Our Fatbassador to Alaska, Travis, told me about a new Anchorage bag-maker early this spring called Backcountry Stitch Works. We worked together through the regular custom bag protocols, with a nice short-cut, due to BSW being located very near to Speedway Cycles, home of Fatback Bicycles. Since they were making a bag for the Fatback Corvus that I’m testing, the man behind BSW, Sione Lomu, went and made his template for the bag on a bike there at Speedway. The hardest part of the custom bag process is the waiting. If you’re planning a trip or race, you’ll want to make sure to give whatever bag maker that you choose to work with ample time. I find it’s best to put your order in and resist the urge to pester them about when you might see your bag. I see a frame bag as an essential part of a fat-bike and certainly, the framebag is paramount to any modern bikepacking set-up. So maybe the first thing the owner of a new fat-bike should do, is make a template for a framebag and get that in the hands of someone like Sione. When you’re buying a custom bag, it’s like buying a custom suit. The folks that do this craft are artists and the bag that Sione crafted for us, is a true example of what is now legendary, handmade, quality, Alaskan craftsmanship.
I’ve owned more frame bags than the average fat-biker and worked with and had the pleasure of meeting several bag-makers over the years, so for this bag, I let Sione design the features of the bag. Sione did ask for my color choice and I always choose black. After a month or so……my bag was held in limbo by the United States Postal Service for a spell, but by the power of gnome-skull arrived at my door. I had been itching to bike camp and the day after the bag arrived, I took advantage of the opportunity, and camped down the trail at Sandhill Station.
Sione had told me that he incorporated Cuben Fiber panels into the baag along with a nice reflective panel. Cuben Fiber is one of the newer hi-tech, light weight, nearly indestructible fabrics that the elite level bag-makers have started to incorporate into their bags over the last couple of years. The Cuben Fiber panels are translucent so you might just be able to see the fireworks that I packed in the photo from the S24O above. The left side of the bag is a full coverage map pocket (photo above).
There are two zippers on the drive side that open into a 3″ wide spacious chamber with a horizontal velcro stiffener that creates two spaces to pack gear. And this bag swallows lots of gear. The inner stiffener/compartment floor can be detached to create one giant compartment, but I found that keeping two compartments allowed access to my fireworks in the lower zippered area, without having to dig through the rainfly for my hammock, while fully loaded. Speaking of getting loaded…. the attachment straps on the BSW bag are all double back type of tension straps. Most of my current frame bags have velcro that just overlaps. The BSW straps go through a rectangular eyelet and cinch down more securely.
My next trip took me a little further afield and I ditched my trusty Hennesey Hammock for a 2 person lightweight tent. I took along a stove and food that I didn’t pack for the S24O and that meant that I added fork cages and a down tube bag. The BSW bag adjusted to the extra bag with no problems at all. It’s pretty amazing how much this sort of set-up can carry.
I’m working out any bugs in my set-up to take a trip to Michigan for some beach packing in August. The hammock doesn’t work that well for beach terrain, so I bought this Sierra Designs Summer Moonstone Tent. Sub 4 pounds for under $200 bucks. (We’ll see how storm proof it is down the road). It’s self standing and pitches really fast and easy.
My only little nit-picky thing that I would change on the bag is the cord used on the zipper pulls. Sione used shock cord and I like a more static (non stretchy) cord to pull the zippers open and closed, but that’s really a very small thing that would take me a couple of minutes to change and dial in my exact custom settings. The 3″ width is a really nice feature that most off the shelf bags do not possess. This was my first bag with two compartments with a horizontal stiffener and two zippers on the drive side. I like that set up better than a vertical stiffener with just one zipper. The quality and custom fit of the BSW bag is top notch! If you’ve been putting off getting a custom frame bag, summer is the perfect time to get your order in, so by the time the snow flies, you’ll have a place to stuff a puffy jacket for cold winter rides. I’d recommend these guys to a friend, for realz.
You can see more of BSW’s awesome work at – https://www.facebook.com/BackcountryStitchWorks/