It’s become a bit of a tradition, now. Every summer, we ride to the beach from our home in Greensboro, NC. This year, it was Atlantic Beach, with a group of five. Last year, we tried some different bags, but this year I used the Apidura Expedition series to carry my clothes, chargers, snacks, and more.
The collection is designed for everything from weekday commutes to weeks- or months-long global tours. There are 10 pieces in all, including the versatile Downtube Pack, which can stick to almost any tube, or add storage to smaller (kid’s) frames that won’t fit traditional bikepacking bags.
For my ride, I used the Expedition Saddle Pack, 1L Top Tube Pack, and Frame Pack. Other bags include a handlebar roll, full-sized frame pack, accessory pocket that attaches to the handlebar roll (or the bar directly), a 3L fork pack, a small saddle bag (for a tube and tool), and the downtube pack.
Apidura Expedition frame packs review
For “credit card bikepacking”, also known as stopping at hotels and eating in restaurants, we don’t need to carry sleeping equipment (tents, pads, pillow) or food and cooking equipment. It’s just the bare essentials, which basically means snacks, something to charge our lights/computer/phone (and maybe Di2/AXS/EPS…or an e-bike), clothes, and toiletries.
Apidura Expedition Top Tube Pack
From front to back, here’s how I used each of the three bags, along with their pros and cons.
Up top, the Apidura Expedition Top Tube Pack comes in two sizes – 0.5L and 1.0L. Honestly, I don’t see the point of the smaller one unless your bike is really, really small. The 1.0L, however, is nearly perfect…and that’s coming from someone who has a storage container full of top tube bags. I have a problem, but also a lot of opinions, and this is one of the best out there.
Despite more bikes coming with top tube mounting bolts, this one sticks to straps and that’s fine. One goes around the top tube, the other around your steerer tube. The only downside to not using the bolt holes is if you have a slammed stem…this bag won’t work if you can’t get it around your steerer.
Unless you drill some holes in the bottom of it and stack a rubber-then-metal washer set under the bolt (inside the bag) – this works, but it will negate the waterproof design. I mention this because I like this one a lot better than their Race series bag, which uses a magnetic flap closure rather than this waterproof zipper. The Race bag has a bolt-on option, but the closure isn’t as secure, and the flap rubs my knee sometimes, depending on how it’s filled.
The Expedition bag, however, retains its shape better when stuffed with irregularly shaped objects (or overstuffed, as I tend to do). And the zipper keeps everything inside, no matter what, all while being extremely easy to open and close with one hand while riding.
Here’s what I put inside:
- GoPro HERO 9 Black with Bite Mount
- iPhone X (the big one) with Quadlock case
- Lip balm (coconut flavored, with SPF, thanks for asking)
- One RxBar
- One granola bar (from the hotel breakfast bar, because they’re free)
- One gel packet
And it all fit great, while still being able to easily remove the exact item I wanted, then stuff it back in and close the zipper. It’s a great spot for battery packs, too, as there’s a small, water-shielded cable port on the front that could easily feed to your GPS computer or headlight. Retail is $64.
Apidura Expedition Frame Pack
The Apidura Expedition Frame Pack comes in five sizes – 3L/4.5L/5.3L Compact versions, plus 5L/6.5L Tall versions. The key differences are length, with larger sizes being just slightly taller, too. The “Tall” versions aren’t really any taller throughout the body, they just have a taller flat section at the front to fit bikes with really tall head tubes.
uses Velcro straps to attach to the top tube, and buckled straps at the head-, down-, and seat tubes. I cinched might up tight to the front of the bike…
…the pulled it taut at the back. The only structure to the bag comes from the shape of the panels and its welded, watertight seams. The 3-layer material has a slight rigidity to it, but stuff too much in it or pull the straps too tight and it’s easy to deform it.
The left side has a full-length flap pocket for thin stuff. I used that side to hold:
- My wallet
- A mask
- Hand sanitizer spray I got from a tradeshow booth
- Allergy medicine
- Mophie Powerstation USB battery pack
The main pocket opens on the right side (drive side) and has a stealthy zippered internal pocket at the rear. This is where I kept everything else but my clothes:
- Birzman Horizons-Apogee Lite (because it’s like a mini floor pump)
- A bunch of bars, gels, and single-serve drink mix packs
- Toiletries pouch w/ toothbrush, toothpaste, a baggie with chamois cream
- Sticky Pod Mini with multitool, tire levers, CO2, tire patches & gel
- Uncharted Supply Triage Kit first aid kit
- Nekteck USB-C/A 4-port wall charger (charges all the things)
- Benchmade 535-3 Bugout knife (because it’s freakin’ carbon fiber!!!)
- Chain lube sample bottle
The Frame Pack handled all of this quite well, but I had to slide everything in such that it was either upright at the back, or stacked. This way it wouldn’t bulge the bag. While I appreciate the unencumbered stuffability of it, the lack of an internal panel to connect the sides (even an adjustable Velcro one) means you have to be more careful with packing.
Even though the bag didn’t bulge or deform much, the flap covering the zipper did flop out a bit and rubbed my knee on occasion. I think this was simply due to the deformation of the bag more than the fabric flap stretching out, but it still happened. Just something to be aware of. Retail is $121 to $132 depending on size, dimensions are available on their website.
Side note: I really like the Blackburn Clutch side-entry carbon fiber bottle cages, especially when using a frame bag like this one. The full-length mounting slots let you slide them way down low, which (on this bike) let me run a full-size water bottle under the frame bag. It’s also a great way to keep your water weight low on the bike, which helps even more when you’re top-loading it with all that gear.
Apidura Expedition Saddle Pack
The Apidura Expedition Saddle Pack comes in three sizes (9L / 14L / 17L) and I tested the smallest of them. Normally, I go big, but I’m glad I opted for the smallest of the bags this time. I put the USB charging cables for the lights and GPS cycling computer in there, plus of my clothes, which included:
- Two cycling kits, incl. socks (because there was room, so why not)
- Bathing suit
- Boxers (singular)
- Flip flops
- Normal sunglasses (so I don’t look like a triathlete aprés ride)
…and there was room to spare. But, this kept it somewhat compact, and I definitely could have reworn my kit for all three days of riding, but kits don’t weigh much, and I wanted to see how this seat pack handled a fuller load.
I mostly love this bag. It’s super quick and easy to attach to the bike. Pull the straps tight and it won’t sway or bounce, either. The bungee straps on top are great for a jacket or anything else you want quick access to. I used them to hold a hat for aprés ride, plus a pair of arm skins, which I used during the hottest parts of the day to keep my arms from getting sunburned.
My only nitpick with the design is that there’s extra strap material that’s left to loop outward once you snap the roll-top closure to it and cinch that tight. I never felt it or noticed it while riding, but it detracts from the streamlined appearance.
There’s a blinky light loop that rolls into place if you don’t overstuff the bag (or hang a hat off the back of it). Retail for this pack is $162 to $181 depending on size, dimensions are available on their website.
The ease of installation combined with the ease of use makes these packs a winner for all levels of bikepacking. Their complete collection makes it easy to pack more for bigger adventures and self-supported efforts, but this trio makes for an aerodynamic loadout without sacrificing capacity.
The three-layer laminate material seems durable, and the saddle pack rolls down easily to compress and push air out of a one-way valve. All of these packs use a soft, carbon tube-friendly Hypalon material anywhere it contacts the frame, and even the buckled straps didn’t leave a mark.