Three Pannier and Handlebar Bag Touring

My bike, yesterday in the Nevada desert
The water bladder, the 3 liter bottle on the rear rack, and foam pad
are not part of my non-desert touring setup

Here is an image of a friends new LHT with a similar setup
(image by Kevin Moore)

I don't use big handlebar bags because, first, they get in the way of handlebar mounted lights and my handlebar mounted cameras, and second, they hurt the bikes handling. By using a smaller bag and rotating it down so that it is all below handlebar level, I eliminate the first problem and minimize the second problem. I don't use four panniers because the stuff I now carry, including a computer, two digital cameras, food and water for a full day without services, and camping equipment will all fit easily in three. While it is important to balance the weight in front panniers, using only one rear pannier, as many people do while commuting or doing credit card touring, has no noticeable effect on bike balance while riding.

My small handlebar bag and its contents

I added a 'Beer Can Cosie' to the top of my handlebar bag to hold a camera for easy access while riding. That camera isn't in this image because I used it to make the image ;-}. I put it and my GPS in the bag when I stop to eat. When I'm riding, a zip-lock bag containing my wallet, change, comb, Micra tool, and watch goes in the handlebar bag, replacing the camera and GPS.

It isn't visible in this image, nor while riding, but there is a zippered pocket on the front of this handlebar bag. That is where I carry my GorTex Paclite rain/cold jacket. that jacket is quite a technological marvel. It is about the same weight (8 oz) and bulk as the PI wind jacket it replaced, but it is waterproof and seam taped.

I 'lost' that jacket last spring because I forgot about the, invisible when the bag is rotated down, front pocket on this handlebar bag and couldn't remember where I put the jacket! I'm glad I found it again!

The other contents, from top to bottom in the image are

Leatherman tool with bits
Tire tools
Cleanup towelettes
Glasses case
Spare gloves and silk liner gloves
Ear plugs
WiFi detector
Insect repellent
SealSkinz socks
Zip-lock bag with credit card receipts and tea bags

My left front pannier contents

Backup camera in zip-lock bag wrapped with spare knee warmer for padding
Wrist brace
Miscellaneous electronics stuff I use every day
Sleeping bag
Second pair of socks - I'm wearing the first pair
Down Travel Pillow
Silk Travel Sheet
Two RailRider shirts, one more suitable for off bike use
I'm wearing the third one
Off bike hat
(not shown - Dopp Kit with toiletries)

My right front pannier contents

Off bike shoes in Subway sandwich bag
Black bag of infrequently used electronics stuff
Front wind/water resistant riding vest with mesh back
Second pair of bike shorts - I'm wearing the other one
Second pair of wicking fabric underpants - the other pair is hanging on my rear pannier to dry
Two pairs of off bike travel pants
Tools and supplies in several bags
Spare tire and spare tube

My tools and supplies

Bag with patch kit, Tri-Flow, Rock'nRoll Extreme Lube, spare cables, spare computer battery, chain links, zip ties
Bag with Goop and bag with friction and electrical tape and small hose clamps
Bag with tools:
tyvec for booting tire
Allen wrenches
Var tire tool
West German slip lock wrench found on the road in France last year
Patch kit
Spoke Wrench
Chain wear gauge
Hyper Cracker
Chain tool
Zip Ties

My rear pannier / backpack

I was too lazy to unpack this. You can see the purple pack towel on top, the blue Thermarest XL short sleeping pad on the right, the Platypus water bladder - like the one hanging on the other side on the left, and a pair of underpants hung out to dry. What you can't see are: tent poles behind the Thermarest, first aid kit under the Platypus, Tarptent under the first aid kit, Tarptent stake bag tucked in next to the Thermarest, a small tent foot-print on the bottom of the bag, and, my iBook G4 laptop, in its own plastic bag, in the pocket behind all the other stuff. I also carry two plastic grocery bags that act as rain covers for this bag.

You also can't see the zipper that runs around the back of this bag and allows it to be removed form the pannier back panel. Removing it exposes padded straps that allow this pannier to used as a back pack. While it is certainly not a great general purpose pannier, nor is it a great backpack, it works very well for me when I fly with my bike and very well for me when I am touring. It does have a tendency to come off the rack, so I have its handle tied to the rack with the same piece of nylon strapping material that hold the water bladder to the rack. I picked up that piece of material on a long climb in Utah ;-}. I picked up the blue sleeping pad in a big valley in Nevada.

The space where the water bladder is now is usually occupied by food supplies and things, like maps, purchased on tour. On this tour, I carry my food supplies on top of the other stuff in my front panniers and I carry water in this bladder and diluted gatorade in the bladder on the other side. By using the 3 liter bottle on top of the rack, I can carry more than 10 liters of liquid. It is hot, dry, hilly, and very windy out here in the desert, all of which require carrying a lot of water.

When I fly with this setup, I repack my stuff with all of the 'dangerous' stuff in one front pannier and put the other front pannier in my backpack with the Thermarest, etc. Then I get on the plane with the backpack and the handlebar bag as my carry-on luggage and check the bike and the other pannier. Before they lowered the weight limits on checked luggage, I would put all the 'dangerous' stuff in the box with my bike, but I stopped doing that when it cost me a $50 overweight charge.