3 Pannier Bags to Commute Undefeated in the Rain

After all the reviews for bags you carry or your Brompton carries, we thought a round up of winter-proof regular panniers was called for.

Your chances of a wet commute have increased significantly now it is autumn, as is evidenced by the weather forecast for this week. With this in mind we decided to offer you three waterproof pannier options to get your bits to work in a suitable condition.

Panniers are great in the winter because it they stop you getting excessively soggy rucksack straps that you then have to wait hours for them to dry, or get a soggy suit. They are also great as they generally are empty cavities (one option below aside) so you can put a smart bag inside as well as clothes.

Ortlieb Commuter Bag 20l – £110.80

The Commuter bag from Ortlieb is somewhat of a splurge, but it will function quite well as a briefcase in most office environments.It has a padded laptop sleeve, organisation pockets for the little things like USB sticks, pens etc. There is a shoulder strap which can be tucked into the bag whilst it is on the bike. 

Ortlieb Commuter bag on bike

The bag has reflective patches on the side to help visibility on the way home. As part of the ‘Urban line’ the Commuter bag is made of a softer fabric than the standard Ortlieb line, but is still waterproof, adding to its ability to fit in in an office.  It might not replace the smartest non-bike briefcases around, but it is certainly one of the smartest waterproof panniers out there.

Available from Wiggle.

Vaude Cycle 28 – £76.49

The Cycle 28 is a convertible backpack/pannier. It has all the benefits of a rucksack, such as a laptop sleeve, external organisation pockets and helmet carrying capabilities. It also has full mounts to attach it to a rack, along with a rear cover to contain and protect the shoulder straps from the elements.

Vaude Cycle 28 red

If you have to travel around during the day without your bike then this bag probably provides the best off bike comfort. The Cycle will happily fit a 15″ laptop in a padded sleeve. At 28 liters there should be enough room for your office things, lunch and a waterproof/change of top. It is a slim bag, which is nice when traveling through traffic, but it might limit your ability to carry bulky clothing items or shoes.

The outside of the bag has some reflective areas which would increase side visibility when used as a pannier, or rear when on your back. It is water repellent on its own, but it does come with a rain cover for heavier rain.

Available at Evans Cycles

Ortlieb city back roller, single – £37.50

This is a traditional looking, if somewhat pared down, Ortlieb roll top pannier. The up shot of it being a little simpler than the classic style is its cost. At under £40 for a single 20 liter pannier, often all you need for commuting, this is a real bargain.

Ortlieb city pannier red

The bag is completely waterproof once rolled down and is simple enough that you can fit a sizable quantity of items inside. However, there is no internal organisation so you would need a bag inside if you want to keep your laptop and documents tidy.

The bag has reflective patches on the sides for extra visibility from the rear. Whilst it is not supplied with a shoulder strap, there are o-rings on the sides should you wish to add one. As a traditional pannier, it is not the easiest bag to carry around off the bike, so it is probably best suited for short carries to an office.

Available as a single pannier from Condor Cycles.

Review conclusions

Panniers are great if you have a long commute and don’t like things on your back. They work well in the summer to stop you getting sweaty, and they work well in the winter to stop waterproofs wetting out. There are many different types of panniers out there, so like purchasing any bag, it helps to make a list of the features you want and work from there.

If you are not used to a pannier then there are things to consider – for example, you will not fit through quite such small gaps in traffic and you might feel a little unbalanced at first. Your bike will also be heavier so if you have to carry it into buildings and up stairs, you might want to pick a bag that is easy to remove and carry separately.

Are you a big pannier fan, or a pannier detractor? What is your on-bike carrying weapon of choice and how did you pick it?

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26 Responses to 3 Pannier Bags to Commute Undefeated in the Rain

  1. Harry-H 21/09/2015 at 8:43 pm #

    Green Karrimor Silvaguard panniers bought in 1983. From when Karrimor made stuff to last a lifetime and still going strong. I replaced the thread-through buckles with quick releases, but only for convenience.

  2. Simon 21/09/2015 at 11:25 pm #

    Have a Carradice A4 and it’s splendid. Waterproof, bomb proof, light too. Just the right size for laptop and daily extras.

    British is a bonus also.

    • D. 22/09/2015 at 9:22 am #

      Seconded on the Carradice A4. Great bag, feels sturdy and old-fashioned (in a good way), and like it would last forever. Only downside is because it is ‘upright’ (taller than it is wide or deep) it is a bit of a black hole – you end up recognising your cargo by feel, because you can’t see it!

  3. Phil 22/09/2015 at 1:51 pm #

    ortlieb roll top for me. Had mine for over a year now. I love it for being able to stuff tons of stuff in it. I regularly put laptop, shoes, shirt, trousers, book in it with no problem.

    Completely waterproof. Survived this morning and last weeks tropical down pour without a drop.

    I honesty don’t even worry about it getting wet. Well worth it

  4. Marcelo Ramos 22/09/2015 at 11:46 pm #

    Altura Morph Versa, great looking and versatile. Not as waterproof as an Ortlieb but with the reflective cover provided helps.

  5. Tim 23/09/2015 at 10:59 am #

    It’s a shame because I like Carradice generally but I’ve found their Carradura panniers to be just awful. I’m onto my fourth, the first pair having broken (independently) and been replaced and one of the replacements having also now broken just from ordinary everyday use. I’ve had both the attachment fixings, a zip and a shoulder strap attachment loop break, and the design makes it easy to attach it so that the rack rubs a hole in the fabric – those are variously problems with design, manufacture and materials

  6. Alan Moore 23/09/2015 at 5:32 pm #

    I’ve been well served by a yellow Ortlieb rolltop – has to be waterproof, duh, and the attachment system is genius. I’m pleased to find that they are now selling them individually!

    If using one pannier, use it on the RIGHT hand side – it tends to make overtaking cars go wider.

    • JimF 24/09/2015 at 8:54 am #

      +1 on the Ortlieb and definitely +1 on using it on the right hand side. The difference is astonishing. After years of putting my old pannier on the left, in case it fell off or anything fell I figured it was less likely to get crushed.

      Started experimenting when I swapped paniers and the difference in having a) a bulky pannier like an Ortlieb and b) it on the right was amazing. Most noticeable in tight gaps where central pedestrian crossings narrow the road. You don’t get as many tight squeezes as it alters the perceptions of you and your width, even though it doesn’t stick out any wider than my handlebars at the front.

      Great tip.

  7. Dave 23/09/2015 at 6:06 pm #

    Ortlieb front rollers X2. Ortlieb X2 Bikepackers. Ortlieb mini O. I I’m an Ortlieb believer

  8. Phil 24/09/2015 at 2:17 pm #

    Carradice Shopper panniers- hold loads, waterproof, handles and shoulder straps for carrying, excellent locking clips, not incredibly pricey, and British.

  9. Dave Miles 25/09/2015 at 10:37 am #

    If you dont want to spend a lot on waterproof panniers, buy any set and use plastic rubble bags, about £1 a roll, as liners. Completely waterproof and I have toured with this set up many times.

  10. Mark Culmer 25/09/2015 at 10:51 am #


    I am using the Ortlieb Commuter Bag 20l this morning. Looks nice and great for the laptop / notebooks.

    My one issue is space. Get some shopping on the way home and you are limited.

    For the most, I use the Ortlieb city back roller; bright yellow and they are great. All the stuff Ortlieb Commuter Bag 20l can carry plus that extra shopping / kit.

    Super tough and have had them for years now. My one issue – I would like an outside pocket for keys for easy / quick access.


  11. Beth 25/09/2015 at 11:25 am #

    I don’t think the Ortlieb bags are such good quality as they used to be. I bought a new set about 6 years ago but the canvas on the bottom wore through really quickly (scuffing from leaving them on floors and wearing through from the inside) so I’ve gone back to my remaining one that is c 15 years old and I’d think twice about buying them again. Shame cos I think they are otherwise perfect. The old ones were so waterproof that you could use them to wash clothes in on a tour.

    • Dave 25/09/2015 at 1:52 pm #

      I am sorry that you have had a bad experience with Ortlieb, Beth. My 3 year old Bike Packers have survived Wild Camping carrying all my camping kit, innumerable heavy shopping trips (before and since Quaxing was invented) doubled as laundry wash tub etc.

      My Front Rollers are one year old and have become fixtures on the bike. My Brompton O bag is still new so I can’t comment on that. Maybe you were unfortunate with your set? Which model did you buy?

  12. Mick 25/09/2015 at 11:48 am #

    An Ikea kitchen waste bin cable tied to the rear rack has served me well for past 6 years. Not the best looking soloution but at £8 for three who can moan. For my commute I shove my sholder bag in one side and change of clothes in the other, for waterproofing plastic bags!
    I know not everyone’s cup of tea but my bike is a tool to get from A to B it’s only a thing of beauty to my eyes.

  13. Tim 25/09/2015 at 1:24 pm #

    Mick, there aren’t many contexts in which I can say this in an appreciative sense: that’s a rubbish idea! I do love the inventiveness of homemade cycle accessories. Do they get in the way when you’re locking it up?

    • Mick 25/09/2015 at 1:41 pm #

      No not at all, if they were that far forward that the covered the seat tube/wheel area then my feet would be in the bin. The heal clearance is fine as they are slightly tapered.
      Must be honest first try involved making brackets etc. but I found them so useful I just cable tied them on. Another plus point they make a mid range bike look more like a pile of junk so any bike theives don’t give it a second look.

  14. Nyge 25/09/2015 at 5:56 pm #

    I bought a pair of smaller Ortlieb look-alikes from Lidl for £10 during one of their cycling promotions (spring time). Absolutely brilliant value and look nice in white on my Cannodale CX1. They also do yellow and red.

  15. Andrew Wilcox 25/09/2015 at 8:39 pm #

    The Altura Urban Dryline computer bags have served me well for several years. If its going to rain I put a cover over them to keep them clean as much as dry. Zip a jacket or jumper into the rack hook cover and they are more comfortable over your shoulders.

  16. robbie C 27/09/2015 at 5:06 pm #

    I am an Ortlieb believer too (an Ortbelieber?) I tried loads since I started commuting and its the only one i really trust. More so since one fell off in Trafalger Square this year and was swept round to cockspur street under a taxi (bag fittings wrecked some fixable rips, contents intact). I have a full set of front and back rollers now but find the front rollers are best for commuting, One for office/travel stuff and the other for bike stuff.

    • robbie C 27/09/2015 at 5:08 pm #

      meant to add – and small enough to carry both around together easily and stash in lockers and overhead luggage storage on trains.

  17. MJ Ray 28/09/2015 at 9:35 am #

    Basil and Union make good smart panniers with waterproof covers that don’t have the fashionable price tags of some of those reviewed above, Basil especially.

  18. Richard 12/10/2015 at 8:28 pm #

    Plus 1 for ortlieb. Bomb proof. Ugly as sin of course but dry, easy to use, big and with that big florescent spot nice and visible. I’m also a fan of wearing (?) them on the right. Oddly in a bike shop the other day a mechanic was insisting you should put them on the left ‘for safety reasons’. No idea what reasons those are, I’m assuming if a car is close enough to clip your pannier then he’s close enough to get your leg. Any ideas?

    • Dave 12/10/2015 at 8:47 pm #

      If I’m only using one it goes on to the right side, hoping that if I fall on that side it would protect the derailleur

    • Alan Moore 12/10/2015 at 8:49 pm #

      I suppose in theory it could pull you.. although, as you say, anything that close could easily hit YOU instead.

      Or perhaps somebody once thought a heavy pannier on one side might topple you that way? Nonsense, if so.

      Either way, it’s much more important to get vehicles to go wider!

  19. Peter 22/10/2015 at 12:12 pm #

    Carradice make a good quality range of different panniers to suit differing needs – superbly rainproof and light, and long lasting – I have three, A4, shooper and Original bike bureau – all are still good. And British company too!

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