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Arkel Bug Pannier Backpack Review

With a large overall volume and multiple storage options, this backpack style pannier is our Top Pick for Commuting
Arkel Bug Pannier Backpack
Photo: Arkel
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $190 List
Pros:  Solid mounting system, large storage volume, several storage options
Cons:  Expensive, not waterproof without extra rain cover
Manufacturer:   Arkel
By Nick Bruckbauer ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 21, 2020
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 13
  • Mounting System - 25% 8
  • Storage - 20% 8
  • Durability - 20% 8
  • Weatherproofing - 20% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6

Our Verdict

With the best overall combination of total storage space, multiple organization pockets, and an easy to use backpack system, the Arkel Bug Pannier Backpack earns our Top Pick Award for Commuting. The Bug Pack doesn't necessarily stand out in any one rating category, but it earns solid scores across the board. It is unfortunately one of the most expensive models in our lineup, especially considering the extra cost of the optional laptop sleeve and rain cover, but this pack is ready for any kind of daily use once equipped with these features. Whether commuting to work, school, book club, or summer camp, the Bug Pannier Backpack is ready to roll.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $190 List$189.95 at Competitive Cyclist
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$180 List$75 List$94.99 at Amazon
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Pros Solid mounting system, large storage volume, several storage optionsDurable and waterproof, huge storage capacity, easy and secure attachmentLarge storage volume, durable, stylish, easy to useDurable, inexpensive, easy to installHuge volume, very durable and weatherproof, easy to use
Cons Expensive, not waterproof without extra rain coverLimited pockets and organizationSomewhat expensive, limited organizational pocketsNot sold as a pair, lacks adjustable mounting hooksMounting system is not as secure as others
Bottom Line Multiple storage pockets, a huge main compartment, and a handy backpack conversion make this an ideal option for commutersA high-quality, consistently top-ranked design that is often imitated by othersA versatile design with plenty of storage in a durable and waterproof packageA well-built and affordable touring pannier that is fully waterproof and user-friendlyAn impressively built model with huge volume and simple design, but the mounting system leaves more to be desired
Rating Categories Arkel Bug Pannier Backpack Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Arkel Signature H Urban Seattle Sports Titan Thule Shield
Mounting System (25%)
8
9
7
6
5
Storage (20%)
8
9
8
7
9
Durability (20%)
8
8
8
9
9
Weatherproofing (20%)
6
9
7
8
8
Ease Of Use (15%)
6
7
8
7
6
Specs Arkel Bug Pannier... Ortlieb Back... Arkel Signature H... Seattle Sports Titan Thule Shield
Volume (cubic inches) 1650 cu in 2441 cu in (pair) 1460 cu in 1100 cu in 2928 cu in (pair)
Dimensions (in.) (H x W x D) 12" x 18" x . 7" 16.5" x 12.6" x 6.7" 16" x 12" x 6.5" 13.5" x 11" x 6" 17" x 13" x 6"
Weight (pounds) 3.1 lbs 4.2 lbs (pair) 2.3 lbs 2.0 lbs 4.7 lbs (pair)
Material 1000 denier Cordura nylon PS 490 and PD 620 nylon 1000 denier Cordura nylon Vinyl Thermal welded nylon (420D)
Pockets Two external zippered pokcets, two external bottle sleeves, helmet holder, three internal sleeves Internal sleeve and zippered mesh pocket Internal laptop sleeve with zippered pocket, small external pocket External splashproof zippered pocket Internal sleeve with two smaller mesh sleeves
Best Use Commuting Touring Urban/Commuting Touring Touring

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Arkel Bug Pannier Backpack has a unique hybrid design combining a large, fully-featured backpack with a high-quality pannier mounting system. While it's not necessarily as comfortable as a traditional daypack, or as weatherproof as a heavy-duty touring pannier, it strikes a nice balance between the two that is perfect for daily use. An easy to use backpack system, multiple storage pockets, a built-in helmet holder, and an optional laptop sleeve and rain cover add to the user-friendly feature list. Continue reading below to see why it earns our Top Pick for Commuting!

Performance Comparison


The convertible backpack straps on the Bug Pannier are a convenient...
The convertible backpack straps on the Bug Pannier are a convenient bonus on a versatile bag with a large overall volume and plenty of storage options.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Mounting System


The Bug Pack is equipped with Arkel's simple and dependable Cam-Lock mounting system. This mounting system has two large adjustable hooks that slide onto your bike rack, while adjacent spring-loaded cams clamp things down tightly for a secure fit. The spring-loaded cams have a rounded shape that is able to firmly grasp any sized bar diameter, allowing a custom fit on any type of bike rack without any need for adjustment or additional hardware. This system is almost entirely constructed out of aluminum, while the systems of most competitors are made from plastic.


For extra security, this mounting system also includes a lower attachment hook secured by a bungee cord. To engage this hook, you simply place it through one of the fixed webbing loops near the bottom of the pack, and hook it anywhere on the bottom of your bike rack. This system is quite easy to use and provides enough security for typical riding conditions.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The backpack straps of the Bug Pack are easily engaged by moving the lower attachment hook up near the upper hooks so it's out of the way, and unzipping the back panel to reveal the backpack straps. The back panel conveniently rolls up and is easily stowed out of the way with some strategically placed velcro patches. To convert from backpack mode back to cycling mode, simply unroll the back panel and zip it back up while stowing away the backpack straps, and move the lower attachment hook back towards the bottom of the bag.

A protective back panel zips away to reveal a set of comfortable and...
A protective back panel zips away to reveal a set of comfortable and supportive backpack straps.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Storage


The Bug Pannier has some of the most impressive storage capabilities of any model in our lineup, combining a huge main storage compartment with several smaller pockets and sleeves. The overall storage volume of 1650 cubic inches (25 liters) is one the largest we've tested, and can definitely hold its own whether you compare it to other daypacks, panniers, or commuter bags.


A heavy-duty horseshoe/u-shaped zipper opens up to reveal a humongous main storage compartment that opens up wide for easy loading and unloading. With a shape similar to that of a small carry-on suitcase or duffel bag, this compartment has plenty of room to store enough books, food, clothes, and shoes to last an entire day and beyond. Secured by a heavy-duty velcro flap system against the bottom of this compartment is an optional removable padded laptop sleeve. It comes equipped with a Velcro closure flap and a small external storage sleeve and is large enough to engulf our ancient 15.6" beast of a laptop. On the opposite side of the main compartment are two additional storage sleeves on the underside of the closure flap.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Back outside the pack, on the front are a medium and a small zippered storage pocket, a small storage sleeve, and an adjustable helmet holder. On each side of the pack is also an adjustable mesh water bottle sleeve.

The high-quality removable laptop sleeve is currently only available...
The high-quality removable laptop sleeve is currently only available separately for an additional cost, but was easily able to fit our burly old 15.6" laptop (left) as well as a slim 13" laptop (right).
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

What impressed us most about this pack is its ability to both store large, bulky items in the main compartment, as well as keep smaller items organized with its versatile array of pockets and sleeves. While other models have large main compartments or an assortment of pockets, none combine them in such a useful and efficient way as the Bug Pack.

The external helmet holder and side mesh pockets add to the storage...
The external helmet holder and side mesh pockets add to the storage utility of the Bug Pack.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Our only complaint about the storage capabilities of the Bug Pannier is that the high-quality laptop sleeve only is offered as an extra add-on for an additional cost. We think that a laptop sleeve is an important component of any type of commuting bag, and we were a bit disappointed that it doesn't come as a standard feature with this model.

Durability


With a thick and durable 1000 denier Cordura nylon body, heavy-duty zippers, and an aluminum mounting system, the Bug Pack scores very well in our durability rankings. Every component of this bag shows fine craftsmanship and attention to detail, and showed no signs of wear throughout our testing period.


Even Arkel's laptop sleeve (which is an add-on option available at an additional cost) is an impressive work of fine craftsmanship, with high-quality materials and heavy-duty construction. Perhaps the only thing more impressive than the Bug Pannier's durable workmanship is Arkel's lifetime, transferable, no receipt needed guarantee on their products, one of the best warranties in the business.

The Bug Pannier provides a large volume and plenty of versatile...
The Bug Pannier provides a large volume and plenty of versatile storage solutions, and comes with an impressive lifetime warranty.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Weatherproofing


The Bug Pack struggles a little in the weatherproofing ratings, as it is not fully waterproof on its own, and its waterproof rain cover is only available as an additional add-on. While the durable 1000 denier Cordura nylon body and protected zippers add a strong layer of water-resistance, they do not provide a fully waterproof seal like other top-ranked competitors with heavy-duty nylon construction and fully-sealing roll-top closures.


The available waterproof rain cover is well-built and easy to use, and is effective at keeping water out of the pack. While this is definitely a nice feature, we are a little disappointed that it's only available at an extra cost and doesn't come standard with the pack. The pack on its own would do a good job of protecting its contents from road spray and lighter rain, but a truly waterproof barrier would be required to ensure that everything stays completely dry in wetter and harsher conditions. For a cycling pannier that will likely be carrying valuable cargo like computers, cell phones, and other electronics, we think a waterproof barrier is a necessity.

While the water-resistant material will protect your contents from...
While the water-resistant material will protect your contents from light rain, we would recommend the additional rain cover for further protection in harsher conditions.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Ease of Use


The Bug Pannier is certainly easy to use and has an abundance of high-end features, but like all backpack style panniers, we scored it a little lower because of the inevitable extra steps needed to transition the pack from the rack to your back. While the backpack transition is pretty easy and straightforward, it is a little awkward to have to move the lower metal mounting hook out of the way. While we eventually figured out a place to stash this hook so it doesn't dig into our back while wearing the pack, we would have liked to see a more clear and more user-friendly solution.


Where this bag truly shines is with its multitude of storage options. The huge main storage compartment is incredibly easy to access, and the several other additional storage pockets and sleeves are a huge convenience. The ability to stow away a ton of gear and keep it organized and easily accessible is a huge reason why the Bug is our Top Pick Award Winner. Extra features like reflective accents and a built-in keychain clip round out the list.

The Bug Pack is a versatile pannier perfectly suited for commuting...
The Bug Pack is a versatile pannier perfectly suited for commuting, but equally capable of handling casual trips around town.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Value


The Bug Pannier Backpack has one of the highest list prices in our entire lineup, and when you add on the optional laptop sleeve and rain cover, which are necessities in our opinion, then you are looking at a pretty steep price tag. With all of the optional accessories included, the full package is one of our favorite packs in our whole lineup and has everything we would look for in a commuting pack. But we are disappointed that the laptop sleeve and rain cover are not normally included with the pack. While this is an amazing pack, we don't think it represents a good value for most users.

The Bug Pannier performs just as well as a backpack as it does a...
The Bug Pannier performs just as well as a backpack as it does a pannier.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Conclusion


The Arkel Bug Pannier Backpack is an impressively large and impressively capable backpack style pannier, wowing our testers with its multitude of storage options and special features. It scores well across the board, and is built to last for years and years with its high-quality materials and construction, and lifetime guarantee. Capable of tackling daily use regardless of your route or destination, the Bug Pannier wins our Top Pick Award for Commuting.

Nick Bruckbauer