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FAQ: Bikepacking Bags vs Panniers - What Should I Get?

Updated 26th April 2024

Whether it’s for the daily commute or the adventure, both Bikepacking Bags and Panniers have firmly established themselves as the go-to method for hauling on your beautiful bike. So, ditch that backpack and let's find together a style that suits your needs.

Pannier Bags are the iconic and most well-known method of taking your things on the road with you. Let’s delve into them.

The Pannier – A Brief Definition

For many, the pannier is the most iconic and well-known method of taking your things on the road with you. Coming from the French term for basket, a pannier – in the bike world, must have generous storage, protection from the elements, and the ability to quickly lock and release from your bike rack so you can take your gear with you.

The Pannier – For the Commuter

As a commuter focused bike shop, panniers are our top choice due to their convenient quick-release feature. Simply load them up with your daily essentials—whether it's spare clothes, lunch, or your laptop—clip them on, and you're ready to go. Concerned about unpredictable weather? Fear not! Many high-quality panniers are fully waterproof. Check out our selection of Ortlieb panniers, which offer a variety of options, including models with padded laptop sleeves for added protection and peace of mind. You can also get commuter inserts for your existing panniers.

The Pannier – For the Adventure

A classic road touring setup typically features two large panniers at the back and two smaller ones in the front, all securely attached to racks mounted on the bike. Additionally, many cyclists opt to include a drybag atop the rear pannier rack and a handlebar bag for convenient access to maps, snacks, and essentials.

This configuration offers ample storage and flexibility for carrying several days' worth of food. Moreover, it allows for easy detachment of bags, enabling riders to take their belongings with them during extended stops. However, panniers may pose challenges regarding compatibility with different bike racks, as well as their weight and bulkiness. This is where bikepacking-specific bags come into play, offering a lighter and more versatile alternative.


Bikepacking Bags

While not new, bags for bikepacking have recently become all the rage, especially for those craving off-road adventures. Unlike large capacity panniers requiring racks, these bags attach directly to your bike frame, keeping things light and sleek. They slip through tight spots and distribute weight evenly, improving off-road maneuverability. Plus, they fit any bike without extra mounts, so even full-suspension mountain bikes can join the fun.

A typical bikepacking setup includes a saddle bag, handlebar bag, frame bag, and maybe a top tube bag for quick snacks. However, one downside is that once the bags are on, they are not quickly removable. And while they make your bike nimble, they can't carry as much as panniers. So, unless you're packing light or staying somewhere with meals, you might have to get creative. But hey, that’s just the fun of it sometimes!

You can have it both ways!

If you want the best of both worlds, you can also navigate between these options. For example, if you have a hardtail mountain bike, you can run a small set of panniers on the back in combination with bikepacking bags up front. If you have a rigid bikepacking/gravel bike, you could also run a small set of panniers on the front, combined with a regular bikepacking setup for a more planted front end. These setups would allow for a compromise between these two options, meaning you have expanded carrying capacity, with off-road capability.