If you‘re like me, the actual packing for a bikepacking trip is always the most anxiety-filling part of an adventure. The stresses don’t revolve around having space to fit everything but having space left over to pack extra things along the way like snacks and stuff. Ultimately it usually ends up with me limiting my options in order for my best bikepacking bag setup to be as svelte as possible.
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It wasn’t until I was on a bikepacking trip with a friend that I found the answer. While resupplying he whipped out a foldable backpack and loaded it up with whatever he wanted, while I desperately tried to repack my bags to fit the meager rations I had allowed myself. When the opportunity to test the Apidura Packable backpack came along I jumped at the chance to test it and it’s been a game changer for bikepacking trips.
Design and specifications
Apidura has made the Packable backpack from RS20D rip-stop material so it's waterproof and tear-resistant while still remaining lightweight. The backpack tucks neatly away into its own little bag, weighing just 104g and when packed up measures roughly 10cm x 9cm x 5cm. A little velcro holds it shut, and a velcro strap and strap anchor point means it can be securely attached to your frame or loops on your bags.
There are no internal pockets, simply a 13L space for the bulk of your luggage carrying needs. Apidura has used a simple but very effective roll-top closure which helps keep the weight to a minimum and water out. There are two mesh pockets on each side that can be used to stash quick-to-reach items or cans and bottles for much-needed post-ride refreshments. Apidura doesn’t state a cargo limit for the bag but I have carried at least a couple of kilos in it with no problems.
The straps use thin stretchy shoulder straps that are slightly padded and adjusted using sliders. There is a removable sternum strap, too, that clips across the chest to add stability. The strap is adjustable using simple toggle loops and has four positions.
Having the availability of 13L of extra storage at your disposal opens up so many more options. Resupplies are no longer a strange calorie-counting game of Jenga, as you try to find food to cram into the available bag space. Instead, grab the backpack, unfold it, and the shopping experience is more akin to supermarket sweep where you can freely pick things off the shelves safe in the knowledge that if it fits in the bag it's coming with you.
It also means there is considerably less faff time at stops. Rather than the stress of unpacking and repacking your bags to try and accommodate your purchases, you can chill out, eat, and fix other things so you are ready to hit the road again sooner.
The bag is actually surprisingly good to ride in considering how lightweight it is. There is no back padding so comfort is going to greatly depend on how pointy things are inside, but if packed up well I would happily wear it for a few hours. It's actually surprising how stable it is even when riding off-road, I think this is down to the combo of lightweight structure and a good shoulder and sternum strap holding it close to the back.
The waterproof material and close fit does mean there is the potential for getting a really sweaty back, however usually it only came out late in the day when temperatures are a bit lower and the ride is usually winding down rather than adventuring up.
The bag is a little tricky to pack away, I found the trick is to turn it inside out so all the dangly straps are held inside before stuffing it into the attached storage bag. Once in it can actually squish down a little smaller if you need to squeeze it into a little space or use the velcro strap to secure it to the bike.
Apidura also does a musette version as well – it has a little less storage and packs a bit smaller. I haven’t used it but based on friend's feedback I reckon if you don’t need the smallest pack size it's worth getting the backpack for the extra storage and backpack comfort.
For me, the foldable backpack was one of those products that I didn’t know I needed until I used one. The sheer convenience and streamlining of going into a shop mid-ride and grabbing what you want rather than what will fit in your bags is liberating. As it’s waterproof the backpack can also be used as storage for electronics and other things you don’t want to get wet during the night if you are bivying or camping.
It’s handy in real life too, if you think you might need to pop to the shops but don’t want to wear a backpack all day you can tuck this in your pocket and it's there if needed. Considering how lightweight the bag is, it's actually surprisingly comfortable and stable when riding, assuming it's well packed.
The price feels a little high , but the design is well-considered, there are loads of features, and plenty of circumstances you may want to use it beyond just bikepacking. For comparison, Albion’s Ultralight backpack costs $37 / £35 and packs considerably smaller although it's essentially just a drawstring gym bag with no adjustability, and has a weight limit of 750g.
Tech specs: Apidura Packable Backpack
- Price: $60 / £44
- Weight: 105g
- Colors: Gray with reflective details
- Materials: RS20D
Buy the Packable Backpack from Apidura.com (opens in new tab)