The first bikepacking bag I made was a frame bag. Almost a full frame bag, it allowed for a single bottle cage to be mounted on the seat tube. Last summer I wanted to go on a weekend bikepacking trip to test out if it was something I wanted to do more of. And even though I already had a frame bag I doubted that a single water bottle would be enough. I considered using a bladder or maybe keeping one bottle up front in a stem bag. But in the end I resolved to make a 1/3 size semi-rectangular frame bag that was slim enough that I could fit one 600ml and one 800ml bottle on my frame.
While Scandinavian summers can be sunny and wonderful they’re not exactly scorching. In addition water is positively everywhere so I think that almost a litre and half of water should be absolutely fine for conditions here. Has anyone been touring in central/southern Europe where the temperatures soar during summer? Have you found that you needed more than 1,5L at any point?
As usual I turn to my tried and tested “cardboard method” of bag design. Having found a suitable piece of cardboard I place it behind the frame and loosely outline the corners of the bag. I then take a ruler and mark out the sides, I check the fit by holding up the cardboard again and mark any changes I want to make. When I’m satisfied I’ve got the outline spot on, I cut out the model and fit it into my frame making adjustments if needed. When it fits perfectly inside the frame, note that it is sitting inside the frame unsupported in the picture below, I mark out where I want the velcro straps to attach to the frame. This will depend on where your brake and gear cables attach to or enter the frame.
Think about the distribution of weight in your bag, where will the bag be pulled away from the frame. Some straps will mainly be there to hold the bag in place, while others bear most of the weight. Will you be carrying something very heavy like a water bladder? Well then you might need to have three weight bearing straps attaching the bag to your top tube. Looking at the picture below you can see I went with two straps. I was carrying my tent, tent pegs, tent pole, some spares, my lights and other misc items in the top tube bag, nothing really heavy.
I didn’t get lucky with the length of my tent pole, I actually bought this one to fit. When I go hiking I use one of my hiking poles to pitch my tent. Even collapsed my hiking poles won’t fit inside my frame, so I really did need to come up with another solution. In the end I just bought three tent pole sections online, for an insignificant amount money, and saved myself 103g(3,63oz) of weight to boot. *Insert way too enthusiastic fist pump*
The first frame bag was admittedly a bit of a rush job. I’m trying to be a bit more thorough, this time adding touches like covering the zipper. But already I can see that this could’ve been accomplished in more neat and aesthetically pleasing way. Ah well… next time 🙂
Frame bags are really very easy to make. Once you’ve done the zipper you’re mostly done. But for sowing the sides onto a long slim middle piece.
Keep in mind that the bag will be able to extend quite a bit in the middle, it will have a tendency to bulge. More so with a full frame bag than this slim version. If you find that you’re hitting the bag with your knees/legs because of this. You can always slim down the bag by turning it inside out and resowing the circumference a bit further in on both sides.
Once you closed up the bag and turned it right sight out, you just need to attach the velcro straps to your bag and hey presto you’re done.