Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Commuting
Reload this Page >

Backpack vs. pannier or trunk

Notices
Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

Backpack vs. pannier or trunk

Old 10-18-16, 10:36 PM
  #1  
Junior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 10
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Backpack vs. pannier or trunk

I've read the thread "double pannier, single pannier, or trunk" with great interest. However, I would like to get discussion about using a backpack vs. any of them. What are the pros and cons? Should I just go with a pannier(s) or a trunk?

Pros for backpack over other options (that I can think of):
  • Can carry a ton of stuff
  • Has lots of compartments for stuff
  • Easily portable when finished with ride
  • I already have and am using a backpack, therefore I could theoretically save the money I would spend on a pannier/trunk system
  • Is waterproof when I put on my rain slick over it

Cons for backpacks:
  • Makes my back hot and sweaty on a ride to work
  • Wondering if a loaded backpack contributes to achy lower back during the ride
  • Has me carrying the weight instead of hauling it on the bike

What do you think? Should I just stick with a backpack? If you switched from a backpack to a different gear hauling system, why did you and why is it better/not better for you now?

Thanks!

Brad
bw00ds is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 10:48 PM
  #2  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Bay Area, Calif.
Posts: 7,239
Likes: 0
Liked 7 Times in 6 Posts
Personally I found backpacks to be terribly uncomfortable and leading to backaches and other issues. Generally they're designed for a very upright posture and when used on a bike they exert much more pressure on my upper back than when I'm walking.

If you and your back are happy with your current backpack you may as well use it - but it didn't work for me. Of your listed pros for backpacks, the only one that holds true for me is the ease of carrying while off the bike. The other items seem just as applicable to my panniers.
prathmann is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 12:00 AM
  #3  
Full Member
 
Double0757's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: West Palm Beach, Florida
Posts: 263

Bikes: 1984 Cannodale full touring bike, Giant full carbon dura ace, Belinsky frame Tandem

Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
For me it depend how much weight I carry and the weather. In south Florida, more than 20 min with a backpack in the summer time and you would know why I went to panniers and trunk system. Going to say this one more time, the ortlieb panniers and trunk are worth every penny. Believe me, save your money and buy one of you ever decide to go this route. I went trough 3 different trunks and 3 panniers before I bought ortlieb's. The Cannondales where the better ones and used them for a long time, and if I didn't know better I would have recommended them.

When I got the ortlieb trunk, I was so impressed, that shortly after I got the panniers. This system is so versatile, that I use it on my two bikes. I got the front panniers that I carry on the rear rack, on both the gravel grinder/commuter and the road racing/alternate commuter with no heel strikes.

Change of socks and underware, take trunk only. Fast and fun ride. Need change of shirt, breakfast and rain gear, take one panniers and the trunk. Need full change of cloth, some lunch, I pad, and others, take all three. Need to get on and off the train, the system allows for ultra fast on and off the rack in seconds, if not in milliseconds. Need to carry the stuff walking in the mall, I securely lock the trunk to the rack and take the pannier with me on the back pack system you can buy for them. No more sweaty hot back or computer poking your skin. It has made child play of transporting stuff to from work.

Recently went on a 4 day tour and that's all I took, 2 front panniers, carried on the rear rack, and the trunk. No tent or sleeping bag, but I had space for more if I needed to.

Back pack I used for almost a year in south Florida, and the months that are cool here ( Jan, Feb) if the load is light and soft it's not bad or that uncomfortable. You start adding computers and lunch and others and before you know it it's close to 20 lb on your back, making you more cautious on the turns, ending with a hot back and a very unpleasant long ride.

That's my 2 cents!


Double O
Double0757 is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 01:47 AM
  #4  
Junior Member
 
langdon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: 312
Posts: 18
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
My commute is under 4 city miles so a backpack is fine.
I carry my laptop and some clothes so weight is minimal. My North Face backpack also has one of those air channels built into the frame so i do get some level of ventilation between me and the pack.

Additionally how the pack is fitted to your body matters... not all backpacks are going to give you the same support and comfort level. You may even need a waist strap on your pack to offset the strain on your shoulders.



Distance and weight of what you carry are factors that need to be taken into consideration.

Last edited by langdon; 10-19-16 at 01:51 AM.
langdon is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 02:19 AM
  #5  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 3,809

Bikes: Too many bikes, too little time to ride

Liked 516 Times in 352 Posts
Short trips on a cruiser/townie type of bike, a backpack is fine. If covering long distances, I'd prefer to not have any weight on me. I think a trunk would be great for smaller loads but I've never tried one because my rear rack is too narrow (Axiom Streamliner), so I take single pannier for small loads and double for larger loads.
tFUnK is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 02:48 AM
  #6  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 297
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
The pros of backpacks are many, but as you've pointed out, the downside is bearing weight on your back and getting a sweaty back. My solution has been to attach a box to my bike that is large enough to hold a waterproof backpack. Using this solution I've seen no need to purchase panniers even after living in the rainy Pacific Northwest for a couple years. I love being able to wear the backpack while shopping or if I feel like walking at any time.

Here's the bad news: The box I purchased appears to no longer be available commercially. It's called the Donkey Boxx.

The good news: There are other baskets that are large enough to carry a loaded backpack, but I recommend making sure of this before committing to a purchase. One option is using a large milk crate and putting it on the rear rack. I initially wanted to do this but I opted not to because this makes mounting the bicycle difficult. I have spoken to a couple people who strap their backpacks to a front rack, known as a Porter Rack. This will make the bike a bit wobbly, especially if the backpack is loaded, but it's one option. Best of luck.

CompleteStreets is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 03:02 AM
  #7  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 297
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Here's another angle, showing my bulky waterproof Chrome backpack. It just barely fits in the Donkey Boxx when loaded with textbooks, food, rain gear and everything else I need to carry. And having a permanently affixed basket is great for impromptu shopping.





Whenever I can't fit the backpack in the Donkey Boxx, I put some stuff in the box and put the rest in the backpack and just wear the backpack. But 90% of the time my backpack fits in the box.
CompleteStreets is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 04:12 AM
  #8  
Senior Member
 
PedalingWalrus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: Maine, USA
Posts: 1,612

Bikes: Corvid Sojourner, Surly Ice Cream Truck, Co-Motion Divide, Co-Motion Java Tandem, Salsa Warbird, Salsa Beargrease, Carver Tandem

Liked 436 Times in 227 Posts
I started with panniers, went to frame bag and now I just wear a hip pack. Over time I learned how to leave stuff at work during non bike days.
PedalingWalrus is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 05:05 AM
  #9  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Vancouver, BC
Posts: 9,201
Liked 289 Times in 177 Posts
I have a 60km RT commute and use a backpack. It's convenient and relatively aero which is important for longer distances. I think it weighs 5-15lbs depending on what I'm carrying. I lug around some stuff (toolkit, spare lights etc) that I rarely use and use it mostly for food and clothes.

I don't get a sore back but I do get a sweaty one. I sometimes bring a few days worth of lunches and then leave the pack at work. I still get sweaty so I'm not sure it makes much of a difference.

I have considered getting a rack and strapping the pack to the back. My only concern is I have several sections where there are some sharp bumps on the path. I normally bunny hop over these and not sure how well that would work with an extra 10lbs on the bike. I don't take my computer often but think it would be better off on my back.
gregf83 is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 05:30 AM
  #10  
rhm
multimodal commuter
 
rhm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: NJ, NYC, LI
Posts: 19,809

Bikes: 1940s Fothergill, 1959 Allegro Special, 1963? Claud Butler Olympic Sprint, Lambert 'Clubman', 1974 Fuji "the Ace", 1976 Holdsworth 650b conversion rando bike, 1983 Trek 720 tourer, 1984 Counterpoint Opus II, 1993 Basso Gap, 2010 Downtube 8h, and...

Liked 575 Times in 340 Posts
You have to figure it out for yourself.

I started out with panniers. Then for a while i was strapping my briefcase to the top of the rack. When I started riding a folding bike I moved to a messenger bag, and have stuck with that for ten years or so, even though I don't usually ride the folding bike now.
__________________
www.rhmsaddles.com.
rhm is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 05:44 AM
  #11  
Hack
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 1,300

Bikes: TrueNorth CX bike, 88 Bianchi Strada (currently Sturmey'd), Yess World Cup race BMX, Pure Cruiser race BMX, RSD Mayor v3 Fatbike

Liked 206 Times in 142 Posts
Originally Posted by bw00ds
I've read the thread "double pannier, single pannier, or trunk" with great interest. However, I would like to get discussion about using a backpack vs. any of them. What are the pros and cons? Should I just go with a pannier(s) or a trunk?

Pros for backpack over other options (that I can think of):
  • Can carry a ton of stuff
  • Has lots of compartments for stuff
  • Easily portable when finished with ride
  • I already have and am using a backpack, therefore I could theoretically save the money I would spend on a pannier/trunk system
  • Is waterproof when I put on my rain slick over it

Cons for backpacks:
  • Makes my back hot and sweaty on a ride to work
  • Wondering if a loaded backpack contributes to achy lower back during the ride
  • Has me carrying the weight instead of hauling it on the bike

What do you think? Should I just stick with a backpack? If you switched from a backpack to a different gear hauling system, why did you and why is it better/not better for you now?

Thanks!

Brad
Most of the pros for backpack are for the specific bag - some trunk bags and panniers can fit a ton of stuff, have lots of pockets and are easily portable. The Nashbar Euro ones I've got have two small outside pockets for stuff like building pass, lock, etc, and have a hide-away rain cover. $29.99 for the pair of them.

I also have a second set of bags (voyager?), a trunk bag ($5 on kijiji) and a nashbar garment bag (probably would go for the two wheel gear version if I were to do it over again, but it's a lot more expensive)

BTW, I use a backpack to carry most of the same stuff when I run to work instead of biking, and when I ride a bike I don't have a rack on. No big issues with pain or carrying the weight, but I enjoy my ride more with panniers/trunk bag. Especially in sweat weather.
Viich is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 06:59 AM
  #12  
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 28

Bikes: Surly Straggler, Cannondale CAAD9, Trek 7200 Hybrid

Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I've done both...and prefer the panniers. Actually a lot of what you list for pros for backpacks apply to panniers. They do cost, but a quality set will serve you a long time. I use Ortliebs. They are made to easily disconnect from the rack and have a shoulder strap for portability, are waterproof, have compartments...as to capacity, panniers come in different sizes, and two large ones will beat the capacity of a typical day-pack.

Cost is probably the only advantage to a backpack, given that you have one you like.
rdrummond is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 07:22 AM
  #13  
Senior Member
 
locolobo13's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Phx, AZ
Posts: 2,134

Bikes: Trek Mtn Bike

Liked 2,762 Times in 996 Posts
For me, commuting, backpack. That's because I stop in the morning at a McDs at a bad location. I've come out several times and found someone going over my bicycle. Even though it is parked where I can watch it thru the window as I stand in line.


Of course you could carry your panniers around with you. I prefer to leave them on the bike myself. Each of us will have good reasons for doing the commute "our" way. You have to see what works best for you.
locolobo13 is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 07:42 AM
  #14  
Senior Member
 
BobbyG's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Posts: 6,021

Bikes: 2015 Charge Plug, 2007 Dahon Boardwalk, 1997 Nishiki Blazer, 1984 Nishiki International, 2006 Felt F65, 1989 Dahon Getaway V

Liked 1,720 Times in 850 Posts
I have been using a backpack with a rack for 30 years, the last 25 as a regular bike commuter. What really made it work for me was the bungee arrangement I worked out 22 years ago. I had been laying the bag down on its back and wrapping a bungie around it. But that took time and effort. One day I figured out that if I ran the bungies from the seat rails to the back of the rack I could just spread them and slid the bag in upright. The bungies press the bag against the seatback and provide lateral support. With 26" wheels this works great. This arrangement provides a very quick on and off and is more secure than you'd think. Somewhere I have a video of me punching the bag and shaking the bike trying to make it fall off, which it never does.

When I aquired an old roadbike I just wore the backpack. At first it was uncomfortable and tight, but I experimented and found that if I let the straps out all the way and let the bag rest on the small of my back it puts less stress on my shoulders, and allows air to flow on my back. THe front of my shoulders get a little sweatier in hot weather, but not so much my back. I don't know how the bag stays secure, but it does and doesn't sway like you'd think. I don't think this loose-lowback method would work with a more upright riding styles and of course your personal geometry and comfort will vary.

Last year I bought a new 700c bike for commuting. The seat doesn't rise as far above the rack as on the 26" bike, but my seat-rail to rack-end bungie method still works. My current backpack has grommets on the side, so I added a couple of D-Clips and snap the bungees into them for added security. This adds two seconds to mounting the backpack, and four to dismounting. Once in a while I'll get to the end of a commute to find I've forgotten to use the D-clips and there were no problems.

What I like about using a backpack on the back-rack is that it doesn't add width to the bike. On my old commuter when I deploy the folding baskets I have to be aware of the extra width, but it's really only an issue with doorways. I also like having my hands free when I wear the backpack into a store without carts, or walking to and from the bikes in my shed, and at the office.

Also, on the new commuter I held off putting on folding baskets. On a couple of occasions where I received a package at the office I just strapped that tp the rack and wore the backpack.

This is what works for me, as always, YMMV.

(found the punching video)

Also here is how I wear the backpack low:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg
14768823437140.jpg (97.6 KB, 267 views)
File Type: jpg
14768823442071.jpg (101.3 KB, 263 views)
BobbyG is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 08:05 AM
  #15  
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 31

Bikes: 2009 Spooky Skeletor, 2017 Specialized Sequoia, 2013 Surly Cross Check

Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Currently using a Chrome messenger bag for school books and a pannier to carry anything else like locks, change of clothes/shoes, or groceries I may pick up on the way home. Strongly considering going to a convertible pannier/backpack for the Spring semester like the North St. Bags Woodward or Morrison.
theVelvetLie is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 08:07 AM
  #16  
Mostly harmless ™
 
Bike Gremlin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Novi Sad
Posts: 4,432

Bikes: Heavy, with friction shifters

Liked 219 Times in 132 Posts
90% of the time I put backpack on the rear rack. More aero than panniers, as well as more convenient when off the bike.

I carry panniers when I need more luggage space, or when it's heavily raining, since they're also waterproof.

Backpack on the back - heavy, sweaty - all wrong IMO.
Bike Gremlin is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 08:20 AM
  #17  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Mooresville, NC (Charlotte suburb)
Posts: 2,306

Bikes: Cannondale Synapse, Trek 5000 TCT, Giant OCR

Liked 22 Times in 18 Posts
I have a 13 mile commute which I feel is too long for a backpack - especially in the summer. I use a small seatpost-mounted trunk. I keep my pump in there and have my rear light attached to it. The rest of my stuff goes into a Target or other plastic grocery bag which then fits into the trunk. I leave jeans and shoes at work and just swap them out as needed, usually getting my wife to transport stuff if/when she is in the area. I also leave my cable lock outside at the office building. Then I only have to carry a shirt, other clothing necessities, wallet, work badge, phone, keys, and a few snacks.

I'm thinking of getting a slightly bigger trunk bag because sometimes it is a squeeze to fit it all, especially in winter where I may have layers to remove. I like the trunk because it seems to be the most aerodynamic and it serves as a rear fender in rain.

I'll use a small backpack once every couple of weeks to transport clothes or anything bigger. This isn't a great pic of the trunk, but it's what I had handy.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg
bike with trunk.jpg (103.2 KB, 524 views)

Last edited by mgw4jc; 10-19-16 at 08:28 AM.
mgw4jc is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 10:13 AM
  #18  
Senior Member
 
mcours2006's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Toronto, CANADA
Posts: 6,209

Bikes: ...a few.

Liked 410 Times in 236 Posts
I've got a 20km commute, but even if it were longer I'd still prefer a backpack. It just feels more nimble. I don't mind the weight, but it's never excessively heavy anyway.

I will use panniers only if I am shopping after work. It's never that enjoyable with this bike.
mcours2006 is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 10:35 AM
  #19  
GATC
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: south Puget Sound
Posts: 8,736
Liked 52 Times in 30 Posts
Depends on the bike. Panniers affect the handling less if they are weighted low and toward the center of the bike, and if I put a rack on my road bike the weight of the pannier will center behind the rear hub and the bike's handling gets wonky and not in a fun way. Backpack is the way to go there. Within the limitation that it has to be cycling-friendly, ie no internal frame and short enough to not impinge on my neck or butt. So I would say your huge capacity perceived benefit is a bit optimistic. With regard to your concerns:

a) sweaty back is trivial, and where I live it's not hot so it's only ever insulation.
b) I have a wonky back and backpack while riding is never an issue (riding in general is never an issue, it's only off the bike that I have problems)
c) since the capacity is limited, there is no real problem w/ me carrying the weight instead of the bike and for the roadbikes in particular it's better to have the weight on me than the bike anyway since I (think I) can lighten it up same as I (think I) lighten myself up for curb/bunny-hopping etc...

With a touring or cross bike w/ longer chainstays, can put the pannier(s) well in front of the rear hub and the handling of the bike ranges from not affected to actually improved.

ps-> I was a committed rack/pannier person until I tried a roadbike. Now I am a committed fun bike person, and equip it however it takes to maintain the fun.
HardyWeinberg is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 11:48 AM
  #20  
Senior Member
 
GeneO's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: midwest
Posts: 2,528

Bikes: 2018 Roubaix Expert Di2, 2016 Diverge Expert X1

Liked 151 Times in 105 Posts
I have a 32 mi RT commute and have used panniers and a backpack. I prefer the backpack.

One pro for backpack you didn't mention is you can use it on any bike, and all of your bikes, even ones that don't accommodate racks. You don't have the expense of a rack and panniers.

I have a mission workshop, which is waterproof. Sure my back sweats more, but I never to Tice it really. It is just more convenient to me.
GeneO is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 12:32 PM
  #21  
aka Tom Reingold
 
noglider's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: New York, NY, and High Falls, NY, USA
Posts: 40,788

Bikes: 1962 Rudge Sports, 1971 Raleigh Super Course, 1971 Raleigh Pro Track, 1974 Raleigh International, 1975 Viscount Fixie, 1982 McLean, 1996 Lemond (Ti), 2002 Burley Zydeco tandem

Liked 2,729 Times in 1,585 Posts
You've listed the pros and cons well.

Backpacks are very popular among bike commuters here in NYC and even more so with bike couriers, which are plentiful here. For the couriers, they save time. Another advantage is that when you use a backpack (or messenger bag), your cargo is sprung weight. If your bike is lightweight, this improves the ride. Attaching heavy cargo to a light bike makes the ride much worse. I have a lightweight fixed gear bike (about 22 lbs), and I decided to keep it without any cargo carrying ability.
__________________
Tom Reingold, tom@noglider.com
New York City and High Falls, NY
Blogs: The Experienced Cyclist; noglider's ride blog

“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments.” — Elizabeth West, US author

Please email me rather than PM'ing me. Thanks.
noglider is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 01:28 PM
  #22  
Senior Member
 
chas58's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Michigan
Posts: 4,863

Bikes: too many of all kinds

Liked 415 Times in 335 Posts
Originally Posted by rhm
You have to figure it out for yourself.

I started out with panniers. Then for a while i was strapping my briefcase to the top of the rack. When I started riding a folding bike I moved to a messenger bag, and have stuck with that for ten years or so, even though I don't usually ride the folding bike now.
+1

I had this dilemma for years. I would use panniers in hot weather and backpacks in cool weather.

Then I started using a messenger bag (with cross strap). Works better than either.
- Panniers increase wind drag - last thing I want on a windy day - and my commute is fast and long
- Panniers make the bike kind of clumsy handling (unsprung weight)
- backpacks put the weight too high, and cause too much sweat.

Messenger bag sits low on my pelvis, doesn't slow the bike handling down, doesn't cause sweat on my back, doesn't increase wind resistance, really has no down sides on my commute.
chas58 is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 02:31 PM
  #23  
Unlisted member
 
no motor?'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 6,192

Bikes: Specialized Hardrock

Liked 432 Times in 297 Posts
The backpack is narrower than a pannier and makes the bike easier to get in and out of buildings, up stairs etc... and it's got less wind resistance too.
no motor? is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 03:00 PM
  #24  
Senior Member
 
Abe_Froman's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Chicago
Posts: 2,524

Bikes: Marin Four Corners, 1960's Schwinn Racer in middle of restoration, mid 70s Motobecane Grand Touring, various other heaps.

Liked 57 Times in 51 Posts
Personally I've found I just don't enjoy riding more than a few miles with a backpack. Panniers, or at least a small handlebar bag for me. Besides...I'm typically not trying to set land speed records while trying to get to work.
Abe_Froman is offline  
Old 10-19-16, 03:08 PM
  #25  
Senior Member
 
mcours2006's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Toronto, CANADA
Posts: 6,209

Bikes: ...a few.

Liked 410 Times in 236 Posts
Originally Posted by Abe_Froman
Besides...I'm typically not trying to set land speed records while trying to get to work.
I hope I am able to achieve this level of enlightenment someday. But right now I can't just putter along at a leisurely pace. But that's just me, so hence my preference for a small backpack.
mcours2006 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Your Privacy Choices -

Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.