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Bikepacking Guide: Best Bike Panniers Backpack in 2020
For people who rely on a bike for transportation, figuring out how to manage your belongings can become a real challenge. Panniers are excellent for traveling by bike but can be awkward to carry with you during the day. Backpacks are the best way to manage heavy loads and a lot of gear, but they don’t attach well to bikes, and make it cumbersome to ride.
Convertible pannier backpacks are a great solution to this problem, because they are bags that have both attachments to hang from a bike rack as a pannier, and shoulder straps to be carried as a backpack.
For many bikepackers, these convertible bags are a dream come true. But not all convertible pannier backpacks are created equal, and most do one half of the job better than the other. Today we’ll review the best bike panniers convertible backpack bags of 2020.
Choosing a Bike Pannier Backpack: Are You Going to the Office, or Going to the Jungle?
The first and most important consideration is what kind of riding you’ll be doing and what kind of gear you’ll be transporting. Convertible pannier backpacks are typically designed either for daily commuters, or for outdoor adventures, and optimized for that use.
Pannier Packs for the Daily Commuter
- Are often slightly smaller
- Typically have good looks and great style
- Frequently have built-in laptop storage
- Shoulder straps are thinner, often not adjustable, typically don’t have sternum straps
Pannier Backpacks for Hiking, Trekking, and Camping
- Are usually bigger
- Often have attachment points for additional gear
- Usually aren’t as structured and stylish
- Shoulder straps are larger, adjustable, padded, and often have sternum straps
In both cases, it’s important to have pannier bag backpacks that are durable, water resistant, and convenient to use. Here are our top picks:
Best Bike Panniers Backpack in 2020 Reviews
This convertible pannier backpack from Tourbon is designed for daily commuters, but it’s rugged and useful enough to be a great choice for bikepackers as well. It’s made of high quality water resistant canvas fabric, has a generous storage capacity with a roll top design, and has a charging port that allows you to safely and easily charge your devices while you travel. It has a classic style and great design that can go from the campsite to the office and fit in anywhere.
The TOURBON Water-Resistant Canvas Laptop Bag Bike Messenger Pannier Backpack has a generous storage capacity of 18 liters, and measures 16.92 x 5.51 x 11.8 inches, so there’s plenty of room for groceries, a laptop and textbooks, or camping and hiking gear. It’s made of high quality water resistant canvas, with a rolltop design that keeps all your belongings secure and dry. It attaches to a bike rack with two hooks and is stable and secure.
When you’re ready, simply use the carrying handle or buckle on the backpack straps to lift the bag off and carry it wherever you need to go. It has interior pockets to help you stay organized. It also has a USB port, so you can plug in a charging bank and charge your devices or attach the bag to a USB outlet and charge power banks or devices without taking your devices from the bag. It’s stylish, rugged, and a great size for city biking.
- Rugged and water resistant
- Classic unisex style
- Convenient to use as pannier or backpack
- Generous storage capacity
- Rolltop excludes water
- Internal pockets for organization
- USB connection for charging while you travel
- Straps close with magnets, which don’t hold securely enough for you to overfill the bag and strain the straps
- Converting from pannier to backpack requires you to buckle on the shoulder straps, which some people find cumbersome
The Two Wheel Gear is a convertible pannier backpack for people who need serious storage. It has a huge 30 liter capacity, with plenty of pockets and attachment points to keep you organized. It uses a spring lock rail mounting system for fast and secure bike attachments, and the backpack has an adjustable sternum strap to help you manage heavy loads. It’s waterproof, feature-loaded, and has a sleek, professional look. While this bag is expensive, it truly is a convertible that is the best of both worlds.
The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible measures 9 x 13 x 18.5 inches and has a 30 liter capacity. It’s made of 600 denier polyester with a durable, TPE waterproof coating, or military grade waxed canvas (depending on the fabric you choose). Inside, it has a padded sleeve designed to hold a 15.6 inch laptop, internal organization pockets, and a large mesh zippered compartment.
It also has a small padded exterior pocket designed for your personal items like a phone, keys, or sunglasses, and a larger exterior pocket designed for a U-lock or for the included rain cover. On the sides, two expandable mesh pockets can hold water bottles or a thermos. This backpack also unzips flat for easy packing and unpacking.
It mounts to a bike with the Rixen & Kaul Mounting System, designed for bike racks from 6-16mm, with quick adjustable hook placement and a center spring lock for fast and secure attachment.
The shoulder straps easily clip and unclip for fast and easy conversion between modes, with an adjustable sternum strap for comfort, or simply carry it with the rugged top handle. This convertible pannier backpack also has your safety in mind, with an included rain cover, integrated reflective strips, and an attachment point for a taillight.
The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible comes in 22 liter or 30 liter sizes, and in graphite grey or black fabric. It’s backed by a 30-day money back guarantee.
- Generous storage capacity
- Easy to pack and use with zip-open feature and lots of pockets
- Padded laptop sleeve
- Waterproof fabric, and also comes with fluorescent rain cover
- Fast and durable spring locking Rixen & Kaul Mounting System
- Quick conversion between modes
- Attractive professional design
- Backpack straps are long, and the length is not adjustable, placing the load on the lower back for some people
The Lone Peak Glacier Peak Pannier Plus Backpack System has a clever design that gives you everything you need in a pannier, and then everything you need in a backpack. As a pannier, it has a rugged back with Loc-On rack clips and bungee attachments for secure travel. As a backpack, it’s a technical backpack with thickly padded, adjustable straps and a breathable mesh back. It’s waterproof, has generous storage capacity, and is incredibly easy to use. This backpack pannier has it all.
The Lone Peak Glacier Peak Pannier Plus Backpack System has a rear panel that zips into place, exposing the Loc-On rack clips and bungee system for secure attachment to bike racks of all sizes.
To convert to backpack mode, unzip the pannier panel, and roll and clip it into place at the bottom of the bag. When the pannier panel is rolled away, it exposes the padded mesh backpacking panel, with a top carry handle and two padded adjustable backpack shoulder straps.
Inside, it has a laptop sleeve that will fit laptops up to 15 x 10 inches. It also has two side pockets and two front pockets. Side compression straps help you keep your belongings secure and protected.
The Lone Peak Glacier Peak Pannier Plus measures 12 x 5 x 18 inches and has 1000 cubic inches of storage capacity. It is made of 1000 denier heavy duty water resistant nylon, with Coverlight tarpaulin patches, and has a rainproof inner lining. When empty, it weighs just 1.4 pounds. Lone Peak also makes this bag in the USA.
- Large storage capacity
- Versatile pannier mode securely fits all bike racks
- Comfortable backpack mode with padded mesh back and adjustable straps
- Generous storage capacity
- Waterproof fabric and rainproof liner
- Multiple pockets for organization
- Side straps secure your belongings
- Quick conversion between modes without needing to attach straps
- Made in the USA
- Closure system doesn’t completely exclude water when riding in heavy rain conditions
If you’re looking for a more compact convertible backpack pannier, the Roswheel Essential Series Convertible Bike Trunk Bag/Pannier. It’s a bike rack trunk bag that converts to a single strap messenger bag or can be carried with the hand strap. It’s the perfect size for a daily commute, bike gear and equipment, or short day trips on a bike, and converts quickly into a comfortable bag that can be worn on the back with the padded strap. It’s a great choice for people who want a smaller convertible backpack and trunk bag.
The Roswheel Essential Series Convertible Bike Trunk Bag/Pannier is a compact trunk bag that still has ample storage for your daily needs. It measures 5 x 12.9 x 6 inches and has a 7 liter capacity. It has a convenient card slot storage on the underside of the lid, and bungee lacing on the top for attachment of other items.
It attaches securely to a rear rack with four rugged Velcro straps, and can be carried easily with the attached carry handle, or the included comfortable one-shoulder strap. It also has reflective patches and a tail light loop. It’s made of 300 denier polyester fabric and PU leather, with HDPE board and rigid EVA foam for padding and structure. It’s backed by a one-year warranty.
- Compact and portable
- Easy to carry with carry handle or single shoulder strap
- Good storage capacity for the size
- Bungee lacing for more attachment options
- Reflective patches and tail light hanger
- One-year warranty
- Not very durable when carrying heavier items
The Blackburn Wayside Bike Backpack & Pannier has a relaxed, effortless style matched with rugged construction and great storage options. It’s designed for the commuter but has extra storage and features that bikepackers will love.
The Blackburn Wayside Bike Backpack & Pannier is made of waxed canvas for durability, water resistance, and style. The roll top design gives you more versatile storage and helps to prevent water from getting inside the bag. It has a large main compartment, two large outside zippered pockets, and mesh pockets on the sides, perfect for water bottles.
It attaches quickly and securely to a bike with four Velcro straps, and converts to a backpack in seconds. It also has a carrying handle on the top. A row of tough daisy chain loops down the center allow you to easily attach all your gear for hiking or camping. It measures 15 x 3 x 19 inches.
- Great look and classic style
- Large main storage compartment with roll top that lets you customize fit
- Large exterior zippered pockets
- Daisy chain loops for additional storage
- Durable waxed canvas resists water and abrasion
- It does not have a rigid back panel, so may be too unstructured to work well as a pannier on some bikes
- Some people feel that the Velcro attachment straps are not tight and secure enough
The Timbuk2 Deploy Convertible Backpack Pannier is the only truly laptop-friendly convertible backpack pannier on this list, because it’s the only one with a heavy duty boot at the base of the bag that allows you to set it down on the ground and protects digital devices from the impact. It may seem like a small detail, but padded sleeves don’t protect laptops from impact from below and setting a backpack on the ground is extremely common behavior.
This bag is loaded with thoughtful details that make it more useful, more rugged, and more versatile than others, and Timbuk2 is so confident in the quality and craftsmanship that they back this bag with a lifetime warranty. It’s exactly what you would expect from a company founded by a San Francisco bike messenger.
The Timbuk2 Deploy Convertible Backpack Pannier measures 11 x 18.1 x 6.3 inches and holds 28 liters. It’s made of light weight contemporary fabric that is water resistant and smooth to the touch, with a subtle sheen.
Roll-top closure lets you customize the fit of the main compartment and keeps your belongings secure. It has a quick access side pocket designed for a 13 inch laptop, with water resistant zipper closure. It has a small magnetic front pocket for smaller items. It also has two deep, stretchy side pockets for water bottles, U-locks, and other larger items. A heavy duty boot allows you to safely set the pack down.
As a pannier, it uses fast clip pannier rack fasteners that attach quickly in seconds. In backpack mode, airmesh back pods protect your back from the pannier attachments. The adjustable, stowable shoulder straps have airmesh for coolness, reflective trim for visibility, double deep channel padding, and a removable sternum strap for managing heavy loads. The bag is water resistant, with a key keeper fob, deluxe reflective hits, and reinforced drainage holes in the back.
- Large storage capacity
- Water resistant and durable
- Inner base for setting the bag down
- Ample pockets for storage
- Laptop sleeve with water resistant zipper closure
- Easy conversion between modes
- Heavy duty backpack straps with padding and removable sternum strap
- Reflective hits
- Roll-top closure
- Lifetime warranty
- Pannier attachment clips aren’t as durable as the rest of the bag
The Banjo Brothers 01130 Pannier Waterproof Backpack is made of a two-layer material, with a ballistic outer material and a replaceable welded-seam inner liner for excellent water resistance and durability. It has a tapered profile to fit bike racks up to 12 mm in tube thickness, with simple, adjustable rack hardware.
To convert between modes, un-hook the pannier flap and swing it to the opposite side of the bag, revealing the backpack straps and letting you carry the bag against your back in comfort. It has generous storage capacity of 1100 cubic inches, and a roll-top design that lets you flex the bag to fit. It measures 15.5 x 11.5 x 6.75 inches, with external flap pockets and side pockets. It has reflective piping and striping, along with hangers for a taillight.
- Rugged and waterproof
- Generous storage capacity
- Exterior flap pockets and side pockets
- Fast and easy conversion between modes
- Stitching and seams aren’t very durable
Convertible Pannier Backpack Buying Guide: Basic Features
Truly, making the best pannier bag and backpack is a design challenge. The bag needs to have the properties that are most important in a pannier:
Rigid Back Surface
A rigid back surface keeps a pannier from interfering with the wheels of a bike, promotes better balance, and creates more stability when riding.
Sturdy Bike Attachment Points
There’s nothing more important for a rider than feeling like their pannier is well-secured and stable on their bike. Nobody wants to risk dropping or damaging their bag while riding due to loose or weak attachments.
Riders want to be able to quickly and easily mount the bag on the bike, without spending a lot of time messing with fiddly straps and hooks.
Features — the Basics
Then the bag needs to have all the properties of a good backpack, especially for hikers and bikepackers. These include:
Smooth Back Panel
The back of the bag where it rests against your back needs to feel comfortable, breathable, and smooth. You don’t want bike hooks or clips pressing into your back
If you will be wearing the bag for a long time, it’s important that the straps be padded and comfortable. You may need adjustable shoulder straps, or a sternum strap, to help manage a heavy load
The ability to quickly access small, frequently used items without having to remove and unload a backpack is incredibly important. On a hike, you need to be able to reach your water bottle, wallet, and other items without a lot of effort
Features — Essentials
And in order to be a good bag for outdoors at all, it also needs to have some basic essential features:
Waterproof or at Least Water-Resistant
While all bags may leak a bit in a deluge, and rain covers are a fact of life, any bike or outdoor bag needs to be able to repel ordinary light rain showers. In many climates, it may rain briefly and then stop, or rain at a moment where it isn’t convenient for a rider to stop and get out all their rain gear.
If it’s rained recently, there may be light puddles and splashes even if it isn’t raining at the moment. We expect a bag to be able to repel a reasonable amount of water without soaking our belongings.
While it’s always true that “you get what you pay for,” and a very affordable bike pannier backpack may not last for years and years, we still expect value for the money. That means that a bag should not rip, break, fray, or break easily. We expect durable straps, buckles, and zippers, and high quality fabrics that resist tears and abrasions.
We prefer that all bike bags have some high visibility accents or reflective trim, and a place to hang a taillight. It just makes sense.
That’s a lot to ask, and that’s just the basics. Now let’s look at some of the options.
Convertible Pannier Backpack Buying Guide: Important Options
Here are some of the most important options to choose when buying a bike pannier convertible backpack.
It’s always important to consider how much gear you expect to be transporting in your bag. Is it a commuter bag, with a change of clothes and a laptop? Is it a hiking backpack, with camping and outdoor equipment? Will it need to carry groceries? Tools? Valuables? It’s always a good idea to choose a bag slightly larger than you think you need, to give you room for extras. But you don’t always want the largest possible bag, because you don’t want to carry a big mostly-empty bag around all day.
Whether you will be carrying a laptop or an avocado, your bag typically needs some padding. In many cases, bike panniers use padding to add structure to the bag, giving it the shape it needs to work well. Many backpacks don’t have such built-in padding.
Depending on what you are carrying, you also want to evaluate how the bag and pockets open and close: are they just magnetic flaps? Buckled straps? Zippers? Drawstrings? The bag needs to not just hold all your things, it needs to keep them secure and protected.
Pockets and organization
Pockets are always convenient and welcome. Exterior pockets help you quickly access frequently-needed items. Interior pockets keep you organized and help you quickly find what you need. Commuters, especially, want bike pannier backpacks with pockets for pens, phones, keys, cables, and other things they handle throughout the day.
Ease of Mounting
As mentioned above, a bike pannier backpack needs to mount quickly, easily, and securely to the bike.
Ease of Conversion Between Use Modes
Most people prefer convertible pannier backpacks where the straps are attached but tucked out of the way and can simply be pulled out and worn. When it takes a long time to add the shoulder straps, zip up the mounting panel, and switch between use modes, people get frustrated.
For hikers and backpackers, attachment points are essential. They want to not just carry the backpack itself, but to attach other gear to the bag and carry it at the same time, and they need loops, rings, webbing, or bungees to do so. Commuter bags often have few or no attachment points for additional items.
The roll-top is the preferred design for convertible bike pannier backpacks. Not only does a roll-top add another layer of water resistance, but it also helps the bag to reduce in size when it is less full or expand to fit more items. It makes the bag more versatile and is also very easy to use.
Speaking of expanding and contracting, hikers should also look for compression straps in a bike pannier backpack. Compression straps help to keep your load secure, balanced, and compact, making it easy to carry over long distances.
Final Verdict: The Best Bike Pannier Backpacks of 2020
Best for Commuters and Daily Use: Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible
The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible is a sleek, stylish bag with everything you need for ordinary daily use. It has a great look, rugged materials, and you can choose which size is best for you. The Rixen & Kaul Kombakt Rail mounting system is fast and secure, and it converts quickly and easily between use modes.
The backpack shoulder straps are padded, adjustable, and have a sternum strap. We love all the pockets and the fact that it zips open flat, to make it incredibly easy to pack and access everything you need. It’s ideal for daily use for students, commuters, and city life, and travels well in style.
Best for Outdoors and Bikepacking: Lone Peak Glacier Peak Pannier Plus Backpack System
This bike pannier backpack is made of the toughest material in this list, making it rugged enough for all kinds of outdoor adventures. The Loc-On attachment system is also strong and reliable, and it feels secure and stable on a bike. It has a unique conversion method that is fast, simple, and incredibly clever, where the pannier panel zips and rolls down out of the way when not in use. It has padded adjustable shoulder straps, a breathable mesh back, and compression straps to make hiking easier and more comfortable. And of course, it has good storage capacity, exterior pockets, and a laptop sleeve. It’s even made in the USA. What’s not to love?
Best for In-Between: Timbuk2 Deploy Convertible Backpack Pannier
Timbuk2 was founded by a bike messenger, and it shows. For people who bike in an urban environment, but bike HARD, this bag is the perfect compromise. It’s a great choice for students who are on campus all day and need to carry books and supplies from place to place. It’s lightweight and water resistant, but rugged and durable.
The interior boot is great for people who are moving the backpack from place to place throughout the day, especially if you are carrying a laptop or other delicate items. It has a large capacity, with a roll-top that lets you flex to fit, and plenty of pockets for everything you need throughout the day. It converts quickly between modes, with thick padded shoulder straps and a removable sternum strap that lets you manage heavy loads.
It has reflective hits, a key keeper fob, and everything you need for daily life. The problem with this bag is that the plastic clips that attach it to a bike aren’t as durable as the rest of it and may break early.
However, it’s backed by a lifetime guarantee, and Timbuk2 will repair or replace the bag if those clips do fail. And we sincerely hope for an updated model of this incredible convertible backpack bike pannier that addresses that issue, because it’s a fantastic bag in all other respects.
A convertible bike pannier backpack is an incredibly versatile, useful, desirable item for all kinds of bikers and bikepackers. It presents a huge design challenge that different manufacturers have all tried to solve in different ways, some with more success than others.
The result is that, while there is not (yet) a single perfect convertible backpack bike pannier, there is probably a perfect one for you, depending on your rides, your cargo, and your needs. These are great bags, and they make life on a bike faster, easier, and more efficient.
Large or small, stylish or rugged, in the jungle or in the urban jungle, these bags can take you and your gear wherever you want to go.