I was explaining to a friend all the stuff I brought with me for a long New Year's Day ride — huge bag of cookies, extra winter gloves, tubes, pump, drink mix, etc. — and he asked if our group had a follow vehicle that day. "No, dude. I just put it all in here," I said, pointing to the Pioneer 9 Hip Pack on my handlebars.
It's called a Hip Pack because, yes, you can wear it around your waist. I'm usually not one for fanny packs (yes, Brits, I know what that means), and honestly I had been wrinkling up my face at handlebar bags too. But damn if they aren't a great way to carry stuff for long rides.
North St. doesn't have a monopoly on the handlebar bag/hip pack concept, of course. Green Guru has this one for the same price and at roughly the same size. And there are plenty of dedicated hip packs or handlebar bags out there, too, as the concept is decades old.
There are a few things I like about North St.'s Pioneer 9 though. For starters, the bags are made to order in Portland, Oregon, in a rainbow of colors.
Design-wise, the bag is simple and functional. The main zippered pouch has a 2.65L / 162 cubic inch capacity. That's big enough to fit a small DSLR, or a whole mess of clothing and riding supplies. And cookies. Don't forget the cookies. This is the 9in bag and there is a 12in version also.
The zippers have long pull tabs on them, so they're easy to operate with gloves and/or while riding. There is an exterior zipper front pocket and an internal zipped pouch with dividers inside the main cargo area.
Switching between handlebar bag and hip pack involves removing the two Velcro handlebar straps and clipping on the waist belt. The plastic clips are spring-loaded, pressing against little metal loops that lock the clips closed. It's a solid system.
I prefer to use the bag on the handlebars, where the carrying capacity complements that of your jersey pockets. When used as a hip pack — at least for road cycling when you have a three-pocket jersey or jacket — it compromises the usefulness of your pockets, as the bag sits roughly in the same place. You can still use your pockets, but just not as easily, comfortably or securely.
That said, the wide, adjustable straps and flexible bag are comfortable enough to wear for long rides. I chased my colleague Josh Patterson around parts of the mixed-terrain Old Man Winter Rally carrying my DSLR and other supplies, and wore it as a pack because I had a GoPro on my handlebars.
When used as a photo bag, it's more convenient to have on your waist than your bars, as you can hop off the bike and always have your camera with you.
The bag isn't waterproof, but it is treated with DWR.
If you're into the paper-map thing, North St. sells a transparent pouch that Velcros onto the bag. You can use this for cash or credit cards or whatever else, of course.
The bag sells alone for $39 / £31, and then you can buy the handlebar mount and/or the hip pack strap for $10 / £8 each.
North St. claims that bags are made in 3-4 days, with shipping times dependent on where you live. Shipping to the UK can be expensive, though, in the £25-30 range.