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10 best bicycle touring panniers of 2019 (in my opinion)

Are you looking for the best panniers for bicycle touring? Well, I'll try and tell you, but before let's try to understand what we're talking about. In these last years, the number of bicycle tourists has grown bigger and bigger, and so has the offer of bags, panniers and bikepacking bags to carry our things on the bikes. In this specific case, I'll be treating the classic panniers for bicycle touring, the ones you mount on a rack, front or rear.

How to choose your bicycle touring panniers

Let's get to the focus point: I'm sure your first question is: "How can you judge and decide that some are the best panniers for bicycle touring?".
Well, I have been traveling for 20 years and with different panniers, I have ridden 70.000 km around the world. This doesn't mean that my judgment is unquestionable and not irrevocable, it means that I know my needs and I know what to look for when I need to choose. In order to better understand what we look for when we choose a pannier, take a look at the dedicated article: Bicycle bags and panniers: how to choose the one for bicycle touring.  
The main features that I take into account are: the capacity, which should be related to your needs (we personally don't mind being heavily loaded, so the more capacity the better!), the material (being waterproof or water-resistant is compulsory; secondly we abuse our panniers, so resistance is very important!) and finally the rack hook (solid, easy and quick).
The following bicycle touring panniers best represent my needs and allow to have, amongst the features listed above, the edge over other panniers.laguna alta quota bolivia

10 best bicycle touring panniers for traveling in 2019

Well, now that I explained the basis on which I made my choice, here is the list of my personal opinion about the 10 best bicycle touring panniers in 2019:
Just a couple clarifications before you keep reading:
  • if not explicitly specified, the panniers features are intended for the couple (capacity, price...) and not for the single one; 
  • in general, in this list, when available for the brand, I have chosen the polyamide version (Cordura),  which I prefer compared to the polyester version (Tarpaulin), but often the brands produce similar models in both materials.
 
Panniers
Crosso
Expert
Ortlieb
Back Roller Pro Plus
Vaude
Aqua Back Plus
Arkel
Orca
MSX
SL 55 ZX
Axiom
Tempest
Blackburn
Barrier City
Altura
Dryline
Brooks
Land's End
Salsa
Touring
Capacity
66 L
 
70 L
 
51 L
 
45 L
 
52 L
 
42 L
 
40 L
 
56 L
 
46 L
 
54 L
 
Material
Cordura TPU1025
 
PS36C 
 
Tarpaulin
 
Cordura
 
Tarpaulin
 
Polyester
 
Polyester
Ripstop
Polyester
Ripstop
Mix
Nylon and Cotton
Polyester
 
Hook
Click System
 
Quick Lock 2.1
 
QMR 2.0
 
Cam-Lock®
 
Quick-Lock
OTS V8
Rixen & Kaul®
MODUL-RAIL system
Click System
 
KLICKfix™ universal
rail fittings
Click System
 
Click System
 

 Crosso Expert

I could not open this list differently. These are among the best touring panniers and they have been traveling with us around the world since 10 years. We discovered this brand quite randomly during our journey in the South East of Asia when we received the Cordura Twist model to try. We used them, switching to the top model in 2013, the Expert. Today, 6 years after are still in great condition and Veronica is going to use them for our next adventure. I, instead, wanted to treat myself, and last summer I bought their update with the click system, a high and low plastic hook (Ortlieb type). Actually, also the Crosso panniers I was using before have a similar system, metal, and elastic hook to be clipped on the rack, in order to perform also on the most disconnected terrains. The new Expert can be purchased with both the hooking systems. 
I haven't' mentioned why I love these panniers: resistant, simple and waterproof, big (66L) and with extra bags to be hooked at the rear, attached and detached easily to use when you are not cycling. Until version 2 I would have quoted the great quality/price ratio, but with the new version, also the price climbed at the top brands level. 
 
 
Advantages
Great resistance against overuse and abrasion
Presence of a removable little bag
Very high capacity
Disadvanteges
Price of the new version
A preview version doesn't exist
Ideal for
Long journeys in every climate condition
To know
Crosso produces also Polyester panniers (Dry) and the model Twist in Cordura (even the preview one)
crosso new

Ortlieb Back Roller Pro Plus

I won't hide it: the German brand is not my favourite, maybe because I think that on the market there are a lot of equal or better brands, but looking around in the world of bicycle touring, it seems that they are the only one. That said, it would be impossible not to quote Ortlieb bags among the best bicycle touring panniers. Quality standards are high, and if I didn't add this brand in the list, hundreds of questions would appear in the comments. Anyway, a couple of years ago Ortlieb started the production of panniers that could compete with Crosso Expert. The Back Roller Pro (with its versions Classic in Polyester and Plus in Polyamide so resistant nylon "Cordura type") are an evolution of the 40 L Back Roller. In this bigger version, you will find an external pocket, bringing up the total capacity to 70 L. Its Quick Lock hooking system, the finishing, the resistant buckles, the rear refracting strips and the possibility to block the panniers are all quality features. The downside, in my opinion, is the presence of the external net, which can cause damages to the panniers and makes it not waterproof (take a look at minute 3.25 of the Spanish super-traveler Bikecanine on the Back Roller Pro Classic). 
 
Advantages
High capacity
Attention to details
Disadvanteges
Price
A preview version doesn't exist
Ideal for
Long journeys in every condition
To know
Ortlieb is the reference company and produces many bags, panniers, and accessories
ortlieb backroller pro plus

Vaude Aqua Back Plus

Another German brand standing in the world of bicycle touring and outdoor activities. Aqua Back Plus are high capacity panniers (51 L) but they are made of Polyester (if you look for the Polyamide model, look for the 48 L Deluxe one). The presence of an external bag (and an internal one) is a feature that I particularly like, in order to organize your first use stuff, like the hard back with Quick Mount Release hooking system (QMR) which doesn't require any tool to be mounted at the rack. Like every pannier in this list, the upper closing system is the Rolling system, to guarantee maximum waterproof. The hooking system allows using locks to firmly secure the panniers to the rack. One of the most valuable aspects of the Vaude products is their green soul, all realized eco-friendly in Germany to support materials and eco-sustainable production.
 
 
Advantages
Different pockets and bags
Hard back
Good quality/price ratio
Disadvanteges
Medium capacity
Ideal for
Mid and long journeys
To know
Vaude has a limited offer in panniers and bags but covers the main bicycle touring categories 
vaude aqua plus

Arkel Orca

They are definitely not the cheapest panniers in the world. However, the quality of these Canadian panniers is out of the question. Vero owns a handlebar bag by Arkel, and she overused it for some years now, without noticing any problem so far. I'm sure that their panniers are of high quality. The real strength of these panniers (like the Crosso one with the hooking system with hooks and not click system is the rack clasp, a firm and stable metal hook (and not plastic). In order not to ruin the rack, there are a plastic covering and an elastic band with a low hook, to guarantee side stability to the panniers. Internally, these 45 L Cordura panniers offer a removable system to guarantee the stability of the base. The heat-sealed stitching, the internal filled pocket for a laptop or fragile materials and an external pocket complete the details making these the best panniers for bicycle touring.
 
 
Advantages
Attention to details
Metallic rear hook
Disadvanteges
Price
Difficult to find in Italy and Europe
Ideal for
Mid and long journeys
To know
Arkel panniers are produced by bicycle tourists: this is a warranty!
orca 45 panniers

Mainstream MSX SL 55

Another German company producing one of the best bicycle touring panniers. Their SL 55 (both models ZX with front pocket and CX without) have very high water and dust resistance: IP67 (the first indicates the dust resistance, the second to water). Even the front pocket with AquaSeal zip is 100% waterproof. Like Crosso, these panniers present an extra closing system other than Roll. The refracting elements on the rear are distinctive for right and left, and with a symbol + or - to highlight the encumbrance of the cyclist. The rigid side allows the bag to stay firm when unloaded. Finally, some features make these bags a good element of this list, also for their catchy design.
 
 
Advantages
High protection against water and dust
Good quality/price ratio
Disadvanteges
The hook must be fixed with a screwdriver and a spanner
There aren't different sizes
Ideal for
Long adventures on gravel and dirt
To know
MSX products are guaranteed for 5 years 
msx sl55

Axiom Tempest Hydracore P45+

Axiom P45+ are great panniers for bicycle touring, offering a different design from the other bags here listed. Their double compart allows to modulate the capacity depending on your specific needs, and the extendible straps offer the possibility to add other objects to them. Polyester guarantee waterproof thanks to a second layer that the brand calls Hydracore: this allowed Axiom to create pockets and compression straps to Polyester. Also, in this case, you can find refracting straps and a lot of possible hooks for various objects. The great downside of these bags, in my opinion, is the excessive price, for a product that can carry "only" 42 L of stuff.
 
 
Advantages
A lot of compartments and hooks
Adjustable capacity
Disadvanteges
Very high price
Minimal hooking system
Ideal for
Mid and long journeys
To know
Axiom offers a lot of different bags, you can find some interesting offers online
tempest hydracore

Blackburn Barrier City

Blackburn is for sure one of the best brands producing racks, but the Americans offer also some panniers in their catalog. Among these, the model Barrier City, for short journeys. The heat-sealed stitching and the waterproof material with Roll closing system guarantee a good resistance against water. The strong points of these panniers are a good quality/price ratio, a transparent pocket on the back, to insert a rear light. The downside, however, the hooking system to the rack is very weak: velcro at the bottom and fixed hooks at the top limitate the adaptability to the various racks on the market. 
40 L capacity for the couple is like a medium pannier by one of the best brands.
 
 
Advantages
Price
Transparent pocket for a rear light
Disadvanteges
Not adjustable hooking system
Mid-low capacity
Ideal for
Short trips or in hot climates
To know
Blackburn is an American company offering many products for bicycle touring
blackburn barrier city waterproof pannier

Altura Dryline 2

A very capacious pannier at a good price: this is the extreme synthesis of Altura Dryline 2, a 56 L bag (for the couple, of course) made in Polyester. The presence of a front pocket to access the first use objects and the clickfix hooking system (not adjustable) to the rack are the two main features of these panniers, which are simple and a good product. A superior cover to seal the bag plus the roll closing system should guarantee the resistance against water. On the market, you can also find their 32 L twins, for the front rack or for shorter journeys.
 
 
Advantages
Price
Good capacity
Disadvanteges
Not adjustable hooking system
Non-waterproof external pocket
Ideal for
Mid or long journeys in every condition
To know
Altura is an English brand and offers many products for bicycle touring
altura dry

Brooks Land's End

The brand Brooks doesn't need any presentation, if not because it has been cradling thousands of bicycle tourist bottoms for a long time (I'm one of a few who still haven't tried their saddles). If everyone knows their saddles, fewer know that Brooks produces everything for bicycle, clothes, accessories, and even our Land's End, the new bicycle touring panniers by Brooks, with a great design, but this is not all! Brooks panniers are studied by Ortlieb and made in Germany, so the similarities with the German brand are a lot. The hooking system is the same, but the closing buckles are made of metal and they have to be hooked to some really beautiful straps but maybe not too functional (mine is just a mere hypothesis). You can add leather finishing. They are light and a good capacity of 46 L. What makes me hesitant is the material: according to the website, it's a mix of Nyon and Cotton, defined waterproof, even if the opinion I've heard is more than positive... The price, then, is only for bicycle tourist who love aesthetics and have a lot of money. Their front twins are called John O'Groats (a famous bicycle touring path in Great Britain).
 
 
Advantages
Designed by Ortlieb
Quality finishing 
Disadvanteges
Price
Mid-low capacity
Ideal for
Mid and long journeys in every condition
To know
Brooks doesn't produce only saddles!!!
land s end brooks england

Salsa Touring

The last couple of panniers which I'd like to present in my list of the best touring bicycle panniers of this year are by Salsa Touring (two versions: the 54 L rear bag and the 28 L front bag). Simple but effective, they are pretty capacious with their roll closing system. The hook for the rack is adjustable but only in its superior part, with a screwdriver. The handle to carry the bags when not fixed to the bike seems good and comfortable, while in the inside you an find a little removable pocket for value objects. The downside is for sure the price, in my opinion too high. But we're talking about Salsa Touring!
 
 
Advantages
Good capacity
Internal removable bag
Disadvanteges
Price
Adjustable hook with a screwdriver
Ideal for
Journeys, even long ones, in every condition
To know
Salsa is a company known mainly for its bicycles and accessories
salsa touring

Other brands producing bicycle panniers and bags

And what about you? Are your favourite bags in my list of best bicycle touring panniers?

Francesco

I'm from Piedmont and I'm 30 years old, I have been living and working in Lombardy for a few years. After a start without any competence in this field, I then approached the bicycle world more and more. Today I can call myself a bicycle traveller and videomaker who would never ever stop. I ride my bike trying to understand why it is so beautiful, rich, therapeutic. And every time I try, I do not understand it. So I must leave again...

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