A Gear Review by the Prof.
Revelate Designs (http://www.revelatedesigns.com/index.cfm) is an Alaskan-based maker of bike packs. They were one of the first to supply cyclists with packs designed to be used without racks. As most of you know, this rack-less bike touring, often off-road, has come to be called bikepacking. It is difficult for some mountain bikes (think full suspension) to mount a rack, so if you wanted to ride a multi-day trip you needed other options, and carrying a big backpack on your back was not a pleasant option. Companies like Revelate Designs and Porcelain Rocket (http://www.porcelainrocket.com/) came along making bike packs for those intrepid off road bicycle tourists. They make frame packs, large seat packs, handlebar packs, and small cockpit packs that attach to your top tube or behind your handlebars.
Because bike geometry can vary considerably, many frame packs are made specifically for a certain make and size of bike. For example, my frame bag was made by Revelate Designs specifically for a medium size Surly Pugsley frame, and it is an exact fit.
According to their website, they make brand-specific fat bike frame bags for Surly, Salsa, 9:zero:7, and Fatback bikes. They also have a line of “universal fit” frame bags that come in four sizes to fit most frames.
I don’t like to wear a pack on my back, when I can help it, when I am riding off road, so the frame pack works great for me. The main frame of a bike is also an ideal place to carry gear. One thing to consider is that with a frame pack you no longer have access to your water bottle cages. But you do have a few options. You can store your water bottles inside the pack, or put a bladder in the pack and run the tube up and out. Or, since most fat bikes have bottle cages on the forks, you can simply put your bottles there. That is what I do and find that they are easy to access and I don’t notice the extra weight up front at all.
The pack is made of a very lightweight but heavy duty fabric called Dimension Polyant. It is a cordura five-ply sandwich with dacron X-pac for rip resistance and structural stability. I can vouch for the toughness of this stuff. I have a mountaineering pack made from this same fabric and have used it rock and ice climbing, backcountry skiing, etc. and the stuff still looks new after several years of use. The pack is attached to the frame with strong velcro tabs, as you can see in the photos. It is very secure.
The Revelate Designs frame pack has some excellent features. In the photo below, you will notice that the pack flares out as it approaches the handlebars. This give some added storage without it getting in the way of pedaling.
Here is another view.
When I first started using the frame bag I was surprised how much I could fit in it. For a longer ride away from civilization I can easily fit the following in it:
pump, spare tube, patch repair kit
multitool, small knife, duct tape, kevlar spoke, zip ties
spare gloves (if it gets cold)
a lightweight windshirt
a fleece cap or Buff headband
small camera and Joby tripod
a small ditty bag with emergency essentials such as fire making kit, compass, basic 1st aid supplies, paracord, etc.)
With all this, there is still room to spare. A couple weeks ago on a cold night ride I also stuffed a lightweight puffy coat into the pack as well (a Patagonia Nano puff jacket).
The zippers are waterproof and heavy duty. And the zipper pulls have nice big loops so they are easy to grab with gloves on.
The layout of the pack is excellent. It is divided into two sides. The right side has most of the capacity and is further divided into two compartments. At the back of the pack, the part the lays against the seat tube, is divided with a stiff velcro partition, which can be removed to open it up into one large compartment. This back compartment is a space 4″ wide, 6″ front to back, and 9″ deep to the top of the divider.
In the front part of the pack there is a convenient stretch mesh pouch that is a nice place to put your phone or a multitool so it doesn’t sink to the bottom of the pack.
Notice that the interior of the pack has yellow fabric making it easier to see inside, especially if it is dark. A nice touch.
The left side of the pack is a much smaller, sleeve-like pouch. It can hold smaller, flatter objects. On this side I usually put a fleece helmet liner or Buff headband and a few energy bars or gels. Since it is much smaller than the right side of the pack, it is a good place to stash things that you want fast and easy access to.
I can’t really think of any negatives with this bag but I admit that it is the only frame bag that I have used. But I have heard that other brands, such as Porcelain Rocket are very similar. I’m very happy with the pack. It carries well with no rattling or shifting that I can tell and I have ridden some pretty rough trails. I love not having to wear a pack with it bouncing around and rubbing. Many riders use a frame pack in conjunction with other packs, such as a top tube pack. I have yet to use this for an overnight trip, but anticipate doing so in the future.
(I have no affiliation with Revelate Designs or Porcelain Rocket and I paid full retail for the pack).