We researched over 60 of the top bike panniers on today's market and purchased the 11 best to bring in for our side-by-side testing. Whether your journey is big or small, we chose contenders that are ideal for long-distance touring, daily commuting or casual riding around your city or town. After rigorous testing, we rated each model on a series of performance metrics to determine which pannier is the overall best or best for specific uses. If you're on the lookout for the best bike pannier to take on you on your next pedaling pilgrimage, we've got you covered!
The Best Bike Panniers for Commuting and Touring
|Price||$148.99 at Amazon|
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|$169.95 at Competitive Cyclist||$148.95 at Competitive Cyclist|
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|$87.99 at Amazon||$62.59 at Amazon|
|Pros||Large capacity, fully waterproof, easy & secure attachment||Rugged, spacious, weatherproof, and comfortable to wear||Huge volume, very durable and weatherproof, easy to use||Quick to attach/remove, easy transition, lots of extra features and pockets||Inexpensive, ready-for-use, easy installation|
|Cons||No outer pockets||Initial installation time and extra hardware||Mounting system is not as secure as others||Not totally waterproof, a little bulky/heavy||Not a pair, lacking adjustable hardware|
|Bottom Line||A durable, high-quality design that is worthy of winning our Editors' Choice Award.||This is a bomber pannier that works just as well when worn on the back; our favorite hybrid bag in the lineup.||A large, durable, high-quality pannier with an underwhelming mounting system.||Totally bomber pannier that is quick to turn into a backpack.||A solid touring pannier that is rugged, fully waterproof, and affordable enough to buy two for a pair.|
|Rating Categories||Ortlieb Back Roller Classic||Ortlieb Vario||Thule Shield||Waterproof Backpack||Seattle Sports Titan|
|Mounting System (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Ortlieb Back...||Ortlieb Vario||Thule Shield||Waterproof Backpack||Seattle Sports Titan|
|Volume (cubic inches)||2441 cu in (pair)||1403 cu in||2928 cu in (pair)||1100 cu in||1100 cu in|
|Dimensions (in.) (H x W x D)||16.5" x 12.6" x 6.7"||19.7" x 11" x 7.9"||17" x 13" x 6"||15.5" x 11.5" x 6.75"||13.5" x 11" x 6"|
|Weight||4.2 lbs (pair)||2.8 lbs||4.7 lbs (pair)||3.1 lbs||2 lbs|
|Material||PS 490 and PD 620 nylon||Nylon||Thermal Welded Nylon (420D)||Two-layer: ballistic outer layer and welded-seam liner||Vinyl|
|Pockets||Internal sleeve and zippered mesh pocket||2 side pockets, waterproof front pocket, internal laptop sleeve and zippered mesh pocket||Internal sleeve with 2 smaller mesh sleeves||2 side pockets, 1 zippered side pocket, zippered front lid pocket||Exterior splashproof zippered pocket|
Best Overall Bike Pannier
Ortlieb Back Roller Classic
The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic retains its Editors' Choice Award once again, setting the benchmark for touring style panniers with its high-quality construction, large storage capacity, and excellent weatherproofing. Its mounting system is easy to install and is highly adjustable to fit a wide variety of bike rack sizes and configurations, is very secure while riding, and makes it simple to mount and dismount the bag from the rack. The pack's roll-top design provides easy access to your gear and is very effective at keeping the load secure and protected from the elements.
While the Back Roller Classic would certainly carry all your gear in any type of riding scenario, it is definitely optimally designed for touring with its huge single storage compartment, thick-coated polyester fabric, and burly weatherproof design. If you're looking for a pannier that's a little smaller to carry around town, provides more refined organization for your laptop, books, or small electronics, and has less of a utilitarian look, you may be more interested in one of the backpack, urban, or commuting style panniers.
Read review: Ortlieb Back Roller Classic
Best Bang for the Buck
Seattle Sports Titan
The Seattle Sports Titan retains our Best Buy award for the second year in a row. Not only does it earn a high-performance score, but it's also easy on the wallet. This model earned high ratings in most of our testing metrics, performing similarly to our Editors' Choice Award winner, but at nearly a third of the price. Our testers were impressed with how easy it was to install and remove without any special hardware or finicky adjustments. It kept all of our contents dry during our waterproofing test, it handled the abuse of our durability tests well, and we appreciated the convenient external access pocket.
One potential downside of the simple mounting design is that the mounting hardware is not adjustable like on many other models. While we didn't have any problems fitting this pack onto our bike racks, it may be a little more challenging to dial-up an optimum secure fit on racks with different designs or bar sizes. Overall, we love the Titan for its road-worthy versatility and affordable price tag and think you will too.
Read review: Seattle Sports Titan
Top Pick for Riding Around Town
Green Guru Dutchy
The Green Guru Dutchy is our favorite model for general riding around town, earning it our Top Pick Award. The spacious main storage compartment can easily carry 12-packs, boxed goods, or folded laundry without any fuss, making it a great affordable choice for riders who have a focus on utilitarian hauls. Additional features like a shoulder strap and an external storage pocket make this ideal for running errands or cruising to a weekend picnic. As a bonus, this bike pannier is built from upcycled billboard materials, making each a one-of-a-kind!
The Dutchy doesn't have as secure of a fit as many other models we tested because its mounting hardware does not snap or lock into place, and doesn't have a secondary bottom attachment point. This could become bothersome if riding over rougher terrain, but shouldn't be an issue while riding around town on mostly paved roads. We were able to cruise around with a full load of groceries and beer without any mishaps!
Read review: Green Guru Dutchy
Top Pick for Commuting
Brooks England Suffolk Rear
When it comes to daily use for commuter riding, we are fond of the Brooks England Suffolk Rear Pannier, another Top Pick Award winner. This model has a large storage capacity and several external pockets to keep all your items for work or school well organized during your commute. The waxed canvas construction is durable, water-resistant, and provides a great feel when toting the bag to and from your bike. The mounting system is intuitive and highly adjustable, making it easy to use on a wide variety of bike racks. The roll-top closure gives you easy access and secure storage, all while maintaining a stylish, classic design.
While the waxed canvas construction is certainly weatherproof enough to withstand a rain-soaked ride to work or school, the Suffolk is not completely waterproof. It likely won't stand up to extended exposure to the elements like touring style bike panniers with their heavy-duty coated nylon construction. But for commuters who use their bike panniers every day on shorter trips and are looking for organization, solid performance, and classic styling, the Brooks Suffolk is a reliable choice.
Read review: Brooks England Suffolk Rear
Top Pick for Backpack Pannier
The unique category of backpack-style or convertible panniers is becoming increasingly attractive to folks who spend just as much time carrying their gear off the bike as they do on the bike. Urban commuters and backwoods adventurers alike will love the impressive rack to back transition ability of the Ortlieb Vario, our Top Pick for Backpack Pannier. Beyond its impressive versatility, this bike pannier offers supreme protection from the elements and plenty of storage to carry everything you need for full-day adventures.
One small but notable downside of the Vario is that it requires a somewhat tedious installation of additional mounting hardware to attach the pack to your bike rack. However, from there, it's straightforward to mount the pack onto the rack once this initial installation is complete, with a very satisfying "click" locking everything into place. Similarly, while this pack functions well as both a pannier and as a backpack, there is a simple but additional transition step, where the backpack straps must be removed and stowed inside a dedicated exterior pocket before mounting the pack the bike. If you can live with these small nuances that allow this model to perform well as both a backpack and a pannier, we think you'll be pleased with this product.
Read review: Ortlieb Vario
Why You Should Trust Us
This bike pannier review was crafted for you by OutdoorGearLab Review Editors Nick Bruckbauer and Rob Woodworth. Both Nick and Rob are big all-around outdoorsmen, trying to decide between skis or bikes or hiking shoes depending on the season. Nick has hiked in Nepal, skied in Alaska, and biked in Colorado and currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA, where he's able to commute by bike to his day job year-round. Rob is a big-time skier and former FIS and USCSA athlete, but when the snow melts, he loves to get in the saddle and go bike touring, such as the month he spent in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska while helping test these panniers.
To build our testing lineup, we researched 60 different product options, compared ratings, specifications, and customer feedback, and then purchased 11 models to put through our testing protocol and judge for ourselves. In our field testing, we scrutinized the mounting systems, storage capacity, weather resistance, durability, and the overall ease of use. Our Alaskan test rides proved to be quite demanding, with no paved surfaces and plenty of bumpy, rough terrain. Our Santa Barbara test rides were not as extreme but provided plenty of opportunities for more frequent transitions while commuting to work or running errands around town. We also performed some controlled tests for things like weatherproofing, where we exposed the bags to overnight rains, soaks from a hose, or dunks in a river. We hope your rides don't include any dunks in a river, but if they do, you'll know which pannier to choose!
Related: How We Tested Bike Panniers
Analysis and Test Results
Not all bike panniers are created equal. Depending on your style of riding and where and how you intend to use your new panniers, the ideal setup to meet your needs might change. By and large, cyclists have traditionally had the choice between two primary types of panniers that each have some tradeoffs: touring or commuting. Features that are typically seen on touring panniers, like larger storage volumes and burly, weatherproof construction might not be necessary while commuting, and features that are often found on commuting panniers, like more organizational compartments or more refined sizes and styles likely wouldn't be important while touring. More recent developments in the market have expanded on these choices, so we've introduced a couple of new categories into our lineup: "Urban" panniers for general riding around town and backpack style panniers, both of which are becoming increasingly popular.
Related: Buying Advice for Bike Panniers
Are you searching for a set of panniers that offer great functionality without breaking the bank? We compared the overall performance of each pannier in our test with their list price to make it easy for you to identify the best bang for your buck. Our Best Buy Award-winning Seattle Sports Titan offers an awesome value with scores rivaling the Editor's Choice Award-winning Ortlieb Back Roller Classic but at a fraction of the cost. If you're looking for a little more off-bike versatility, the Banjo Brothers Waterproof Backpack will only cost you a little more than the Titan and offers the added convenience of a backpack.
When it comes to schlepping your gear around on a bicycle, how the load secures to your rack is of utmost importance. After all, an otherwise bomber bike bag that can't hang on through a rough ride won't offer much utility to an aggressive rider. That is why this is our most heavily weighted testing metric for this review; because it's not just about how easy it is to get the bag on and off your bike but also how secure it is once it's in position.
We found that the simpler mounting systems allow for easier attachment and removal of the bag, but don't necessarily keep the load secure while riding. On the other hand, overly-engineered mounting systems may offer higher security but often made it trickier to get the bag loaded on the rack right away. Some panniers, like the Ortlieb Vario and the Thule Shield Pannier require the installation of additional rack hardware before the bag can be properly mounted. The Shield Pannier, in particular, has a unique design where a small magnet is mounted on the lower part of the bike rack, which then connects to a small metal plate embedded within the side of the pack, helping secure the bottom of the pack to the rack.
Overall we found that hook-and-latch style panniers offer the most reliable security and also are easiest to use. These are panniers that clip onto the top of the rack with additional stabilization latches on the bottom to help keep it in place. We are especially fond of the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic, the Ortlieb Gravel Pack, and the Brooks Suffolk for their stable and easy-to-use mounting systems.
Saddlebag style panniers that drape over the top of your rack and typically rely on gravity to hang loosely over both sides are categorically unfit for brutal rides but are very easy to attach and detach. The Timbuk2 Tandem is intuitively designed, but lacks the necessary attachment points for rough roads. This style of pannier is the least secure in our experience. Because it doesn't attach to the tubes of the rack, heavy loads and bumpy rides left us feeling vulnerable to losing a pannier while on the move.
When rating a bag's storage performance, we not only consider its overall capacity but also how well it keeps gear organized and secure while on the move. While total storage capacity is a primary consideration, we discovered a preference for bags that are also able to keep their contents orderly and protected while on the go. Even one extra pocket, in addition to the main storage compartment, can be a huge bonus for keeping your trappings organized. Another extra feature that we appreciate is any sort of external compression straps or webbing loops that provide handy attachment points to haul extra pieces of gear.
In an attempt to accurately reflect real-world conditions, we packed the same types of cargo in the different styles of panniers that you would likely be packing sometime in the future. For touring panniers, we chose camping and backcountry specific gear like clothing, a sleeping bag, camp stove, fuel canisters, rain tarp, and hammock. For both the commuter and backpack panniers, we used a 15-inch laptop, a hardcover book, rain gear, sunglasses, and a change of shoes and clothes. And for the urban panniers, we packed a wide variety of hard-to-pack and oddly-shaped items like boxy packages, egg cartons, and even a watermelon — items you might wrangle during a mission to the farmers market or while running errands around town.
For touring panniers, the standout performers for storage are Thule Shield Pannier and the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic. Not only do both of these models offer a dual-bag setup with huge volumes of storage, but they also have internal sleeves, mesh pockets, and compression straps that keep gear secure and would allow for additional gear to be strapped on top.
Of the commuting panniers tested, we found the Timbuk2 Tandem has the most storage with its dual-bag volume and also has laptop sleeves, external pockets, and internal buckles to secure contents. However, the Brooks Suffolk Pannier also has a large main compartment and three external pockets for stowing away extra gear. Ultimately, we thought the Suffolk was much easier to pack than the Timbuk2 Tandem, despite its marginally smaller overall volume.
With minimal pockets and larger overall dimensions, the urban panniers are typically notably boxier than all the others. This is intentional to fit a standard-sized grocery bag in the main pocket. We prefer the size and closure of the Banjo Brothers Market Pannier. While it is only marginally larger than the Green Guru Dutchy, it also has two extra storage pockets that can fit its shoulder strap as well as your wallet and keys.
Of the backpack-style panniers we tested, the Ortlieb Vario has the most storage, boasting more than 1400 cubic inches of storage, which is comparable to most touring panniers. By comparison, the Lone Peak Glacier Peak Backpack Pannier has only 1000 cubic inches of storage but also feels much smaller due to its shape and depth. Though not quite as large as the others, the Banjo Brothers Waterproof Backpack Pannier has a unique design that is wide but shallow with lots of pockets, allowing for quick access to your gear while on the saddle.
Durability is always a primary consideration when assessing the overall quality of any type of gear, especially when it comes to a bike bag that will likely see its fair share of abuse. Most of the models in our lineup have spent a good amount of time in Alaska, and have been exposed to all kinds of abuse from long rides and rugged conditions. We intentionally pedaled through gnarly thickets of soapberries and black spruce to test their resistance to abrasion. Similarly, we monitored how each model would perform after receiving a fresh coat of silty mud.
Our durability assessments began with each model fresh out of the box. We closely examined the fabrics, hardware, and construction quality and took careful notes of features we found to be weak or flawed that may pose a problem after repeated use. Further, we did a similar inspection of the panniers after we used each of them for the duration of our trial period to document how they stood up to our rigorous testing.
Out of the box, it was apparent that the touring specific panniers are engineered to withstand the elements. The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic, Thule Shield Pannier, and the Seattle Sports Titan are all reinforced with a nylon coating. Additionally, the touring panniers have dimensional reinforcements and robust mounting hardware that is clearly designed to take a beating.
Commuter and urban panniers, while offering multiple other features, are typically not designed to be able to withstand the abuse that a touring pannier would. However, the Brooks Suffolk has durable canvas, bomber hardware, and high-quality construction that gave us the confidence to put it through the wringer. Another durable option for the bike commuter is the Banjo Brothers Backpack Pannier, which has a two-layer ballistic shell with a replaceable waterproof liner.
If you're a hardcore cyclist, you need a pannier that will take you through rain, sleet, and possibly even snow. Thus, we took this metric very seriously in our testing by putting each model through a multi-phase weatherproofing test aimed at determining the relative level of protection. Perhaps you're not a die-hard who commutes on their bike regardless of the weather, but you still ought to protect your gear from the elements while riding. Knowing where you fall on the spectrum of necessary water protection is a good place to start, as we believe that there is a distinct difference between water resistance, waterproofing, and weatherproofing.
In our eyes, water-resistance insinuates that the pannier can handle a spitting rain while keeping your contents mostly dry. Waterproofing means that no matter how hard it rains, or even if you drop your pannier in a puddle, your materials will remain completely dry. And weatherproofing suggests that the pannier will also handle mud, sun, and other extreme conditions in addition to its relative waterproofing.
Every bag we tested in this review could be categorized as water-resistant. Even the Brooks Suffolk Pannier, made entirely of waxed cotton canvas, will bead water off its exterior in light rain. But not all of the models in the lineup can be deemed waterproof or weatherproof. Bags that lack complete closures, like the Green Guru Dutchy, will eventually let the elements into their main compartments.
In our testing, roll-top bags like the Seattle Sports Titan offered the greatest protection from water and were able to keep their contents dry even after a 15-second dunk in a creek eddy. Additionally, these bags remained functional after getting caked in silty mud we encountered on the trails. Alternatively, the Banjo Brothers Market Pannier and the Timbuk2 Tandem earned the worst scores of our weatherproofing tests, primarily because neither of these panniers has a complete closure, despite their waterproof fabrics.
Ease of Use
Ease of Use can be distilled into three primary areas of consideration: carrying ergonomics, user-friendliness, and overall satisfaction with the product. Though each pannier will have subjectively variable scores in all these fields, we found notable patterns among the contenders, and we paid particular attention to additional features that were designed to enhance the functionality of each pannier.
Overall, we think that the Banjo Brothers Waterproof Backpack Pannier has the greatest ease of use out of all the panniers, if not solely based on the raw utility this bag offers. Designed by bike nerds, it is not surprising that this hybrid pannier comes skillfully-tuned with features that help suit the evolving needs of cyclists. It comes ready-to-rip straight out of the box and requires no finagling to mount to your rack. The extra features like a two-way lid pocket, light loop, and reflective piping are valuable and well-executed.
The Seattle Sports Titan and Lone Peak Glacier Peak are both very easy to mount as well, though each caters to a different type of rider. We are also fond of the Brooks Suffolk and the Ortlieb Gravel Pack and Back Roller for their straightforward designs and quality construction that look good and are simple to securely mount.
Most of the bags we tested have extra features like shoulder straps, hidden pockets, additional hardware, or reflective materials. For the most part, we appreciated these extra features and assigned value to them accordingly. But in certain cases, these features were superfluous and didn't enhance the overall experience. The Green Guru Dutchy, for instance, has shoulder straps that cannot be removed and stowed away. In cases like this, we found the additional features to be poorly executed and not worth the trouble.
Choosing the right pannier for your needs can be a daunting task, especially if you've never used one before. Depending on what type of cycling you primarily engage in, you will likely have specific needs and expectations from a pannier. But whether you use it to commute, go shopping, or to get out in the wilderness, you undeniably want to choose a model that has ample storage for the task at hand, quality construction, and useful features. We hope that our expert research proves valuable to you in selecting the best pannier for your next biking adventure!
— Nick Bruckbauer & Rob Woodworth