Thanks to the bikepacking boom, hundreds of companies across the globe now crank out seatpacks, handlebar rolls, and top tube bags. And while nearly every bag maker offers the basics, finding a lightweight and compact pack designed to fit inside the top tube/seat tube junction proved more difficult than expected. Thankfully, John Campbell of Alpine Luddites was up to the task, and offered to turn my idea into reality.
After exchanging a few emails, I sent John a photo of where I wanted to mount the bag, along with some rough measurements and the bike’s braze-on locations. Aside from those details, my requirements were pretty minimal. In other words, I left the important stuff up to him (although I did mention a preference for neutral colors). Shortly after Campbell returned from his Tour Divide attempt, I received an email that the bag was done and would arrive in a couple of days.
One of the first things I noticed about the Alpine Luddites frame pack was its weight–a feathery 80 grams (with untrimmed straps). Despite the bag’s light weight, Campbell didn’t skimp on details. From the waterproof zipper, expertly finished edges, and perfect stitching, the Alpine Luddite is one of the nicest I’ve had the pleasure of testing. This should come as no surprise, as Campbell honed his skills at the legendary Dana Design pack company. Even more impressive, though, was his ability to translate my vague requirements into a bag that fit perfectly on my main test bike.
I’m a fan of conventional top tube packs for frequently used items such as cell phones or snacks, but I’ve found that heavier items often cause those bags to sway, and the added weight sometimes affects the bike’s handling (not to mention the reduced standover clearance). With Alpine Luddites’ pack, the weight sits lower, and there’s no interference when climbing out of the saddle. While I may notice the additional weight when I pick up the bike (such as loading it onto a roof rack), I’ve been unable to detect any negative impact on my bike’s handling (even on the roughest trails).
Measuring 8″ long and 5″ deep, the mini frame pack will fit a wide range of frame styles and sizes (although you may need to trim the Velcro straps when attaching it to a steel frame). The packs are constructed from X-Pac VX21 and VX51 fabric, with glitter/sparkle variants made from classic bowling ball bags. At $60, Alpine Luddites’ pack costs more than the mass-produced competition, but the latter can’t touch the superior construction and attention to detail offered by Alpine Luddites’ one-man operation.
Disclosure: Alpine Luddites provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.