I know panniers have been discussed in depth here, and I intend to dig deep and do my research within the forum archives, but I'm going to be purchasing a new set within the next month or two and I want to make sure I have up-to-the-minute information.
My rear rack is an Avenir, 12" long and about 6" wide with good, strong supports mounted to the rear wheel cutout. I've been using a single nylon pannier (a no-name prototype that was given to me years ago by a distributor) for my one/two-day tours and daily commute, but now I want something a little more durable, functional, and water-resistant. I'd also like a set that I can remove from the rack and fling over my shoulder easily.
The jury is still out on whether I need one - or two - bags, but I know that I'd like a little more space for a pair of shoes and maybe a laptop when I'm on an overnight trip. For commuting, I'd like small compartments for my cell phone, my wallet, my work keys, and other junk. A thermal pocket for lunch wouldn't hurt, either.
I just got a pretty big chunk of change as a "group" 50th birthday present, so I can go $2-300, although I'm not used to spending that kind of money on biking gear. The point is, the money was given to me for the sole purpose of paying for panniers, so I sort of need to spend at least a good part of it on them!
So, without getting too crazy here, who can suggest a brand and/or model that they have been REALLY happy with? Please keep in mind the specs I provided above. Thanks!