The SKS Explorer EXP waterproof handlebar bag opens at both ends, has a valve to release air. [Review]

A handlebar bag is a great way to carry gear for an overnight bike trip, and the SKS Explorer EXP is designed to do just that. I picked one up for a recent bike trip and after 340 miles of abuse, here’s what I learned.


SKS says the Explorer EXP Barbag ($99.99, available online at Amazon and Trek) offers 9L of storage space. Unlike liquids, I have a hard time understanding how volume measurements translate to gear storage, so I’ll put it in more concrete terms. In the photos here, I stuffed a 15° sleeping bag, air mattress, and bulky camp pillow inside. This seems to be about the limit when it comes to carrying capacity, and I found it to be more than enough. On the back there is an air release valve to help you tightly compress any particularly fluffy or bulky items.

The other side of the capacity equation is weight. On that front, SKS says the bag can carry up to 3kg. I tested the bag with around 2kg of gear inside and an additional 1.5kg on the outside with no signs of strain or strain on the included nylon straps or the bag itself.

SKS says the bag weighs 390g, although on my scale (with straps and spacers) the whole shebang weighs 480g.

Gear protection

The SKS Explorer EXP Barbag uses a double-sided dry bag design to keep water out and to make packing and unpacking as easy as possible. I like the fact that if I only need one side of the gear – say this camp pillow for a quick afternoon nap – I don’t have to pull it all out of the bag for it. ‘obtain. The ends of the bag are stiffly reinforced for a nice clean ride, and while the plastic buckles hold everything in place nicely, they are a little flimsy.

All seams inside the bag appear to be well taped and sealed to keep moisture at bay. Much of my testing was in rain and wet conditions, and my sleeping gear stayed 100% dry the entire time.

Bike connection

Using the included nylon straps, it’s easy to connect the SKS Explorer EXP Barbag to a set of mountain bike handlebars. Two straps wrap over the bars and there is a third stabilizing strap for the head tube. All straps have a silicone coating on the side of the bike to minimize slippage, as well as frame chafing which can be a real problem with any bag or strap. The bag was stable and didn’t require any adjustment to stay in place during my testing.

Some competitive handlebar bags are held in place with a receiver attached to the handlebar, which allows the bag to be removed without undoing all the straps. Because the SKS handlebar bag attaches directly to the bars, it is slightly more difficult to pack and unpack while riding than bags that use a receiver.

SKS includes eight lightweight padded spacers to move the bag up a bit from the bars to accommodate brake hoses and derailleur cables, and whatever else the cockpit can hold. It should also be possible to install the bag on a drop bar bike, although this will probably require bending the ends more and losing some internal capacity.

One of the reasons I chose the SKS Explorer EXP is that it offers a good selection of loops for attaching items outside of the bag. I picked up a roll of nylon webbing and some buckles so I could tie my tent on top of the bag, keeping all my sleep kit in one place. Another set of loops on the front of the bag are available for mounting a headlamp, although I opted to keep my lamp mounted a bit higher on the handlebars. It is clear that the buckles have suffered some wear and tear due to the weight of the tent; fortunately, this appears to be cosmetic. The bag also features reflective details for increased visibility at night.

The finish line

Overall, I found the SKS Explorer EXP Barbag to be an easy-to-use and durable choice for bikepacking. It fits a fair amount of gear, easily attaches to the bike, and keeps its contents clean and dry. A receiver attachment system could make the bag even more versatile, although it would likely add more weight and expense.

party towers

  • Good storage and charging capacity
  • Waterproof and protective
  • Easy to attach and adapt to most bikes
  • Dual access

Advantages and disadvantages of the SKS Explorer EXP bag.

dirty naps

  • Removing the bag from the bars to pack/unpack is a hassle
  • Some wear visible on the accessory loops after a few hundred kilometers

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