For a very long time now, German-made Ortlieb panniers have remained “the product of choice” when it comes to high-quality, waterproof bicycle panniers. But now, there’s a new company jumping into the waterproof pannier market… and they’ve produced a product that could seriously compete with Ortlieb.
Pacific Outdoor Equipment is a Montana, USA-based company producing high-quality, environmentally conscious bicycle and outdoor products. I previously reviewed the company’s Peak Oyl Elite sleeping mat and gave it a super-high rating. Their panniers, I’m happy to report, have been rated just as highly.
The Basics: Color, Size & Weight
The panniers shown in this review are the new Front and Rear Fender panniers from Pacific Outdoor Equipment. The image above is the Front Fender, made to be used on the front rack of your fully-loaded touring bicycle.
The Front Fender pannier features a classic roll-top design (which along with the material used to make the bag, makes it 100% waterproof), internal pockets for organizing your gear, compression straps to keep your bags from flapping in the wind as you ride, and it comes in three different colors.
The colors currently available are:
- Hi-Liter/Chrome (left)
- Black/Chrome (center)
- Raft/Chrome (right)
The Front Fender pannier measures 41cm x 25cm x 18cm, weights 760 grams (1 lbs 11 oz) and has a carrying capacity of approximately 18 Liters.
The Rear Fender pannier (made to go on the back of your bike) measures 43cm x 30cm x 18cm, weights 839 grams (1 lbs 14 oz) and has a carrying capacity of approximately 20 Liters. The Rear Fender also features a small external pocket and a left/right design so as to allow you extra heel clearance when mounted on your bicycle.
The Attachment System: How The Pannier Attaches To Your Rack
The photos below show the pannier’s rack attachment system. Like most bicycle panniers, the Pacific Outdoor Equipment Front and Rear Fender panniers have two clips at the top of the bag and a large sliding attachment near the bottom (very similar to the way Ortlieb panniers are designed).
The Pacific Outdoor Equipment attachment system is one of the best I’ve seen.
The two small clips at the top of the bag can each be mounted in one of four different positions, allowing you to move the clips forward or back depending on the type of rack you have and the position you wish to place the panniers on your bicycle.
Additionally, the clips come standard with both 8mm and 10mm attachment hooks.
This is one of my favorite features on this product! The panniers come ready to mount for racks with an 8mm diameter. But if you have a larger 10mm rack and you want to attach the panniers to your bike, all you have to do is insert an Allen wrench from your bicycle’s multi-tool into a small hole on the back of the attachment clip and pop out the blue 8mm insert (as shown in the photo below).
Once you’ve popped out the small insert, you’re ready to go! Simply mount the pannier to your bike… and you’re on your way! And if you ever need to mount the pannier to a smaller rack, simply reinstall the blue insert and you’ll have a perfect fit.
Many bicycle panniers do not come built to fit both 8mm and 10mm rack sizes, so this is one feature I really, really like.
Finally, on the bottom of the pannier is a long plastic hook that slides along a track so as to mount your pannier in the ideal position for your particular bicycle rack. Once you find the ideal position for this rear slider, you can lock it in place by tightening a small screw on the bottom of the clip.
The two images below show the Rear Fender panniers being mounted to the rear 8mm rack of my Fuji Touring bike.
Once on the rack, you simply slide the large blue tabs at the top of the clip attachments to the center of the bike so as to lock the panniers in place – thus ensuring that the bags can not bounce off of your bike as you travel about. Once again, not all bicycle panniers have an attachment system that actually locks the panniers into place. Being able to lock the panniers in place, however, is extremely important for the serious bicycle traveler.
Photos of the Panniers in Use:
The following six photos were taken while using the Front and Rear Fender panniers in both winter and summer conditions.
Positives & Negatives of these Particular Panniers:
Let’s start with the positives.
First of all, the panniers are incredibly well made. These are not cheap panniers and I do feel that they could last a very long time out on the road.
Secondly, the bags are 100% waterproof. Many bicycle panniers are waterproof in that they wick rainfall and snow away from the bag, but they are not 100% waterproof in that if they were held under water, items inside would actually get wet. The advantage of these panniers, however, is that because of their roll-top design, they are indeed 100% waterproof. You could drop these bags in a river and pull them out several minutes later and find that the contents of the panniers are still 100% dry.
In addition, the attachment system is great. The clips at the top of the pannier fit both 8mm and 10mm bike racks. They lock into place, so the panniers won’t bounce off the racks as you’re pedaling, and they are made of hard, high-quality plastic (a material I believe would be difficult to break). The bottom of the attachment system on the back of the pannier is good as well (although not as good as I would like – but more on this in a minute).
The fact that the Rear Fender pannier has a small pocket on the exterior of the bag is also a nice additional feature. When traveling by bike, there are surely going to be a few items you want to access on a regular basis and that you’d like to reach without having to dig into your panniers each and every time you need that particular item. These small, flat side pockets certainly come in handy in this regards.
Finally, the color choices should be commended. I love the silver color used on all of the bags. Black is an obvious choice and I really like the Raft blue color that has been made available. However, I’m not a big fan of the Hi-Liter yellow. That said, I have to applaud Pacific Outdoor Equipment for choosing colors outside of the traditional black, royal blue and red that almost every bicycle pannier company in the world seems to use. I love the black and blue color choices they’ve made here, but the yellow needs more work.
As for the negatives, here are my thoughts:
First of all, I really don’t like the Hi-Light yellow color. I think some people will love this color and others will absolutely hate it. Obviously it’s a great color for attracting the attention of passing motorists, but it’s not a stylish, hip or attractive color. I’d likely name it “Piss Yellow” or “Vomit Green.” It’s a good attempt, but this particular color needs to be re-engineered. A darker, more neon based color would be nice.
Weight is another issue. These panniers, while they are really well-made and entirely waterproof, kind of weight a lot. At just over a pound each, they don’t really weight all that much in the grand scheme of things, but when compared to similar products, they do feel a bit heavy.
Finally, my only other negative comment has to do with the bottom of the attachment system on the rear of the bag. While very similar in design to that of Ortlieb pannier products, the thing that this pannier has against it is that the attachment slide 1) can only be mounted in one direction (parallel to the ground) and 2) can not be easily adjusted (something I find important when using a set of panniers on multiple bicycles with different types of racks). Ortlieb has Pacific Outdoor Equipment beat in this regards. The Ortlieb slide at the bottom of their panniers rotates in any direction and with just a quick adjustment can be made to fit on just about any rack in the world. So, while the attachment clips at the top of the Pacific Outdoor Equipment panniers have been excellently designed and superbly made, the slide attachment at the bottom could use some improvement.
Overall Rating: Would I Recommend These Panniers?
The fact of the matter here is this: The Front and Rear Fender panniers from Pacific Outdoor Equipment are excellent waterproof panniers and I would highly recommend them. I love the direction the company is going with their color choices, design, and environmentally conscious means of doing business. If I had to rate these particular panniers…
My Rating: 9.5 out of 10
With just a few alterations, some slight changes in color and a couple marketing miracles, these Pacific Outdoor panniers might soon become the new standard in round-the-world, long-distance, waterproof panniers.