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  1. #1
    Senior Member thesearethesuns's Avatar
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    Panniers--Minimum Size Rear Panniers for a Cross Country Tour

    Hey all,

    I'm looking into buying a proper set of panniers that can handle a cross country tour. I am trying to keep costs down, and figure that one set of waterproof panniers for my front, low-riding rack (to keep clothes in, or anything else that can't get wet), and two larger water-resistant packs for the rear (to pack everything else excluding space for a small tent, sleeping bag, and ground mat which will sit on the rear rack) should be sufficient.

    Any thoughts on that?

    Also, what size panniers should I be looking for? I don't intend to overpack, but I would like to have some extra room if I had to pick up supplies/gear along the way.
    I would like to know the minimum volume in cubic inches/centimeters I should most likely seek out for the larger panniers based on other people's cross country, or extended touring experience.

    Thanks for any help.
    "Wheels on fire, rolling down the road..."

  2. #2
    the bike made me do it oneredstar's Avatar
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    I have biked long distance trips and my experience is 50 litres total. 30 litres on the back and 20 on the front. I have also ridden with 45 on the back and nothing on the front. It is all about how light you can pack. Some would need more, some would need less. My experience is with tent, sleeping bag, and camping stuffs.

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    I've found the Nashbar 'Waterproof' rear panniers to have sufficient space - they're about 2200 in^3. I just use those and a small handlebar bag. Usually everything fits inside, but if I want to carry more food and water on some stretch then I put the tent and sleeping pad on top of the rack so I free up more space in the panniers.

  4. #4
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    It depends on how and what you pack. We found that the Nashbar (or Performance) waterproofs were adequate in size and they worked out well for us. They are inexpensive and I have found them pretty durable. I like the one big compartment approach and tend to do any organizing via ziplocs or stuffsacks.

    You might find them too small if you pack a lot of bulky stuff, don't compress anything, and insist on everything going inside the panniers. Volume wise I could get everything in inside, but I think that tents belong on top of the rear rack anyway. I do carry a small volume sleeping pad though (size medium NeoAir). A bulky pad will eat up some additional pannier space unless you carry it on top of the rack. As it is I have lots of space for extra food or water when I need it and could fit a bigger pad like a prolite if I wanted to.

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    Gather your stuff, pack it in carboad boxes roughly the size of the pannniers you are considering, buy larger or smaller panniers depending. I would suggest sealling everything in a plastic bag, dunking it in a full trash can of water, then measuring the amount of water your stuff displaced, but that might be kinda extreme.

    Make sure that you have enough extra volume for food and water. Oh, and consider first going with a saddlebag / frame bag / handlebar bag combo so you can avoid the weight racks.

  6. #6
    imi
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    As it is I have lots of space for extra food or water when I need it
    +1 food has a tendency to take up more space than pre-trip planning allows for ime

    ... though tying on plastic bags full of tortillas and bananas is a tried and trusted method

  7. #7
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    I prefer keeping my food up front and clothing/stuff i use in camp in the rear. During the day I want quick access to my food and don't really need much of the clothing and camping stuff. With a bunch of stuff strapped to the top of the rear rack it makes getting in the rear bags a bit more difficult.

    Will you be traveling in bear country?
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Will you be traveling in bear country?
    consider that if your bags even smell from having had food in them.
    the bear's nose will lead it to investigate with its claws
    Like-wise the tent .

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    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    ^ Yeah, this is an issue for me sometimes because I use my rear bags around town, sometimes to get food or other smelly things. Then I use those same bags for touring in bear country (with clothing/camping gear in them). Hopefully a thorough washing takes care of the smells...
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Would suggest you plan your pannier space for winter touring needs, just in case.

    I have Axiom bags, 27 L and 30 L. Use rain covers as needed, which is rare. Never run out of space, but they do occasionally get pretty full, even with the sleeping bag and pad in a rack pack, and a solo tent. Without water and food, packed weight for all is about 30 lbs summer, 35 winter.

    I started with smaller, but like the larger better 'cause of the room for extras as needed or desired.

    Kitchen, food, etc in front, fabric stuff in rear. About a 40/60 weight distribution.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member thesearethesuns's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by imi View Post
    +1 food has a tendency to take up more space than pre-trip planning allows for ime

    ... though tying on plastic bags full of tortillas and bananas is a tried and trusted method
    I would love to see pictures!


    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I like the one big compartment approach and tend to do any organizing via ziplocs or stuffsacks.
    Yeah, I have the same approach when it comes from backpacking. If I have the right size vessel, I can sort out how to place stuff after the fact. I plan on using a lot of Ziploc-style bags of varying sizes.



    Quote Originally Posted by zoltani View Post
    ^ Yeah, this is an issue for me sometimes because I use my rear bags around town, sometimes to get food or other smelly things. Then I use those same bags for touring in bear country (with clothing/camping gear in them). Hopefully a thorough washing takes care of the smells...
    Do any of you use the bear barrels? They would seem to take up a lot of space in the panniers.
    "Wheels on fire, rolling down the road..."

  12. #12
    It's true, man.
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    I packed light and got by with 2 Ortlieb Backrollers and a handlebar bag

  13. #13
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    Yeah, two rear bags is definitely doable, though I hate the way the bike handles with all the weight on the rear.

    I've never taken a bear container because so far I've mostly been in developed campground, and where there were bear issues they had bear proof containers to put food in.
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    My rear panniers hold 46 litres for the pair and are waterproof. Normally, that's plenty of space. The front panniers are 20 litres for the pair.

    The issue is not as much the bulk of the gear as the weight. Some of the cold weather gear and wet weather gear I've needed doesn't pack down all that small, but it's relatively light. Food tends to pack heavy even though it's often compact.
    Life is good.

  15. #15
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    4 front panniers , like front rollers and a Rack pack bag to go on top of the rack
    the panniers have the same clip as ones on the bag so they clip together ,
    Bag a-thwart-ship, (Crosswise)

  16. #16
    Senior Member jr59's Avatar
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    I need a pic of a bear chasing a biker because of his panniers!

    Epic!
    Gravity hates us all, but it hates me more than thin people!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by thesearethesuns View Post
    Hey all,

    I'm looking into buying a proper set of panniers that can handle a cross country tour. I am trying to keep costs down, and figure that one set of waterproof panniers for my front, low-riding rack (to keep clothes in, or anything else that can't get wet), and two larger water-resistant packs for the rear (to pack everything else excluding space for a small tent, sleeping bag, and ground mat which will sit on the rear rack) should be sufficient.

    Any thoughts on that?

    .
    sure, put the same size on the rear as the front. Why waterproof in the front but not the back? Why get big panniers?

  18. #18
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I need a pic of a bear chasing a biker because of his panniers!
    Even they know> you have to sleep, sometimes<, and then they can snack.

  19. #19
    Senior Member thesearethesuns's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    sure, put the same size on the rear as the front. Why waterproof in the front but not the back? Why get big panniers?
    I believe I'd buy one waterproof set for the front because, as I wrote, they will be riding low, so since they'll have closer contact to the occasional wet street surface, puddles--it seems like a reasonable solution if I could only get away with shelling out for one set. I figure that I can always drape a poncho secured with bungee cords over the rear rack to cover my rear panniers, sleeping bag, and so on if it rains.

    Why do you think all the panniers should be equal in size? Isn't it more about weight distribution? For example, if I had larger panniers in the back for certain bulky items that were not as heavy as say food, or certain articles of clothing in the back panniers with having volume, and had the heavy items with less bulk like bags of nuts and protein bars in the front panniers, then what difference would it make?
    Last edited by thesearethesuns; 06-14-11 at 07:37 PM.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member thesearethesuns's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    Would suggest you plan your pannier space for winter touring needs, just in case.

    I have Axiom bags, 27 L and 30 L. Use rain covers as needed, which is rare. Never run out of space, but they do occasionally get pretty full, even with the sleeping bag and pad in a rack pack, and a solo tent. Without water and food, packed weight for all is about 30 lbs summer, 35 winter.

    I started with smaller, but like the larger better 'cause of the room for extras as needed or desired.

    Kitchen, food, etc in front, fabric stuff in rear. About a 40/60 weight distribution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
    My rear panniers hold 46 litres for the pair and are waterproof. Normally, that's plenty of space. The front panniers are 20 litres for the pair.

    The issue is not as much the bulk of the gear as the weight. Some of the cold weather gear and wet weather gear I've needed doesn't pack down all that small, but it's relatively light. Food tends to pack heavy even though it's often compact.

    Cool--these both seem like good guides from which I will cherry pick from. So, minimum front looks like 20l, or maybe a little larger. I can't imagine that a 40l set would fit nice on my Axiom Journey low rider front rack.

    I would like to get panniers compatible with my front rack, since I already have that, and because I hear that there are less issues with panniers slipping off if they are secured to a proprietary rack. I was thinking about getting a set of waterproof Axioms for the front rack, like the Monsoon model.

    As for the rear, I'm leaning towards 40l's panniers (I still have to get a rear rack), without intending to fill them to the brim just yet, if only to have the extra bubble of space in case I will need that room. I will lay out my gear over the next few days, get a visual, and figure it out from there before making a final decision. Thanks everyone for all the great input on this thread!
    Last edited by thesearethesuns; 06-15-11 at 09:21 AM.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thesearethesuns View Post
    Do any of you use the bear barrels? They would seem to take up a lot of space in the panniers.
    I would find the weight to be a bigger issue than the volume. It does make a nice seat in camp though.

    I use one when backpacking sometimes, but have not used it on a bike tour. I doubt that I will unless I go somewhere other than the lower 48 or maybe do an off road tour. Then I might or might not take it.

    I have the Garcia and they sell a cover for it that would make it easier to strap on top if the rear rack. If I ever decide to carry it on a bike tour that is what I will probably do. That is what the one bike tourist that I saw carrying a bear canister did.

    On the TA and our other tours we found that in general the places where the bears are especially problematic they have bear boxes. In places where there are bears but no bear boxes hanging food is typically adequate. In places like Yosemite, Sequoia, and so on a bear barrel is required unless you use the bear boxes. Those places I typically stay in campsites that have bear boxes, but they tend to rent bear barrels there if you need them.

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