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  1. #1
    Senior Member jjciiijs's Avatar
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    Water proof paniers vs paniers with rain covers

    I have both. Just trying to go over the pros and cons.

    The waterproof ones sure collect the heat. It seems everything inside could get steamy, kind of
    wet (in warm weather) also. The others are not really completely water proof with their covers on.

    You guys that have had a lot more time on the road than me. What way do you go?

    The ones i have came from places like Nashbar and performance.
    Jeff
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    Master of the Universe Angus37's Avatar
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    I'm still getting into touring myself so can't completely answer that. But from my backpacking experiences I just use waterproof stuff sacks for the things I want to keep dry (clothing, sleeping gear, stove). So I would lean toward the non-waterproof myself.

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    i have ones with rain covers, and I put things that i really cant afford to get wet like clothes sleeping stuff in float sacks. I also use a water proof spray on my bags and covers.

  4. #4
    two wheeled accomplice
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    Just buy Ortlieb panniers and never think about this question again. Seriously, you'll be glad you did.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jjciiijs View Post
    The waterproof ones sure collect the heat. It seems everything inside could get steamy, kind of wet (in warm weather) also.
    Interestingly I have not found that to particularly be the case. At least not to the extent I would have expected.

    As far as collecting heat, I as surprised how cool they stay considering they were black and sealed. We kept various food in them in 100+ heat for days on end with surprisingly good results. Additionally my companions kept a water bladder full of ice with a hose up to a bite valve they could drink from while under way and they had cold water pretty much all day even on 100 F days.

    As far as steamy or wet... We never had a problem with that. We do segregate anything that is damp in a sealed ziploc or carry it outside the panniers either on the rack, on top of the panniers, or under a pannier flap but not in the pannier. The wet tent always lives on the rear rack.

    As far as advantages between the two I think one of the biggest factors is whether you prefer lots of small compartments or one big compartment. Personally I like the one big compartment approach preferring to organize my gear in big ziplocs. I think that approach is generally lighter.

    The high visibility covers of the non waterproof ones are a nice safety plus and are the one thing I like better about them.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    This is a question that will never be resolved. Along the lines of panniers vs trailer. Mostly, personal preference and budget.

    For me, the non-breathable nature of waterproof panniers was the deciding factor. No way slightly damp stuff is gonna dry out in that sealed environment. Also, of about 150 days on the road, I've only experienced rain on 5. The rain covers worked ok for those.

    OTOH, if I were planning a a 3 year expedition around the world, be Ortlieb all the way.

    Sub Lone Peak for Ortlieb. Check link for reason.

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p...id=115513&v=9m
    Last edited by Cyclebum; 02-26-10 at 08:02 PM.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Kazer is correct, but I'm biased. I have also had similar experiences as staehpj1. I've used Ortliebs in eveything from hot and wet to cold and wet and the contents were always just fine. I suppose if you packed up a bunch of wet clothes and sealed them in the pannier for a week at 109F you would get some funky smelling apparel. Wet towels and clothes usually are place under the bungee cords until they dry. They are tough, dry and convenient to use.

    Everything seems to end up under the bungee cords!

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    indeed - humidity traps heat more than the fact that waterproof panniers gather heat - because air is a poor conductor of heat. pardon me if i'm wrong, but the hottest sweat inducing weather should have been in the tropics for most folks, where relative humidity can hit to 80+% or even more... for a NORMAL day! :-p

  9. #9
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Simple really, waterproof panniers, with a mesh laundry or duffle bag strapped on top. Dry things stay dry and wet / smelly things air out. If you will be riding in the rain, put the mesh bag into a plastic garbage bag for the day.

    Best of both worlds.

    Works equally well for both panniers or trailer tourers

  10. #10
    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sehsuan View Post
    indeed - humidity traps heat more than the fact that waterproof panniers gather heat - because air is a poor conductor of heat. pardon me if i'm wrong, but the hottest sweat inducing weather should have been in the tropics for most folks, where relative humidity can hit to 80+% or even more... for a NORMAL day! :-p
    This is typical summer day in many parts of USA, even NYC, not to mention some southern states like Louisiana or Florida. 90F + 90% humidity is not uncommon in NYC. So I'm wondering how my Axiom waterproof panniers will work here in the summer. I haven't though of this to be a problem, I just got them in December.

    Perhaps it'd be necessary to get breathable panniers with rain covers. I don't like to mess with rain covers, but well... Totally waterproof panniers are great in the winter when sludge and road spray is often a bigger problem than rain.

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  11. #11
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I have Orlieb classic rollers now and I used to use REI's with rain covers. I haven't noticed any problems with the Ortliebs. The rain covers worked fine on the REI's. With rain covers I had to pull over to put them on or off, and that led to consternation over whether the rain was heavy enough to warrant pulling over. (I know, poor me.) I'm happier with the Ortliebs.

    Caveat: I haven't had a lot of rain or wet clothes since I bought the Ortliebs. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. (Maybe?)

  12. #12
    BWF
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    My 4 Ortliebs needed replacing, so I just recently bought Arkel GT-18's in the front and the Tailrider rack top bag in the back. I never had any complaints with the Ortliebs, but right off I like the packability of the Arkels much better. I also like downsizing so far from the 4 bags to 3 bags. I only have 2,900 cubic inches with the new system, but that seems to be enough for my self contained camping. I don't expect waterproofness to be an issue either way.

  13. #13
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    I've tried the panniers with rain covers option in the past and found it to be as good as useless in anything other than light drizzle. The water collects inside the bottom of the covers, effectively soaking anything sitting in the bottom of the panniers (and continuing to do so after the rain has stopped). I've now switched to using 'dry bags' inside the panniers and so far that's worked the best of all of the options. It not only keeps things dry (I tested it by commuting in a downpour that dumped 20 inches of rain in 12 hours a couple of years ago), but also allows you to separate wet things (such as the clothes you wore in yesterday's downpour) from the things you want to keep dry inside your panniers.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris L View Post
    The water collects inside the bottom of the covers, effectively soaking anything sitting in the bottom of the panniers (and continuing to do so after the rain has stopped).
    Good info. I will punch a few holes in the bottom of my rain covers to take care of that.
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    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    What about cutting a slit in the bottom and adding a flap of sorts so it'll let the water out but still prevent water from getting in (from splashing)?

    A.

  16. #16
    the bike made me do it oneredstar's Avatar
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    I use both. My front set are completely waterproof, and my back set are not. I keep my dry, clean clothes, as well as other essential items that must remain dry in the waterproof ones. All my dirty clothes and hammock go in the non-waterproof bags.

    Waterproof bags can get really gross and smelly once you put your dirty cloths and stuff in them.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kazer View Post
    Just buy Ortlieb panniers and never think about this question again. Seriously, you'll be glad you did.
    Not everybody is made of money or wants to carry 4 lbs worth of containers. Rain covers are lacking too though. Like others have said, if they go over the outside of your bag, you still get spray off of your wheels hitting the inside and dripping down to the bottom. I had to use a pocket knife to slice holes in my MEC covers. Don't know why they don't come with holes in them.

  18. #18
    Senior Member jjciiijs's Avatar
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    Some great info. I know nothing about "Ortliebs", so I will have to look into them.

    Yes, I have had the problems stated about covers. Rain collecting, backs getting wheel water.
    And yes, I have had heat collect in water proof ones.

    However, I can:
    Use water proof ones & regular ones.
    Put holes in the bottm of the covers
    Live with dirty panniers

    Just ride with baggies

    Thanks for all the info. I am now thinking of waterproof ones and a mesh duffle on top. Or a mix of bags
    Jeff
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  19. #19
    Senior Member jjciiijs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    Sub Lone Peak for Ortlieb. Check link for reason.

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p...id=115513&v=9m
    VERY interesting. This makes me think twice and now question the product all together.
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  20. #20
    Crazyguyonabike
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    The Arkel rain covers come with a grommeted hole in the bottom, so that water doesn't collect.

    I've agonized too over the whole waterproof vs non-waterproof debate. Arkel has an essay on this:

    http://www.arkel-od.com/us/choose-03-waterproof

    Personally, for me the jury is still out. I've used Ortliebs for years, but Erin and Sam's review of the Ortliebs gave me some pause:

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/revie...sage_id=127860

    And I have to say their review of the Lone Peak mounting system makes sense too:

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/revie...sage_id=127862

    So I can see both viewpoints here - it just depends on what you want to focus on.

    If I put my Ortlieb hat on, then I could argue that people travel all over the world with these bags all the time and you don't hear that many horror stories about failures. Also, they are simple and if you set them up with some thought, so that they fit snugly on the rack, maybe add a couple of extra hooks for strength, then you'll probably be fine. Erin and Sam really are pushing all their equipment to the limit, theirs is a fairly extreme tour after all. The convenience of not having to pull over and try to decide whether it's raining hard enough to put on rain covers is a pretty strong argument in their favor. And people who talk about "swamp bag" (i.e. wet stuff making everything else in the bag wet and promoting mold and mildew due to the fact that vapor can't escape) often seem like they are overstating their case, given that plenty of people use Ortliebs in varied conditions without any issues - just be careful not to stick your wet clothes in there for days on end and you'll probably be fine.

    But then if I put my non-waterproof pannier hat on (Lone Peak, Arkel et al) then I would argue that Arkel has a point - if the pannier's outer skin is your main waterproof barrier, then you're pretty much asking for trouble, since it's fairly inevitable that this will eventually become compromised in some way (as Sam and Erin have discovered, and it's happened to me too on my Plus Rollers - torn by a dog attack in Kentucky, and then more little pinholes appeared since). So if that happens, you're left with the worst aspects of a plastic bag - water can get in, but it collects in a pool inside because it has nowhere to go. So then in order to protect against this, especially on a longer tour, you really have to put all your sensitive gear in waterproof stuff sacks anyway - in which case, why not just go with a bag that has more accessibility and pockets etc, rather than trying to have the "invulnerable outer skin" that Ortlieb tries for. There's certainly a case to be made for saying that it's best for the outer shell of the pannier to just be a tough cordura that can get scuffed without it affecting waterproofness. Basically, Ortlieb depends on the bag remaining perfect, and that is unlikely over time. Another factor is the non-elasticity of the Ortlieb mounting system - you hear occasionally about that little plastic hook breaking off or coming off the rack strut. This might happen in part because the system doesn't have any stretch built in. With the elastic bungee on the Lone Peaks and Arkels, the bag can move a little rather than suddenly snap.

    So it really depends on what you want to focus on... do you want total waterproofness (which may or may not last)? Then Ortlieb. Or do you want accessibility and reliability (but requires rain covers from day one)? Then Lone Peak or Arkel or any of the other non-waterproof bags out there.

    I like aspects so far of both my Ortliebs and the Arkels which I recently got (GT54 and GT18, and the Big Bar Bag). The Ortliebs always seemed pretty solid until I saw the mounting hardware on the Arkels - all aluminum seems much more solid than the plastic. However, neither is perfect - the Ortliebs need the little plastic snap-in pieces to make them fit racks like the Tubus, and these pieces always seem to want to fall out. And I don't like the way the lower hook has to bend when it's jammed onto the larger tubing of the Tubus Tara. On the other hand the new Cam Lock system on the Arkels looks good in theory, but in practice the rotation of the cam lock means you can't place the hooks right next to a vertical strut on the rack - the outer side of the cam lock needs space to rotate outward. This means you might have to move the hooks inward perhaps more than it seems should be necessary. Also, the Arkels are pretty heavy and complex - though they are, it has to be said, very strong, obviously built to last - being hand made in Canada, you'd expect no less. Arkel make beautiful, highly functional bags. However I might try out the Lone Peaks at some point, because they are lighter and simpler; though people generally seem to regard them as "mid range" panniers, Erin and Sam seem to be showing that they can take a beating and keep on ticking.

    I'm currently veering toward the non-waterproof philosophy, because it just makes logical sense to me that the outer skin of the bag is eventually going to get compromised in some way. With a non-waterproof bag the integrity is not so important; a tiny hole here or there doesn't matter much. But for Ortliebs, they are really depending on remaining effectively a "perfect system", and that just ain't gonna happen - especially on a longer. Things wear, tears happen, pinholes happen.

    I think many people simply never really put their bags through all that much hardship - they tour once or twice every year or two (or less), maybe commute a bit, but they then talk about how they have lasted for 10 years, but in fact during that time the bags had a fairly easy time of it. My gut tells me that most panniers spend most of their lives sitting in a box in the garage. I know that's the case with my Ortliebs - I really only did one long tour with the Plus Rollers, back in 1998, and another short tour across Minnesota in 2003 and a bit of winter commuting in St Louis. But when I sent my bags to Ortlieb USA in 2008, to repair the hole caused by the dog back in 1998, they told me about a number of additional pinholes in the bag which I hadn't been aware of. Apparently the bag was pretty much unrepairable because of the messy job I had done with the goop during my roadside repair. Apparently it's very difficult to get that glue-like stuff off again. So repairability would seem to be a potential issue, if you need to maintain that nice 100% waterproofness over the longer term.

    On the other hand, a new set of Ortliebs will probably remain waterproof for a good long while for the sort of touring that most of us do - and it sure is nice to be cycling along and a storm comes up, and you don't have to ponder whether the rain looks like it's going to go on long or hard enough to warrant stopping to put on rain covers. Whether that turns out to be a deal breaker or not really depends on how much rain you get, I guess. If it's a lot, then you might just leave the covers on - and there's a benefit there, which is that the covers protect the bags from road muck. But overall, I think I prefer a system that doesn't depend on 100% perfection for the outer shell. Most of the time, hopefully it isn't raining - if it is, then the tour is going to be pretty miserable regardless of what panniers you are carrying, and stuff will probably get wet inside regardless (assuming you have to occasionally stop and open the panniers to get at stuff, in the rain water WILL get inside the bags, but it won't dry out easily if the bags are waterproof).

    Neil

  21. #21
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    I don't know how hard it is to get replacement parts for the others... but the Orliebs I can get every part in very little time. Stuff will break and if that is going to happen at some point I want to be able to fix the problem and continue on.

    With the Orliebs... I can only see really two failure points... the hooks on top and the hook below. Throw one of each in the saddle bag and ride worry free.

    Everything is a compromise.... My number one important requirement is that my stuff stay dry. I have never had anything get wet in an orlieb. They also make great ice buckets/coolers on a hot day sitting around a campfire wet stuff goes outside the bags or in a ziplock storage bag.

    To me it really boils down to................ Do you like pockets and compartments or do you like simple?

    This is like asking someone about helmets
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    I prefer my Carradice super C panniers to the ortlieb roller/packer set I used to own. The super C bags are waxed canvas, and are 'waterproof enough' - meaning my stuff never really got wet with them, but they are not drybags. I put my down bag into a stuffsack, and its never been an issue, even in long rainy days. I recently crossed some streams with them, and the bottom was submerged in the water, but it didnt get into the inside.

    they are lighter than ortliebs, and made of more durable materials.. particularly the metal mounting rails.

    just another option....

  23. #23
    BWF
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    Neil, are you just relying on the internal water proof liner bag for waterproofness on your Arkels or are you also using rain covers?

  24. #24
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I guess when my Ortliebs start leaking, I'll just get some raincovers

  25. #25
    Crazyguyonabike
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    Quote Originally Posted by BWF View Post
    Neil, are you just relying on the internal water proof liner bag for waterproofness on your Arkels or are you also using rain covers?
    I haven't taken the Arkels on a proper tour yet. I have the rain covers as well, so I'd probably use those in any sort of heavy rain. They would keep the bags cleaner, and since they are bright yellow they might also add some visibility. I'll probably use the inner liner, it looks convenient, and I'll probably also take dry bags, and just play it by ear. I'm not sure what would go in the outer pockets yet, so that stuff would either have to be not bothered by water, or else be inside ziplock bags. There's a whole "getting to know you" thing I have to go through here with the Arkels, which I won't really grok until I go on tour for real. Not sure when that'll be, got a lot of work to do, but I'm hoping to maybe do an overnighter out to the Lost Coast sometime.

    Neil

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