Kit List: Luggage

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Bike bags:

Carradice Camper, leather attachment straps replaced with REI gear straps

Revelate framebag; medium, misfit to older Pugsley frame

Revelate Pocket, front handlebar bag

Revelate Gas Tank, top tube bag

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Drybags and gear sacks:

Sea-to-Summit e-Vent compression sack: contains sleeping bag, down jacket and VBL attached with REI gear straps

Sea-to-Summit, durable welded drybag: contains tent, excluding poles and stakes

Outdoor Research, silnylon stuffsack; contains clothing, stored in saddlebag

Outdoor Research, silnylon drybag; contains camera

assorted silnylon and uncoated nylon bags for organization and moisture resistance

Big Agnes silnylon gear bags, assorted; for tent poles and stakes

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Assorted bags:

Ziploc style bags for dry foods, electronic chargers, passports and papers

plastic bread bags for external hard drive and MacBook charger, books, postcards, etc.

small clutch (hand purse) for tools

Straps:

REI nylon gear straps (preferred)

Sea-to-Summit straps

generic reflective Velcro straps to attach raingear to D-loops on saddlebag

Velco strap to contain tightly rolled sleeping pad, stored in drybag

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The Revelate equipment utilizes lightweight, abrasion resistant Dimension Polyant VX-series fabrics and water-resistant zippers.  The VX sailcloth fabric, also called X-Pac, is extremely durable and is technically waterproof although it is common to find moisture inside the bags as with waterproof panniers, like Ortliebs.  Even a waterproof bag is susceptible to atmospheric moisture.  The stitching and construction of the Revelate bags is superb and the large zipper on the framebag has been trouble-free, despite much hard use.  Handmade in Anchorage, AK.

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The Carradice Camper saddlebag is made from a durable waxed cotton fabric, with leather straps.  A wooden dowel is screwed to the bag as a stiffener.  The bags are handmade in Nelson, England.

I have repaired several leather straps as the stitching has pulled away from hard use.  I also broke the original wooden dowel.  My replacement is of a larger diameter and is assembled with a nut and bolt, through a hole drilled into the dowel.  Eventually, the straps that attach to the saddle loops wear due to abrasion, whether leather or nylon.  The main cause is that a thin steel stock is used to make the loops.  I carry spare nylon straps and hope to make a rubber shim to prevent abrasion in the future.  Occasionally, I apply a fresh coat of wax to the bag, either Filson’s, Martinex, or Sno-Seal.  In place of flimsy saddlebag supports, I prefer a more rugged mini-rack such as the the VO Pass Hunter, which mounts to the cantilever posts and only weighs 250g.  A Nitto M-18 is more adaptable, and fits nicely on the Pugsley.  Carradice bags are as waterproof as any other bag I have used, including welded plastic panniers.  A breathable fabric, even as simple as cotton duck canvas, begins to breathe as soon as the rain lets up.

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The longflap is invaluable for carrying large, unexpected loads.  Mine has swallowed a bear resistant canister in Denali National Park, cakes and pies, or a twelve pack of beer.  There are no guarantees that a cake will remain unharmed, however.

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It has worn some from use, but “This item handcrafted in Nelson, England by: Priscilla”.

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The 11″ MacBook Air fits perfectly in the vertical position at the back of the bag.  It is padded by a soft case and half of a state gazetteer.  The side pockets are huge on the Camper.

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Maintenance.  A fresh waterproofing coat.

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Repairs.  I love these inexpensive straps from REI, if I haven’t said it already.  They never break and the sliders don’t slip.

Joe Cruz calls my luggage system, and my entire bike, “hobo chic”.  It works, and that’s what matters.

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16 thoughts on “Kit List: Luggage

  1. Nick, love the in-depth speak about the Carradice, and glad to see a hard-core bikepacker like you put so much use into one.

    Obviously, I love Carradice bags, and wondered to myself when I started checking out various bikepacking blogs why no one was using them. (No one except you, of course.) Why not? Is there something wrong with them? Too old-fashioned, not techy looking enough? Canvas so much heavier than ballistic nylon?

    A Carradice just sounds like such a good idea. Looks like the maximum capacity of a modern bikepacking saddlebag (the Revelate Viscacha, for example) is around 14 litres, while the Camper Longflap is 24 litres! Heck, my lowly Nelson Longflap has a max capacity of 18 litres! Just think, 10 more litres than a Revelate, 10 litres that might be on a rider’s back, instead.

    So, are there any cons to using the Carradice, besides the breaking straps? The “transversness” get in the way at all? Any time that you’d say to yourself, “I wish I had one of those modern bikepacking seat bags instead”? Inquiring Retro-Grouches want to know.

    And have you “settled down” for the winter yet?

    • I’m nearly settled, having found a room to rent in Albuquerque today. Soon, a job and a new bike and dreaming another fantastic ride. The next bike trip starts now, in a way.

      For the capacity, the Camper can’t be beat. It is large enough to require a support of some kind, and at worst, it bounces up and down a bit. Well, it doesn’t really bounce as it is quite massive when fully packed, but it can become lofted from the rack over large bumps and jumps. Even so, it remains relatively quiet and tame when well-packed. The load is shared between the bag loops and the rack, and nothing is seriously stressed. The broken straps are spaced nearly a year apart, and the final straw is always something extreme such as the rocky trail down from Rollins Pass. The last time the straps broke I was carrying many liters of soda and water to share with the racers at the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon in Mexico, as an unofficial one-man aid station.

      The modern bikepacking seatbag rides well, but is limited to about 14L as you say. When at maximum capacity, the bag extends backward like a dog’s tail and does not ride quite as nicely, but it still rides quietly. I benefit from capacity of the Camper. Because of the shape, it carries my laptop computer, which would otherwise be a challenge to pack. Cass carries his MacBook in a small backpack (since the panniers have/had gone home), as his framebag is barely too small to accept the computer. For shorter adventures without my computer I would consider a bag like the Vischasa. It rides well, is lighter, and does not require a support.

      In total, Carradice style bags are great for mountain bike adventures when large roads are needed. A backpack is not a consideration for me, ever. In the future I may stitch some loops on the bottom of the bag to secure it to the rack a little better, mainly to resist the upward motion over bumps. Not a big problem, but still something that benefits from a solution. I think the Riv bags address this with some velcro straps. I’m not sure if the rest of the Riv bag design entices me away from the Carradice, however.

      Transverse saddlebags have their benefits. I would be happy to work with Scott of Porcelain Rocket on a custom, improved saddlebag someday. I expect to continue using the Carradice for a while, and hope to make more modifications in the near future.

      • Thanks for the thoughtful, verbose, and almost-instant reply! (Shouldn’t you be in bed by now? ;-) )

        Yeah, a backpack on tour isn’t a consideration for me, either. Did it on my first tour before I knew any better, but learned. Heck, rarely do I have anything on my back when riding around town! Since I come from a more traditional touring background with all those panniers, I was a bit surprised when other bikepackers went through their baggage list of bikepacking seatbag, frame bag, gas tank, and handlebar roll, and neglect to mention the backpack, as if it were a given. Backpacks are more common in mountain biking, for sure. Two separate paths leading to the same destination?

        I think a modern saddlebag using modern materials based on a traditional Carradicesque design would be a good project. I know Swift Industries makes them with cordura:

        And in my searches, Carradice actually DOES make a modern seat bag that bikepackers may like:

        http://www.carradice.co.uk/index.php?page_id=product&under=range&product_id=19

  2. Nice gear post and accompanying pics. I just read your post on the VO Blog too! Nice work, great insights on both accounts.
    One question about your Carradice mount: Are you using the bagman support bracket or something different ( sorry if you covered this before…) It’s hard to tell from the pics.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I enjoy sharing my experience with the VO audience, especially as I move beyond some traditional methods. On my past touring bike, a 1985 Schwinn High Sierra, I used a Velo Orange Pass Hunter rack mounted to the rear cantilever studs and seatstay bridge. It is seriously rugged, and at only 250g is in the ballpark of other bag supports. It is even lighter than some supports the are much less “supportive”.

      This post gives a good idea of how the Pass Hunter rack works. Relative to the seatstay angle, the rack would work best on taller frames.

      I have used a Bagman, but it bobbed around on rough stuff. As well, the set-screws repeatedly came loose until I replaced them with proper bolts. Still, it’s not an ideal design and wouldn’t handle the weight of a loaded Carradice Camper. The Camper is 24+ liters.

      I am currently using a modified Nitto M18 rack, similar to the VO mini-rack but with more adjustability and a wider spacing for the 94mm tires on the Pugsley. It is installed directly to the homemade fender, to form one cohesive unit.

      On most bikes, any old Blackburn-style rack would work. It might be best to rotate the rack forward, which might offend cycletouring aesthetes.

      • Hey- thanks for the reply…
        I have been using the Pass Hunter on the front of my Surly for some time. I love it. Did you have any issues fitting it to the back? Bending the stays or whatnot? Seems like a great idea. I’ll have to try it. I have been less than impressed with the Bagman support too and I really haven’t found much else except letting my Carradice hang down to sit atop my rear rack. It works, but it’s just not as elegant as I would like.
        ~Tyler

      • The Pass Hunter requires bending on frames with larger clearances, such as on old ATBs or the Surly LHT. It didn’t mount cleanly to the front of my High Sierra due to too much vertical clearance, which is how it ended up on the back the first time. As you’ve found, it’s not too much of an issue to install. The only other complication is that some frames use a traditional fender mounting to a threaded boss on the underside of the seatstay bridge. Since the Pass Hunter is intended to mount to the hole in the fork crown, a hole through the bridge in the other direction, horizontally, is required. I believe the LHT already has a hole in this orientation, although if it is threaded for an M5 bolt as I recall, you might need to enlarge it for the mounting tang. The High Sierra had a large unthreaded horizontal hole designed for use with a large bolt and concave washers, if at all.

        I’ve got a VO Campeur frame coming soon and I think I will have to drill the seatstay bridge to mount a Pass Hunter, if I choose.

  3. Aw, Nick, you didn’t make it clear that I said “hobo chic” with only the highest complimentary admiration! You know, bouquets and accolades… ;-)

    I love your setup.

    Joe

    • Unfortunately, hobo chic is already popular in cities around the country, such as in Portland. I’m more hobo than chic, although I think Lael has the hobo chic thing figured out. At least, she’s a lot more chic than me.

  4. It’s perfectly possible to use a Carradice Camper without a rack, at least if you are touring on the road or reasonable fire trails, I imagine it could be different on serious off road stuff.The issue is often clearance between the bag and the rear tire. I’m glad to see it used for bikepacking as I’ve been talking to a lot of bikepackers about gear ideas recently and comparing their approcah to my saddlebag and handlebar bag setup for unsupported road touring. Nice blog! You might be interested in my blog about my bikes and tours.

    http://www.wheelsofchance.org

    • I have used a Nelson Lowsaddle Longflap without a support, but the Camper is much larger (about 24L) and most bikes don’t even have the clearance to allow a bag of this size. I find that a small rack helps to stabilize the load, and the dry bags that I store between the Carradice and the seatpost reduce swaying. The entire system did not develop on paper, but while riding and touring over several years. It allows me to carry everything I need for extended travel, including a camera and laptop and an obnoxious bundle of chargers and cords. Surely, I’d love if it weighed less, but it is very rideable and well-behaved, even on rough trails. I’m never going back to panniers!

      Great blog! I love those Sea-to-Summit compression bags. They are super durable.

      nicholas

  5. Great set up on the bike! One question from me, what do you use for the stabilising dowel on your seat? I need to fashion some sort of set up for my bike, and the carradice bag won’t work for me. But i have an idea of attaching a back pack to the back of the bike. For which i’d need the dowel. Do you just use a piece of wood? I doubt it would be sturdy enough somehow. The one you’ve got looks just right though. Do they sell them anywhere? Grateful for your advice!

    • I have broken both wooden dowels supplied with my Carradice bags. I recommend with a narrow broom handle, or other scrap wood. You are likely to find a selection of wooden dowels at your local hardware store, or possibly at the craft store. Carradice uses two wood screws to hold the assembly together. I have always drilled the dowel and used a proper nut and bolt for greater security.

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