Panniers, everyone uses them, fill them up, hang them on, and hit the trail. Simple, easy and quick. You can have them preloaded, weighed and ready to hit the trail…well maybe. I see those folks that buy those standard sized panniers that the guy at one of those big box farm stores said you needed. This guy probably never has packed. He or she is probably repeating a story they heard another sales associate tell customers in the past. You buy the story because you are just learning how to pack or it falls into your budget. Then you go home and all excited to start filling them full of gear and packing for your trip…Both panniers are now full and you still have a huge pile of gear to load. As we all do, we eliminate a few items and keep shoving stuff in, you have items hanging out. You’re now sitting on those new panniers while you try to buckle the two straps. With all the stuff hanging out between the bag and the lid, if you even have a lid. You're going to look like one of those gals from some 3rd world country walking down some dirt road headed to the market, that you see in a National Geographic show. By the time you get to camp you will have lost some good stuff on the trail. What is one to do???
Let’s look at what makes a great pannier better than an okay pannier… Panniers come in all shapes and sizes. To start with let’s break it into 2 groups hard and soft. This is the first major decision you have to make. It’s a lot like buying a suitcase. Hard sided in theory has added protection for your belongings. If you are in a food storage area for bear management. You will end up needing a set of “certified“ bear boxes, these comes in either a plastic type material or aluminum, regardless they will be hard sided. There are several brands of ice chest that are also IGBC certified. Use caution when buying certified bear resistant panniers and ice chest, that they need to be stamped and or marked IGBC on them. There are a lot of products that claim to be certified but are not.
Soft panniers, comes in all types of materials, shapes and sizes. There are a few things to consider and to look for when buying a new set of panniers. The first is three closer straps. This keeps the center of your panniers from bellowing out. That big pucker spot in the center of the bags catches all the rain and snow, along with creating an escape route for your gear.
Look for panniers that have a built-in hang rod a few inches from the top down the back. This rod helps give shape and support to your bags. Make sure that rod is sewn in lower in the bag than the traditional raised loop above the bag. The lower rod helps lift the panniers higher on the animal keeping the weight where it belongs.
The canvas pannier above is an example of what you do not want. The iron cloth pannier below shows what you want to look for. The hang rod is lower on the bag.
For those long and/or odd shaped items, I would normally manty those, but for those that don't manty, look into sling panniers these make odd items a breeze to pack.
At Trailhead Supply our passion is packing we know what works and what doesn’t. As always if you have any questions feel free to reach out to us. Let us help you get out on the trail and make some memories. Until next time…
See you on the trail