J Paks FarvaPak & FramePak
It’s a revvvvvview. I’m sorry that its been such a long time since the last one, but life on the road has been insane over the last twelve months and I end up with articles backed up further than the M20 Post-brexit ( for those of you unfamiliar with that whole shindig it was basically when the English voted for self destruction….). Oh well, at least we have a booming potato trade, that’ll bring the empire back. Anyway, I have as much interest in politics as pugs have for swimming and I’m sure poor Joe at J Paks is thinking what have my bags got to do with Brexit….well…ahum….they work better together…boom saved it. Thus, what’s better than one J Paks bag….two…three…or perhaps a whole bunch all working together for a better world…./ride.
Right, so you’re going on a bikepacking adventure….but hold up squire…you’re going to need some top notch bags for that steed. Well, don’t worry, your Lord and saviour Joe at J Paks makes some of the best bags in the industry…how do I know?! Well, because over the last couple of years I’ve been testing them on multiple rigs, across the world on some of the hardest rides I’ve ever done. In this particular review I’m going to look at Joe’s iconic FarvaPak and the beautiful custom framebag he designed for my Surly karate Monkey. So without further ado lets get started.
So who is J Paks?
Well I can tell you now, after my first bikepacking ride with the FarvaPak I assumed the ‘ J ’ stood for Jesus, alas it actually stood for my personal lord and saviour Joe ( Eagle Scout, Industrial Designer, bikepacker and all round great guy ). Jesus, I mean, Joe, moved to Colorado to pursue a degree in Industrial Design ( sexy and smart…huh ) where he spent a great deal of time exploring the Rocky Mountains and developed a love of sewing….sometimes at the same time…if you haven’t seen Joe in last years ‘ Red Bull Down Hill Sewing Rampage ’ then I strongly suggest you check it out.
So you’re an engineer, an Eagle Scout , bikepacker and super cute…but I guess someone else makes your bags….?!
Quote from Joe’s website: ‘ I personally hand craft each and every JPak here in Denver Colorado with an emphasis on quality and function. Each Pak is tailored to your needs and requirements ’
So now Joe’s got us all hot and flustered lets talk about one of the best bikepacking bags I’ve ever owned, the FarvaPak.
The FarvaPak is one of those game changer bags that in my opinion redefined what was possible. The notion of a bag this big resting between the top tube and headset seemed too good to be true. In my mind it would sway back and forth, slapping against my legs and ultimately sending me into a fit of uncontrolled rage & fury. However, with all my photography/videography gear I’m always on the look out for clever bags that make use of every inch of space and the FarvaPak offered a substantial amount of additional storage. Thus, my curiosity got the better of me and the FarvaPak was soon on a flight to Iceland.
The FarvaPak has a lot of mounting points…so….with my concerns about swing…that music makes my legs jive something awful…I strapped it down good and proper. Now let me tell you, this bag is frickinnnnn huge. In Iceland it was big enough to hold my Mavic Pro drone, rolls of film and snacks…in a top tube bag…pure madness. Further still, my concerns about swing on the move were soon comforted as this thing is more solid that Poseidon’s trident ( not a euphemism ). Honestly, I was pretty damn amazed as the trails were gnarly and it really was carrying a lot of weight ( particularly at the start of the trip where I’d crammed two weeks of food on the bike ). Amazingly the FarvaPak remained solid, no swing, no sliding back and forth, just rock solid ( I think that it’s important to make use of all the lashing points if loading it up ). The weather in Iceland was absolutely savage when I was riding and the FarvaPak was consistently soaked, yet all my belongings remained bone dry. At this point it’s worth noting that Joe’s build quality is exemplary, all seams, zips and craftsmanship are superb ( we’ll discuss this again when I move onto my J Paks Framebag ). The FarvaPak has joined me on every bikepacking trip since, its been dragged through brambles, scuffed against rocks, crammed in suitcases, caught on branches, stuffed with gear and the zip has gone up and down a million times but it remains perfect. The body of the bag has also endured some real rough treatment and similarly looks as good as the day it arrived. It’s also important to note that not only is the FarvaPak a long haul game changer it is also the perfect bag for local trails/days out when you want to carry keys, phone, snacks, camera, tools, spare inner tube, etc,. Honestly, the only time I remove the FarvaPak is to change bikes. So, he’s smart, sexy and has produced a devilishly lustful top-tube bag but wait…there’s more. Close the curtains, grab the handcuffs and that Gandalf costume you’ve been saving for a special someone….It’s time for the framebag. Ugh.
Now for the naysayers, heretics, blasphemers and outright sinners who still refuse to partake in the Gospel of Joe I introduce to you the frame bag. I think it’s important to note that you’re not simply paying for a high quality item, but also for a bespoke and personal service. Joe hand made my beautiful Karate Monkey frame bag during my journey to the Artic Circle and went completely out of his way to ensure it arrived in the remote region of Stryn in time for my bikepacking adventures. The frame bag fit’s my KM superbly and I absolutely love Joe’s minimal velcro approach. The bag is secured to the down tube utilising the bottle braze ons, whilst elasticated cord is used along the top tube. I have other bags that use just Velcro and they perform well, but this design is just better ( both functionally & aesthetically ). The closer you look at this bag the more you notice Joe’s attention to detail and the flawless craftsmanship. The zippers are smooth, provide a superb water resistant seal, recess into their own zipper garage and are embossed USA (…literally only noticed that a few months ago ). My framebag is designed as follows:
Left side – One 1/2 sized compartment.
Right side – Full size compartment with the option to separate in ½ with a Velcro divider and two entry points ( this creates a divided section shared by the left/right side at the top and a larger full size compartment at the bottom ).
I really really like this design. The first thing that I feel is important to point out is that in my experience any frame bag that is split in half and has two full size sections is a little cumbersome i.e. things pushing through on one side restrict access to items at the bottom of the opposite section etc. The ½ section on the left is great as it’s sealed at the bottom allowing the right section full command of the bottom half of the frame bag. I therefore utilise the Velcro divider most of the time and create one large ‘ garage ’ area in the lower section ( accessed by the lower zip on the right hand side ) for tools/spare inner tubes and other items I don’t need regular access too. Furthermore, this therefore allows me to utilise the top sections of both sides for smaller/less bulky items. There’s plenty of tasteful touches to the bag that remind you this is a beautiful hand made item including the ‘ Made in Colorado ’ tag. Another nice touch is the bag flares out towards the head tube to maximise space without impairing pedaling and is stiffened internally along the top and bottom to retain its shape even when empty. So lets round up this rodeo.
In conclusion the FarvaPak is a no brainer in my eyes, it’s lightweight, makes the absolute most of frame space on the bike, doesn’t swing or interfere with pedalling, superbly crafted and offers substantial accessible storage from the cockpit. Joe’s framebags are expertly tailored to the requirements of each rider and are carefully designed to be durable, functional and on top of everything they’re aesthetically beautiful. The customer care is flawless and Joe has got bags to me against the odds multiple times to some super remote locations. If you want bikepacking bags that will last a lifetime and provide reliable, ergonomic and versatile storage on your adventures then look no further.
If you have questions for Joe or want to browse his latest work then check out his website or follow him on social media:
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