new 0.8L Fastfuel drybag. We chose the larger 0.75L Fuel Tank as it made sense to have the extra capacity – just in case.
Sturdy and cavernous
The Fuel Tank is sturdy. Compared to other, lighter, bags made of softer material, it holds its shape well. The weight penalty is not significant, it weighs in at 150g. As will be seen however, this trade off is a positive feature.
Capacity is rather cavernous with a mesh inside-pocket for money, tyre patches or anything else that’ll slot in. There is also a Velcro divider inside so you can at least try to organise things. There are no internal adaptors for direct mounting, but this has yet to become a common feature on many adventure/gravel bikes.
The are 3 straps; one for the steerer and 2 for the top tube. The centre strap is conveniently removable as it may not fit some carbon frames where the headtube to toptube junction is oversized. To be honest, the middle strap isn’t really necessary. To keep the bag in place so weight obsessives can save a few grams by removing it!
The steerer strap is well thought out as it sits low, making the attachment more secure. It feeds around the bottom of the stem even if it is slammed and secures the bag to the stem without interfering with steering. As the rear strap is stitched in, once the bag is clamped down, it can’t move sideways, like some bags with removable straps.
Questionable rain protection
The sides are stiff and water resistant, but the top of the bag is not. Topeak have tried to protect your valuables from road-spray and puddles, but completely forgot about dealing with the stuff that falls out of the sky. Prepare for rain then, and stash all the gear you want to keep dry in a separate dry-bag or a, sealable, plastic bag.
Built into the left side panel, near the head of the bag, is a small weather resistant cable port , ideal for charging a GPS/phone on the go.
No sway, oh yay
Even fully loaded with a large battery pack, phone and food, the Fuel Tank stays put. No annoying, knee knocking, sideways sway when travelling at speed along rough terrain and down technical descents. Even en danseuse (for the non-roadies, that’s standing up out the saddle!), the back remains unobtrusive, knees coming close, but not hitting it. This is the bag’s positive weight to stability trade off. Those stiff side panels maintain it’s shape and the 2 fixed straps stop the whole thing from moving at all.
The bag’s sturdy structure allows easy, one handed, opening and closing. The zip is easy to grab, even with chunky gloves. Although the tapered design seats neatly behind the stem, it does stand proud at the front of the bike. This may not be aesthetically pleasing for some but it is a case of form following function. If you prefer sleek and low profile, Topeak offer the significantly smaller Fastfuel Tribag.
As alternatives to the Fuel Tank, Topeak have developed the Toploader which has an integrated waterproof cover and the Fastfuel drybag which is also significantly lighter at 100g.
It may look large and unwieldy to some, but when it comes to bikepacking function is King! Despite its bulk, the bag is stable and easy to open and close on the fly. Weight could be seen as the only real negative, but this is an acceptable trade off for the sturdy construction and the lack of annoying sideways sway or movement while riding.
Last modified: 27th March 2018