Tester: Justin Steiner
The 25-liter Kenti is a mountain-sports photographer’s best friend. This feature-heavy pack offers a large center pocket that’s fully customizable with included dividers and is accessible from both sides. There’s enough space to pack a full complement of lenses, flashes, bike tools, flat repair kit, rain shell, your lunch and a 13-inch laptop if you need it. Roll-top storage provides adjustable space for long or short days on the trail.
The only downside to the Kenti is the 70-ounce maximum bladder size. That said, there’s usually room inside the pack to stash a water bottle or even a Nalgene if you need it. F-Stop makes some of the best adventure photo gear available, and the Kenti continues that tradition. If you’re looking for an all-day-comfortable, feature-rich pack to haul gear during active pursuits, the Kenti is the ticket.
Best for: Hauling a lot of gear to shoot your next big assignment in the backcountry
More info: F Stop Gear
Mindshift Rotation 180 Trail 16L
Tester: Justin Steiner
MindShift’s brilliant camera bag is essentially a backpack with an integrated garage for its camera-toting waist pack. A magnetic closure secures the camera unit inside the pack when you’re not shooting. To access it, keep the waist belt fastened, open the slide closure and rotate the camera unit around your body. Just like that, your camera is right in front of you.
The Trail 16L is the smallest of MindShift’s offerings. It’s not a huge bag but is perfectly sized for most day rides. The only downside of this arrangement is the 2-liter bladder maximum. In terms of camera gear, the Trail 16L will hold a DSLR with a superzoom, but you’ll only get in one or two small lens, like a 50 mm prime, with that setup. Despite being initially skeptical about the concept, I’m now totally sold because the trail 16L facilitates taking more photos.
Best for: Shooting while on a ride
More info: Mind Shift Gear
Porcelain Rocket Mini Slinger
Tester: Eric McKeegan
The Mini Slinger is designed to hold a mirrorless camera and midsize lens. A big brother DSLR Slinger is an option for those still insisting on hauling the big bodies out to the woods. A simple strap system attaches to the handlebar, stem and fork. A drawstring top keeps the camera in place and protected from dust and drizzle, but I always keep a plastic bag stuffed at the bottom in case of real rain. My Fuji X-E1 fits inside just fine, even with a wrist or shoulder strap attached. I ended up using this bag on all kinds of bikes, both touring and just riding road and mountain.
For those trying to keep the backpacks at home, this was a surprisingly unnoticeable way to carry a real camera on almost any bike. While bopping around playing tourist, I had room to shove my wallet and passport in with my camera, and even managed to make this work on a bike with a Lefty fork. With easy access to the camera, universal mounting system for any cockpit I tried, and sturdy construction, the Slinger made sure I had my camera at hand more often. This is a win in my book.
Best for: Bikepacking or bringing a camera on every ride
More info: Porcelain Rocket
A while back I got a note from Barry Ward, who had started sewing handy handlebar bags. I tried a few out and quickly fell in love, so I was excited to learn that he recently founded a new company around his venture called Durango Sewing Solutions.
Ward got his start in rock climbing and was making some bomber climbing gear in the late ‘80s through the mid ‘90s. The company he worked for, A5 Adventures, was eventually acquired by The North Face. He wasn’t done creating though, and had a few other brands along the way, including Kokopelli Designs and HIFA Products. In 2015 he moved to Durango, Colorado, and a new project was born.
While these bags are a minor evolution over the previous generations, they continue to impress me with how useful they are. From commuting to touring to bikepacking to just cruising around the block, these handlebar bags keep goodies close at hand and secure. Fill ‘em with snacks, a small camera, a water bottle or really anything that you want easy access to. A good sign that the design works is that there are now a dozen or more bag makers with similar products.
Made from X-Pac and sewn by Ward himself, they have a drawstring closure on the top and a small foam puck in the bottom to help keep their shape. With a symmetric design, they can be used on either side of the stem. An adjustable loop with a buckle goes around the fork crown to keep it from swaying. This tall version will swallow a 24 oz. water bottle whole.
I’m not sure who designed these types of bags first, but Ward’s are the ones I fell in love with. His Durango Sewing Handlebar Buckets are available in short ($35), regular ($35) or deluxe ($40, pictured). The deluxe model has an exterior mesh pocket for empty snack wrappers or other small items: a $5 upgrade that’s totally worth it.
It’s rare that I ride a bike these days without one of these attached.
Ward let us know that he wasn’t the founder of A5, but joined the team early on.Tweet Print
I love me a big backpack. But a big bag always makes me want to bring more stuff, even when I don’t really need it. That’s why I’ve been digging the Chrome Kadet. It is often just the right size for short rides or trips around town.
Three of the four available colors use a truck tarp material, which combined with water-resistant zippers make this bag extremely protective in bad weather. The signature seatbelt-style metal buckle seems like overkill on this small bag, and it rattles more than I’d like, but it does look good.
The bag fits a good bit of stuff. My typical load was a mirrorless camera, second lens, small tool roll, light jacket and a notebook. (An actual paper notebook, though I suppose an e-tablet would fit fine as well.) A small U-lock fits in an external sleeve for easy access.
There is a cross strap but I found it oddly placed and just took it off. The compression straps also seem like unneeded extras on a bag like this, but I suppose you could lash small items to them. Longer straps, particularly on the bottom, would make these more useful.
I dig this bag, and find myself grabbing it more than I would expect. It stays in place while on the bike, slips inside my luggage for trips, and has accompanied me on hikes and at trade shows. A perfect handbag alternative for those not interested in carrying a purse (or murse as the case may be).
Dimensions: 8 inches high by 17 inches wide by 4 inches deep (9 liters).
More info: chromeindustries.com