Steady, Rogue 2…
Rogue Panda Designs is a one-man bikepacking operation out of Flagstaff, AZ, headed by my friend Nick Smolinske. I met Nick earlier this year through the Backpacking Light forums, an awesome online community for hikers and backpackers that I frequent looking for advice, used gear, and conversation. Nick was just getting started with his new bikepacking bag operation, and we got to chatting about a custom bag for my Surly Karate Monkey.
Rogue Panda uses a pretty unique process for making custom framebags. You don’t need to measure your bike’s tubing, there’s no need for manufacturer’s blueprints, and it works for any style of bike in any size, even tandem. The process uses a photo of your bike, taken with a ruler, to mathematically derive the dimensions of the inner area of the frame. Nick custom sews a bag with those exact dimensions for a perfect fit around rear suspension, bottle cages, or odd-shaped inner triangles.
Full disclosure: The first go at fitting the curvy seat tube on my Karate Monkey wasn’t a perfect fit. Good enough for me, but not good enough for Nick, who insisted on fixing it at his expense. If his process doesn’t work for your frame on the first try, Nick will either offer you a partial refund and let you keep the slightly mismatched bag, or he’ll build you a brand new bag for free. That kind of guarantee on custom work was refreshing.
The resulting fit and finish after the very quick fix (about a week turnaround) looks top of the line, even though the price skirts well under other bag-makers. The fabric itself looks top-notch, too; the framebags are sewn with Dimension-Polyant X-Pac Fabric for durability and ultra-light-weight, and the interior is laminated in a lighter color for visibility.
My framebag is a dual-compartment bag with access on the non-drive side, with a drive-side map pocket and a folding internal divider. I spoke to Nick to figure out which design suited me best, and this was it. The divider is particularly clever, since it folds up and out of the way via velcro patches on the sides of the framebag when you’re carrying something larger, like tent poles. I like the flexibility there, and I haven’t seen that from other manufacturers.
All the contact points with the frame are foam-padded and covered with a tough Ballistic Nylon fabric that almost feels rubberized. Zippers are waterproof YKK #10, and the velcro attachment straps are all reinforced, as are all of the seams. There’s something innately reassuring about a double-seam.
And here’s the big drive-side reveal… Rogue Panda is one of only a handful of bikepacking companies doing custom design work!
Their Colorado and Arizona State Flag bikepacking bags are a sight to behold. If Massachusetts’ state flag weren’t so lame, I might have gone that way. I had Nick sew up my name on the side of the bag just to give his custom work a shot, though you can get decidedly more artistic with your vision. In light of the Supreme Court decision, I’m wishing I had gone rainbow…
The frame bag also nests perfectly with the Oveja Negra top tube bag I already had, and Rogue Panda Designs offers top tube bags in several colors that’ll also match perfectly with a framebag. Just shoot him an email and ask about getting something custom-fit if standard bags don’t work with your rig.
Rogue Panda offers the full suite of bikepacking gear, along with a few extras:
Stay tuned for a full review after I’ve put this bag through the ringer, and a first look at Rogue Panda’s Picketpost seat bag.