Earlier this year I had a custom XC bike designed and built by the super talented Em at WZRD. Bikes. While coming up with ideas for it, I asked Em if it was possible to put bosses on the top tube as I assumed I would continue using my Apidura Expedition Top Tube Bag—that I love dearly and never leave the house without. However, when I put the Expedition on the bike, my first unfortunate observation was how it covered the stainless WZRD. logo. Ugh. The second was that the Expedition’s profile is pretty tall which makes sense on gravel and bikepacking bikes but looked kinda dorky on a low and long XC racer.
Knowing that I had a hole to fill (literally and figuratively) I turned to Apidura with high expectations of finding something that would fit into the top of the bike’s inner triangle, replace my beloved Expedition and not look lame. Until this point, I didn't have much experience with wedge style bags of any sort. In fact I had none. But, I was immediately hopeful when I came across Apidura’s series of frame packs on their website.
As I dug deeper there was a bit of confusion on my part about how Apidura’s Backcountry and Racing ranges differ. Both ranges have frame packs that could potentially suit my needs and I didnt know what category I belonged to or wanted to belong to. The Backcountry line-up is “optimized for singletrack, mountain trails and technical terrain” while the Racing range is intended for ultra racers. Obviously, the Backcountry explanation seemed to match my WZRD. best but I still didn’t want to miss out on the benefits or features that racers were getting. I opted for the Backcountry because, well, they had full-suspension MTBs in the photos. Hah.
Deciding on Apidura for this bag was a no brainer and I’ll admit I'm starting this review from a highly biased point of view. Over the years Apidura products have continued to blow me away with just how durable and reliable they are. The company is dedicated to making stellar products and stands behind them with a fantastic repair program. I once sent them my original strapped Expedition after three years of hard use for a repair which they sent back to me almost new. Not many companies operating at Apidura’s scale would miss out on an opportunity to take more money from you under those circumstances. They made a fan for life through that program and I knew the Backcountry may also require the same treatment in the future. Advertorial pitch, over. Let's look at the bag.
Installation & Fit
Once the bag arrived and I could hold it in my hands, I was initially surprised by how small it felt. I thought I had made a mistake and wondered if going for the 2L model would have been a better call. Oh well too late to turn back on that one, always move forward. Getting the frame pack on the bike was a snap with simple and sturdy, rubberized velcro straps on the top side of the bag and a nylon cinch on the bottom to strap to the downtube. The installation process was faster than most bags I have in my arsenal which makes me happy—I am always swapping out multitudes of bags on multiple bikes. There are multiple throughways allowing you to put the velcro straps anywhere along the top of the bag which is very nice if you plan to use it with a top tube bag. Eyeballing the bag on the bike it seemed to fit perfectly into the top of the bike's inner triangle and still allowed for double water bottles. Nice. The bag did initially look a bit wide on my thin tubeset but I got over that pretty quickly.
To be plain, I didn't really read about every single feature of the bag before ordering and during installation I noticed that there was a loop on the back or blunt side of the bag for the bottom strap as well. What on earth was that for… wait a second… is this bag reversible?! I thought. I took the pack off the WZRD. and turned it around and lined up with the inner triangle of my gravel bike and low and behold it fit perfectly. I was floored that this bag could also fit all my other bikes as well. Looking at the product page one more time, it clearly states that the pack is reversible. Maybe I should read more.
Construction & Accessibility
The Backcountry frame pack is made of lightweight and low stretch 420D nylon. The welded seams and covered zips make it waterproof which is something that is very important for me living in a coastal region. In regards to color, nothing flash to see here. In typical Apidura fashion, the bag sports muted exterior colors that seem to highlight the yellow, high-visibility interior.
The bag has an internal elastic loop for securing things inside, however I'm struggling to figure out what to put into it. I tried my airpods but the elastic wasn't tight enough for that. There are cable ports on both the rear and front of the bag (because reversible) which is another great feature that I will definitely be using in the winter months when I need to pull out the high powered lights for evening trail riding.
The bag features zippered entry on both sides of the bag allowing for right handed and left handed access which is a great design decision. However, the zippers do not extend to the edges of the bag resulting in a narrow entry opening and can be a bit cumbersome to get your stuff in and out of. To be fair, getting most things in and out like energy bars and other smaller things works just fine. But the one item that doesn't fit well is my phone. I have the standard non-Plus sized iPhone 12 (in an Otterbox case) which does fit into the bag but only after a few seconds of awkward fitting through the narrow openings. For most, this might not be an issue, but if you add the fumbling seconds up over one trip and many subsequent trips and you just start to get annoyed. It’s an annoyance but not a show-stopper. I have learned to keep my phone in my pocket which is fine but I was hoping that the Backcountry would replace the utility of my Expedition, which has held my phone perfectly for many years.
Performance & Maintenance
As usual with most Apidura products, the bag remains solid while moving. It has literally zero movement side to side in the singletrack due to those rubberized velcro straps. However, over longer trips, I would see the bag slip backwards away from the head tube ever so slightly. This might be a moot point for most as it does not affect the bag's abilities but my OCDness wants the bag as crammed up in the triangle as possible at all times. A nice touch may have been a small front bungee loop extending around the headtube that could be tightened to prevent this small slippage.
As for cleaning it's a breeze. Our trail systems get super dusty in the summer as our little island dries out totally. The bag does its best to catch all that dust (not as bad as my carbon wheels though) however, the bag is easy to take off the bike and wash and look brand new.
Looking back at what I wrote above, one may think that this is a negative review but I assure you it is not. In fact it's quite the opposite. As a designer I tend to look at the world through a negative lens, always searching for improvement in products and systems. And when I like something, I pay more attention to the details and have a tendency to be more critical. It's part of being who I am.
Most of the beef that I have with the bag would most likely be trivial for most people. In the few months that I have been testing the Backcountry 1L it has completely filled the gap (ugh) of my Expedition top tube bag. Sure, I have had to make some small adjustments like carrying my phone in my pocket (turns out that's pretty easy to do) but that doesn't negate how awesome the bag really is. Like my Expedition, I look forward to years of using the Backcountry 1L frame pack.
Get it here for $65 USD / $83 CAD
|Fantastic price for such a solid bag|
|Reversible to fit non-mtb frames|
|Apidura’s repair program is world-class ensuring the bag will be with you for many years|
|Front and rear cable ports|
|Left and right handed access|
|Looks dang sharp|
|Some backwards slippage over longer trips|
|Doesn’t comfortably fit a normal sized mobile phone|
|No liner or slot for carrying cards|