Table of Contents
- What’s The Deal With Bikepacking Mini Panniers?
- Hooks vs. Straps
- Pannier Profile Width
- Using Touring Panniers
- Micro Pannier Options For Bikepacking (Without Hooks)
- Alpine Luddites HAB Panniers – US $275
- Alpkit Toliari 12 Panniers – £80
- Altura Vortex Ultralite Panniers – £100
- Arkel Dry-Lites Bikepacking Panniers – US $90
- Bedrock Hermosa UL – US $300
- Buckhorn Waxed Canvas Panniers – US $295
- Mesabi Rear Rack Panniers – US $60
- Outer Shell Adventure Pico Panniers – US $200
- Revelate Nano Panniers – US $160
- Rockgeist Microwave Panniers – US $275
- Stealth Mountain Panniers – US $175
- Micro Pannier Options For Bikepacking (With Hooks)
- Arkel XM-28 Bikepacking Panniers – US $240
- Dyed In The Wool Panniers – €350
- Helmut Rower Panger Bikepacking Panniers – €245
- North St Micro Panniers – US $200
- Ortlieb Gravel Pack Bikepacking Panniers – US $190
- RAL EX Loader – US $156
- Swift JR Ranger Pannier Set – US $380
- Tailfin Mini Panniers – £160
- Vaude Aqua Front Light Panniers – €116
Panniers are the quintessential luggage option for on-road bicycle touring. They’re easy to take off the bike, they’re waterproof and they offer a large, easy to access cavity.
Panniers can also make a very useful contribution to an off-road bikepacking setup, especially if you’re cycling in remote areas and need to carry food for multiple days (or voluminous winter equipment).
Bikepacking bag manufacturers have acknowledged this need with an ever-growing array of off-road specific panniers, sometimes referred to as micro, mini, nano or simply small panniers.
Note: The article was originally published in Mar 2018 but has been updated for March 2022.
What’s The Deal With Bikepacking Mini Panniers?
- They’re small and narrow for riding through tighter spaces.
- They don’t get in the way when pushing your bike (hike-a-bike sections).
- They’re a great alternative bag option for small bikes with no space for a seat pack.
- They offer additional storage for food (7+ day adventures with no services) or high-volume equipment.
- The small frontal area results in less aerodynamic drag than full-sized panniers.
- They’re lighter than full-sized panniers.
- Many micro panniers are designed to be ‘rattle-free’ on bumpy roads.
Hooks vs. Straps
One of the genius things about touring panniers is that you can take them off instantly thanks to the locking hooks found on most panniers.
But there are a few drawbacks to hook systems:
- They can rattle on the trail.
- They can unhook and drop a pannier.
- They are susceptible to damage.
- They are heavier.
You’ll find velcro and Voile-style cinch straps on many bikepacking micro panniers. This allows for a tighter fit to the rack whereby the soft pannier backplate can mould to the shape of the rack, ensuring there’s no space for the bag to move.
That said, most hook systems still work well off-road, and very rarely experience failures.
If you like the sound of instantaneous bag removable but also a tight, silent and secure rack fit – check out the modular Rockgeist Microwave panniers (pictured above) that employ a neat removable dry bag from the pannier holster.
Pannier Profile Width
An important aspect of micro panniers is the profile width. The narrower the profile, the easier it is to squeeze between obstacles or, in the case of rear panniers, to push your bike. A smaller bag profile has the benefit of being more aerodynamic too.
The panniers I’ve featured below have front profile widths ranging from 7.5cm (3″) through to 14cm (5.5″). In comparison, touring panniers are usually 17 to 26cm (7-9″) in width.
Using Touring Panniers
You might be led to believe that you need micro panniers for your off-road adventures, but the reality is that lots of people simply use front touring panniers. Ortlieb actually re-named their ‘Front-Roller’ model to ‘Sport-Roller’ to make it clear their bags can be fitted front or rear.
There are many ways to make touring panniers work better off-road. Some people find they need to run a long Voile strap around their touring panniers to keep them in place. Others use a few zip ties to keep their panniers in check. Alternatively, you can add additional lower anchoring hooks to get a better attachment between your pannier and rack.
Right, let’s take a look at the best micro panniers, which I’ve separated into ‘hookless’ and ‘hooked’ categories.
Micro Pannier Options For Bikepacking (Without Hooks)
Alpine Luddites HAB Panniers – US $275
The HAB (Hike-A-Bike) set has been designed around the demands of bikepacking. These bags are custom made, so you can choose between a few fabric types and two different bag compression styles. The back is stiffened with a thin layer of polyethylene to keep your gear out of the spokes and the panniers attach with velcro. The pannier profile can be built as thin as 7.5cm/3.0″.
Hookless | 14-18 Litres | Waterproof | 567g
Alpkit Toliari 12 Panniers – £80
The Alpkit Toliaris are a VERY cheap and lightweight pannier option for bikepacking. They are available with and without hooks, the latter being a bit heavier. The hookless version has webbing ladders on the back of the bag that allow you to perfectly adjust the mounts to your rack.
Hookless or Hooked | 24 Litres | Waterproof | 870g
Altura Vortex Ultralite Panniers – £100
These well-priced panniers have a particularly large volume while also being light, narrow and waterproof. They connect to the rack via two upper straps and a lower velcro hook.
Hookless | 30 Litres | Waterproof | 1000g | 11.5cm Profile
Arkel Dry-Lites Bikepacking Panniers – US $90
The Arkel Dry-Lites are cheap and well-known for their reliability; I’ve met people on very long tours who were happily using them. While they have a front profile width on the wide side, they taper from the bottom providing a little extra clearance. You can buy them in black or red.
Hookless | 28 Litres | Waterproof | 540g | 14cm Profile
Bedrock Hermosa UL – US $300
Bedrock Bags use both X-Pac and ballistic nylon materials to make a light and durable product. They have an excellent front profile width given their volume and mount using velcro straps. They’re available in six standard colours and eight custom colours.
Hookless | 26 Litres | Water Resistant | 630g | 10cm Profile
Buckhorn Waxed Canvas Panniers – US $295
Buckhorn panniers are handmade with green or tan waxed canvas (New Mexico, USA) for that classic look. Four Voile straps attach the pannier to the top of your rack and two straps connect up the lower bag.
Hookless | 13 Litres | Water Resistant | 794g | 10cm Profile
Mesabi Rear Rack Panniers – US $60
The low-cost Mesabi bags are a similar size and design to the Revelate Nano panniers. They have a simple roll-top closure and are secured to a rack using four small buckles.
Hookless | 12 Litres | Water Resistant | 450g | 7.5cm Profile
Outer Shell Adventure Pico Panniers – US $200
The Outer Shell Pico Panniers attach to 3-boss cargo cage mounts (or suspension fork lowers using the Clamp Kit Add-On) with no rack or cage necessary. The mounting plates are made of ultra-tough waterjet-cut polycarbonate. Each Pico Pannier can fit a 1.9l/64oz water bottle and you can buy them in 11 colours.
Hookless | Water Resistant | 1000g | 13cm Profile
Revelate Nano Panniers – US $160
Here we have one of the lowest volume panniers with the narrowest front profile width at just 7.5cm per bag. Unlike the other pannier options, the Revelate Nano Panniers use zips to access stored goods. They are optimised for Old Man Mountain racks but can adjust to most racks.
Hookless | 13 Litres | Water Resistant | 465g | 7.6cm Profile
Rockgeist Microwave Panniers – US $275
The Microwave Panniers are a modular bag set that has featured on dozens of bikepacking rigs over the years. The panniers incorporate two main components: a holster that straps directly to a rack using some neat Voile straps, and a dry bag that can be quickly removed and brought into your tent. The holsters are available in two different colours.
Hookless | 26 Litres | Waterproof | 920g | 10cm Profile
Stealth Mountain Panniers – US $175
These handmade micro panniers (New Zealand) are particularly narrow and are available in a variety of materials and colours. They attach using two upper velcro straps and one lower adjustable strap.
Hookless | 16 Litres | Water Resistant | 640g | 8cm Profile
Micro Pannier Options For Bikepacking (With Hooks)
Arkel XM-28 Bikepacking Panniers – US $240
These panniers are the heavy-duty, fully-featured version of the Dry Lites. They use upper hooks with a cam-lock to hold them in place, have a zipper than runs down the length of the bag, and have a skid plate on the lower section of the bag to prevent damage from rocks. You can get them in black or yellow.
Hooked | 28 Litres | Water Resistant | 1920g | 14cm Profile
Dyed In The Wool Panniers – €350
DITW panniers are on the larger side and are a bit closer to a touring pannier given the cam-lock hooks that make bag removal a breeze. These bags are handmade in Poland are available with either Cordura, X-Pac (pictured) or Dyneema fabrics.
Hooked | 26 Litres | Water Resistant | 794g | 14cm Profile
Helmut Rower Panger Bikepacking Panniers – €245
These French-made bags use the modular pannier design pioneered by Porcelain Rocket. This allows you to quickly remove the 13-litre dry bags from their holsters. Interestingly, the holster is easily removable too using Rixen Kaul pannier hooks. These panniers are available in three different colours.
Hooked | 26 Litres | Waterproof | 780g | 15cm Profile
North St Micro Panniers – US $200
These small panniers are constructed with a sailcloth fabric and attach to your rack using metal upper hooks and a lower bungee hook. The panniers come in nine different colours and are handmade in Oregon, USA.
Hooked | 20 Litres | Water Resistant | 766g | 12.5cm Profile
Ortlieb Gravel Pack Bikepacking Panniers – US $190
Ortlieb’s bikepacking-specific pannier set is built with a lightweight fabric and rolltop closure to shave 20% of the weight from their touring model. The bags come with two lower anchoring hooks for additional stability and are coloured the same as the rest of the bikepacking luggage range. Please note that Ortlieb panniers are known to rattle on the trail and sometimes drop their bolts on corrugated roads. It’s best to carry some spare bolts (same size as your water bottle bolts), washers and nuts on hand, just in case.
Hooked | 25 Litres | Waterproof | 1160g | 14cm Profile
RAL EX Loader – US $156
The RAL EX Loader panniers are made using Cordura fabric in California (USA), have easy-to-access zippers, and attach to your rack using two metal upper hooks and a lower bungee. You can get them in five different colours.
Hooked | 22 Litres | Water Resistant | 766g | 13cm Profile
Swift JR Ranger Pannier Set – US $380
Using X-Pac material combined with a more typical pannier backplate, Swift has come up with some panniers that are closer to touring panniers in terms of functionality, but these have a better profile for off-road riding.
Hooked | 20 Litres | Water Resistant | 1400g | 10cm Profile
Tailfin Mini Panniers – £160
Tailfin makes universal mini panniers that suit both the Tailfin QR rack or any front/rear rack you like. These are 100% waterproof, integrate neat compression straps and attach using Tailfin’s own aluminium stop-action clamp, which promises to eliminate all rattle when riding off-road. You can find the Mini Panniers in 5-litre or 10-litre versions; the smaller version has a super narrow 70mm profile.
Hooked | 20 Litres | Waterproof | 760g | 11cm Profile
Vaude Aqua Front Light Panniers – €116
The Vaude Aqua Fronts are a lightweight hooked pannier set. They have internal pockets to manage your gear and a cargo net over the top for quick-access items like a rain jacket. Due to the use of ultralight fabrics, the maximum load is 10kg.
Hooked | 22 Litres | Waterproof | 1000g | 15cm Profile