Cycling Bags

Best Waterproof Pannier Bags: Top 7 for Rainy Rides

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Pannier. Pan-ey-er. Pan-e-yeh. However you pronounce it, the humble pannier bag has been helping cyclists carry their belongings for nigh on a century. 

Commonplace in cycle touring, now more commonly referred to as bikepacking, panniers are also popular amongst urban cyclists. Often, bike commuters who need to carry a laptop, another set of clothes and their lunch – choose a pannier bag as their carry option. 

Pannier bags are attached to a bike via a pannier rack, an extra component secured over the front or rear bicycle wheel. For the uninitiated, this may seem like a complex system. OK, there are several compatibility issues for some bags and racks, but once understood, it is easy to find a pannier and rack combination that suits you and your bike. These days, many bikes and electric bikes are sold with pannier racks fitted – choose a pannier bag, pack up and ride!  

The inherent design of most pannier bags makes them easy to waterproof. Keeping the rain out on items dry inside is an absolute must for cyclists who need to ride – come what may. 

In our guide to the best waterproof pannier bags, we’ll help you understand why panniers are a great option, whether to choose a front or rear pannier bag and lastly, list seven bags for you to load up on your next rainy ride to work.

  1. Durable polyester fabric

    Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic

    Integrated inner pocket

  2. Waterproof lightweight pannier

    Chrome Urban Ex Pannier Bag

    Fits most bike racks

  3. A functional and fun bag

    Goodordering Rolltop Backpack Pannier Eco

    Use this bag to carry around your laptop and work gear

  4. Fully waterproof

    Rhinowalk 27L Pannier Bike Bag

    Anti-tear, wear resistant and heat resisting

  5. PU-coated polyester fabric

    Ortlieb Velo Shopper

    Easy and quick to open with one hand due to magnetic closure

  6. Show more

Why Panniers Are Great

Amongst cyclists who ride to work, a debate rages over the best type of bag for commuters. A backpack (a crossbody messenger bag is another pannier alternative) is a straightforward and fuss-free way to take stuff from A to B on a bike. And yet, start riding a bike over longer distances, with weightier, more cumbersome gear or in inclement weather – and a backpack is beaten into second place by a waterproof pannier bag.

That begins to describe why panniers are a great option for carrying items whilst riding a bike. But let’s take a moment to look at their benefits in greater detail. 

First up, comfort. All the best bike pannier bags make riding a bike with many items more comfortable. Although fine for short journeys by bike a fully-loaded, hefty backpack swinging from your shoulders is both a physical and mental hindrance when pushing the pedals. Having the bag on your back quickly builds up an uncomfortable sweat, even during the winter.

Let your bike do the work. Load items into a pannier bag to take the weight off your shoulders and let your back breathe. There are other benefits too. Keeping the weight of items closer to the ground than a backpack also helps your centre of gravity when riding. 

That said, the pendulum effect of a rear pannier bag can take a little bit of getting used to when you first start riding – especially when starting and stopping. After a few test rides around the block and a week of your daily commute, any worries will quickly dispel.

The second benefit of pannier bags is their capacity. The majority of cycling backpacks range between 18-25L – with the average pannier bag sold in a pair and delivering around 20L capacity each, it’s easy to see how more items can be carried in a pannier bag. They’re more adaptable than a backpack too. Don’t need two panniers worth of gear for your bike ride? Just unclip one pannier bag, load the other and off you ride.

A third benefit of a pannier bag – and one that forms the basis of this guide – is its ability to withstand consistent dowsing of rain. Although not all pannier bags are 100% waterproof, most have some element of water resistance. 

Without straps and outer pockets of a cycling backpack, a pannier bag has a simple design and construction. The main body of the pannier is commonly made of PVC tarpaulin. A rolltop closure cinches belongings safely inside and away from rain, snow, wind, road spray or whatever you care to throw at them. 

If you’re a fan of waterproof ratings (who isn’t?!) and want a completely waterproof pannier bag, search for one with an IP64 rating. In tests, a bag with this rating will be “protected from water spray from any direction”. 

Front Pannier vs Rear Panniers

Slalom down your local cycle lane, and we’d be surprised if you didn’t spot someone riding a bike with a pannier bag attached to a rear pannier rack. Less likely is a cyclist travelling with a front pannier rack and a set of bags attached. So which is better? Which suits you?

In our experience, you should weigh up your capacity requirements, whether you ride with varying gear amounts and how manoeuvrable you’d like to be when loaded up. Let’s look at those in turn.

First, front panniers are smaller in capacity than rear panniers – typically 50-70% of the size of a rear pannier bag. On average this equates to around 12 litres of space per pannier bag. If you plan to ride a bike carrying bulky items like shoes, boxes, a laptop computer or items that generally don’t pack down well, a front pannier bag will quickly fill up. Choose a set of rear pannier bags instead.

The second consideration when choosing whether to run a set of front or rear pannier bags is adaptability. The consensus is that whilst it’s possible (and comfortable) to ride with just one rear pannier bag – riding with one front pannier bag isn’t recommended. A lopsided load is fine on the rear, but loading up just one front pannier bag will quickly affect how your bike handles and steers.

Front pannier bags are popular with touring cyclists who ride long distances, in quiet settings, at a leisurely pace. In busy towns and cities, riding a bike is a different kettle of fish. Stops and starts are frequent. Turns and corners are a regular occurrence.

Other road users, other cyclists, and pedestrians, all require negotiating. Thus, manoeuvrability when riding a bike with pannier bags is key. This is the third and final consideration when choosing whether to buy a set of front or rear pannier bags.

Front pannier bags are mounted lower to the ground than rear pannier bags. Although this goes some way to aid the steering of the bike when loaded, turning the handlebars is still more of an effort than usual. When zipping in and out of traffic, arcing around corners and giving way at T-junctions, a set of front pannier bags might quickly become tiresome. Wheeling the bike is also tricky. Going up and down stairs with a pair of front pannier bags on your bike even more so.

Best Waterproof Panniers [Top 7]

Here’s our list of the best waterproof panniers – bags that could well be the best bike commuting bags for transporting gear on a daily basis.

1. Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic

  • UK Flag £222
  • US Flag $210
  • EU Flag €260

Prices are approximate

  • Volume: 20 L (single)
  • Size: 42 x 23 x 17 cm

Inner pocket

Simple colour options

German cycling luggage brand Ortlieb is the leader in bicycle panniers. Their back roller classic panniers are a go-to in most cycling situations.

Usually sold in pairs, each bag has a 20L capacity. There’s a bright Scotchlite reflector on the bag for safety, an inner pocket for organisation and a shoulder strap for carrying the bag off the bike.

IP64 waterproofUtilitarian (dare we say boring) colours
Rugged, easily repaired
5 year warranty

2. Chrome Urban Ex Pannier Bag

  • UK Flag £158
  • US Flag $175
  • EU Flag €168

Prices are approximate

  • Volume: 17-21 L
  • Size: 45 x 30 x 15 cm

Rolltop closure adjusts nicely

Innovative D-lock storage

Proper grab handle

It’s easy to eulogise about Chrome Industries bicycle bags and their Chrome Urban Ex is another fine example in their line.

Their traditional black-on-black design won’t go out of fashion. The bag is made from Chrome’s own ‘proprietary Knurled Welded construction’ – that’s essentially a wordy way to say that this pannier bag is 100% waterproof!

Unlike some pannier bags, the Urban Ex has padded storage for a laptop and on the outer is a neat set of loops through which a D-lock can be slotted.

100% waterproofExpensive
Padded laptop and internal storage
Lock storage

3. Goodordering Rolltop Backpack Pannier Eco

  • UK Flag £75
  • US Flag $94
  • EU Flag €85

Prices are approximate

  • Volume: 19 L
  • Size: 41 x 32 x 6 cm

Transforms into a backpack

Loads of storage options

Goodordering is a London-based brand with a heartwarming backstory. The Goodordering Rolltop Backpannier Eco is both a pannier bag and a backpack in one.

Most traditional pannier bag touches are there – the rolltop closure and pannier rack attachments. But this bag can also be worn comfortably away from your bike with the integrated shoulder straps.

Adaptable for daily livingSmaller than most panniers
Uses recycled materialsNarrower than some
Reflective detailsNot 100% waterproof

4. Rhinowalk 27L Pannier Bike Bag

  • UK Flag £53
  • US Flag $56
  • EU Flag €40

Prices are approximate

  • Volume: 25-27 L
  • Size: 43 x 30 x 13 cm

Solid waterproof pannier bag

Nice range of colours

Large capacity

Rhinowalk’s pannier bag is one of the larger bags to make it onto our list. 27L should be more than enough capacity for most cyclists who ride to work every day. For those with carrying requirements more than that it’d be easy to purchase another bag at a later date.

There are a number of loops on the bag for attaching a bicycle light.

Good value12-month warranty only
Light loops
Simple mesh inserts for organising

5. Ortlieb Velo Shopper

  • UK Flag £105
  • US Flag $160
  • EU Flag €100

Prices are approximate

  • Volume: 18 L
  • Size: 39 x 22 x 17 cm

Stiff construction prevents items from being crushed

Hooded top is easy to open and close

For gathering a few bits at the local corner shop or lugging your lunch to work, Ortlieb’s Velo Shopper is a great choice.

Buy one, load it up and you’ll be able to ride safely in the knowledge that the IP53 rating will keep a bag of flour dry and the stiff construction won’t bruise your bananas.

Large opening to get items in and outSmaller capacity than some
The top can be opened and closed with one hand
IP53 waterproof rated

Best Ortlieb Pannier Bags

As we alluded to earlier, Ortlieb is the leader in ‘on-bike’ bicycle bags. Although there are already two Ortlieb products on our list of the best waterproof pannier bags, it’s worth mentioning a few more.

First up, it’s a couple of variants of the erstwhile back roller. The Back-Roller Urban is a more muted version of the standard Back Roller. The textured fabric is still waterproof but it’s arguably less garish than most panniers. For more awareness when cycling in lowlight choose the Back Roller High Viz.

For something to add to a front pannier rack, plump for Ortlieb’s Sport Roller pannier bags. The 12.5L capacity is the perfect size for loading up front and because it’s from Ortlieb you know it’s waterproof and sold with a 5-year warranty.

6. Thule Shield Bike Pannier Bag

  • UK Flag £100
  • US Flag $120
  • EU Flag €115

Prices are approximate

  • Volume: 13 L
  • Size: 30 x 18 x 30 cm

Compact pannier bag

Good waterproof rating

Simple range of three colours

Swede’s Thule is more commonly known as a brand that designs and manufactures touring equipment for vehicles with 4 wheels rather than two. But look closer at their website or in your local bike shop and you’ll spot a range of bicycle bags hiding in plain sight.

The Shield pannier bags are available in this 13L size and a larger 17L size. They’re IPX4-rated and have a few organisers inside to keep gear sorted.

IPX4 waterproof rating13L capacity is small
Good value for a pairNot sold individually
Neat and compact

7. VAUDE Waterproof Rear Pannier Bag Set

  • UK Flag £105
  • US Flag $125
  • EU Flag €120

Prices are approximate

  • Volume: 51 L (Double)
  • Size: 44 x 43 x 31 cm

Gargantuan 51L storage

Front pocket is actually a front pocket

Bright colours available

Rounding off our list of the best waterproof pannier bags is a set from Vaude, another powerhouse in the world of bicycle bags.

Made in Germany with climate-neutral manufacturing the bags feature a genuine extra pocket at the front, a neat place to keep a pair of gloves, set of keys or office pass handy.

There are shoulder straps on each bag and the attachment system doubles as a grab handle.

Sold as a pairNo light loops
Can be locked to pannier rack

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