Outershell Makes the Best On-the-bike Camera Bag Jan 11, 2017

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I get this question all the time: “How do you carry your camera on your bike?” and the answer varies. It depends on the bike and the camera used, different cameras require various amounts of space and have varying weights. More on that later, but for now, let’s look at the best on-the-bike camera bag for medium-sized cameras I’ve ever used.

Outershell’s Drawcord Handlebar Bag isn’t a “camera bag” per se, but it is with one simple hack.

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First off, it’s a bikepacking bag. Designed to cradle a stuff sack of your liking, the Drawcord bag is meant to be used on bikes where racks aren’t an option, but if you’re not looking to go on any bikepacking trip, simply put the plastic harness and strap aside for now. Second, Kyle supplied me with a piece of flexible neoprene to pad the bag for camera-use. He’ll gladly do the same for you, just add it in the order notes that you’d like a piece of foam.

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Without the harness what you’ve got is a handlebar-mounted drawcord bag, with a cinching closure and a cover flap that closes similar to how randonneurs close their rando bags. One note: you need at least 5″ of room between your bars and your tire!

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While you’re riding, you can lift off the bungee cord from your stem and reach inside the bag, grabbing it with one hand and within seconds you can fire away. When you’re done, simply drop it back in and pull the flap over. You don’t even need to cinch the inner closure.

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One of the questions I’ve received on this bag is the obvious one: “Is it waterproof?” and the answer is simple, as it applies to every single bag on the market: if you’re shooting with electronic cameras, you should always carry a dry bag with you, because even if your camera is weather sealed and you’re firing away in the rain, moisture can get into your lenses. It’s happened to me before on weather-sealed lenses and bodies.

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Here’s my Leica, securely packed in the bag for “dry riding.”

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…. and here it is inside the bag for “wet riding.”

If the weather looks inclement, I pack a camp towel to wipe the camera down before putting it in a dry bag. Also, inside the dry bag I use silica packs to absorb any moisture that might be in there.

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So, in short, a camera bag like this doesn’t have to be weather or waterproof, it just needs to be easy to access on the bike quickly. Missing a shot because you’re fumbling with zippers or pulling off your backpack is a bummer, the Outershell Drawcord Bag ensures you can get the photo you want and be on your way quickly.

One obvious point is, you should never try to get into your bag while in a pack of people. Keep your eyes on the road and hands on your bars. I’ve been around people fumbling with cameras on the road that have caused wrecks. Don’t be that guy!

This bag is also great for all forms of riding. There are pockets on the side for snacks and you can cram a lot of riding essentials in it. Even with a camera, I have enough room for an extra lens, a riding wallet and a dry bag. There are even loops to add stabalizer straps if you so desire.

Outershell Camera Bag-1

The Drawcord Camera Handlebar Bag is made by Outershell in the Bay Area and comes in a variety of colors. It’s durable, well made and retails for $90-$100 depending on options.

Note: if it’s sold out, you can contact Kyle to order one, so don’t fret!

  • Nicholas Haig-Arack

    Silica packs inside the dry bag! So pro. Thanks for this; I recently upgraded to a Sony A6000 and have been trying to figure out the best on-bike shooting solution. Also, Kyle is a top-quality human and his gear is impeccable.

    • Adam

      It’s a good idea, for a few days, then the bag degrades and will spill all the little balls out.

      • Nicholas Haig-Arack

        Looks like you can get silica gel packs in Tyvek; probably much more durable than the cotton packets.

        • Adam

          Wow, that’s cool. Yeh I just re-used the ones that come with shoes, etc.

          • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

            Yeah I use the Tyvek ones.

        • Paul Hartner

          The silica packets that come in food often are the tyvek type.

  • Scott Felter

    Go Kyle!

  • Dan O

    From their website, Outershell’s rolltop saddle bag looks like it can cleanly (& securely?) hold a fair amount of stuff for this boy scout. Very interesting.

  • Christian Krämer

    Really?

  • http://www.outershelladventure.com/ Kyle Ng

    Thanks, so glad you like it!

    My inventory’s all cleaned out from the holidays…whoops!
    More handlebar bags in stock next month, February
    You can preorder all my items from here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/OuterShellAdventure

  • Chris W

    Was just thinking about this bag the other day, thanks for the review!
    How would you feel about putting a DSLR in here?
    I’m pretty new to carrying an actual camera (as opposed to a phone) on my bike and am concerned about damaging the body/lens with the bumps and vibrations that come with gravel riding.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Depending on how big your DSLR is and how heavy. If it’s big and heavy, then I’d use a camera bag or a hydration pack like the Mission Workshop Hauser and wrap it in a beanie or camera wrap to protect it.

      Also, no camera would get damaged from bouncing, unless you’re shooting with a Hasselblad 500cm or the like. My Leica is a rangefinder and their focusing mechanisms are pretty delicate. That said, I’ve wrecked with it countless times and it’s been ok. I ride with it in this bag on singletrack – arguably way bumpier than gravel roads – with tons of bumps with no issues. Also, remember, a camera has to be able to survive being jostled around – think of a bumpy dirt road and a camera bouncing all over in a bag, inside a car. They’re not the precious, delicate objects everyone thinks they are. They’re tools.

      • Chris Valente

        Love your philosophy on this but hope you have insurance for those suckers!

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          Oh yes, I do.

      • Chris W

        Thanks for the insight!

        The camera isn’t huge or heavy so this bag seems to be a good option. However, I run cantis and this might mess with the cable situation I currently have going on my bike.

        Also was considering a hip pack of some kind but your reply to Owen above has me second guessing that. Looking forward to your post on this topic!

      • http://MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.net Max Dilthey

        I agree completely with this and I beat the shit out of my cameras, but I will say, vibration does wreck the internals over time. You can carry a camera on a bike, but make sure it’s insulated from vibration. I keep my camera in a framebag, but I have a little Thermarest sit pad between the camera and the downtube to kill vibration.

  • Tim Noyce

    Thanks for answering my question! Amazing.

  • RiverCityBicycles

    Looks dope.

  • dan chabanov

    John, have you tried the road runners camera bags? The ones that sit behind the bars? I’m curious if you have what your thoughts are on those.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I tried the Porcelain Rocket DSLR slingers, which the RR bag is based on. Personally, I don’t like the behind the bars bags because I hit my knees on them while climbing and my Leica weighs like 5 lbs, throwing the weight off on the bike. Also, if you wreck on singletrack, your bars crush the camera into the top tube. This bag is more secure in that regard.

      I like this bag so much because the top flap keeps the camera from bouncing out. The inner cinch can be left open, making one-handed operation easier. Also, it’s bigger, so you don’t have to squeeze your camera in.

  • Owen Cunningham

    John, have you tried any of the hip packs for carrying your camera? I’ve tried stuffing a full-frame DSLR in Hunter’s Shred Pack, and the camera–with a 50mm lens–is just a little too big. I’m looking for something other than a backpack to carry a DSLR while mountain biking and I’d love to hear your thoughts

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      There’s a bigger post on all this coming. My experience with hip bags has been all over. I will say the reason I don’t particularly care for them any longer is because I wrecked riding my MTB and trashed my Leica and a 21mm lens. They’ve been getting repaired for over three months. I fell on a familiar trail, not doing anything crazy, just took a bad line and fell. I had a welt on my lower back for weeks. It was sore to the touch and made even wearing a belt uncomfortable. Without substantial padding, having a camera on your back is dangerous.

      In the past, I used to ride with a Canon 1DX in a hydration pack, until I fell riding and landed on that as well. The camera was fine, but I tweaked my back really bad. It was one of those falls where your eyes flash white while it’s happening.

      Without padding, riding with a camera pressed up against your body for off-road riding is risky…

      • Silent Majority

        Yikes! I would think a frame bag would be the ideal location, as the camera is well protected in that location, and does not affect the steering. A frame bag seems perfect for a Leica since it’ll fit there. Still can’t believe you’re carrying your $5,000+ cameras… and breaking them… and still carrying them. I have a m4/3 as my beater on-bike cam, thinking of going to a mid-level Fuji.

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          Frame bags actually don’t fit a Leica with a lens attached. Not well anyway. Although I do carry it like that sometimes. This bag is the best because it’ll go on ANY bike and takes 10 seconds to install.

          The reality is, a camera is a tool, I have insurance on mine and I love shooting with it. If I break it, it’s part of the job. I’ve tried just about every system out there and since I shot so much film with my M7, the M240 was the ideal digital partner. I can use my old lenses and due to the manual focus, it’s actually a lot of fun to shoot with. Plus the size is ideal for on-the-bike photography.

          • Silent Majority

            no doubt, once you find the tool that works for you, stick with it. I’m not as comfortable shooting with my m43 and my pics show that, so I get it. Breaking cameras is perhaps part of being an outdoor lifestyle photographer… but not in my world of commercial and weddings. I’d love to see Lowepro or Crumpler or someone make a frame bag insert for cameras. Sure, you’d have to detach lenses, but that’d be a small price to pay for me.

            Off to attempt to stuff my old 5D with the 40mm pancake into my frame bag…

  • Duncan Philpott

    Had good fortune with the f-stop micro tiny ICU slipped into the ortlieb expansion bar bag thing. All the lenses will sit cosily in the icu in order and next to it in the bag a mirrorless body with lens attached in a padded sleeve which fits loosely.

  • Allan U

    I’ve ended up with the Swift Paloma bag with an F-stop micro-tiny ICU with my Fuji and bits in it.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e21a46b8cdf28f86dd39e6b6bd39c12117a0f82cdf3a7b2a210dceb495764a95.jpg

  • Jim

    Another great MUSA option is Dill Pickle handlebar bags – a few more straps involved, but relatively easy to put on /off. I’ve used one for a few years and been very happy – http://www.dillpicklegear.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&path=76_74&product_id=62

  • http://www.carterspeanutbutter.com carltheyounger

    a beautiful bike blog with a beautiful picture taken by a camera of a beautiful camera going into a beautiful handlebar bag on a beautiful bike. i love this country.

  • http://MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.net Max Dilthey

    Just a sidenote, Silica packs are single-use. Once you unseal whatever it is that has a silica pack in it, they absorb moisture from the air and are fully saturated pretty quick. Unless you’re baking your silica packs in the oven before each ride and then airtight-sealing your drybag, they’re inert and they’re not doing anything.

  • asdfsky

    very nice bag, what strap is that? love the braided strap.

  • http://www.outershelladventure.com/ Kyle Ng

    Just read this again and wanted to comment on a couple things.
    1. The foam is actually cross-linked PE, not neoprene. Still closed-cell, but alot more durable and protective.
    2. The metal D-rings seem perfect for stabilizer straps but they were actually intended for a removable shoulder strap! (sold separately) You can use the bag off the bike like a small purse.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Thanks!