Updated February 2021
Here’s a listing of over two-dozen pannier sets from 20 manufacturers in 10 countries with claimed volumes of 25 litres or more (50 litres total). I believe this is the minimum practical volume for overland travels while keeping the mass low. You don’t want to end up like this.
The accuracy of claimed weights and especially volumes varies (some massively). Actual capacities are around 25% greater than calculating 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.
All of these bags are roll tops – an easily made and bomb-proof system. Some have 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.
Don’t get too hung up on the weights and bear in mind that some include hefty backing plates. On a long trip I’d sooner take a heavy, durable system 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, durable bag will crash hard a lot better than a skimpy one (or an alloy box).
Bags on the list I’ve used include: Magadans; Andy Strapz; Monsoon; OS-32. I’ve also inspected close up: Lone Riders, Siskiyou; Sakwy 30; Dry Bags; Mosko Moto Backcountry; Gascoyne; Wolfman.
GOING SOFT – OTHER IDEAS
This page is for those looking to buy an off-the-shelf pannier sets. But there are other ways of going soft. The rack-free, all-in-one horseshoe bag pioneered by Giant Loop (below left; 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 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 right). 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 the 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 eveything 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.
Table data correct and manufacturers’ links checked at the date of this update.
Updates and corrections added as I learn of them. Please send updates.
Randomly arranged manufacturers’ stock images below.
T/O = Throwover (like saddlebags on a horse)
R/M = Designed to be Rack Mounted
Q/D = Quickly Detachable (from a rack)
R/M-L = Lockable to the rack
Fabrics: PVC Nylon Cordura Polyester TPU Hypalon
- Links to manufactures’ websites (no affiliate links). Click for latest prices; some are now heavily discounted
- 21 Brothers • Sakwy 30L
- Adventure Spec • Magadan
- Andy Strapz • Avduro 2
- Bumot • Xtremada
- Caribou • Commando
- Dirtsack – Frogman
- Enduristan • Monsoon 3
- Enduristan Monsoon Evo
- Giant Loop • RTW
- Giant Loop • Siskiyou