Bikepacking is different for every bikepacker. There are those who go on a long trip on the road and stop at their destination only to go to a different one the next day. On the other hand, there are those who like to go cross-country and enjoy camping in the woods or mountains for longer periods of time.
Whatever type of bike packer you are, it's important to get the right kind of equipment for the adventure you're planning to do next. A bike pannier is one of the best products you can put your money on for a more fulfilling adventure.
Reasons to Get a Pannier
You may be thinking that a backpack can do just as much as a pannier. That's why you're on the fence when it comes to buying one. In addition, you think sporting panniers may seem a little different, and you don't want to stand out in a bad way.
You'll be surprised by how common panniers are, especially in the world of bike packing. It also has significant advantages over any ordinary backpack you use while walking. Here are some of them.
You don't have to put on a backpack.
Backpacks can be a burden to carry on your back when you're pedaling. It's the weight plus the accumulation of sweat on your back that eventually wears you down as a rider.
Panniers take that weight and transfer it to your bike so you can feel your best. That way, you can last longer, have a little less sweat on your back, and most importantly, be comfortable.
Increased carrying capacity.
We all want to carry more during our trips. It saves us a lot of effort to carry an extra pair of clothing or another liter of water. That's why volume is one of the main criteria to consider when choosing your mountain bike bag.
Adding panniers can add 20 to as much as 80 liters of extra carrying capacity. If you're planning on bikepacking for weeks, that space will be enough to bring camping gear and then some.
They hold your items with stability.
There are certain items you want to carry that demand stability. For example, if you order takeaway with drinks at a fast food restaurant, you'll have to hold the drinks in one hand and the handlebar on the other. Hanging it on your bars would cause them to spill.
Panniers have pockets for liquid containers. Some panniers even have a bag that can be placed on top of your rack. That can hold your food items in case you want to store it for later consumption.
No more sling bags.
Sling bags offer a different kind of inconvenience when biking. A bag that moves from your back to your front as you pedal interferes with your momentum because it bumps on your leg. You also get distracted by it because every time it goes to the front, you have to swing it behind so you can move better.
This problem can be easily solved with a pannier. Take one bag from the pair and strap it on the side of your bike, and you're good to go.
Types of Pannier Bags
Many pannier bags are created for the same purpose, but not always with the same design. There are designs meant for heavy bikepackers and designs for those who make casual bike trips. Currently, there are two main types of pannier bags.
Panniers of this kind often have a large volume capacity. That's why they are designed to be separate but are purchased as a pair. The good thing about double pannier bags is you can choose if you just want to bring one or both, depending on your needs.
Pannier bags that come in pairs also tend to be more simplistic in design. Most don't have any front pockets attached to them but compensate for it with internal pockets. The opening is also simplified and is designed as a roll-over instead of a zipper.
As a result, they look like a sophisticated sack of flour, but the simplicity comes with a positive catch—they are waterproof.
One-piece pannier bike bags cannot be separated from each other. You buy them as a pair and install them as a pair. This is because they have a sheet attached between them that is stitched on the pannier bags' upper portion. Luckily, this makes one-piece panniers easy to install and carry.
Panniers of this kind are often low in volume as well. As a result, you'll see several one-piece designs that range from 20 to 50 liters of combined capacity. On the other hand, despite the low storage space, external pockets make up for any extra volume you may need for handy items. Sometimes, the panniers are even coupled with a top rack bag should you need to have more storage.
One-piece panniers offer a lot in terms of organization and incremental storage management. The catch? Their materials are often not waterproof.
Waterproof vs. Non-Waterproof
Now that you're aware of the types of panniers, you've probably noticed that there are panniers that are waterproof or non-waterproof. For some bikepackers, waterproofing is important. This is because unpredictable weather and muddy or wet terrains can damage things that are exposed to it.
On the other hand, maybe water resistance is enough for as long as you're getting cool features as a tradeoff. If you can't decide, let's lay down the things you need to know to make a suitable choice.
Panniers of this kind are often made of textile fabric. The ones that are made of polyester are water-resistant but not completely waterproof. Before you buy any non-waterproof panniers, consider these pros and cons.
Lots of style options
Non-waterproof panniers that have little to no water protection have more liberty in terms of materials. Manufacturers can decide on the durability, flexibility, and thickness of the fabric. As a result, they can create different pannier styles with a wide variety of color choices.
If the style is an important criterion for you, then going for non-waterproof panniers is the direction you should take.
Breathability is an amazing advantage of non-waterproof panniers. There are bikepackers out there who tend to carry certain items like damp cyclist jerseys and towels. Non-waterproof panniers allow a little air inside, which prevents these damp items from producing odor. Breathable materials also allow for better evaporation of moisture. When the sun's rays hit the pannier, the heat can pass through the fabric and dry up any moist items inside.
The one weakness of a non-waterproof pannier is, of course, its ability to repel liquid. Some materials, especially the ones made of certain textiles, may even absorb liquid. Muddy water can stain the pannier, and outside elements can put dirt and odor on its surface.
Waterproof panniers are made of plastic materials such as PVC and nylon. These materials are engineered to make sure that water doesn't go inside the bag. It's important to note that these plastic-made panniers have different levels of waterproofing. So technically speaking, some of the panniers are water-resistant, but their resistance is a lot better than the materials used by non-waterproof panniers. Here are some of the things you should consider before getting a waterproof bike pannier.
No need for covers
Certain bikepackers respond to a sudden downpour by stopping. They pull up to nearby shade, whip out a big plastic cover, and put it on their panniers so their belongings won't be soaked. Of course, by the time they do this, the pannier has already been showered with liquid.
With waterproof bags, you don't have to make the extra effort of putting covers on your panniers. Instead, your mind is at peace knowing that the waterproof panniers will hold even in heavy rain.
Water from inside
The waterproof protection that the pannier gives on the outside is the same on the inside. So if you put in moist items or liquid inside the bag, it will stay there. This may accumulate around and at the bottom of your pannier, especially when condensation comes into play. It can destroy things such as electronics as they tend to be put inside the same storage space.
Pannier Mounting System
The mounting system is an essential decision point for choosing a pannier. There are certain mounting systems that may only fit certain types of racks while others are adaptable to anything. Find out the most prevalent pannier mounting systems below.
Hook and latch
The hook and latch is a common mounting system that is employed by waterproof, sack-types of panniers. The plastic hardware is installed across the top of the bag, and it has a hook on both ends of the plastic bar that can be clipped to the rear rack of a bike. As an added stability feature, there's usually another hook at the bottom.
The hook and latch system is compatible with bike racks that have a pannier bar.
The bungee system uses a bungee cord along with hooks. The bungee cord is the main stabilizing tool for the pannier instead of a latched hook at the bottom and at the top. A bungee mounting system can be attached to a classic rack that does not have a pannier bar.
The strap over is the common mounting system for one-piece panniers. This mounting system is also the most adaptable. The materials commonly used to stabilize the pannier are rubber, buckles, and straps. You'll just have to put them over the top of the rack and buckle the straps onto the bars.
Top Five Bike Pannier Bag Recommendations for You
If you have made up your mind about getting a rear pannier bag, here are some recommendations for you. The top five panniers take into consideration the factors previously discussed.
Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Bike Pannier
- Price: $190.00
- Type: Double / Pair
- Mounting System: Hook and latch
- Waterproof: Yes
Ortlieb is a popular brand for bike panniers simply because of all the great benefits it yields for touring bikers. The Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic is one of the best panniers the brand offers. It stands out because it has features that make touring on your bike to faraway places easy. You can mount the Ortlieb on your rear rack quickly, and if you dismount it you can sling it on your shoulders for convenient carry. The simple design makes it easy to stuff a lot of items in for a long trip. Overall, the Ortlieb Classic is one top-notch pannier for bikers who carry a lot of small to medium-sized items.
- Quick lock 2.1 mounting system
- Roll-top style closure
- +3M Scotchlite Reflectors
- Zippered and integrated inside pockets
- 20 liters of volume
- PD620 polyester with PVC coat
- Carrying strap
- The volume of the bag can be adjusted depending on how many items you put inside.
- Cleans off easily and isn't prone to stains because of the plastic material.
- Both inner and outer layers are waterproof so no water will go inside or leak out.
- The mounting system is easy to use and adjust on your bike rack.
- It's also great that it's easy to carry when you detach it from the rack.
- The pannier can be a bit bulky and challenging to carry as its height stretches upward.
- No outside pockets.
- Price: $170.00–215.00
- Type: Double / Pair
- Mounting System: Hook and latch
- Waterproof: No
The Thule Shield is true to its name. This pannier's strong points are its large size and protection—just like a shield. In terms of carrying capacity, its large version can hold up to 25 liters worth of items per pannier bag. The main material is also hardcore enough to carry heavy items inside while protecting it from liquid exposure.
The interior of the pannier is also wide. It can fit large items inside. If you're a long-hauler, you would appreciate the volume capacity and the unobstructed nature of this bag. You'll be able to fit just about any travel items you can think of inside.
- 25 liters of volume
- IPX4 waterproof rating denoting a water-resistant classification
- Three built-in interior pockets
- Shoulder straps
- Reflective panels on the side
- Light attachment
- Roll-top pannier closure system
- Cinch strap
- Made of nylon material
- Superior storage capacity. It can hold up to 50 liters when the pair are combined.
- You don't have to use any adapters to fit this pannier on a rack.
- Apart from the reflectors, you can also install lights on this bag for added visibility.
- The nylon material is one of the thickest, making the Thule very durable.
- Because of its volume, this pannier will look bulky even with only a few items.
- This pannier won't be able to withstand being submerged in water.
Bedrock Hermosa UL
- Price: $300.00
- Type: Double / Pair
- Mounting System: Velcro and buckle
- Waterproof: No
The Hermosa UL pannier is a product that is genuinely high-quality. The Bedrock brand sources materials from home and uses methods and materials that are proven to yield superior results. For example, they do away with radio frequency (RF) welding methods and materials made of PVC as they deem it to yield low-quality products that don't last. Bedrock has high confidence in each of their Hermosa UL panniers that they give a 10-year warranty for them.
Those looking for speed and those who ride mostly on roads and light trails on cross-country tours would love the Hermosa. This pannier is great if you're not keen on bringing a lot of items and you're annoyed by the rattling sound of a hardware mount.
- 26 liters of volume capacity
- Roll-top closure style
- Velcro and buckle mounting system
- X-PAC lightweight fabric and nylon materials
- Built-in framesheet panel
- 15 pounds of weight capacity
- 1.5 pound set weight
- Sewn textile
- No rattle movement between the rack and pannier.
- It's lightweight because the hard materials are reduced.
- It doesn't feel cumbersome when you're turning a corner.
- The sewn seam of the Bedrock is more durable than the welded seam.
- The 10-year warranty is longer than most PVC panniers offer.
- The velcro and buckle may be a bit flimsy.
Revelate Designs Nano Panniers
- Price: $160.00
- Type: One-piece
- Mounting System: Strap-over
- Waterproof: No
The Relevate Nano panniers are a product that's made by a brand that targets bikepackers. This makes the Nanopannier more of a supplemental gear, but casual long-distance road riders should give this product a shot.
The Revelate small bike pannier bags are a great storage bag for stocking up on items like your sports tumbler, spare clothing, food, and snacks. But, if you're planning an overnight trip, you can put a portable sleeping bag in it as well.
If you're a bikepacker, you can put this easily on top of your rack along with your main top rack bag for some last-minute items to carry. No matter what type of rider you are, you can find useful things to put inside the Revelate.
- 13 liters of volume capacity
- X-PAC inner lining
- Zippers are Condura with a stretch woven fabric top
- Fiberglass stiffeners at the lower part
- The side panel sheet is made of high-density foam
- Rubber protectors on the strap
- Can be used for racks that are as thick as 6 inches wide.
- It's minimal and doesn't pop out unlike other panniers.
- The volume is practical, especially if you just want to bring casual items.
- Build quality is impressive with well-chosen materials.
- The design is sleek and low-profile.
- The color choices are easy on the eyes.
- This doesn't get in the way of a top rack bag which is amazing.
- It's unstable and tends to move back and forth on the rack.
Roswheel 14892 3 in 1 Multifunction Touring Cam Pannier
- Price: $40.00–42.00
- Type: Triple
- Mounting System: Strap-over
- Waterproof: No
Roswheel is one of many great examples of an excellent non-waterproof bag. This pannier makes sure that there are enough features to make it attractive. You get an outside pocket which can be convenient for separating your small items from the big ones. The mesh on the side of the pannier can also hold your liquid canisters so that it doesn't have to go inside the bag.
If you're bikepacking and you want to carry more stuff with you, just pop on the top bag and strap it onto the panniers.
- 37 liters of total volume capacity
- Made of 1000D reinforced polyester
- Angled design on the side for pedaling clearance
- Detachable top bag
- Handle strap on
- Semi-rigid back panel
- Zipper covers
- External pocket and mesh
- Detachable sling strap for top bag
- Reflective logo on the outside pocket for visibility
- A single-color design makes it look neat despite the pockets and straps.
- The mesh on the side is a great addition for holding tumblers.
- The detachable top bag addition is amazing in case you need to bring more things.
- No interior pockets.
- Top bag buckle straps can't be adjusted.
Top Pick: Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic
Ortlieb wins our hearts among these great panniers we've chosen. It’s a pannier that has enough volume capacity that doesn't overwhelm you or your bike in terms of handling. It's waterproof, and easy to roll up or down. The design is also minimal but functional because it incorporates reflectors on the side. Lastly, Ortlieb is a popular brand with a reputation for high-quality products.
If you want to get more information about all things bike-related, head on to Cyclebuddy for more helpful articles to propel you on your next bikepacking trip!