Salsa is considered a pioneer in bikepacking: Has the manufacturer but a large number of Bickepacking bikes brought to market. Some useful bikepacking innovations were also first seen by Salsa: For example, the first Anything Cage (bikepacking fork bag).
There are also Salsa Bikepacking bags: The Salsa EXP Series! The top tube bag from the EXP Series has some interesting features, making it almost unique. I’ve had the bag on my bike for a good six months now and have ridden thousands of miles with it. The bikepacking top tube bag was put to the test on the Tuscany Trail in Italy, on an Alpine tour and on a bike trip through Laos and Thailand.
Mittelwelle counts this bag as one of my favorite bikepacking bags – so it’s also part of my ultimate bikepacking packing list. In this review you will find out everything about the Salsa Bikepacking bag. >>
Now let’s get to the specifics of the bag:
✅ With 1.2 liters, it has a particularly large volume and the top tube bag can either be screwed to the top tube (if the bike has corresponding holes) or is secured with velcro.
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The Salsa Bikepacking bag is already top processed. The bag can be fastened either with fixed Velcro straps. These are of course included in the scope of delivery. Alternatively, the Salsa EXP Toptube Bag is screwed onto the top tube. This then ensures a particularly tidy appearance.
Note: I put the paint protection film on my bike mainly because of the frame bag and the handlebar roller. If you use such a bag then I would recommend a paint protection film in any case. I’ve had with this paint protection film* particularly good experiences.
What are the big features of the Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag?
✅ Large volume: With 1.2 litres, the Bikepacking top tube bag is one of the largest of its kind
✅ Screw on tightly or fasten with velcro: The EXP Series Toptube Bag can be screwed onto the top tube of bikes with the corresponding holes via “bolt on”. Alternatively, it can also be reliably fastened with a Velcro strap.
✅ Strongly water repellent: I had no problem with wetness inside even after heavy rain
- Volume: 1,2 l
- Weight according to Salsa: 160 g
Already I can say that the Salsa Bikepacking bag is excellently manufactured and the large volume of 1.2 liters is really practical.
Test – Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag
At first glance, the Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag looks like a normal bikepacking top tube bag. Like a very high quality processed 😉
Compared to other bikepacking top tube bags, it’s very large: 1.2 liters of volume holds the bag, according to Salsa. I find this very practical: A 20,000 mAh powerbank as well as a large smartphone and some money thus fit easily into the pocket. Or a medium sized stash of energy bars.
The attachment is also something special: On the bottom the Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag has two small holes. These are spaced at the distance of a bicycle bottle cage. If your bike has the appropriate mount on the top tube then the bag can be screwed on there. It’s called a bolt-on.
If your bike does not have this mount, then the bag is attached to the top tube with the included Velcro straps. On my Bombtrack Beyond 1 (go here for the extensive Bombtrack Beyond 1 review), I’ve always bolted on the bikepacking top tube bag so far.
By the way, the bag has a small shelf. This covers the screws. So you don’t have to be afraid that the contents of the bag will be scratched by the screws: This is not the case, because the bottom holds securely in the bag and fits perfectly in the shape of the Salsa Bikepacking bag.
Unfortunately, not many bikes have the threaded holes on the top tube yet. Tightly screwed, the Velcro fasteners are no longer needed and this ensures a clean look on the top tube. Currently, however, there are few bicycle frames that have the appropriate threaded hole:
- Bombtack Beyond 1 – Go here for my in-depth Bombtrack Beyond 1 review.
- Bombtrack Hook EXT
- Salsa Cutthroat
- Salsa Woodsmoke
- Salsa Mukluk
- OPEN Cycles U.P.
- Run Cycles True Grit
Other than that, the Bikeoacking top tube bag has other useful features: The material as well as the zipper is highly water-repellent. In practice, I have been out in heavy rain and only minimal moisture came through the zipper. At no point was my powerbank in danger! The zipper can be gripped very well at any time and is two-way. Inside the Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag there are also two small mesh pockets. Small parts or even money can be organised in it.
The Bikepacking top tube bag is relatively wide. Somewhere the large volume must eventually come from 😉 The bag never got in my way both during normal cycling, on wild trails or even in the cradle. However, I am also 1.84 tall and also ride a correspondingly large bike frame (Bombtrack Beyond 1 in size L).
As mentioned, I also have the bag bolted to the top tube. This will certainly also keep the bag a little more central on the top tube.
On tour – this is how it was tested
The Bikepacking top tube bag from the Salsa EXP Series was subjected to an endurance test and tested under a wide range of demanding conditions:
- Starting with the daily commute on asphalt and over dirt roads
- about a technically demanding tour on the stony Schrofenpass in the Alps.
- at the 550 kilometer bikepacking tour “Tuscany Trail” through Tuscany in Italy: over hill, dale, MTB trails and gravel roads.
- on a four-week bike trip through Laos and Thailand over dusty tracks. In many places, especially in Laos also past numerous potholes on the roads
As I said the bag is my current favorite bikepacking top tube bag! Therefore, I continue to use them and can only recommend them in the highest tones 🙂 The bag is therefore part of my ultimative bikepacking equipment and packing list.
I’ve taken the bag off and put it back on several times now, packed it in boxes and then checked it in as luggage at the airport. Of course, the bag was already in the winter and in snow and rain on the bike. The one or other night the bag was already exposed to the weather in front of the tent.
As mentioned in the review, the workmanship and quality of the bag is really beyond reproach and I can’t see any signs of wear apart from a few small scratches. Thus, you can look forward to a very durable bag here.
I have the bag mostly bolted to my Bombtrack Beyond 1 on the top tube (it also comes with velcro for attachment to the top tube).
More bikepacking bags in the photo above:
- Saddle bag, frame bag and handlebar roll: Are part of the Ortlieb Bikepacking bags series. I tested the saddlebag again very closely in a separate article.
Comparison: Current Bikepacking top tube bags
Experience and summary
I can give an absolute recommendation for the bag. This bag is one of my favorite bikepacking bags and is well thought out from front to back. You notice that Salsa has a lot of experience in bikepacking.
Especially the large 1.2 liter volume and the top processing convince. The zipper is highly water repellent and the bag can either be bolted onto the top tube or attached with Velcro.
Buy Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag – yes or no?
The Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag is a top tube bag and offers in addition to a lot of space a lot of thoughtful features. The manufacturer Salsa brings a lot of bikepacking experience and you can see that in the Salsa Bikepacking Top Tube Bag.
The bag is top processed and robust. Also highly water repellent and if the bike is Bolt-On compatible then the bag can be bolted to the top tube (alternatively you can attach it with Velcro straps).
The bag is quite wide. Fortunately, in practice I never had any problems here. Bikepackers who ride a bike with a long top tube will be very happy with the bag. If your bike’s top tube is rather short, you should check whether leg contact with the bag could occur.
✅ With 1,2 liters a lot of space
✅ very good grip 2-way zipper
✅ strongly water repellent
✅ can be screwed on the top tube (Bolt-On compatible) – Velcro straps for attachment are also included
❌ With short bicycle top tube possibly too wide – then please check beforehand whether leg contact can occur. Was with me with a bike in frame size L never a problem
Alternatives to Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag Top Tube Bag
Pro Discover Toptube Bag
The Pro Discover Toptube Bag offers similar features to the Salsa EXP bikepacking bag, while being more compact and also narrower: 0.75 liters goes in. The shape can be an advantage especially for smaller riders (with smaller bike frames). The bag is either attached to the top tube with Velcro fasteners or can alternatively be screwed on. The zipper is smooth-running and should be able to be opened with one hand. There is also a small cable hole for passing headphones or a charging cable through. You can temporarily attach small items to the side net.
Blackburn Outpost Toptube Bag Top Tube Bag
Blackburn’s upper rim bag has been on the market for some time and is particularly good value. The bag is also highly water repellent. However, the zipper is difficult to open with one hand and the bag is heavy. Still a price tip.
What do you think of the Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag? Do you have any questions? Feel free to write me your comment.
The Bikepacking top tube bag tested here doesn’t suit you? In the comprehensive bikepacking top tube bag overview I have compared all recommended top tube bags. I regularly keep the overview up to date. Best check out the article now.
Want to learn more about bikepacking bags? Then just check out the Ultimate Bikepacking Bags Guide. There you will find out everything you want to know – and even more 😉