I’ve always been on the look out for the “perfect” bag for various cycling activities, some have come close, but in the end it’s always a compromise.
Take commuting for example. I’ve used an XL Timbuk2 bag for years. I got it made at Interbike in Anaheim in 1995 I think, back when Timbuk2 brought their production line to the show and took orders for custom bags. It is big enough to take just about anything I would want to carry on my back, but when carrying less than giant loads it is overkill and the sheer size of the bag keeps the sweat and body heat from dissipating during the summer. I’ve tried various back packs too, from a super minimalist bag from REI to the rather large Seal Line I tested in issue 133. I like all of them for various reasons, and have kept them in the quiver for certain loads in certain weather.
Same thing with hydration packs. I’ve got a super small 50 oz model (it is really my daughters, but I’ve borrowed it for XC racing), a minimalist bag with little more than a sleeve for the bladder and shoulder straps, and an older Camelbak Hawg for those long days in the saddle. I’m currently riding with a new Ergon bag and getting the fit dialed in. Again, all these bag fill a niche purpose and so I keep them around.
I also have a couple of sets of panniers, a few handlebar bags and various stuff sacks I’ve used for touring. In preparation for my self-supported 400 mile race from Philedelphia to Pittsburgh I’m trying out some bags from Jeff at Carousel Design Works. Jeff made the bags for Jay Petervary’s record setting ride Great Divide Race last year. The bags are designed as a system, using the bike itself to support bags, eliminating the need for racks. Between these options and my Xtracycle I’ve got tons of options for touring, from absolutely minimalist kit for moving fast and light, to slow rolling but supremely comfortable.
I’ve got a ton of other bags floating about, and have given away a fair share also after they failed to meet my needs or expectations. Better than collecting ceramics pigs, right?
It seems like most things there is no magic bullet for bags, much the same as bikes and wheel sizes. If you gotta choose just one type you make the decision based on what option works best for you combination of fitness, skill set, riding style and riding ares(s). I’m glad we’ve all got options these days.