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Bikepacking Bags and Setup on the Cheap - How to Repurpose a Vintage Laptop Bag

Picture of Bikepacking Bags and Setup on the Cheap - How to Repurpose a Vintage Laptop Bag

Backpacking and mountain biking are two of my favorite activities. I absolutely love heading off into the forest and just disappearing for a while and absorbing everything around me (quite Emerson-like, right?). I have always had an interest in combining both activities, and although I have done some long road biking trips I was never 100% satisfied with the level of adventure. Bikepacking always seemed like the route to combining my two favorite activities but purchasing the necessary bags came with quite a hefty price tag. Using the pannier bags and rack for my road bike wasn't an option since I planned on still riding tight trails such as singletrack and the bags would quickly catch on brush along the side of the trail. Wearing a backpack is fine to a degree, but having 30 - 50 pounds of gear on your back while biking is both uncomfortable and hazardous. The best option is to attach bags "inline" to the bike so that the bike's footprint isn't much wider than it currently is. Since this was my first bikepacking experience I decided to opt for making my own bags in lieu of spending nearly $500 on them. A friend and I poured over maps (digital of course) to determine the best route from my house and we came up with a 150-mile round trip with a mix of singletrack, doubletrack, forest roads, dirt roads, and some pavement. I had to have adequate space to accommodate a two night, three day trip and the bags needed to be rugged enough and firmly affixed to the bike with some significantly rough terrain.

I checked out a number of videos and instructables to gather up some inspiration before diving into this project:

For the back bag I used this instructable

For the triangular frame bag I first checked out this video and also this video but then decided to go a totally different route.

To build all of the bags I was able to use nearly 100% materials that were already around my house. The only thing I had to purchase were some hook-and-loop straps. Better yet, the main component was a 20+ year old IBM laptop carrying bag that was destined for the trash... more on that later. I am going to give the supplies list below but will elaborate on what I used with each step of the instructable.

Step 1: Thinking About the Thinkpad Case...

Picture of Thinking About the Thinkpad Case...

I was all set and ready to just purchase the list of materials described in the first video I listed in the previous step but once I added everything up in my cart I realized I was going to be spending around $60.00 just to buy the materials. This coupled with the fact that I am not much of a seamster left me questioning my motives. I was taking out the trash and forgot that I had thrown an old laptop case on top of the trash can. Although, I wasn't planning on throwing it out, I had, after holding on to it for 14 years, decided it was time to pass it on to someone who might find a use for it. That was when the sunlight hit the bag just right and I had an idea (cue Eureka music). The bag looked like it could fit perfectly in the triangular frame of my hardtail bike after some modification. Lo and behold it was nearly the perfect size, but with rectangular proportions. I figured that I could "easily" cut off a corner and maybe not so easily put it back together to resemble a triangular frame pack. It worked! And it works well too! And to boot, I was able to repurpose some of the material removed from the bag to create my rear bike bag sling.

Don Barthel28 days ago
Great idea. The fuel stove and water filter (vs water treatment tablets) are definite luxuries. Those could be ditched to further save weight.
ctstarkdesigns (author)  Don Barthel26 days ago
Thank you! I agree, water treatment tabs work great, but I wanted to see if I could carry the full set (stove, pot, fuel, water pump) to determine how well the set up will work for a trip in VT.
We share a couple things a Soma Valhallen and writing Instructables. Check out the saw holder I built for mine for trail work.
ctstarkdesigns (author)  ChristopherH1581 month ago
Nice! Not many of those Valhallens out there, especially with a folding saw attached to the frame. I love the simplicity of the design and might do something similar for next spring. Where are you in New England?
Home is in Newport RI and I have a vacation home in Bartlett, NH. Plenty of good riding in Bartlett area.
ctstarkdesigns (author)  ChristopherH1581 month ago
Very cool. I will have to check out Bartlett. I have always wanted to do some riding in the White Mountains and know that there is a pretty strong NEMBA presence up there.
Check out Marshall Conservation Area on West side Rd. Plenty of good stuff there but make sure you return on a trail called Shumway. On the east side use Trailforks App to set up a route that gets you on Rattle Snake trail going South into Redstone Quarry. Cool old steam powered equipment scattered in the woods including 2 steam powered air compressor, Steam hoisting winches and 2 huge old lathes to make granite columns. A trail called Parking Lot Smoothie starting off the Black Cap Connector is amazing. Have done them all on the Soma. I'm a Nemba board member from RI and I can say that the WMNemba group is first class.
ctstarkdesigns (author)  ChristopherH15829 days ago
Awesome, thank you for the information and I think I might make a trip of it this fall with a friend of mine. We have some great stuff here in central MA if you are ever interested. BTW, love the way my Soma rides, it's one heck of a fast and nimble bike.
billbillt1 month ago
Genius!... Great job!... Thanks for sharing!...........
ctstarkdesigns (author)  billbillt1 month ago
Thank you!
gzank61 month ago
well done. i'll be using this to setup my bike and my boys in the future for some rides. nice bike by the way.
ctstarkdesigns (author)  gzank61 month ago
Thank you! Please post any pics of what you build, I would love to see it.
Awsome! Modifying the laptop bag is brilliant and there are piles of old laptop bags in most thrift stores. A buddy of mine uses his old child seat to strap all his his gear into which is a very effective and cheap gear rack although it lacks any cool factor whatsoever.
ctstarkdesigns (author)  WoodAirGrille1 month ago
Thanks! If you do end up building one please share the results, I would love to see all the different ideas out there. I have an old kid carrier / trailer that I am going to try converting this fall... not much cool factor there either, but useful!
Felix_H1 month ago
Nice! Thanks for mentioning my instructable! Trip and bags look awesome!!
By the way... I also need a frame bag and have an old laptop bag.... maybe i will try to build one too, i will let you know... :-D
ctstarkdesigns (author)  Felix_H1 month ago
Thanks so much! The trip was a blast and we are planning another one during the fall either from my house again or up through Vermont. Keep me posted if you decide to build a frame bag too, I would love to see different iterations using different bags.