What do you recommend for carrying a lot of stuff?
I am having a hard time deciding what to use. I want something that I can quickly get off the bike when I want to run into a store, cafe, etc. My husband says get a trunk bag but it takes time to unstrap, etc. and harder to carry around. I am looking at the Arkel Big Handlebar Bag as it has some wonderful features but I wonder about carrying a lot of weight on the handlebar. The Small Handlebar Bag is just that, a bit too small. I thought of a large waistpack but do not like wearing anything when I'm cycling. I need something large enough to carry stuff when I am on a day-long century, etc., i.e. food, camera, phone, jacket, etc. Arkel also has a Bug Bag which looks interesting. It is a pannier that converts to a backpack but I already have regular large panniers and using one of my panniers is just a bit too large to carry around. I already have a seat bag but it is full of tools, tube, etc. Any advice?
That's not a lot of stuff -- a trailer is a a lot of stuff!
I think you've pretty much covered the options. Generally, on your person is more convenient, attached to the bike is more comfortable. The more points of attachment the more stable, but the harder to attach and detach. The higher up the more convenient, the lower down the more stable.
Modern clip-on pannier attatchment systems are very quick and convenient. The Arkel system is very strong, but more suited to touirng rather than stop-go utility riding. Ortleib detatches by picking up the straps. Rixen and Kaul (as on carradice bags) has more accessable catches than Arkel. Both of these systems have discarded the old-fashioned hook-on-elastic.
Carradice do some useful bags designed for on and off-bike use.
A handlebar bag might be a liability with a very lively front end. On most touring frames, they can be a good solution. I've been using a Carradice bar bag for the kind of useage you describe, for years.
For larger loads- but not pannier-sized- some kind of saddlebag may be what you're after?
Our bikes have Trek Interchange racks on them, with an Interchange bag that has fold out panniers. Not big, but I can stuff some winter gear in the panniers and still have the expandable trunk bag itself. There are elastic cords with metal loops on the end that just slip over the bottom bracket on the rack. The bag itself attaches and detaches from the rack by clipping under the front of the rack, and a quick release that plugs into the rear of the rack. On and off in seconds, no velcro to worry about.
Topeak has a similar design. That probably works well too, I just like the sleek design of the Trek that tapers to fit under the seatpost.
The rest of our stuff is Jandd, their trunk bag is big BUT velcor attaches. We have a couple of their handlebar bags, the attachement system is great, just three nylon straps, quick connect to the bars, easy to remove when mounting a headlight. Bag lifts on and off the attachment. Much easier than one that is clamped to the bar and can be moved from bike to bike easily. DOWNSIDE on handlebar bags, they do tend to impact steering, not that it can't be overcome, but something to consider if you are going to put a lot of weight in them. I use mine to keep camera, cell hone, and maps handy for our longer rides.
This comes down to how much long distance riding you're doing vs how much running into the store you are donig.
If you are doing more long distance, get full panniers and for the rare instances you run into a store bring the bike inside if possible and leave it near the checkout. I'm pretty sure no one will mind.
Otherwise for the other situation, you are goign to be comprimising heavily for the convenience factor.