The 10 best bar bags for off-road riding
The best handlebar bags for off-road riding are having a bit of a resurgence thanks to the popularity of bikepacking and riders realising that it's a bit of a pain to carry everything in a rucksack. We've tested dozens of different handlebar bags to find these, the best bar bags you can buy.
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- Best overall bar bag: Outer Shell Drawcord Handlebar Bag — Buy Now for USD90.00 from Outer Shell | Find out more
- Best small bar bag: CamelChops Blimp 2.0 handlebar bag — Buy Now for £46.00 from CamelChops Inc | Find out more
- Best money-no-object bar bag: Route Werks The Handlebar Bag — Buy Now for £165.00 from Route Werks | Find out more
- Best for bikepacking: Wildcat Lion Handlebar Harness — Buy Now for £72.00 from Wildcat | Find out more
- Best drybag: Wildcat Double Ended Drybag — Buy Now for £40.00 from Wildcat | Find out more
- Best value bag-and-harness set: BBB Front Fellow Handlebar Bag — Buy Now for £47.65 from Active Sport | Find out more
- Best value: Mack Workshop Bar Bag — Buy Now for £35.00 from Mack Workshop | Find out more
- Straight Cut Design Bagel Bar Bag — Buy Now for £70.00 from Straight Cut Design | Find out more
- Topeak BarLoader — Buy Now for £53.56 from Amazon | Find out more
- Alpkit Kanga handlebar harness — Buy Now for £59.99 from Alpkit | Find out more
As the name suggests a bar bag sits conveniently on your handlebar. That means a small bar bag is a really convenient place to keep things you might need on a ride, while a larger bar bag provides capacity for camping gear on multi-day trips. Some bar bags even do both, combining a small outer pocket with a big main compartment.
Bar bags used to be almost exclusively found on touring bikes, usually with a map on the top, and a camera and food inside. GPS bike computers have replaced the map and there's now a wider range of bar bag types than ever. These are the ones our testers have rated highest for mountain biking and gravel bike use.
The 10 best bar bags for 2022
Best overall bar bag: Outer Shell Drawcord Handlebar Bag — Buy Now for USD90.00 from Outer Shell
The Outer Shell Drawcord Handlebar Bag is just excellent. It's easy to use one-handed, you can stuff everything from a camera to a six-pack of beer in it, and it's made from quality materials, which helps justify the price.
What makes it so good is the combination of drawcord and storm flap closure. Cinching the drawcord pulls down the flap, and you then loop the additional elastic strap around your stem securing the flap properly and shutting the contents off from the elements. Overall construction is as well thought out as the novel closure. A stiffened frame ensures the bag maintains its shape whether it’s full of your things or not. The "stuff-sack" like opening, means it is possible to overstuff the bag too if required.
It’s lined with white X-Pac, which is waterproof and helps make it easier to find things. At $90 ($100 if you specify an X-Pac outer fabric) it’s not cheap, but for a bag handmade in the USA with such good design, quality materials and high construction quality it’s worth every penny. It’s just a box on your bars, but what a glorious box!
Best small bar bag: CamelChops Blimp 2.0 handlebar bag — Buy Now for £46.00 from CamelChops Inc
The CamelChops Blimp 2.0 handlebar bag is inexpensive, looks great and is well made by a small independent business in the UK. There's very little not to love about that.
Tester Lara writes: “I was impressed by how stable the bag is, with little or no movement even on gravel rides. There wasn't even any real need for the security cord that goes around the head tube; it was stable anyway. With its 3-litre capacity, there's room inside for all sorts of bits and bobs such as tools, snacks and low-bulk extra layers. There's nothing in the way of internal pockets, and with the stiffener in place, the inside of the bag is a pretty slippery place, so things tend to rattle and bounce about a bit. I generally either made sure the contents were wrapped inside something to stop them rattling, or that the bag was fairly full of mixed soft and hard items.
“Given the quality of the build and materials, and its UK boutique pedigree, the Blimp 2.0 is hard to fault for £40. Pick a colour, any colour and support a small independent UK business in the process. It's well made, well designed and great value for money.”
Best money-no-object bar bag: Route Werks The Handlebar Bag — Buy Now for £165.00 from Route Werks
The Route Werks Handlebar Bag is a fabulous – and fabulously expensive – way to carry a plethora of stuff within easy reach on your bike. With great attention to detail, this is the benchmark by which all other bar bags must be judged.
With its volume of 3.2L and a max weight of 4kg, you can fit plenty of stuff in and on the bag. A metal frame and fittings hold a polymer lid and canvas body. Weighing 677g without accessory mounts fitted, it doesn't add much to your bike and at 235mm wide tucks in nicely between the hoods on the narrowest of drop bars.
Tester Mike writes: “My testing comprised many months bashing about the central Highlands, mostly at high speed with increasingly scant regard for the sensibilities of doing so on a bike with a loaded handlebar bag. I run 2.1in tyres and a 700mm-wide drop bar, so basically, full-on rigid mountain biking and the Route Werks bag just asked for more, please. Packed with a jacket, gloves, food, tools, phone, GPS, lights and pump, everything stayed put and silent. I got so used to having absolutely everything in the bag and not in my pockets or on the bike's frame, I'm now ruined for any lesser luggage carrying setup.”
Best for bikepacking: Wildcat Lion Handlebar Harness — Buy Now for £72.00 from Wildcat
The Wildcat Lion Handlebar Harness can fit various styles of bike, hold dry bags of different sizes, or anything else that fits. The initial setup is not simple and protecting the bike and handlebar from rub is very important but the end result is a very stable system.
The attachment method creates a very stable system with no movement or loosening of the straps at all while riding. What type of bag you use and how you pack it will still have an impact on its movement within the harness, but the harness itself is rock solid. It’s convenient too as the harness stays in place on the handlebar and the drybag is simply removed for quick access and can be unpacked/repacked off the bike and re-fitted in a simple and quick process.
The Lion Handlebar Harness system’s adaptability to fit different bike and bar types and neat touches such as a small elastic strap on the top help to create an excellent very solid base to attach a drybag to. The initial setup might take you a little longer but once on a trip it stays put, requiring no adjustment. It is more expensive than other harness systems, but it is well very made and helps create a very stable overall setup. Highly recommended.
Best drybag: Wildcat Double Ended Drybag — Buy Now for £40.00 from Wildcat
Drybags are commonly used while bikepacking, allowing you to keep kit separated but also dry and they are available in a wide range of sizes and usually for not much money. The Wildcat Double Ended Drybag takes things further and it is essentially two drybags inside each other. The bag features a double-ended opening and each end accesses a different bag section.
Each end accesses its own internal bag which is not joined to the other and is the same size or thereabouts as the outside at 13-litre. This means you can stuff a sleeping bag like the Alpkit Pipedream 600 in one end and use all the space conventionally or you can stuff a smaller bag, beanie and insulation jacket in one end AND a bivvy bag in the other. You don’t need to worry about packing each side evenly as they push up against each other as long as you make sure you have rolled the ends up securely to take up any excess.
Tester Matt writes: “I tested it with the Wildcat Lion handlebar harness. When mounted within the harness the extra thickness of the fabric is a big plus when riding through any trail obstructions such as brash or brambles that have the potential to damage or rip thinner drybag fabric. Despite the weight and cost disadvantages over regular dry bags, it turns out to be incredibly useful. Once you have started using it, you’ll struggle to move away from it.”
Best value bag-and-harness set: BBB Front Fellow Handlebar Bag — Buy Now for £47.65 from Active Sport
The BBB Front Fellow is a handlebar bag that combines a harness that mounts to the bike plus a removable 10L separate dry bag with a useful carry strap to give a decent load capacity for bikepacking. It mounts solidly, works well and it's decent value too.
In use the Front Fellow doesn’t wobble too much; there is a bit of movement up and down but totally within reason. Part of this is due to be the ability to fit it tightly in the first place using the extra strap that goes around the stem. It all feels very sturdy.
The whole system feels well made and well stitched together although it doesn't quite have the solidity of the best out there on the market with their air valves in the stuff bags (to help you pack) or heat-welded seams or triple and quadruple stitched buckles and accessory loops, but it has all of what you need and none of what you don't for many adventures into the outdoors as long as you look after it.
Read our review of the BBB Front Fellow Handlebar Bag
Find a BBB dealer
Best value: Mack Workshop Bar Bag — Buy Now for £35.00 from Mack Workshop
The Mack Workshop Bar Bag provides a decent amount of bar-mounted storage. It's tough, well-priced and there are plenty of custom options available for those that want to fine-tune their riding or bikepacking setup. Made in the UK, this is a super simple bag that can hang directly from your handlebars or you can attach it to the front of another, larger handlebar bag to use as an extra pocket for your camera, food, phone, gloves and so on. It attaches directly to the bars via Velcro straps, which can be removed if you want to attach it via webbing to a larger bag.
Tester Pat writes: “You can cram it full and it stays put perfectly and I detected no unwanted bounce or annoying flap on the front of my bike in all but the most aggressive riding. I found it was just the perfect size for my 6-inch phone, snacks, buff, pump and a few energy gels and a first aid kit. I even managed to ram my tool roll in there one day as I had nowhere else to put it, with the phone in the separate inside pocket to protect it from the tool roll.
It’s made from waterproof fabrics, but the stitching and zip can and will let water in if it's heavy and consistent enough, so protect delicate electronics with a small dry bag or like that. This is an extremely useful piece of kit whether used on its own or as part of your bikepacking kit. It holds more stuff than your back pockets and it’s good value for money. The added option of customisation is a great plus."
Restrap Bar Bag Holster & Dry Bag & Food Bag — Buy Now for £109.99-£119.99 from Restrap
With the new improved Food Bag topping a well-thought-out design made from super-strong materials, there really isn't anything to fault on the Restrap Bar Bag Holster/Dry Bag/Food Bag ensemble. For £110 total, you get a system that will quickly fit pretty much any modern bike, carry as much kit as you'd really want upfront short of using proper panniers, and will no doubt last you many, many adventures on and off the road.
Even a cursory glance at the handlebar-mounted touring/bikepacking luggage category reveals many, many dozens of brands offering all manner of variants on bike attachment, luggage fixing, protection and material technology. There's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to do this, just what works on your bike, for your style and duration of riding. The Restrap Bar Bag Holster, Dry Bag and Food Bag combination is a worthy addition to the genre: mid-range in price, not lightweight relative to some others, but designed to survive the toughest of challenges.
The Restrap Bar Bag Holster, Dry Bag and new, larger Food Bag are an excellent choice for carrying luggage on your road or mountain bike. On or off-road, this rugged, made-in-the-UK solution is practical, looks good and should last you a lifetime.
Read our review of the Restrap Bar Bag Holster & Dry Bag & Food Bag
Find a Restrap dealer
Straight Cut Design Bagel Bar Bag — Buy Now for £70.00 from Straight Cut Design
The Straight Cut Bagel Bar Bag is small, perfectly made (by hand) and uses Voile's excellent Nano straps to give a rock-solid setup. The double zip is different from most similar bags and works really well.
Tester Matt writes: “The Bagel Bag has multiple attachment points and can be placed low enough to allow the use of out-front GPS mounts. It also has an elastic cord for looping around the head tube, although – unlike many similar bags – it's so secure on the Voile straps you may not need it. What really marks the Straight Cut Bagel Bar Bag out is its double zip opening. I was initially skeptical about what it would add, but was won over – Straight Cut says it allows easy access for left or right-handed riders but found the zips generally very easy to open.
“The Bagel Bar Bag might be small, but it is the best handlebar bag I have used to date. The Voile straps give a solid fit, the fabric is strong and durable, and the zips are great. It's a great bag, and ideal for gravel bikes with limited space on the bars.”
Topeak BarLoader — Buy Now for £53.56 from Amazon
Lightweight and waterproof, the Topeak BarLoader is easy to fit, has an impressively rugged build and keeps all your valuable gadgets/dry clothes/best biscuits safe yet easily accessible.
Usefully, this 6.5-litre bar bag is designed to work either on its own or alongside Topeak's 8L FrontLoader bag. Consequently, it either straps to the bar directly with simple Velcro straps, or onto the larger bag with longer straps.
It's made from a super-tough, sonically-welded and waterproof TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane to its friends), with a roll-top closure for maximum weather protection. Inside, there's a simple main compartment with front and rear zipped mesh pockets.
Read our review of the Topeak BarLoader
Find a Topeak dealer
Alpkit Kanga handlebar harness — Buy Now for £59.99 from Alpkit
The Kanga handlebar harness is a secure and convenient platform for lashing luggage to your handlebar and – unlike most bar bags – it sits away from the bar and leaves it fully usable. With multiple attachments and simple Velcro strapping, it fits almost anything, and the lightweight fibreglass reinforcement makes it very stable. There's only one size and it could do with some strap tidies, but those are the only niggles.
It uses a waterproof, tear-resistant nylon fabric for its main section, and hides a pair of (removable) fibreglass struts that run all the way down to the fork. They work extremely well, keeping your pack really stable even on rough ground.
The Kanga offers multiple attachment points on its webbing ladders for the Velcro straps, and it's versatile. It can also hold luggage higher than the bar, unlike traditional bags, which is a bonus for anyone short of space above the front wheel.
Read our review of the Alpkit Kanga handlebar harness
Things to know about bar bags
Whether you're on a multi-day adventure or just out for a ride for the day, the empty space between the handlebar and the front wheel is just begging to be made useful. That's where bar bags come in, giving you a way of carrying stuff so that it's easily to hand.
The handlebar is a favourite place to carry light, bulky items like a sleeping bag, a bivvy bag or the fabric parts of a lightweight tent. Bikepacking bar bags are usually tailored for this and comprise a waterproof stuff sack with some way of attaching it to the bar. Look out for valves for squishing out excess air and extra pockets so you can keep cash and passport easily to hand.
Some bar bags simply strap to the handlebar, others have built-in spacer blocks to make room on the bar top for your hands, while still others have a separate bag and ‘holster’ so the bag can be easily removed from the bike. A few, like the Route Werks Handlebar Bag, have a specific mount that clamps to the bar and makes space for your hands.
The most important rule of handlebar bags is: don't overload them. Too much weight in a bar bag can affect your bike's handling, so while it's tempting to cram loads of gear into that 20-litre stuff sack, it's a bad idea.
Handlebar bag sizes range from three litres up to twenty litres. Small ones are great for snacks, your phone and like that: things you want to hand without even having to get off the bike. As mentioned, big bar bags are for camping kit.
As well as the main compartment, you'll often find extra pockets inside and outside a bar bag, shock cords to attach a jacket, and straps or mounts for a smaller 'piggy-back' bag. How many of these extras you want is up to you. A bit of help organising your stuff can be nice, or you can just chuck it all in and rummage around for whatever you actually want.