Best Bike Panniers of 2021
|Price||$189.95 at Competitive Cyclist|
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|$180 List||$75 List||$94.99 at Amazon|
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|$179.95 at Competitive Cyclist|
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|Pros||Durable and waterproof, huge storage capacity, easy and secure attachment||Large storage volume, durable, stylish, easy to use||Durable, inexpensive, easy to install||Huge volume, very durable and weatherproof, easy to use||Lightweight, great mounting system, waterproof|
|Cons||Limited pockets and organization||Somewhat expensive, limited organizational pockets||Not sold as a pair, lacks adjustable mounting hooks||Mounting system is not as secure as others||Smaller capacity, lack of organization pockets, expensive|
|Bottom Line||A high-quality, consistently top-ranked design that is often imitated by others||A versatile design with plenty of storage in a durable and waterproof package||A well-built and affordable touring pannier that is fully waterproof and user-friendly||An impressively built model with huge volume and simple design, but the mounting system leaves more to be desired||A lightweight example of Ortlieb's classic quality and design|
|Rating Categories||Ortlieb Back Roller Classic||Arkel Signature H Urban||Seattle Sports Titan||Thule Shield||Ortlieb Gravel Pack|
|Mounting System (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Ortlieb Back...||Arkel Signature H...||Seattle Sports Titan||Thule Shield||Ortlieb Gravel Pack|
|Volume (cubic inches)||2441 cu in (pair)||1460 cu in||1100 cu in||2928 cu in (pair)||1526 cu in (pair)|
|Dimensions (in.) (H x W x D)||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"||11.8" x 9.8" x 5.5"|
|Weight (pounds)||4.2 lbs (pair)||2.3 lbs||2.0 lbs||4.7 lbs (pair)||2.6 lbs (pair)|
|Material||PS 490 and PD 620 nylon||1000 denier Cordura nylon||Vinyl||Thermal welded nylon (420D)||Polyurethane-coated nylon|
|Pockets||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||No sleeves or pockets|
Best Overall Bike Pannier
Ortlieb Back Roller Classic
The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic sets the benchmark for touring style bike panniers with its high-quality construction, large storage capacity, and excellent weatherproofing. Its mounting system is easy to install and has several adjustable features to help fit a wide variety of bike rack sizes and configurations. It stays snug and secure while riding, and it's simple to mount and dismount the bag from the rack. The roll-top design provides easy access to your gear and provides a tight seal that keeps your load secure and well-protected from the elements.
The Back Roller Classic could carry all of your gear in any riding scenario, but it's optimally designed for long-distance touring with its huge single storage compartment, thick-coated polyester fabric, and dependable weatherproof design. If you're looking for an option that's a little smaller to carry, provides better 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 provides excellent value with its dependable all-around performance and easy on the wallet price tag. This model earns high ratings in most of our testing metrics, performing right alongside other top performers with higher prices. Our testers were impressed by how easy it is 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 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
Best for Urban Riding
Arkel Signature H Urban
The Arkel Signature H Urban impresses with its stylish design and huge storage volume and is our favorite design for urban riding. The enormous main compartment is big enough to fit two shopping bags worth of groceries, includes a padded laptop sleeve, and is secured with a dependable waterproof liner. The 1000-Denier Cordura nylon is incredibly durable, and the multiple handles and shoulder straps allow for carrying it like a tote bag or like a messenger bag. With an easy to use aluminum mounting system, the Signature H has superb all-around performance and makes a great pick for commuting or general urban use.
While it's hard to find any weaknesses with the Signature H, we would have appreciated another storage pocket or two to help keep our gear organized, as the only external pocket is a little small and placed in an awkward spot on the pack. This model is also a bit on the expensive side, but its value is easy to justify with such high quality and versatility.
Read review: Arkel Signature H Urban
Best for Commuting
Arkel Bug Pannier Backpack
When it comes to the daily commute to work or school, there is no better option to haul and organize all your gear than the Arkel Bug Pannier Backpack. The Bug Pack has one of the largest single-bag storage volumes in our entire lineup and has several internal and external pockets and sleeves for easy organization and access to your gear. It has a heavy-duty aluminum mounting system that is easy to use from the get-go, and has comfortable backpack straps that can be quickly stowed away when not in use.
While the Bug Pannier Backpack impresses across the board, it is one of the most expensive models in our lineup, and its base price doesn't include the optional laptop sleeve and waterproof rain cover. We rated this product with the addition of those two handy features, which would propel the costs up even higher, reducing its overall value and cost-effectiveness. But pricing aside, the Bug Pack is available with everything we would look for in a commuting pannier.
Read review: Arkel Bug Pannier Backpack
Best Backpack Pannier
The unique category of backpack-style or convertible panniers is becoming more 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, which earns recognition as our favorite backpack pannier. Beyond its impressive versatility, this model 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. From there, it's pretty straightforward to mount the pack onto the rack once this initial installation is complete, with a satisfying "click" locking everything into place. And while this pack functions well as both a bike pannier and a backpack, there is a somewhat simple but additional transition step. 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 GearLab Review Editors Nick Bruckbauer and Rob Woodworth. Both Nick and Rob are big all-around outdoorsmen, always juggling skis or bikes or hiking shoes depending on the season. Nick has hiked in Nepal, skied in Alaska, biked in Colorado, and currently resides in Santa Barbara, CA. He has bike-commuted for years and is able to pedal some of the same grueling stage routes featured in previous editions of the Amgen Tour of California. 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 during the month he spent in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska while helping test these panniers.
To build our testing lineup, we researched over 60 different products, and compared ratings, specifications, and customer feedback. Then, we purchased 13 of the best models to put through our side-by-side testing protocol and judge for ourselves. We scrutinized the mounting systems, storage capacity, weather resistance, durability, and overall ease of use. Our Alaskan test rides proved 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.
Related: How We Tested Bike Panniers
Analysis and Test Results
The best bike pannier for you may vary depending on your riding style, terrain, and climate. Most cyclists have traditionally had the choice between two primary types of panniers that each have some tradeoffs: touring or commuting. Features typically seen on touring panniers, like larger storage volumes and burly, weatherproof construction, might not be necessary while commuting. Features 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" style panniers with more convenient organization features for general riding around town, and hybrid backpack style panniers, both of which are becoming more and more popular.
Related: Buying Advice for Bike Panniers
In most cases with bike panniers, you typically get what you pay for. The more expensive products are typically constructed from stronger, more durable, and more weather-resistant materials, have more adjustable mounting systems, and have higher-end details and features. Our overall favorite Ortlieb Back Roller Classic is one of the pricer options in our lineup, but includes a set of two bags, provides a huge overall storage volume, and has some of the burliest materials we've seen. The Seattle Sports Titan offers similar durable and weatherproof performance at a fraction of the price but only includes one bag. If you were to purchase two Titan bags to match the standard Back Roller setup, you'd still see a lot of bang for your buck, but the final savings will be less dramatic than each product's list price might indicate. Other bags with fancy features like convertible backpacks systems will often cost less overall than a set of high-end touring panniers. However, you may sacrifice overall storage volume and weather-resistance for the convenience of the backpack straps or additional storage features.
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 a more aggressive rider. That is why this is our heaviest 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.
More simple mounting system designs allow for easier attachment and removal but don't necessarily keep the load secure while riding. On the other hand, over-engineered mounting systems may offer higher security but often make it trickier to quickly load the bag onto the rack. Some panniers, like the Ortlieb Vario and the Thule Shield Pannier, require installation of additional rack hardware before attaching the bag. In particular, the Shield Pannier 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, 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.
Most of the urban style panniers that we tested have simpler heavy-duty metal mounting hooks that are permanently affixed to the bag and don't offer any adjustability. While these types of systems make it harder to achieve a perfectly snug fit on your bike rack, they also make it much easier to attach and remove the bag from the bike multiple times a day and are typically more durable for frequent use.
When rating a bag's storage performance, we consider its overall capacity as well as how well it keeps gear organized and secure while on the move. Total overall storage volume is a primary consideration, but we discovered a preference for bags with organization features that can keep their contents orderly and protected while on the go. Even one extra storage pocket can be a huge bonus for keeping your things organized. We also appreciate 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 backpacking type gear like clothing, a sleeping bag, camp stove, fuel canisters, rain tarp, and hammock. We used a 15-inch laptop, a hardcover book, rain gear, sunglasses, and a change of shoes and clothes for both the commuter and backpack panniers. 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, the Arkel Bug Pannier Backpack has a huge main storage compartment as well as several pockets, sleeves, a helmet holder, and an optional padded laptop sleeve. The Brooks Suffolk Pannier also has a large main compartment and three external pockets for stowing away extra gear. Ultimately, we preferred the Bug Pannier for its high-performing combination of a large storage volume and several organization features.
With minimal pockets and larger overall dimensions, urban style panniers are typically noticeably boxier than all the others in order to fit bigger and bulkier items while grocery shopping or running errands around town. The Green Guru Dutchy has an incredibly simple and effective boxy design that makes it easy to load and unload groceries, picnic supplies, or hobby supplies. The most impressive urban pannier is the Arkel Signature H Urban, in which we were able to fit the contents from two full grocery bags. The Signature H also has an internal laptop sleeve and multiple comfortable carrying options, making it a versatile choice for work, school, or running errands.
Of the backpack-style panniers we tested, the Arkel Bug Pannier stands out with its incredible 1650 cubic inches of total volume, as does the Ortlieb Vario that clocks in with more than 1400 cubic inches. The Vario does a great job of blending the utility and durability of a touring pannier with the convenience of a backpack. In comparison, the Lone Peak Glacier Peak Backpack Pannier has only 1000 cubic inches of storage but feels even smaller due to its awkward shape and smaller depth. The Two Wheel Gear Backpack Convertible impresses with its well-designed pockets and laptop storage system, but struggles with total storage, as a good amount of its volume is taken up by internal laptop padding and the mounting hardware housing compartment.
Durability is always a primary consideration when assessing the overall quality of any piece of gear, especially when it comes to a bike bag that will likely see its fair share of use in potentially unforgiving conditions. Many of these products 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 any weaknesses or design flaws that may pose a problem after repeated use. Further, we did a similar inspection of the panniers after we used each of them throughout 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 constructed with heavy-duty materials with a nylon coating. Additionally, the touring panniers have dimensional reinforcements and robust mounting hardware designed to take a beating.
While offering multiple other features, commuter and urban panniers are typically not designed to withstand the abuse that a touring pannier would. However, the Brooks Suffolk is constructed from durable canvas, has high-quality hardware, and robust construction that gave us the confidence to put it through the wringer. Other durable options include the Signature H and Bug Pannier from Arkel, both constructed with heavy-duty 1000-Denier Cordura nylon.
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 to determine 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 there is a distinct difference between water resistance, waterproofing, and total weatherproofing.
In our eyes, water-resistance insinuates that the pannier can handle 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.
Each bag in this lineup can 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 closure systems, like the Green Guru Dutchy, will eventually let the elements into their main storage compartments.
In our testing, roll-top bags like the Seattle Sports Titan offered the most outstanding 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 Lone Peak Glacier Peak and the Green Guru Dutchy earned the worst scores of our weatherproofing tests, primarily because neither of these panniers has a complete closure, despite their waterproof or water-resistant materials.
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. We paid particular attention to additional features that were designed to enhance each pannier's functionality.
Overall, we think that the Green Guru Dutchy has the greatest ease of use out of all the panniers, with its simple boxy design, easy to use folding lid, and durable fixed mounting system. While the Dutchy does lack some adjustability found on other models, this also means that it's ready to use straight out of the box without any finagling, tools, extra hardware, or adjustments to get started. You're ready to start loading up and riding from the get-go.
The Seattle Sports Titan and Lone Peak Glacier Peak are both 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 mount securely.
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. For example, the Axiom Monsoon Oceanweeve P18+ is one of the only models to have external compression straps to secure additional big and bulky items outside the pack. But in certain cases, these features were superfluous and didn't enhance the overall experience if they were poorly executed and not worth the trouble.
Finding the right bike pannier can be a daunting task, especially if you've never used one before. Depending on your primary cycling style, you will likely have specific needs and expectations from a pannier. Whether you use it to commute, go shopping, or get out in the wilderness, you undeniably want to choose a model with ample storage and organization, quality construction, and useful features. We hope that our expert research proves valuable to you in selecting the best pannier for your next two-wheeled adventure.
— Nick Bruckbauer