The Best Bike Bags: Tested

Bring just the essentials or pack for an adventure with our testers' favorite bags for your bike.

Lindsay Warner|Published April 4, 2023

19 reviews with an average rating of 3.9 out of 5 stars
Person latches the buckets on a rear bike pannier bag.

Even cyclists obsessed with packing light need to carry the essentials on every ride: a spare tube, a carbon-dioxide inflator or pump, a multi-tool and some cash for emergency snacks. Unless you love to ride around with jersey pockets bulging or slinging a messenger bag, a bike bag—which your bike, rather than you body, supports—is the perfect place to stash your stuff. We had 19 testers put a slew of on-bike bags through the wringer over several months to find the best options for riders ranging from casual commuters to hard-core bikepackers.

So, don't be that rider who has to borrow a flat kit or a multi-tool to get you home on your next bike ride. These bags fit securely on different parts of your bike and stylishly keep your kit in check, whether your essentials include the basics or something extra. Here are our testers' picks for the best gear-carrying options available at the co-op.

After decades spent stuffing tools, pocket burritos (only kind-of kidding) and other debris into jersey pockets or too-small seat bags, cyclists finally realized that handlebar bags could swallow up ride accessories while keeping them easily within reach. The Domino Handlebar Bag from Po Campo bested others in this category, hitting the sweet spot between everyday carry and bikepacking luggage.

Our Vermont-based tester found the Domino versatile and functional during a trip that included rides in New York City and Washington, D.C. It held all her essentials and was easy to remove and take with her when she locked up her bike. At 3.4 liters, the Domino was big enough to fit her phone, wallet, charger, granola bar and headphones, but not so big that it interfered with her steering or hand placement. The handlebar bag is stylish, too: With a detachable strap and jauntily colored exterior option, it converts from handlebar bag to bag-about-town quickly. "It also served as a fashionable purse for our evening out in town," she says.

A three-point secure Fixi-Strap™ system secures the bag to the top of your handlebars and around the head tube; hook-and-loop straps make it easy to take on and off. The Domino handlebar bag's brightly colored interior, made from recycled plastic, helps you find your stuff quickly (no black holes here). That organizational ease is augmented by its five pockets—two exterior and three interior—which additionally keep your treasures from banging around inside. Our tester also appreciated the slightly structured shape of the bag. She could easily open it while riding to access snacks—a major benefit during a 160-mile overnight trip on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath in West Virginia. Also important: The waterproof exterior and water-protected zippers helped shut out water when she got caught in a drenching rainstorm and then continued riding through mud.

Bottom Line: A functional, appropriately sized handlebar bag that stashes your essentials and looks good doing it.

Testing Stats:

  • Miles: 300+
  • Testing states: Maryland; New York; Virginia; Washington, D.C.; West Virginia
  • Testing story: "By day I was biking on the muddy gravel with a handlebar bag, by night I was wearing a dress and a 'purse'," one tester says. "I was able to bring minimal things on my overnight biking trip because my gear was so versatile."

A pannier, by definition, is "a basket, especially one of a pair carried by a beast of burden." And in our experience, there's no better way to feel like a pack mule than to strap a pair of poorly designed panniers onto a bike. But a good pannier (or a pair of them) like the Beyonder Saddlebag Panniers from REI Co-op can make carrying everything from laptops to groceries a breeze—and with far less noticeable strain than slinging on a backpack. One of the easiest to use panniers (pronounced pan-yer, in an Americanization of the French word) we've tested, the Beyonder enabled our Ohio-based tester and his two teenage sons to pack food, bike tools, tubes, chain lube, spare clothing and a hammock on numerous day trips on local rail trails and to swimming holes without the packs banging into their legs or causing undue strain.

While slightly smaller than others we tested, the Beyonder bags were still roomy enough to fit a couple of six packs in each pannier, or a modest haul of groceries. These panniers are ideal for most riders looking for a sleek, low-profile storage system that's easy to use—and at a great price point. There are larger, waterproof panniers out there (we're looking at you, Ortlieb Back-Roller Free Panniers, another tester favorite, though more than twice the price). But the Beyonder strikes a compelling balance between value, ease of use and durability. The exterior is made of bluesign®-approved nylon with a side pocket to easily stash a bike lock or jacket. It's water-resistant, not waterproof, but one of our testers noted that the panniers held up well to the everyday rigors of commuting and adventuring. So, if your commute is generally dry and you're looking for a system that easily detaches from your bike, the Beyonder panniers are a good bet.

Our testers found the mounting system highly versatile, swapping the Beyonder panniers among three different bikes: an '80s mountain bike-style touring rig and two road-touring bikes, each with different bike cargo racks. The Beyonder worked well on all three, and our lead tester appreciated the "amazingly simple" yet secure mounting system, which relies on two buckles to mount the pair to your bike. And, because they're relatively petite and mount as a pair, our testers rarely worried about uneven weight distribution or—worse—suffer the annoyance of a bag bumping against a foot or leg while pedaling.

Our lead tester, a longtime pannier user, says he has always avoided the drape-over style saddlebags because so many were of poor quality and mounting was less secure. "With good materials and the bottom anchor straps, these bags have changed my mind," he says. "These held up to everything we used them for, and they're spacious, convenient, durable and accessible." And with their easy-access roll-top closure and a tote strap that makes tossing these panniers over your shoulder a breeze, you may even find yourself shouldering your burdens willingly—both on and off your bike.

Sustainability: Contains materials that meet the bluesign® criteria

Beyonder Saddlebag Panniers
Bottom Line: An easy-to-use pannier that boosts storage without adding too much bulk or breaking the bank.

Testing Stats:

  • Miles: 200+
  • Testing state: Ohio
  • Testing story: "Two of my kids took the panniers and our old Burley trailer to transport their jazz band instruments, music and supplies to a jam session with friends in a recently installed concrete culvert," says one tester. "I'm told that a good time was had by all, and the acoustics were incredible."

When our Vermont-based tester signed up for one of the most grueling gravel races in the U.S.—Unbound Gravel, a long-distance event across the Flint Hills of Emporia, Kansas—he knew he'd need plenty of easy-to-reach snacks. The race features notoriously steep descents and tire-shredding gravel that make it dangerous to let go of your handlebars for long, so our tester filled the Mag-Tank Top Tube Bag from Revelate Designs with gummy candy and energy bars to fuel his long ride. And that's where this bag shines: When you need food or gear and you need it now, you're just inches and one magnetized buckle closure away from your goal.

The Mag-Tank attaches to the front of your top tube, the part of the bike frame that runs from your seat to the handlebars, via a grippy double-back wrap. It snugs up to your steerer tube with a cam-locking front strap that includes a foam spacer to keep it away from your stem clamp bolts. It's narrow enough that your knees won't hit it while pedaling (unless you're standing up and really swinging your bike). And it's stiff enough that it sits perkily on your top tube. Accessing the snacks or gear within is as easy as unhooking the magnetic closure and diving in—no fiddling required—while its self-engaging magnet makes it easy to close the flap-top cover. To put it in our tester's words: "Handlebar bags look cool and get all the attention, but a stem bag like this should be in every rider's quiver because it makes your gear infinitely more accessible." And while he initially planned to only use this bag while racing, our tester says it's "now a mainstay on my bike—for racing, for bikepacking and even for riding casually. I love that it keeps things like a wallet and phone handy, negating the need to have a jersey with pockets."

The Mag-Tank held up to the rigors of our tester's riding without showing visible abrasion or undue wear or tear. Note that it's water-resistant, not waterproof due to its flap-top closure, although our tester endured heavy downpours for two-plus hours while racing Unbound and was pleased to discover that his snacks stayed nearly dry.

Mag-Tank Top Tube Bag
Bottom Line: This slim, lightweight bag makes it a cinch to access your snacks and tools quickly and easily without missing a pedal stroke.

Testing Stats:

  • Miles: 200+
  • Testing states: Kansas, Maine, Vermont
  • Testing story: "I raced with this bag at the Unbound Gravel 100, and the weather was absolutely awful. It rained heavily for a solid two hours during the race, and literally everything I came in contact with was covered in grit," says our tester. "Somehow my snacks stayed clean and dry inside the Mag-Tank."

A seat bag is essential if you're planning to get epic or rowdy on your ride. It should expand to fit the necessities for a big day on the bike: spare clothes, snacks, tools for more major trailside repairs—in short, anything you might need when you're venturing off the beaten track and can't rely on a friendly bike shop to help you out of a bind. However, very few seat bags are compatible with the bikes we typically like to take out on big adventures, which often feature rear suspension and/or dropper seatposts. So we were delighted to give the ECOPAK Shrew Seat Bag from Revelate Designs a spin through the rugged singletrack in Vermont, where our testers for this product are located.

Our lead tester (a high school math teacher) used the ECOPAK Shrew for mountain bike rides "when I needed some extra junk in my trunk and didn't feel like carrying a backpack." Because she also enjoys using her bike for epic adventures and quality leisure time, "extra junk" includes essentials—spare tube, pump, patch kit, front and rear lights—plus a hammock for some mid-ride lounging. Another tester, a fat-tire biker who rides all winter long, loaded up on trailside repair tools, just in case of a mishap.

"I was pleasantly surprised with how the weight was distributed when packed fully," our first tester, the teacher, notes. "I thought for sure this bag would swing around willy-nilly on the back of my bike because it only attaches at two points. It did not! I didn't notice the bag at all, even when it was fully packed with my hammock."

This brings us to two key points as defined by our math teacher: how the ECOPAK Shrew mounts, and how it should be packed. Most seat bags use a traditional mounting system that attaches to the saddle rails and to seatpost; that can interfere with a dropper seatpost, which allows a rider to lower the seat quickly for better balance over rough terrain. The beauty of the ECOPAK Shrew is that it mounts only to the saddle rails via a pair of independent rail straps that hold the bag in place without connecting to (or scratching) your seatpost. That said, it's important to confirm that your frame and dropper post can accommodate a 2.25-liter bag. Our 5-foot-3-inch tester didn't have enough room on her size small mountain bike to fully drop her seat without the bag rubbing. Our other 5-foot-6-inch tester, however, didn't have issues on her size small fat-tire bike.

As to packing styles, more is more in the case of the ECOPAK Shrew. It's simple to pack and easy to detach; just squeeze the the spring-loaded clips at the end of the rail straps and slide them out. A bonus: You don't have to take the bag off to access what's inside, as it's easy to unbuckle and open the roll-top closure. While that buckle should, in theory, compress the Shrew to accommodate smaller loads, our tester found that the weight was better distributed, and the bag more secure, when fully packed. In other words: Epic adventures are this bag's jam.

Bottom Line: The Shrew seat bag is your BFF when you're gearing up for a big day out on the bike, or simply subscribing to the more-is-more mentality.

Testing Stats:

  • Miles: 50+
  • Testing state: Vermont

If you've ever ridden behind someone with a loose tool rattling around in their seat bag—or worse, been that person—you know how irritating it can be to have one that's packed incorrectly or is the wrong size for the load carried. And even if you've got the right size bag, fishing out a tool you need can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Our Vermont-based road rider found that the Seat Roll Asymmetrico Saddle Pack from Silca fixed many of those common problems with its accordion-style approach to carrying gear. Unlike a traditional seat pack, which slots under your saddle and has a U-shaped zipper, the Seat Roll Asymmetrico is just that: a swatch of two-ply nylon that rolls out flat to accommodate your essentials, then rolls and tucks into a rectangular wad that stashes under your saddle rails. It ratchets shut via two hook-and-loop straps and a Boa® closure making it easy to install and take off. "It's sleek, easy to use, and keeps your tools right where you left them—in one of four pockets that are simple to access," notes another tester, who primarily rides gravel. "I hate fishing around in a black hole of a saddlebag when I need to find a multi-tool or spare cash, and this solves that problem by keeping your tools separate from each other, which means no rattling and no wasted space."

Organization like this does come at a trade-off in that this pack is quite petite. Our tester noted that this saddle roll only holds the essentials: two CO2 cartridges, a spare tube, a multi-tool and a few fruit leathers for snack attack moments. Also, do yourself a favor and watch the video at Silca.cc for techniques on how best to pack this saddle roll. (Hot tip from customer reviews: Make sure items in the side pockets are pushed as far to the edges as possible, and don't overtighten the inner strap, as it will throw the entire pack out of alignment and cause the Boa to loosen). Our testers purposefully did the opposite of the install video's instructions by overpacking the bag and overtightening the hook-and-loop strap. And—no surprise—the Boa failed. Avoid these user errors and watch the video (seriously!) for what our testers deemed a stylish, organized and nearly noiseless take on the saddle pack.

Testing Stats:

  • Miles: 400+
  • Testing states: Pennsylvania, Vermont
  • Best testing story: "My main bike has an integrated storage compartment built right into its frame, which essentially means I don't really need a saddlebag, but the Asymmetrico was so much easier to use that I elected to carry all of my most important items there," says our gravel-riding tester. "While I was pregnant, my 'most important items' included extra-delicious food and hydration sachets, and I took great pleasure in unrolling the seat pack to enjoy my perfectly organized and most indulgent treats."

Frequent bike commuters know there's a fine line between a bag that's the perfect size for everyday items and one that's too big. If you elect to go the minimalist route, you may find yourself leaving the grocery store balancing a carton of eggs on your handlebars and strapping a gallon of milk to your top tube. Grocery Jenga is a game we've all played at some point, but with the TrunkBag DXP from Topeak, you're more likely to come out the winner.

At face value, this is a standard looking trunk bag that fits onto a rear rack. It's got an expandable top and a cinch-down water bottle holder, and our tester hardly noticed it while it was installed and loaded. Made of 600-denier polyester that uses a unique material process to help enhance weather resistance, the TrunkBag is burlier and stiffer than most. Our Bentonville, Arkansas-based tester loved how easy it was to fill the trunk part of the bag, due to that stiff construction. It easily fit two water bottles, a towel, snacks, sunscreen, beverages and a change of clothes for trips to the local swimming hole.

But the TrunkBag has a secret weapon locked inside its side compartments: two expandable panniers that unzip from the main trunk compartment to swallow the extra items that you didn't know you'd be picking up along your commute. Our tester also appreciated the internal dividers that make it easier to stay organized, while the bright-yellow interior lends a pop of cheery color and reduces the feeling that you're pawing around in a black hole when you just need to find your sunscreen.

Note that the trunk bag will fit on any back rack with a platform, but if you plan to use the panniers, you'll need a beam rack with side frames attached or a traditional rack with struts to avoid the panniers banging into your rear wheel. The system attaches via hook-and-loop straps and is easy to take on and off, although our tester says it was so easy to load while it was on the bike that she typically left it in place. After all, who knows when you're suddenly going to need a full 22.6 liters of carrying capacity? With this expandable trunk bag, you'll be ready when you do.

Testing Stats:

  • Miles: 20+
  • Testing states: Arkansas
  • Best testing story: "This bag still looks brand new, even after being handled fairly roughly," admits our tester. "I did drop my bike once while testing the Topeak bag and was pleasantly surprised that nothing came out or needed to be adjusted."

One of the sturdiest and most durable bags we tested, the Back-Roller Panniers from Ortlieb are also fully waterproof. They kept the contents of our D.C.-based tester's bags dry through severe downpours, mud, and dry and dusty conditions during daily commutes and a two-day bikepacking trip from D.C. to West Virginia, and back. Note that the bags will only keep your belongings dry if you roll the top closure at least three times (so, no overstuffing this pannier), and take care to always buckle the top to the carrying handle on the sides to avoid any water sneaking in.

"The bags were very easy to clean and kept all of the elements on the outside and the contents of the bags clean and dry," the tester notes. "They look as good as new after being sprayed off with a hose, and the insides stayed dry and clean."

The panniers can be installed as a pair or singly, and easily swallowed up everything from camping gear to a laptop. Our tester appreciated that the Back-Roller Panniers could be swapped easily among his three bikes—a gravel bike and two commuter-style bikes—without needing a proprietary rack system (although you should always check the specs before buying). He found the bags easy to load up while on the bike because of their "firm and defined structure" that gave him confidence that the items inside would stay put without shifting. Buy here.

At just 6 ounces and a hauling capacity of 4 liters, the Hopper Frame bag from Revelate Designs punches far above its weight. If you're wondering how much, exactly, this frame bag can hold, the answer is: four bars or gummy snacks, a tube of Nuun hydration tablets, a wallet, a 500-milliliter silicone water bottle, a phone and a wind vest or jacket. That's a lot. "The volume-to-weight ratio on this bag is awesome," says our Vermont-based tester, a mechanical engineer who observes such things. "And because it mounts toward the front of the frame, you won't know it's there, even when stuffed with water, snacks and layers." While the stated width of the bag (2.5 inches) expands a bit when loaded, he still appreciated that the bag wasn't much wider than his frame and sits far enough forward that it doesn't interfere with pedaling motion.

The Hopper isn't technically waterproof, but it faced some mud puddles and a good hose soaking during a gravel enduro race in Vermont, and our tester had to work extra hard to get it drenched. The easy-access flap top helped our tester reach food and electrolytes (and avoid a bonk). And, he adds, "The fuss-free closure is secure and effortless to use even when you're smoked late in the day and reaching back into a jersey pocket seems like a chore." One thing to note: Our tester used the Hopper Frame Bag exclusively on his gravel bike. While this bag is compatible with some full-suspension bikes with vertically mounted shocks, the placement of your bottle cage and the shape of your frame will dictate whether it fits or not, so measure carefully before buying.

While we think the Po Campo Domino handlebar bag is the most versatile choice for cyclists looking to boost storage capacity for daylong rides or casual overnights, riders with more gear will find the Ortlieb Handlebar Pack a better fit for their needs. At 9 liters, the waterproof pack is nearly three times the size of the Domino and is specifically geared for bikepackers needing to carry clothes, sleeping bags or other camping essentials for multi-night tours.

Featuring roll closures at both ends for quick access and attached via hook-and-loop straps with side-release buckles, the Ortlieb handlebar pack is 16 inches long—short enough to fit between (most) drop handlebars—and about 6-by-6 inches around. That makes it an excellent choice for the rider looking to augment a frame pack or seat bag with additional storage for a longer trip, but slightly less versatile for casual daytrips. Our Vermont-based tester loaded this bag up with his camping stove, sleeping bag and sleeping pad during a three-day bikepacking trip around Mount Katahdin in Maine, with room to spare for other things. "You can access what's inside without taking off the bag, but it's clunky and not easily done," he says.

He also recommends packing it before mounting it on your bike: As with many bikepacking bags, it takes a bit of effort to get everything packed and balanced. Our tester used this on a gravel bike and a cross-country-style mountain bike, both of which had carbon handlebars—so he appreciated the included spacers/pads on the straps that held the bag in place without rubbing on his bars or his steerer tube. The waterproof exterior also kept "the things that I desperately wanted to stay dry, dry," he says. "The bikepacking trip in Maine had a little bit of everything: rain, humidity, sun, dust. This bag held up very well and kept its contents totally dry and clean."

Buying Advice

When choosing the best bag for your bike, consider several factors like function and capacity and how the bag attaches to your bike. 

Capacity and Function

You don't need to strap on 40 liters of carrying capacity if you're only going out for a short jaunt, but everyone needs to pack the essentials in case of a mishap: a spare tube, a pump or CO2, a multi-tool and a tire lever. Consider how much gear you’ll need and how frequently you need to access it.

Capacity

Our smallest pack in this test, the Silca Seat Roll, holds those essentials—but not much more. If you’re a commuter lugging a laptop, spare clothes and some basic personal hygiene items to get you to your 9-to-5 smelling relatively fresh, you’ll need at least the REI Co-op Beyonder Saddlebag Panniers which have a total hauling capacity of 25 liters. And if you’re an all-weather commuter who also can’t resist stopping at the grocery store on your way home, you’ll want the waterproof 40-liter Ortleib Back-Roller Free Panniers, which swallow up tons of stuff and keep it dry in wet conditions. Those with a rear bike rack but who prefer not to embrace the pack-mule mentality may be just fine with an expandable trunk bag, like the Topeak TrunkBag DXP.

Function

Some bike bags mount directly to the bike’s frame or onto rear or front bike racks. Consider how often you might need to access the items in the bag too.

For riders who like to get a little rowdy or whose rides typically eschew pavement for dirt or singletrack, bike bags that attach to the handlebars—like the Po Campo Domino Handlebar Bag and the Ortlieb Handlebar Pack—or to your frame—like the Revelate Designs Hopper Frame Bag and the Revelate Designs Mag Tank Top Tube Bag—will stay out of the way while stashing your stuff. And if you’ve got a dropper post and enjoy big days out of the bike, something like the Revelate Designs ECOPAK Shrew Seat Bag that fits under your saddle will let you go out loaded, but still able to shred.

And finally, consider the weight of your bike bag. Yes, you’re just going to fill it up with stuff, but starting with a lightweight bag will help streamline the load. Of course, larger-volume bags will necessarily weigh more. But we were quite impressed with the weight-to-volume ratios of the Revelate Designs Hopper Frame Bag and the Revelate Designs ECOPAK Shrew Seat Bag, both of which feel sturdy but won’t unnecessarily weigh you down.

Attachment Points

While buying a bike bag doesn’t have to be complicated, if you want to roll with a set of panniers or a trunk bag, you’ll need a rear rack. Neither of our two pannier picks—the REI Co-op Beyonder and the Ortleib Back-Roller Frees—require a proprietary rack, but you will still need to measure the rack you’re planning to use to be sure it aligns with the hook-and-loop attachment points on both bags. Likewise, you can run the Topeak TrunkBag DXP on any rear rack with a platform, but if you're going to use the expandable panniers, you'll need a beam rack with side frames attached or a traditional rack with struts to avoid the panniers from banging into your rear wheel. You’ll also need to measure your bike before going all-in on the Shrew Seat Bag, as you’ll need enough clearance between your saddle rails and your tires to use this bag with a dropper post. Same goes on the Hopper Frame Bag; your rear shock and the placement of your water bottle cage (if you use one) will dictate whether or not you can use this bag with a full-suspension mountain bike.

And while handlebar bags such as the Po Campo Domino and the Ortlieb Handlebar Pack are fairly one-size-fits-all, riders with carbon handlebars or frames will want to check to be sure the main contact points between bike and bag are well-padded or at least unlikely to cause damage to your bike from the friction created by riding.

Methodology

We sent 19 of our hard-charging testers out into the wild to test nearly two dozen bags from late-summer of 2022 into early winter of 2023. We invited them to put the bags through the wringer during races, casual rides, bikepacking excursions, camping trips and daily commutes, and collected data from California to Colorado, Minnesota to Arkansas, and including Vermont; Maine; Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; Maryland and Virginia.

After thousands of combined hours and miles in the saddle, we asked testers to fill out a form evaluating each bag’s durability, function, features, attachment points, waterproofness and ease of use. Our testers rated each bag on a 100-point scale for each metric, with the total score reflecting the average of those ratings.

While it’s tricky to get an apples-to-apples comparison across types, as a compact saddle pack like the Silca Seat Roll isn’t even in the same category as beefier Ortlieb panniers—the bags listed here were top performers in each of their respective categories and presented unique or clever ways of solving the problem of carrying gear on a bike without feeling weighed down or overburdened.  

Lastly, while it wasn’t an official category in our test, we preferred bike bags that kept us organized. No one wants to spend more time than is necessary pawing through a bag to find what you need. Bags with brightly colored interiors or innovative storage and organizational features got top marks from us. We all have to carry our own burdens on the bike, but it’s far more fun when your baggage is stashed neatly, compactly and stylishly as you ride down the road.