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Arkel Signature H Urban Review

A durable and waterproof pannier that is versatile and easy to use
Arkel Signature H Urban
Photo: Arkel
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $180 List
Pros:  Large storage volume, durable, stylish, easy to use
Cons:  Somewhat expensive, limited organizational pockets
Manufacturer:   Arkel
By Nick Bruckbauer ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 21, 2020
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 14
  • Mounting System - 25% 7
  • Storage - 20% 8
  • Durability - 20% 8
  • Weatherproofing - 20% 7
  • Ease of Use & Versatility - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Arkel Signature H Urban Pannier earns our Top Pick Award for Best Urban Pannier with its impressive storage capacity, easy-to-use mounting system, and versatile carrying capabilities. Built for everyday use, it comes with a tough Cordura nylon exterior and a waterproof liner, to protect its huge main storage compartment with a padded laptop sleeve and zippered pocket. This bag can be rolled up tightly and carried by a handle or a shoulder strap like a messenger bag or can be left open and carried like a giant tote bag, making it a top choice for commuting, grocery shopping, picnics, beach days, and all-around urban or suburban use.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $180 ListCheck Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$175.00 at Backcountry$190 List
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Pros Large storage volume, durable, stylish, easy to useDurable and waterproof, huge storage capacity, easy and secure attachmentHighly durable, waterproof, inexpensive, sleek and bright designInnovative backpack design, comfortable, lightweight, waterproofSolid mounting system, large storage volume, several storage options
Cons Somewhat expensive, limited organizational pocketsLimited pockets and organizationSmaller total storage volume, limited pocket options, only compatible with 10mm racksExtra hardware requires installation, conversions can be tediousExpensive, not waterproof without extra rain cover
Bottom Line A durable and waterproof pannier that is versatile and easy to useThis top performer scores well in every category with no apparent weaknessesAn impressively durable and waterproof design that is compact and inexpensive, but is not compatible with all rack sizesA lightweight and innovative pannier design that works just as well on the rack or on your backWith a large overall volume and multiple storage options, this backpack style pannier is our first choice for commuting
Rating Categories Arkel Signature H U... Ortlieb Back Roller... Burley Pannier Set Ortlieb Vario Arkel Bug Pannier B...
Mounting System (25%)
7.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
Storage (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Durability (20%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Weatherproofing (20%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Ease Of Use & Versatility (15%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Arkel Signature H U... Ortlieb Back Roller... Burley Pannier Set Ortlieb Vario Arkel Bug Pannier B...
Volume (liters) 24 L 2 x 20 L 2 x 11 L 23 L 25 L
Dimensions (in.) (H x W x D) 16" x 12" x 6.5" 16.5" x 12.6" x 6.7" 14.5" x 10" x 6" 19.7" x 11" x 7.9" 12" x 18" x 7"
Weight (pounds) 2.3 lbs 4.2 lbs (pair) 2.1 lbs (pair) 2.86 lbs 3.1 lbs
Material 1000 denier Cordura nylon PS 490 and PD 620 nylon 500D tarpaulin PVC fabric Nylon 1000 denier Cordura nylon
Pockets Internal laptop sleeve with zippered pocket, small external pocket Internal sleeve and zippered mesh pocket 1 main compartment, one small exerior pocket Two side pockets, waterproof front pocket, internal tablet sleeve and zippered mesh pocket Two external zippered pokcets, two external bottle sleeves, helmet holder, three internal sleeves
Best Use Urban/Commuting Touring Touring/Commuting Urban/Commuting Commuting

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Arkel Signature H Urban Pannier grabbed our attention from the beginning with its stylish design, high-quality materials and construction, and surprisingly large carrying capacity. Without any glaring weaknesses, the Signature H continued to impress us throughout our testing period with its simple and effective mounting system, handy storage features, and multiple easy-to-use carrying methods. Continue reading to see why it's our Top Pick for Urban Panniers.

The H in Signature H stands for this model's horizontal briefcase design. Arkel also makes a vertical style pannier called the Signature V that is similarly designed but with a taller and skinnier profile.

Performance Comparison


The Signature H has an incredibly versatile design that would be...
The Signature H has an incredibly versatile design that would be suitable for commuting, grocery shopping, or packing for a picnic.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Mounting System


The Signature H comes with Arkel's simple and effective Cam-Lock mounting system. Constructed almost entirely out of aluminum, this is one of the most durable systems we tested. The spring-loaded cams connect to a comfortable handle and have a rounded shape in order to firmly grasp any sized bar diameter without any adjustments or extra hardware. The large hooks are easy to slide onto the rack and can be adjusted side-to-side to find a perfect mounting position. Finally, a padded velcro can fold over the mounting hardware to hide and protect it while you're off the bike, and can easily be stowed out of the way while the pack is mounted to your rack.


One minor weakness with this bag's mounting system is that it doesn't have any type of latch, hook, or strap near the bottom of the bag for an additional lower attachment point. Because of the short vertical height of this bag, this didn't cause us any issues during testing, but we noted that the bag is not quite as secure as bags that have an additional secondary attachment point.

The Cam Lock mounting system is very sturdy and secure, but this...
The Cam Lock mounting system is very sturdy and secure, but this model lacks and additional lower mounting hardware to keep the bottom of the bag from bouncing around.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Since this bag does have a wider horizontal profile than most other bags, it is possible that some riders could have some pedaling interference depending on their bike and rack geometry. We had no trouble adjusting the mounting position with the adjustable Cam-Lock mounting hooks and were able to prevent any conflicts with our pedaling motion.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Storage


With one of the largest listed capacities out of any single-bag pannier in our lineup at 24 liters, the Signature H impresses on the scoresheet and in the field.


The Signature H has a cavernous main storage compartment with a wide roll-top closure that can be opened up completely and carried like a giant tote bag with its grocery bag style handles. Loading it this way, we were able to fit the groceries from two standard paper grocery bags inside, and still buckle the closure strap (though we weren't able to roll the top to keep it watertight). Whether loaded up completely full or just partway, this bag can comfortably be carried by the grocery bag style tote handles or with its adjustable padded shoulder strap.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Inside the main storage compartment with its waterproof liner is a large laptop sleeve that is padded on both sides, with an adjacent zippered storage pocket. The laptop sleeve is large enough that it was able to fit our ancient behemoth of a 15.6-inch laptop. Most modern laptops should have no trouble fitting inside the sleeve. Once the bag is loaded up with a computer, books, lunch, and some school or office supplies, the roll-top closure can be rolled tightly and buckled shut and can be comfortably carried like a traditional messenger bag by its carrying handle or shoulder strap.

The large main storage compartment can be completely opened wide and...
The large main storage compartment can be completely opened wide and carried like a tote bag.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

The Signature H rounds out its storage capabilities with a small external pocket near the bottom of the pack on one end. While we found this pocket to be a bit small and awkwardly located, depending on which side of your bike you mount the bag, this pocket could be easily accessible from the saddle to keep a wallet, keys, or cell phone nearby.

The Signature H provides plenty of storage, as well as an internal...
The Signature H provides plenty of storage, as well as an internal laptop sleeve and a small external pocket.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Durability


The Signature H surprised us with its durability, especially considering its stylish design aimed at urban cyclists. The 1000 denier Cordura nylon body is thick and durable to the touch, and held up perfectly throughout our testing, while the waterproof internal liner adds an extra layer of security. All-around craftsmanship is high-quality, and the mounting hardware is made from aluminum, while most competitor models are made of plastic.


We have no reason to believe that this pannier won't last for several years, even with daily use and abuse. While it scores slightly lower than some other heavy-duty touring panniers with burly coated nylon construction, we are very impressed with the build quality of the Signature H. Each model is handmade in Canada with a tag that is personally signed by its maker, and comes with an impressive guarantee.

The Cordura nylon fabric on the Signature H is impressively thick...
The Cordura nylon fabric on the Signature H is impressively thick and durable.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Weatherproofing


With its durable 1000-Denier Cordura nylon body, laminated TPU waterproof liner with fully taped seams, and roll-top closure, the Signature H scores well in our weatherproofing ratings but falls just short of the top-ranked competitors.


One minor weakness that the Signature H shows in this category is that its roll-top closure isn't able to achieve as tight of a seal as what we've found on other models. Since the width of this bag is wider than most other bags, and the roll-top closure is only secured by a single closure strap in the center of the bag, the result is that the outer edges aren't secured as tightly as the center is. Because of its wider dimensions, additional closure straps along the outer edges would be useful. We also found that the Cordura nylon material has a little bit of a rough texture, and doesn't roll quite as tightly against itself as other models with smoother nylon materials.

The roll-top closure on the Signature H helps the waterproof liner...
The roll-top closure on the Signature H helps the waterproof liner seal protect your gear from the elements, but the single buckled cinch strap in the center of the bag could use some extra closure buckles on the sides.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

While it may not provide a perfect seal, the classic roll-top design is still effective, and the waterproof liner will keep the internal contents protected from rainfall and road spray under most riding conditions.

Ease of Use & Versatility


From its easily accessible storage compartment to its simple and effective mounting system, to its various carrying options, the Signature H is a very user-friendly pannier. Whether hauling groceries, beach or picnic supplies, extra clothes, or school supplies, the wide roll-top closure makes it easy to load and unload the huge main storage compartment, while the padded laptop sleeve and zippered storage pocket allow you to organize and protect your valuables.


Once the bag is loaded, the different carry options make it easy to haul around, whether it's fully loaded like a tote bag, or it's rolled up tightly like a sleek messenger bag. The tote handles, regular carry handle, and adjustable padded shoulder strap are all convenient and comfortable to use. The Velcro flap that covers the mounting hardware is a nice touch to provide a bit of extra comfort while carrying the bag, and also helps clean up its aesthetics a bit. Other small touches like reflective accents and a small external pocket add to the user-friendly design.

The Signature H is comfortable to carry with the shoulder straps...
The Signature H is comfortable to carry with the shoulder straps, tote bag handles, or the smaller rear handle.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Value


The Signature H is a little on the expensive side of the lineup, especially for a single-bag pannier, but it provides a unique and versatile design not easily replicated by other models. One of the only messenger bag style panniers that we tested, this model can also be carried like a large tote bag, and it provides a large and efficient storage volume with high-quality materials and construction. Riders who are simply looking for any type of utilitarian bag to schlepp their groceries or gear around town will probably find less expensive options that meet their needs. But users who will appreciate the stylish design, high-quality materials, and versatility will find that this represents a solid value.

The Signature H is a stylish, high-performing pannier that impressed...
The Signature H is a stylish, high-performing pannier that impressed us from the beginning.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Conclusion


The Arkel Signature H Urban Pannier made its mark on our lineup with its impressive all-around performance, versatile storage and carrying capabilities, and stylish design. Combining the abilities of a messenger bag and tote bag in one, this pannier is set to become an instant classic and will help you get around town in style with its padded laptop sleeve, zippered storage pocket, and huge main storage compartment. A new favorite model of our testers, the Signature H wins our Top Pick Award for Best Urban Pannier.

Nick Bruckbauer