Looking to find out which are the best panniers for touring in 2023? You’re in the right place.
Panniers are designed to store all of your gear and be hung off the sides of your bicycle. They’ve been the luggage system of choice for cycle tourists for over a century, enabling us to cover great distances completely self-supported.
A lot of the cheap panniers out there (costing less than about £50) are typically designed for commuting or transporting groceries. They’re often not waterproof or particularly durable so don’t really make good options for touring, where they’re likely to get rained on and take a bit of a beating. When it comes to panniers, you usually get what you pay for.
In this guide to the best panniers for touring, I’ve listed 8 of the most popular and best-loved options, with information on what makes them great for touring, their carrying capacity, weight, price and more.
What makes a good touring pannier?
In my opinion, the most important features touring panniers need to have is waterproofness and durability. It’s highly likely that you’ll encounter rain at some point, and you want to make sure that all your gear is protected inside. Likewise, your panniers will probably receive a fair amount of use, so need to be durable and hard-wearing.
Other important qualities to look for in touring panniers include:
- A well-made mounting system (the clips etc that attach the pannier to the bike rack)
- Quick and easy to take on and off the bike
- A hard back to protect contents
- A proven track record
- Good value for money
Are Ortliebs the best panniers for touring?
If you know anything about cycle touring then you’ve most likely heard of Ortlieb. They are by far the best-known and most popular pannier brand out there. I’ve personally met countless cycle tourists rocking Ortliebs. This is probably because they tick all the boxes: completely waterproof, very durable and high quality.
I asked in a cycle touring Facebook group which brand of panniers people recommend, and of the 39 replies I received, 26 of them were Ortlieb. Arkel came in second with 10 votes, Crosso with 2 votes and VAUDE with 1 vote. As you can see, Ortlieb is the reigning prom queen here.
While you can’t go wrong with Ortliebs, they are not the only pannier brand on the market and there are some (arguably) better value options out there. So if you’re looking for cheaper options, dislike some of Ortlieb’s features, or simply want to shop around, then keep reading!
The best panniers for touring
Here’s the lowdown on the best panniers for touring. Please note that any mention of size, weight or price pertains to two panniers (i.e. a pair of panniers).
Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic (£135)
The classic choice for touring panniers.
The Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Panniers are a staple among the cycling world, and it’s not hard to see why. They truly set the standard for touring panniers with their waterproof material, toughness, roll-top closure and secure mounting system. These panniers also include several thoughtful extras such as organizing pockets for smaller items, reflective patches for extra visibility and a shoulder strap for if you need to carry it about while off the bike.
If you’re looking for some super reliable, functional and resilient panniers, then you really can’t go wrong with the Back-Roller Classics. I also think they look very nice; sleek and simple.
Size: 40L | Weight: 1.9kg
Arkel Orca 45 Panniers (£170.85)
Super high-quality panniers renowned for being “bombproof”.
The Arkel Orca 45s are a great example of high-quality panniers; they hold a good amount of gear, are waterproof, and the rugged material is tough and durable. They receive a lot of praise in the cycle touring community for being “bombproof” and reliable.
Arkel pride themselves on having “a mounting system you can count on” as they have no plastic attachment parts. The clips and mounting system — which are often the first to go on a poor-quality pannier — are super tough and unlikely to break. Arkel may be one of the most expensive pannier brands on the market, but they’re worth the investment, as they produce really great bike bags that will last for years.
Size: 45L | Weight: 2.29kg
VAUDE Aqua Rear Panniers (£70)
Eco-friendly, classic-style touring panniers.
The VAUDE Aquas have a lot in common with the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classics. Waterproof and durable with a roll-up closure, inside pockets, reflective patches and a shoulder strap, they definitely know what features cycle tourists want from a good pannier.
They are, however, slightly larger than the Back-Roller Classics while being practically the same weight, making them arguably better value for money. The Aquas also have a rigid plastic plate attached to the outside, which forces the panniers to hold their form and protect the contents, which is great if you’re carrying a laptop or other breakable items.
VAUDE also have a strong sustainability ethos: the Aqua Panniers are PVC and PFC free, and all carbon emissions released during manufacturing and shipping are offset.
Size: 48L | Weight: 1.94kg
Carradice Super C Panniers (£130)
Old school, reliable, expedition-style Cotton Duck panniers.
Carradice have long been associated with their super tough, old school Cotton Duck panniers. This fabric is totally waterproof but breathable, making it a great choice for cycle touring panniers. The Super Cs have truly stood the test of time, and as Carradice say themselves: “they have a long pedigree as expedition panniers and have been tested and refined after exposure in the harshest environments around the world.”
Rather than using the classic roll-up closing system, the panniers are closed with a drawstring and then covered with a deep lid. I really like that these panniers have an external zipped side pocket for organisation.
Size: 54L | Weight: 2.23kg
Thule Shield Panniers (£129.99)
Super waterproof and durable with interior pockets for organization.
Swedish brand Thule is renowned for its good quality outdoor gear, and its Shield Panniers are no exception. They’ve got 3 interior pockets, making it that little bit easier to keep small items organised. They’ve also got a removable shoulder strap in case you need to carry the pannier around.
It’s easy to see why the Thule Shields are one of the best panniers for touring as they’re one of the most durable and weatherproof of the models in this list. They’re also easy to take on and off the bike, use the classic roll-up closing system, and have a simple, sleek design.
Size: 50L | Weight: 1.95kg
Burley Coho Pannier Bag Set (£85.99)
Small stuff-sack style panniers for ultralight cycle touring.
Totally waterproof, highly durable and relatively inexpensive, the Burley Coho Panniers are a great value deal. They have a small capacity (22L) compared to the other pannier options in this list, but are a good choice for ultralight cycle tourists or for those who prefer to stay in hotels and forgo camping gear. The panniers are roll-top closure and come in a bright yellow colour for visibility.
There are not really any organising compartments inside the Burley Panniers; they are stuff-sack style with one large roll-top compartment only. But for a pair of panniers with just 22L of combined capacity, this makes total sense, as organising compartments reduce the total useable space.
Size: 22L | Weight: 0.95kg
Crosso Dry Panniers (£69.99)
Budget touring panniers with a huge 60L of capacity.
Crosso is a Polish brand that has been making panniers for well over a decade. Their Dry Panniers are a good option for a budget purchase, as they’re considerably cheaper than the big name brands, but will still last for years.
The Crosso Dry Panniers also have one of the highest capacities on this list, giving you a huge 60L of space. Beaten on size only by the pricey Ortlieb Back-Roller Pros, the Crosso Dry Panniers are ideal for long tours where you’ll need a lot of gear. They use the reliable roll-down closing system and are 100% waterproof.
Size: 60L | Weight: 1.65kg
BTWIN Waterproof Panniers (£49.98)
Excellent value stuff-sack style panniers.
Practical and waterproof, the BTWIN Waterproof Panniers are amazing value for money. Coming in at just £49.98 for a pair, they’re certainly a lot cheaper than most on this list. I used a previous model of these panniers on my London to Istanbul tour and had zero problems with them. In fact, I loved them! They’re super easy to take on and off the bike, completely waterproof and seemed pretty resilient.
These BTWIN panniers are quite basic in terms of design — rather like a large bucket — but in many ways, this is a good thing. They’re simple and functional with no frills. While they may not be the best panniers for touring, they are very good value and a great budget option.
Size: 50L | Weight: 1.5kg
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