Comparison of top tube bags
If you are too cool for a handlebar bag
A lot of top tube bags have appeared on the market recently. It is a small bag that is placed at the far end of the top tube, held upright with a velcro strap around the steerer tube.
Top tube bags were originally used by triathletes to store energy bars and gels, being easier to reach than saddle bags.
Many of the top tube bags have the words "energy" or "fuel" in their name. The name reflects its origins, as they were first used to store fuel for the rider, and coincidentally, the position is similar to that of fuel tanks on motorcycles.
With bikepacking becoming more popular manufacturers are now promoting them as a good place to store other small items such as keys and phones. For this reason, it is more important that they have some degree of water resistance.
The advantage of a top tube bag over a handlebar bag is that it does not affect handling of the bicycle so much, and keeps more space on the handlebar for other accessories and grip positions.
Because I was overwhelmed by the different choices of top tube bags, I made this comparison page which lists some readily-available top tube bags from reputable bag manufacturers, either online or through retailers. On the bottom of the page there are some pointers to even more bags.
Aside from weight, size and water resistance, top tube bags have other aspects to consider. Preferably the bag should not be higher than the stem. Larger, and especially higher bags are more prone to leaning over (especially while cornering, or riding on bumpy surfaces). I have read some customer reviews of stuff falling out of some bags that have a flap instead of a zipper. Before deciding you should of course also check if the bag will fit on your bicycle.
If you want to carry more stuff you should also consider front triangle bag.
Since I did not use any of the bags listed, I cannot evaluate those aspects. Unfortunately, many manufacturers do not list the packing volume. When they do, I sometimes find inconsistencies. It is, for example, impossible to fit 0.5 liters in the dimensions of the Deuter Energy Bag unless it stretches beyond its regular size.
Side by side comparison
Alpkit Fuel Pod
Alpkit manufactures their bags in the United Kingdom and sells them directly to consumers. The Fuel Pod is available in the colors black, red, orange, yellow and gray, with other color options on request. The material and zippers are water resistant, however the seams are not. Alpkit provided me with approximate volumes on request.
The large Fuel Pod is the biggest top tube bag around. It has two zippers, which are connected with a cord for easy opening/closing. Because of its width and length, it can interfere with your knees when standing up on the bicycle. The statement on their website only mentions fat bikes, but they clarified it to me:
"It works fine on any bike and will fit, it's just something to bear in mind that it will be wider than most bike top tube and therefore may get in the way [when standing up on the pedals]."
Deuter Energy Bag
Deuter must employ some very optimistic people, as I found that the stated capacity of many of their bags was larger than the outer dimensions would allow. The volume of this bag is most likely less than the stated 0.5 liter. If the dimensions are accurate, then it would only be 0.49 liter with a perfect rectangular shape, which it clearly does not have.
This bag is similar in size to many of the smaller ones. It has an extra zipper on the side. It is also the least expensive bag in this comparison.
SKS Energy bag
Very similar to the Deuter Energy Bag in size and price. With slightly larger dimensions and a more rectangular shape, its volume will be closer to 0.5 liter. Opens with a flap instead of a zipper. On the inside, it has a divider on the right for small, slender items.
Revelate Designs Gas Tank
This is one of the larger, and expensive bags in this comparison. It is available in four color options. It had padding on all sides so should be useful for electronic devices. Extra care has been taken to make it stable with "gripper material" on the inside of the strap, and a tapered shape that prevents too much weight at the back.
The bag is closed using water resistant zippers and a flap. The zipper can be opened on one side with one hand while riding. Opening the zipper on both sides opens the flap, which I imagine can be convenient for larger items.
Compared to some of the other bags with a similar volume it is quite narrow. Since it tapers down toward the end do not I expect any problems with knee clearance.
Topeak Fuel Tank
Comes in two sizes; medium and large. They are among the more expensive bags. Opens with a zipper. The rounded top gives them relatively little volume for their size.
The medium version looks pretty, but comes up short next to the TriBag; it is more expensive, heavier and has less volume.
The large version is wider and almost as long as the large Alpkit Fuel Pod, and I expect similar clearance issues with the knees while standing up on the pedals.
- Topeak's Fuel Tank Medium page - Fuel Tank Medium on Amazon.com
- Topeak's Fuel Tank Large page - Fuel Tank Large on Amazon.com
There are three different versions of the Tribag. They all open with a flap. They look very rectangular, yet seem to be padded and have different compartments. I expect the actual volume to be closer to 0.5 liter.
The all-weather version has a rain cover, but is not sold in the United States. The DryBag version is a little heavier and more expensive, but is waterproof. It does not look like it can be submerged like a real drybag. A more accurate description would be "resistant to water coming from above".
Topeak does not list the volume. I requested the volumes and, in the mean time, calculated them based on the outer dimensions. According to my calculations, they can have a capacity of 0.57 liter. The drybag is taller and should have more volume. Topeak told me they are all 0.6 liter.
- Topeak's TriBag page - TriBag on Amazon.com
- Topeak's TriBag all weather page
- Topeak's Tri Drybag page - Tri DryBag on Amazon.com
Vaude Cargo Bag
One of the smaller and cheaper bags. Opens with a flap. According to some customer reviews I read, the flap opens too easily and valuables may fall out.
Other top tube bags
These are some other top tube bags available. Most of them are not included in the comparison because they are not (yet) widely available. However, if you are interested, you can always check them out. If you are looking for more space than a top tube bag can offer you should check out my front triangle bag comparison as well.
Apidura is a new manufacturer of bikepacking gear from the United Kingdome. They have two top tube bags listed, but at the time of writing they are not yet for sale.
A wide selection of top tube bags, a number of them with a space for a smartphone on top. My experience with this webshop, however, is that you get what you pay for (not much).
There are 4 different versions with prices from $10 to $35 (USD).
Ibera is a Taiwanese manufacturer of bicycle bags. Some of their products can be found on Amazon.com. Many of their bags have a remarkable similarity to some Topeak bags, and their PakRak system seems awfully similar (but incompatible) to Topeak's MTX system.
This online shop delivers to many countries in Europe and has many of the bags mentioned on this page. It also has several under its own "Rose" and "Extreme" brands.
J.Paks LLC is a manufacturer in Colorado, USA which makes custom frame bags. The Snakpak is not custom made and can be ordered directly. Unfortunately the website does not allow me to link directly to the product page.
Top tube bags from a Polish manufacturer that makes custom frame bags. Only available for pre-order at the time of writing.
An American company that has two top tube bags available in different colors.
Top tube bag made by an American company that is just starting up.
Handmade bags from Switzerland. Very large top tube bag with a capacity of 1.7 liter. Unfortunately only available in a webshop that is in French.
Pictures from Craig who made his own top tube bag.
If you have any suggestions for additions or corrections to this article please contact me.