Thule Shield Review
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|Pros||Large volume, waterproof, simple & sleek design, great value||Durable and waterproof, huge storage capacity, easy and secure attachment||Highly durable, waterproof, inexpensive, sleek and bright design||Large storage volume, durable, stylish, easy to use||Innovative backpack design, comfortable, lightweight, waterproof|
|Cons||Mounting system is not as secure as others, no additional compartments||Limited pockets and organization||Smaller total storage volume, limited pocket options, only compatible with 10mm racks||Somewhat expensive, limited organizational pockets||Extra hardware requires installation, conversions can be tedious|
|Bottom Line||A high-volume, high-quality touring pannier that comes at a reasonable price||This top performer scores well in every category with no apparent weaknesses||An impressively durable and waterproof design that is compact and inexpensive, but is not compatible with all rack sizes||A durable and waterproof pannier that is versatile and easy to use||A lightweight and innovative pannier design that works just as well on the rack or on your back|
|Rating Categories||Thule Shield||Ortlieb Back Roller...||Burley Pannier Set||Arkel Signature H U...||Ortlieb Vario|
|Mounting System (25%)|
|Ease of Use & Versatility (15%)|
|Specs||Thule Shield||Ortlieb Back Roller...||Burley Pannier Set||Arkel Signature H U...||Ortlieb Vario|
|Volume (liters)||2 x 25 L||2 x 20 L||2 x 11 L||24 L||23 L|
|Dimensions (in.) (H x W x D)||14.6" x 7.9" x 15.8"||16.5" x 12.6" x 6.7"||14.5" x 10" x 6"||16" x 12" x 6.5"||19.7" x 11" x 7.9"|
|Weight (pounds)||4.3 lbs (pair)||4.2 lbs (pair)||2.1 lbs (pair)||2.3 lbs||2.86 lbs|
|Material||Thermal welded 420D nylon||PS 490 and PD 620 nylon||500D tarpaulin PVC fabric||1000 denier Cordura nylon||Nylon|
|Pockets||Internal sleeve with two smaller mesh sleeves||Internal sleeve and zippered mesh pocket||1 main compartment, one small exerior pocket||Internal laptop sleeve with zippered pocket, small external pocket||Two side pockets, waterproof front pocket, internal tablet sleeve and zippered mesh pocket|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Thule Shield makes its mark as one of the largest, most durable and weatherproof, and easiest to use bike panniers in our lineup. Our testers were impressed with the overall quality of the materials and construction, and the huge capacity of the 25-liter model that we used. This model is easy to load up, securely close, and mount to the bike, though we found there to be jostling and lack of security on some test rides. If the bag had one or two more compartments for organization, we would be even more impressed with the design.
The mounting system was one of the more notable weaknesses in the previous design of the Thule Shield. Luckily, Thule updated the mounting by eliminating the magnetic clip feature and sticking with the tried and true handle-release mounting system.
It is very quick and easy to mount and remove the bag from the bike. Strong and sturdy hook latches slide along a mounting rail for adjustment, then lock into place once you've found the appropriate positioning. While holding onto the quick-release handle, you can drop the hooks over the rack, and they should snap into place once you let go of the handle. We found that this was far easier to do when the bag was not loaded with items and took a bit more two-handed wiggling and positioning once more weight was added to the massive storage capacity. When you're ready to remove the bag, just pull up on the handle, and the bag should slide up and out away from the rack.
Thule's refreshed design of the Shield eliminated the previous magnet system and replaced it with a standard handle-like hook that can twist and lock over your rack. A tried and true feature, the lower handle hook is simple and user-friendly. The hook did not have as tight of a hold on the rack as t-bar style hooks, so there was some notable rattling off-road but held strong on roadside trips.
The Shield Pannier ranks highly in our storage rankings with its gigantic 3,000 cubic inch (50-liter) storage capacity for the pair and its simple-to-use roll-top closure system. Each pack also comes with an internal sleeve that has two smaller mesh sleeves attached to it. We found that this was a nice balance of a large, unobstructed main storage compartment for bulkier items combined with the smaller sleeves to keep notebooks, phones, wallets, and keys organized and easily accessible. The same exact model is also available in a size small that has a capacity of 1,700 cubic inches (28 liters) for the pair.
This model also has an easy-to-use closure system with a roll-top opening with a single cinch strap. We found that this design is effective at sealing out the elements and not making it complicated to access your gear inside. One grapple with the strap is that it is set at a fixed length, so theoretically, you can only fit as much as the strap will allow you to fit. We had to sit on the bag to squish down the contents just to roll the top tightly enough to strap it down. The Shield comes with a shoulder strap but no extension straps for the side.
The Shield Pannier also scores very well in our durability ratings, coming in as one of the heaviest and most well-built models in our lineup. The heavy-duty nylon material and welded construction give it an IP64 rating per the manufacturer's website. All of the hardware attachment points, handles, and straps are solidly built as you would expect from a well-respected manufacturer.
One thing to note is that the shiny nylon material can scratch or scuff if you hit it just right, but we had to work hard to manually create some scratches ourselves. The material stayed in great shape throughout our testing, and we would expect these bags to last a long, long time under normal use.
Similar to the durability ratings, the Shield scores incredibly well in the weatherproofing metric. The heavy-duty nylon material is one of the thickest of any product in the lineup, and the roll-top closure and cinch strap do a great job of keeping the top closed.
The updated model removed the "Y"-shaped closure strap and shifted to a roll-top closure with burly side buckles, which performs just as well in weatherproofing and receives no complaints. We felt very confident in the closure straps and saw no water leaking in the interior or dampness on the exterior.
Ease of Use & Versatility
This pannier set also gains respectable scores in the ease of use and versatility category. Our testers appreciated the simple-to-use roll-top closure and very effective cinch strap and enjoyed the simple pull-to-twist mounting system once we got the right feel for it.
The Shield gained back points for ease of use by updating its mounting system to the tried and true clip and hook mounting system and eliminating the magnetic attachments. While the panniers come with a shoulder strap and can carry a tremendous amount of cargo compared to the competition, the lack of pockets and compartments is a bit impractical for everyday commuters that may need more protective padding for laptops and valuables.
While the retail price on the Shield is on the higher end of the lineup, it also has a huge storage volume, very high-quality materials and construction, and a user-friendly design. This bag provides a ton of utility and will likely withstand any abuse you throw at it and keep your contents dry through rain, sleet, and snow. Off-road riders needing a little extra attachment security for riding over rougher terrain will likely be able to find similar touring style products for a similar price. Riders who don't need the huge storage capacity or heavy-duty construction will likely find a better value with a commuting or urban style pannier.
The Thule Shield Pannier impressed us across the board with its burly construction, heavy-duty materials, innovative design, and huge storage volume. It just missed out on winning one of our top awards because we preferred the mounting systems and organization properties of other similar products. Overall it is an impressive product that could be perfect with a few small changes.
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