Author Topic: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional  (Read 5707 times)

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Offline Rick.in.AZ

Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« on: September 27, 2012, 05:42:15 pm »
I know this is an old question, and traditional wisdom suggests that it's pretty much a personal choice. but...

I am about to replace my aging rear panniers for a planned transam trip next summer. Since retirement is looming, I may well use these a lot more, so want to choose wisely.

What I have now is a pair of ~ 20 year old blackburn side load bags that I believe are specifically designed for blackburn low-riders.  I used them for a Pacific coast tour 15 years ago, but they have sat since, so are in great shape.

My rear bags are a different story. They are almost as old, but have been used for commuting, an average of 2 days a week for 15 years. They are shot and need to be replaced.  What they are is front/rear either or sized REI bags, I believe made by Kirtland. Also side load, one mesh pocket only. IIRC the model is Explorer.

I am thinking Axiom as they look to be above average quality, but reasonably priced, and well reviewed. But they have a huge variety. What appeals to me now, is the LaSalle and monsoon, depending on dry bag vs. traditional.

From the searching and reading I have done, I see that many of the ACA / tour leaders eventually ended up in dry bags (usually Ortlieb), but I don't see any cases where someone started with dry bags (of any type) and switched to traditional bags. That makes me think that as tourist get more and more experience, they gravitate to dry bags, and I might be better off to do that now, since I am changing.

What do you experts think here?

Then the question of brand: If I move up to dry bags, the Monsoon (or Typhoon) costs between $90 and $100 vs. $65-$75 for the LaSalle. You could argue that I'm within such a short difference to the Ortlieb bags that I might as well bite the bullet and get what many think is the ultimate bag now. While I can afford that, and I do want to buy bags will last me for a long time, unless there is a significant difference in quality to justify the increased price, axiom bags are not bad. I have one of their laptop bags (transition) now and it really is a pretty decent bag.

I should also note that there are going to be some other purchases I will likely need to do, such as replacing my tent, purchasing a handlebar bag, new cyclo-computer, etc.

All told, airfare, trip expenses, new equipment… Is likely to run me $5000 so I recognize that overall this is not a cheap trip.

So what are all of your thoughts here? Go what is probably good enough (the LaSalle bags), go with axiom dry bags, or go for the gold (Ortlieb)?

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2012, 09:51:14 pm »
If you can initially afford Ortliebs, they amortize out pretty cheap.  My everyday commute bags are Sportspacker Plus.  I think I got them for Christmas around 2006 or 2007; plus they were my front panniers on a TransAm trip in 2009.  One minor problem, after I laid the bike down in Kentucky, the bag from that side has had a minor leak in heavy downpours.  It's so minor that I've never bothered to look for it, since it manifests as a damp feeling inside the bag (my clothes are in a grocery bag to stay clean, and also stay dry).  So that set costs about $25-30 per year, not counting the tour.  If I do count the tour, they're priceless.

:)

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2012, 03:25:20 am »
Here's my experience:

Back in 1999 I got my Ortlieb back rollers (dry bags with 1 single compartment each). They have served me well since then and I have used them for approx 25000 miles, however only touring.

Although I take care of the bags, I still had to patch them a few places. Not because of damages to the bags, but simply due to normal wear. so they are not bulletproof. At the moment the bags are so beat up, the material starts to delaminate, I had to replace a quick release, that I'm considering new bags myself (however they are still perfectly working).

Advantages of Ortlieb back rollers:
1. Truly waterproof.
2. Attachment mechanism bulletproof. Although it is made out of reinforced plastic, it is amazingly sturdy: No problems so far.

Disadvantages of Ortlieb back rollers:
1. They are SO waterproof so a damp cloth inside the bag will give a bad smell.
2. The lack of compartments and small pockets is a real issue (for me).

When looking back on all my tours, rain and water has been extremely limited. My last transam tour resulted in 2 days with rain. And then, on these days, combined, I rode a total of 30 miles in rain. I believe Ortliebs are built for crossing Siberia with many water crossings, so the bags are overkill on summer tours in the US.

What REALLY annoys me about the Ortlieb panniers is the lack of compartments and pockets: Many times a day I need to almost empty the bag to find what I'm searching for (even though I'm aware of correctly organizing). Then you start using colored bags inside the panniers so you can find your stuff quicker. But its still annoying to me.

This is why I'm looking for a pannier with many pockets/compartments next time. Something like Arkel GP-18. To me, the flexibility of the bags is many times more important than waterproofness. Because I never tour in rainy areas.

Lucas

Online staehpj1

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2012, 09:37:11 am »
FWIW, I have used cheap waterproof panniers from Nashbar or Performance in the past.  I actually prefer to have big single waterproof compartments and organize gear within them with stuff sacks or ziploc bags.  I find it easier to find stuff when I don't have to deal with lots of pockets and compartments.  I mostly keep wet stuff out of the pannier or maybe under a flap.  The tent always stayed out.

Since then I have stopped using panniers and just use light dry bags.  That seems to work well for packing very light, like ultralight backpacking.

Offline dkoloko

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2012, 11:42:49 am »
I use Ortlieb bags. I can't comment on merit of waterproof cheaper bags. A factor is whether to buy roll up bags or not. I use Bike Packer Plus bags; they are not roll up (dry) bags; will not withstand dunking, but keep out rain fine. I do not miss more pockets. My latest model Ortlieb bags have slim pockets inside, and a waterproof pocket outside; enough for me.

Prior to buying Ortlieb bags I used non-waterproof bags with covers. I am far more satisfied with waterproof bags. I do not have much problem with things not drying inside the bags. I try not to put wet things in the bags, and, if I had to, I take them out to air soon as possible. Drying items inside bag is probably more a problem with roll up bags.

Personally, for the amount of money you are going to spend on your trip, I would buy Ortlieb bags and quit thinking about it.

Offline newfydog

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2012, 04:38:30 pm »
Check out sea to summit dry bags.....as light a stuff sacks, and really waterproof.  No need for a sealed molding pannier.

Online staehpj1

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2012, 04:50:02 pm »
Check out sea to summit dry bags.....as light a stuff sacks, and really waterproof.  No need for a sealed molding pannier.

I tried the UltraSil ones and found them a bit too flimsy.  They were pretty patched up at the end of a 33 day tour.  I since moved to the eVac ones (also from Sea to Summit) and think they will be more suitable while still being quite light (the 20 liter one is 3 ounces).

Offline Rick.in.AZ

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2012, 06:41:31 pm »
Thanks for the info all.  Seems there are some of you who are considering moving away from dry bags to traditional bags after all.

So maybe the Axiom LaSalles are an OK choice after all?  That would certainly be cheaper.

Next up, a post to get tent opinions...

Offline dombrosk

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2012, 02:12:26 pm »
I'd been using a pair of Jandd bags for year round commuting and touring, and faced the decision you're up against a few years ago when I wanted bags that would come on and off more quickly for European touring.

The damp cloth issue that BikeFreak mentioned put a real wet blanket on the dry-bag for me.  I've been on tour a LOT where I'm making and breaking camp in a steady rain.  I like drysacks inside of a bag that can breath.  I also like pockets... it really helps me keep track of stuff to have a number of them.

I ended up keeping my Jandd front bags... they get no use commuting so they're in good shape.  Also, I keep my camping gear in them so if I'm staying in a hotel where they let me keep the bike indoors in the hotel (has happened a surprising number of times in Germany and the Netherlands.) I just leave them on the bike.

For rear bags I got the nice Arkel bags.  I've liked their small handlebar bag and tailrider bag, and in general like doing business with them as a company, even more so now that they have a good relationship with my local bike shop.  Sometimes for me my purchases revolve around 'voting with my dollars' for a business I like supporting.

I've done three tours with the Arkels now and have zero regrets.

But as you pointed out... definitely a personal choice.

Offline Rick.in.AZ

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2012, 02:47:28 pm »
@doms. Thanks. Your responce is very helpful as it is so much like my situation. Question: what convinced you to spend the extra $ for Arkel vs an decent but cheaper bag like the axioms?

Offline dombrosk

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2012, 06:25:36 am »
Hi Rick...
to reply to your question, after having worn out a lot of gear over the years I'm tending now to buy things that I think will last longer.  Given my age these Arkel panniers will probably last as long as my touring days.  Some of it is a financial guess that replacing will cost more over the long run... but a big part is more trying to avoid a throw-away mentality.

And, to be honest, the Arkel GT-54's are just pretty amazing bags.   :)

Online staehpj1

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2012, 07:22:11 am »
And, to be honest, the Arkel GT-54's are just pretty amazing bags.   :)
Everyone has different priorities so the GT54 may suit you fine.  If so that is great.  I would point out that they will likely be gross overkill for many tourists though.  Their capacity is far more than I ever want to carry as is their weight at 6.6 pounds.  I think they are pretty large even for tandem touring.

If a tourist knows that they want to pack a huge amount of gear and do not mind the weight these may be a great set of bags.  If they want to travel at all light or might want to do so in the future these bags may wind up being left at home.

I am pretty extreme in the other direction and if I pack really carefully could get my base weight to the weight of the GT54s empty.  Not many will want to do that, but I suspect that a pretty large percentage of the touring community may pack in a style that makes bags that size pretty unsuitable.

Offline newfydog

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2012, 02:07:28 pm »
We tore.up many different  bags mountain biking.  About ten years and fifteen trips ago we bought arkel panniers.  They work as well as the day we bought them.

Offline newfydog

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2012, 02:16:39 pm »
Check out sea to summit dry bags.....as light a stuff sacks, and really waterproof.  No need for a sealed molding pannier.

I tried the UltraSil ones and found them a bit too flimsy.  They were pretty patched up at the end of a 33 day tour.  I since moved to the eVac ones (also from Sea to Summit) and think they will be more suitable while still being quite light (the 20 liter one is 3 ounces).

No trouble with either type so far though we keep the ultrasil in the pannier. I strapped an evac to the rack for the great divide and it survived too.  I would not try that with the superlight ultrasil.

Offline Bike Hermit

Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2012, 10:20:46 am »
Racktime panniers are well made, use the Ortlieb attachment system, have integrated rain covers, have more exterior pockets than Ortlieb dry bags and are very reasonably priced. Racktime is a Tubus sister company  but they are made in China.