Updated April 2023
See also: Exactly how big is soft baggage?
A spring 2023 update for nearly two-dozen soft pannier sets from over twenty manufacturers in at least ten countries. Some deleted; some added, a few small price rises. All have claimed volumes of 25 litres or more (50 litres total) which I believe is the minimum practical volume for overland travels while keeping the mass low. You don’t want to end up like this.
All of these bags are roll tops – an easily made and bomb-proof system. Some have lids/flaps or lockable rack mounts, some have lockable openings, some have slash-proof fabric, but any of them can be secured to the bike with a wrap-around cable lock or wire net.
The accuracy of claimed weights and especially volumes can vary massively. However, capacities can be up to 25% greater than calculating a box’s length x width x height (explained here). Some of the claims about fabrics also don’t stand up to scrutiny (there’s more in AMH8) and as ever, the definition of ‘waterproof’ remains appropriately fluid. Some also don’t list the fabric (usually Cordura; a tough woven nylon; or PVC vinyl).
It’s best not to get too hung up on the weight and bear in mind that some include or require hefty backing plates. On a long overland trip I’d sooner take a heavy, durable bag than something skimpy because, even if you don’t crash, the bag is getting a hammering under its own loaded weight day in, day out, and a tough bag will crash heavily much better than a skimpy one (or an alloy box).
Besides the old Touratech Zega Flex from 15 years ago, bags on the list I’ve used include: Magadans (new version just out, see above); Andy Strapz; Monsoon; OS-32. I’ve also inspected close up: Lone Riders, Siskiyou; Sakwy 30; Dry Bags; Mosko Moto Backcountry and Wolfman. It looks like Touratech are ending their collaboration with Ortlieb PVC which suggests they may be planning to produce their own overlanding soft pannier again.
Manufacture’s or distributors’ websites (no affiliate links)
- Lomo • Dry Bags
- Lone Rider Moto Bags
- Mosko Moto • Backcountry 2.1
- Mosko Moto • Reckless Revolver v3
- Naz Bags • Big Fella
- Nelson Rigg • Sierra
- Red Mamut – Sakwy 30L
- SW-Motech • SysBag 30
- Touratech • Endurance Velcro (end of line?)
- Turkana – HippoHips
- Tusk Olympus
- Wolfman • Rocky Mountain Expedition
- XCountry • Taiga
GOING SOFT – OTHER IDEAS
The rack-free, all-in-one horseshoe bag pioneered by Giant Loop (below right; now much copied) suits lightweight dirt bikes more than most long-range overlanders. It’s a secure, close fit (once you fit an exhaust shield) but total volumes are small, much of it is high up and day access can be a pain. There’s something to be said for multiple bags.
The oldest, simplest and cheapest system of all is just bunging a kit bag over the back seat (above left). the weight is high but the expense is close to zero. Reluctant to buy a heavy rack and with loads of kayaking bags knocking about, for my 2020 trip to the Sahara on an Africa Twin, I revived an idea I’d used on my CB500X a few years earlier: simply lashing durable PVC drybags to the side of the bike and keeping light items in a big, cheap holdall sat on the back. I added some smaller Kriega packs on the crash bars and a Lomo sat on the pillion footpeg. It worked well enough and everything could be emptied into the orange holdall to go into a hotel.
Plain throwovers at a capacity of >25 litres need a rear rack. It doesn’t have to be a full ‘racktangle’ (below left) which alloy boxes need. Something like the ‘ear racks’ I had made for my Himalayan (below right) will stop a bag swinging about and more critically, stop it shifting and then pressing onto high silencers which starts with melted panniers and ends with an incinerated bike.