Searching for the best bike pannier for your journey, big or small? We can help. We researched more than 75 top models and purchased the 12 best to test side-by-side in the Alaskan wilderness. Taking into account different cycling demographics, we chose contenders that would appeal to touring fanatics, commuters, and casual riders alike. They were put to the test on beer and grocery runs, short jaunts into town, and even backcountry camping trips. After rigorous testing, we rated each contender on a series of metrics to determine which pannier is best for the job. No matter what sort of adventure you're ready to go on, we've got something for you. Read on to learn which contenders rose to the challenge.
The Best Bike Panniers for Commuting and Touring
|Price||$189.95 at Competitive Cyclist|
Compare at 4 sellers
|$169.95 at Competitive Cyclist||$80 List||$56.22 at Amazon||$130 List|
|Pros||Large capacity, fully waterproof, easy & secure attachment||Rugged, spacious, weatherproof, and comfortable to wear||Quick to attach/remove, easy transition, lots of extra features and pockets||Inexpensive, ready-for-use, easy installation||Quick attachment, easy to convert, high-quality and stylish design|
|Cons||No outer pockets||Initial installation time and extra hardware||Not totally waterproof, a little bulky/heavy||Not a pair, lacking adjustable hardware||Small, expensive, not waterproof|
|Bottom Line||The Back-Roller Classic is 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.||Totally bomber pannier that is quick to turn into a backpack.||The Titan is a solid touring pannier that is rugged, fully waterproof, and affordable enough to buy two for a pair.||A solid option if you live in a dry climate and don't require lots of storage for your daily carry.|
|Rating Categories||Ortlieb Back Roller Classic||Ortlieb Vario||Waterproof Backpack||Titan||Glacier Peak|
|Mounting System (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Ortlieb Back Roller Classic||Ortlieb Vario||Waterproof Backpack||Titan||Glacier Peak|
|Volume (cubic inches)||2419 cu in||1403 cu in||1100 cu in||1100 cu in||1000 cu in|
|Dimensions (in.) (H x W x D)||16.5" x 12.6" x 6.7"||19.7" x 11" x 7.9"||15.5" x 11.5" x 6.75"||13.5" x 11" x 6"||18" x 12" x 5"|
|Weight (pounds)||4.18 lbs||2.8 lbs||3.1 lbs||2 lbs||1.7 lbs|
Best Overall Bike Pannier
Ortlieb Back Roller Classic
For another consecutive year, the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic strides away with the Editors' Choice Award with ease, boasting the highest overall performance score. Geared more towards touring than commuting, this model had stellar waterproofing, burly construction, and the largest combined storage capacity amongst all the contenders. It has a mounting system that is easy to install and remove while also allowing for on-the-go adjustments for a wide variety of rack sizes and configurations.
No matter how rough of terrain we rode on, the Ortlieb remained securely attached with minimal noise from vibration. We were very fond of the roll-top design that was easy to access, while the bright colors, complete with reflective materials, aided with on-road visibility.
Read review: Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic
Best Bang for the Buck
Seattle Sports Titan
The Seattle Sports Titan won our Best Buy award for the second year in a row. Not only did it earn a high-performance score, but it is also easy on the wallet. This model received high ratings throughout all of our testing, performing similarly to our Editors' Choice Award winner, but at nearly a third of the price. We were impressed with how easy it was to install and remove without any special hardware or finicky adjustments.
During our waterproofing test, it kept all of its contents nice and dry, and it handled the abuse of our durability tests well. Also sporting reflective patches and an outer pocket for easy on-the-go access, this model has features geared towards avid cyclists. We loved the Titan for its road-worthy versatility and affordable price tag.
Read review: Seattle Sports Titan
Top Pick for Townie Riding
Green Guru Dutchy
The Green Guru Dutchy was easily our favorite townie model. It was easy to get on and off the rack, and even though it wasn't the most secure of the entire lineup, it handled a full load of groceries and beer without any major mishaps. The spacious and singular pocket of this model enabled to easily accommodate 12-packs, boxed goods, and folded laundry without fuss or jury-rigging—making it an obvious choice for riders who have a focus on utilitarian hauls.
Additional features like a shoulder strap, an external storage pocket, and reflective embellishments gave us the confidence that this model is built with the avid townie rider in mind. As a bonus, this bike pannier is built from upcycled billboard materials. Whether you're running errands or just cruising around with your picnic goodies, the Green Guru Dutchy is a reliable choice.
Read review: Green Guru Dutchy
Top Pick for Commuting
Brooks England Suffolk Rear
When it came to daily use for commuter riding, we were quite fond of the Brooks England Suffolk Rear Pannier. 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 not only stylish but also durable, water resistant, and provides a great feel when toting the bag to and from your bike.
The mounting system that comes on this model is intuitive and highly adjustable, making it easy to use on a wide variety of racks. The roll-top closure gives you easy access and secure storage, all while maintaining a stylish, classic design. For commuters who use their bike panniers every day, the Brooks Suffolk Rear Pannier is a reliable choice.
Read review: Brooks England Suffolk Rear
Top Pick for Backpack Pannier
Sometimes, you need more from your pannier than is typically offered. 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. Urban commuters and backwoods adventurers alike will love the multi-sport functionality of the Ortlieb Vario. It transitions so beautifully from rack to back that it was the clear choice for our Backpack Pannier Top Pick Award.
Beyond its dual-functionality, this bike bag offers supreme protection from the elements and plenty of storage to carry everything you need for full-day missions. If you can live with some extra hardware and a brief period of initial installation, we think that there's nothing you won't love about the Ortlieb Vario. Try it out and see for yourself!
Read review: Ortlieb Vario
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is crafted by OutdoorGearLab Review Editor Rob Woodworth. Rob is a big-time skier - a level 300 certified development coach and alpine official and former FIS and USCSA athlete - but when the snow melts, he loves to get in the saddle and go for a bike tour, such as the month spent in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska that we used as testing ground for these panniers.
Hunting down the best pannier started with looking at what was out there. We looked at 75+ different options, comparing ratings, specs, and customer feedback, before purchasing the 12 models discussed here to field test and judge for ourselves. We considered carefully what is most important in a pannier and focused on those factors while testing. We scrutinized the mounting systems, how much we could carry, how well they kept the water out, durability, and overall ease of use. The Alaskan test rides proved to be quite demanding, with no paved surfaces, and plenty of bumpy, rough terrain, but we also performed some controlled tests for things like weatherproofing, during which we loaded the bags with newspaper and left them out in the rain overnight, examining them in the morning. It all adds up to a comprehensive review which is a great starting point if you're gearing up for a bike tour and need some bags.
Related: How We Tested Bike Panniers
Analysis and Test Results
Not all bike bags are created equal. In fact, there are some pretty clean-cut categories to keep in mind when you're selecting a new pair of rack-mounted bike panniers. Depending on where and how you intend to use your beloved panniers, the ideal set for you will match your needs and riding style. By and large, cyclists have had the choice between two primary types of panniers: touring or commuting. Though, developments in the market have increased the choices available to bikers, and not just those that commute or tour on their bikes. So this time around, we sought to increase our scope to other demographics by opening the dialogue to include what we're calling "townie" panniers as well as including a few backpack style panniers (which are becoming increasingly popular).
Related: Buying Advice for Bike Panniers
Getting lost in the details hunting 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 get the best bang for your buck. The Best Buy winning Seattle Sports Titan offers an awesome value with scores rivaling the Editor's Choice 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 Seattle Sports Titan, and offer the 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 tough through a rough ride won't offer much utility to an aggressive rider. That is why Mounting System was our most heavily weighted testing metric for this review; because it's not just about how easy it is to get on and off your bike, but also how secure it is once in position.
After putting each pannier the test, we were left with a resounding impression: simple isn't always better in the case of hardware used to attach to your rack. In some cases, simplicity allows for easier attachment and removal, but not necessarily a secure load. On the other hand, overly-engineered mounting systems may offer high security but were often trickier to get loaded on the rack right away. Some panniers, like the Ortlieb Vario, require the installation of special rack adornments before the bag can actually attach successfully.
Overall we found that hook-and-latch style panniers offered the most reliable security and also proved easy to use. These are panniers that clip onto the top of the rack with additional stabilization hardware on the bottom to help keep it in place. This type of mounting hardware was most common but could be found in slightly different configurations—sometimes with mechanical assistance. We were especially fond of the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic and Brooks Suffolk for their stable and easy-to-use mounting systems.
Saddlebag style panniers—which drape over the top of your rack, typically relying on gravity to hang loosely over both sides—are categorically unfit for brutal rides but are very easy to attach. The Blackburn Local Cooler and the Timbuk2 Tandem were intuitively designed but lacked the necessary gusto for rough roads. This style of pannier was the least secure in our experience. Because they didn'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.
To rate the quality of storage, we tested not only how much storage each pannier had but also how well it kept our gear secure and organized while on the move. Total capacity is no doubt a primary consideration, though we had a preference for bags that were also able to keep their contents orderly and protected while on the move. Even one extra pocket in addition to the main storage compartment can be a huge bonus for keeping your trappings organized. Another handy feature to which we awarded points were any sort of compression strap or webbing loop that enabled us to haul gear in additional ways outside the main pocket.
We broke the storage tests into separate segments to accurately reflect the packing you would be doing with each pannier. For touring panniers, we chose camping and backcountry specific gear like 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 townie 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 running errands around town.
For touring panniers, the standout performer for storage was the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic. Not only did the dual-bag setup offer the greatest amount of storage, but it also had internal sleeves, mesh pockets, and compression straps that keep gear secure and would allow for additional equipment to get strapped on top.
Out of the three commuting panniers tested, we found the Timbuk2 Tandem had the most storage with its dual-bag volume that also had laptop sleeves, external pockets, and internal buckles to secure contents. However, the Brooks Suffolk Pannier came in a close second with a large main compartment and three external pockets for stowing away extra gear. Ultimately, we thought the Brooks Suffolk was much easier to pack than the Timbuk2 Tandem, despite its marginally smaller overall volume. The Detours Fremonster Flap also had features like external pockets and a laptop sleeve, but we found its shape and closure type to be a little difficult to pack.
With minimal pockets and larger overall dimensions, the townie panniers were notably boxier than all the others. This is intentional to fit a standard sized grocery bag in the main pocket (aside from the Blackburn Local Cooler, which has a depth of a 12-ounce beer can). We preferred 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. But for straight-up volume, the Blackburn Local Cooler takes the cake. It was able to fit all of our food and beers (including the oddly shaped cantaloupe) with room to spare.
As far as backpack style panniers are considered, the Ortlieb Vario had easily the most storage. Comparable to most touring panniers, the Vario boasts more than 1400 cubic inches of storage. By comparison, the Lone Peak Glacier Peak Backpack + Pannier has only 1000 cubic inches of storage, but actually feels quite smaller due to its shape and depth. Though not quite as large as the others, the Banjo Brothers Waterproof Backpack Pannier has a design favorable to cyclists that is wide but shallow with lots of pockets that allows for quick access to your gear while on the saddle.
Durability is always a primary consideration when assessing the overall quality of gear. Especially in regards to a bike bag that will likely get its fair share of abuse while attached to your bike. Having spent the better half of a summer in Alaska, these panniers were exposed to all kinds of conditions and got their fair share of abuse from long rides and rugged conditions. We intentionally pedaled through gnarly thickets of soap berries 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.
The assessment of durability first began when each model came out of the box. We closely examined the fabrics, hardware, and construction quality of each model and took careful notes of features we found to be weak or flawed that may pose a problem after repeated use. Furthermore, we did a similar inspection of the panniers after we had 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 were engineered to withstand the elements. The Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic and the Seattle Sports Titan are both reinforced with a nylon coating. Additionally, the touring panniers had dimensional reinforcements and robust mounting hardware that was clearly designed to take a beating.
Commuter and townie panniers, while offering multiple other features, were not designed to be abused as a touring pannier would. For instance, the Detours Fremonster Flap seemed to have weak stitching in places and didn't have any reinforcements for its mounting hardware. On the other hand, the Brooks Suffolk had durable canvas, bomber hardware, and a 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 no doubt 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 on its exterior in a 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 and Detours Fremonster Flap, will eventually let the elements into their main compartments.
In our experience, roll-top bags like the Seattle Sports Titan offered the greatest protection from water, keeping their contents dry even after a 15 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 had the worst scores of our weatherproofing tests. These scores were primarily because neither of these panniers have complete closures - despite their waterproof fabrics.
Ease of Use
Ease of Use can be distilled into three primary areas of consideration: ergonomics, user-friendliness, and overall satisfaction with the product. Though each individual pannier will have subjectively varied scores in all these fields, there were notable patterns among the contenders. We paid attention to additional features that were designed to enhance the functionality of the pannier; not all of the time were these additional features handy. Furthermore, we took note of how accessibility, visibility, comfortability, and the relative ease of cleaning and/or fixing the bag after use.
Overall, we thought that the Banjo Brothers Waterproof Backpack Pannier had 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 was ready-to-rip straight outta the box and required no finagling to mount to your rack. The extra features like a two-way lid pocket, light loop, and reflective piping were well executed and valuable.
The Seattle Sports Titan and Lone Peak Glacier Peak were both very easy to mount as well, though each caters to a different type of rider. We were also fond of the Brooks Suffolk for its straightforward design and quality construction that not only looks good but feels good in the hand as well.
Most of the bags we tested had extra features like shoulder straps, hidden pockets, additional hardware, or reflective materials. For the most part, we valued these 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 and Blackburn Local Cooler, for instance, have 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.
In our eyes, the least user-friendly panniers in the lineup were the Detours Fremonster Flap and the Axiom Monsoon Hydracore. Both of these panniers were finicky to get on and off the rack, usually requiring a closer look and adjusted body position. Furthermore, both of these bags came with loads of extra features like gear loops and hidden pockets that didn't seem to add much to the overall user experience.
Types of Panniers
Touring panniers are designed to haul lots of gear for great distances in all kinds of inclement weather. They will most often have a fully waterproof construction and are built with materials that can withstand a beating. Because weight and storage are paramount considerations while biking long distances, touring panniers typically employ a minimalist design that gives the cyclist only what they need and nothing more. That being said, most touring panniers can also suit the needs of a commute, though they may not have all the trimmings of a proper commuting bag. In this review, we categorized the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic, Seattle Sports Titan, and Axiom Monsoon Hydracore as touring-specific panniers.
Commuting panniers are less burly but more ergonomic than touring panniers. With features like laptop sleeves and integrated shoulder-straps, they are designed for daily use by folks who ride their bikes to work, school, the library, etc. Usually, commuting panniers are rated as water resistant as opposed to waterproof. Though, because these bags are preferred by folks who use their bicycles frequently in transit, a good commuting pannier should be built to withstand the wear-and-tear of repeated daily use. We chose the Brooks Suffolk Rear Pannier, Detours Fremonster Flap, and Timbuk2 Tandem as our commuting panniers.
The townie category of panniers is less niched than touring or commuting but is generally aimed at riders who use their bicycles for outings at the grocery store, farmers market, or local park for a picnic. These panniers are intended to carry bulky objects for shorter distances when compared to touring or commuting models. They aren't typically very stout when compared to fully-waterproof touring panniers, though they can often withstand a small amount of wheel spray and precipitation. Recreational and hardcore cyclists alike often travel by bike while running errands, thus we felt it necessary to showcase panniers that are designed explicitly to get you around town versus to and from work. Our townie panniers include the Green Guru Dutchy, Blackburn Local Cooler, and Banjo Brothers Market Pannier.
Building off the utility of added carrying straps, backpack-style panniers go a step further by offering two shoulder straps that are either detachable or stow away when not in use. The added bonus is most notable for cyclists who carry their panniers with them when they leave their bike at the rack. These panniers will likely have the greatest utility among commuters, though we think that they are distinct from commuting-specific panniers, as a backpack allows you to do much more than just carry your work or school equipment. The ability to carry the pannier on your back enables a whole other level of mobility because it allows you to ditch the bike and still carry your gear once the trail becomes un-rideable. Our favorite backpack-style pannier was the Ortlieb Vario which has great storage, phenomenal weatherproofing, and a very secure mounting system.
Choosing the right pannier can be daunting with how many options are out there. Depending on what type of cycling you primarily engage in, you will likely have different 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 bicycle outing!
— Rob Woodworth