May 29, 2015
The high elevation snowpack is thinning out, which means it won't be too long before some of the mountain passes along our Great Divide and Idaho Hot Springs mountain bike routes are ready for cyclists to start taking to the trail.
If you're interested in taking a bikepacking approach to an off-road tour this year, you'll probably find yourself in the market for a frame bag. In some cases you can find a stock frame bag that will be adequate for your bike, but more often than not, you'll require a custom bag to fit snuggly inside the main triangle of your bike.
Just as the popularity of bikepacking has grown, so has the number of custom frame bag makers. Earlier this spring I had Paul Hansbarger of Wanderlust Gear put together a frame bag for my Salsa El Mariachi Ti. I wanted Paul to build my bag for three key reasons. First, he's a good friend who I spent a few years working with right here at Adventure Cycling. Second, he has done more than his fair share of bikepacking throughout the mountains of Montana, as well as the swamps of Florida. Lastly, his art degree from VCU ensured that he spent countless hours in front of a sewing machine, as well as designing patterns.
Wanderlust's Divide custom frame bag is durable, lightweight, and functional. Along the outer rims of the bag, where it contacts your frame, you have a strong 840 denier ballistic nylon fabric that holds up well against rough abrasions. For the side panels, the bag uses a lighter sailcloth type material that is still resistant to tears, as well as waterproof.
I was happy to see that the bag included a waterproof zipper to further ensure that the contents of my bag stay dry, and that the Velcro straps were of a high quality. There's nothing worse than Velcro straps that loosen easily once dirt starts working into them.
The process for ordering the bag was pretty seamless. The most difficult decision you're going to have to make is the color scheme. As you can see in the photo above, I went wild with gray and black, but there's nothing holding you back from "storm orange" or camouflage. Aside from colors, you can also choose organizational options, such as a map pocket, or a vertical divider.
Once you have these details dialed in, all you need to do is measure up the inside of your bike's main triangle and send those dimensions off to Paul. There's a great tutorial on how to go about this on the Wanderlust website. My only advice is to make sure you mark where the cable stops and front derailleur mount are located. You don't want your Velcro straps to overlap these areas.
The Wanderlust Divide custom bag starts at $125, and you can expect a two to three week turnaround once Paul receives your frame drawing and specs.
Photos by Josh Tack
TOURING GEAR & TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling’s member services department. It appears once each month, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and offering advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead. Look for Josh’s “Fine Tuned” column in Adventure Cyclist magazine as well.