❚ The pannier backpacks highlighted in this post are chosen or evaluated independently by myself. If you make a purchase through links on our website, we might receive an affiliate commission. However, this never sways our objective perspective or recommendations.

If you’ve ever been caught between the need for a backpack and the convenience of a bike pannier, the world of convertible backpack panniers might just be your answer. But what exactly is a pannier backpack?

A pannier backpack, in its simplest form, is a fusion of a traditional backpack and a bicycle pannier. It’s designed with the versatility to be worn on your back like any other backpack and can also be seamlessly attached to a pannier rack on your bicycle. For the avid cyclist, commuter, or dynamic traveler, this innovative design spells both convenience and functionality.

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But is it possible to just turn your backpack into a pannier? The answer depends on the design of the backpack. While some innovative DIY solutions might offer a makeshift answer, nothing quite compares to the seamless integration of a purpose-built convertible pannier backpack. These designs have been meticulously crafted to ensure that weight distribution, balance, and ease of attachment are all taken into consideration.

Beyond the basic mechanics, there are numerous benefits to using convertible backpack panniers. For one, they save on the need for multiple bags, which can be both a cost and space saver. They also cater to the growing number of urban cyclists looking for versatile carrying solutions that adapt to their dynamic lifestyles. Whether you’re cycling to work, school, or out on a weekend adventure, these convertible solutions cater to a myriad of needs.

In this article we’ll delve deeper into the backpack pannier choices available in the market, their unique features, and how they might just change the way you carry your essentials for the commute and adventure!

Best Backpack Panniers

Two Wheel Gear

  • From $225.00
  • Pros: Comes available in multiple color, and we did notice that it is comfortable to wear as a backpack, even when filled. Comes with a fluorescent rain cover for heavy rain protection. The pannier hooks are adjustable, making it suitable for almost any rack. When in backpack mode, the pannier mounting bracket is hidden and can’t be felt.
  • Cons: At 1.44 kg it is on the heavier side and it lacks a port for charging cables between the outer pockets and the inside. We noticed that the positioning of the light loop may cause lights to sag and become less effective. Finally, it’s a premium product with a price that might be considered steep by some, especially when compared to some budget alternatives.

We have been testing this one thanks to Two Wheel Gear. They make a few backpack pannier options in a range of volumes from 22L to 35L and a mix between classic backpack, messenger backpack and duffle bag designs. We tested the Pannier Backpack Convertible Plus 2.0 which was a 30L bag.

Ortlieb Vario PS Hybrid

  • From $225.00
  • Pros: Made from a PU-coated nylon fabric it’s waterproof as all Ortlieb bags are. Available for QL 2.1 and QL 3.1 systems, making it adaptable to different types of luggage carriers and rental bikes. As a backpack, it has ergonomically shaped and padded straps. Available in multiple colors and has an aesthetically pleasing design. It’s PVC-free and sustainably made in Germany. Also inside the bag, there are sub-compartments for better organization.
  • Cons: When used as a bike bag, the front pocket becomes unusable. It is relatively expensive much like Two Wheel Gear. According to the manufacturer, the maximum load is 9 kilograms.

Ortlieb has been making panniers for years and are my personal go-to for reliable quality. And it is not different with their backpack pannier. It is a little lighter than the Two-wheel gear at 1.2 kg when empty. But it is a very stylish bag that can tick all the boxes for the urban commuter

NorthSt Bags Woodward

  • $295.00
  • Pros: More customization options, users can customize the colors of both the bag and the reflective stripes. The main bag contains a padded section suitable for laptops or important papers. The bag is handmade in the USA, allowing buyers to support local craftsmanship
  • Cons: The bag may hang too low if used as a front pannier, which could result in it hitting the ground. The bag is quite costly compared to all other backpack panniers.

A more expensive backpack pannier than most on the market but you do get that handmade quality. The default pannier hook size is 9mm, compatible with racks up to 11mm thick. Hooks can be bent out slightly for a better fit or upgraded to 12mm or 19mm for compatibility with oversized rack bars. Made with a recycled EcoPak sailcloth featuring a medium gray interior.

For those seeking an eco-friendly, durable, and adaptable bag suitable for both commuting and general use, the Woodward Backpack Pannier offers a range of features and materials to fit your needs. They also sell the Morrison Backpack Pannier.

Craft Cadence Metro

  • From $118.00
  • Pros: Features useful outer pockets, loops for locks, and lights. Simple and effective mounting system with two sturdy hooks. As a pannier, it’s impressively waterproof. Priced competitively at £79.99, offering value for its features compared to other brands
  • Cons: The lower mount strap can be slightly fiddly to access and adjust. Roll-top uses three buckles which can be cumbersome and the bag can unroll as you’re fastening it. While water-resistant as a pannier, it’s not entirely waterproof as a backpack. Water can penetrate the zip area under heavy rain. The reflective logo is positioned in a way that it might face forward if the bag is placed on the left side of the bike. Adjusting the mounting hooks requires careful attention to lock them in place. We also noticed If the plastic hooks are removed, the flap tends to remain loose.

A more budget-friendly alternative compared to the first two we mentioned. In backpack mode, it offers enhanced comfort through thick padding, shielding the wearer from the mounting system. The entire mounting system can even be removed for an optimal backpack experience.

The unique “flip” mechanism allows for effortless swapping between the pannier and backpack setups. The bag boasts a detachable laptop sleeve, a standard-size water bottle holder, and a D-lock holder for bike security. Compatible with a variety of rack widths (8-18 mm), and the distance between the mounting brackets is adjustable.

Banjo Brothers Convertible

  • From $99.00
  • Pros: Designed with pannier hooks positioned opposite the rider’s back for increased comfort while wearing as a backpack. Allowing for quick and easy mounting, with rubber-coated hooks and an elastic cord ring. Made of ballistic nylon which is resilient to rough usage and the elements. Fits 15-inch laptop, lunch, and rain gear. Competitively priced, offering value, especially when compared to higher-end brands like the Ortlieb Vario
  • Cons: While largely waterproof, it’s not entirely impervious. The roll-top closure is not as watertight as some other designs. A tad bulky and heavy at a similar weight to the Two Wheel Gear Pannier (1.4 kg). The pannier might sway a bit when loaded heavily. The pannier comes with side buckle straps which need to be carefully tucked away when in pannier mode to avoid entanglement with bike spokes

Looking for the best bang for your buck? Marketed as the most affordable backpack pannier, at just under $99 this backpack pannier by Banjo Brothers is a popular budget-friendly choice. The developers, took over two years to ensure the design was perfect in both comfort and functionality.

Ideal for bike commuters looking for a versatile and affordable backpack pannier that can safely carry essentials like clothes, shoes, lunch, and a laptop.

Arkel Bug

  • From $129.99
  • Pros: The spring-operated locks ensure that the pannier stays securely on the bike rack and won’t fall off. Made from strong, weather-resistant Cordura fabric, the Bug is built to last. Even without a rain cover, it provides weather resistance for up to two hours. Arkel is confident in the product’s longevity and offers a no-receipt-needed, transferable lifetime guarantee. When converted to a backpack, the Bug is comfortable to wear.
  • Cons: While there’s ample space for a laptop, a dedicated compartment is missing. There’s an option to buy a separate laptop pouch, which means an additional expense. Some pockets might be hard to access when the bag is fully loaded. To ensure complete waterproofing one has to purchase a rain cover separately. It lacks features like air vents, special padding, and mesh back, which are typically found in dedicated backpacks designed for long-wearing comfort

The pannier backpack features a patented ultra-solid attachment system allowing easy attachment or removal from your bike. Separate compartments for storing helmet and U-lock for added convenience. Designed for racks with tubing diameter up to 15mm. For larger racks (up to 21mm), the Oversized Cam-Lock is necessary. Weighing in at 1.2 kg and 25 L capacity.

For city commuters or those leading an urban lifestyle, this backpack pannier is an excellent investment, offering a blend of functionality, durability, and style, all while supporting a brand that invests in social responsibility.

Can you attach any backpack to a pannier rack?

No, not every backpack can be directly attached to a pannier rack. Standard backpacks are designed primarily for carrying on one’s back and usually lack the specific hardware or design features required to securely attach them to a bike’s pannier rack.

Panniers, on the other hand, are designed specifically for bikes and typically have hooks, clips, or other fastening systems that allow them to be quickly and securely attached to a pannier rack. This ensures that they stay in place during a ride and don’t interfere with the bike’s operation.

However, if you are determined to use a regular backpack as a makeshift pannier:

  1. DIY Solutions: Some cyclists get creative and fashion their own attachments using bungee cords, carabiners, or other DIY methods. This might not be as secure or convenient as a purpose-designed system, and there’s the risk of the backpack swinging into the bike’s wheel or gears.
  2. Pannier Converters: There are some products on the market that can convert regular backpacks into panniers. These are essentially frames or attachments that can be fixed onto a pannier rack and allow a backpack to be hung from them.
  3. Custom-Made Solutions: Some companies or local craftsmen might offer services to retrofit regular backpacks with pannier hooks or systems.

While these solutions can work, they often don’t offer the same level of convenience, security, or protection from the elements as a purpose-built pannier or convertible backpack pannier. If you’re frequently switching between cycling and walking, a convertible backpack pannier might be the most efficient and safe choice.

More on Backpack Pannier Conversion Clips

If you’re aiming to convert any backpack into a pannier, you’ll want to consider attachment clips or systems that are versatile, adjustable, and can be retrofitted onto bags without integrated pannier capabilities. Here are some of the best options:

  1. Arkel’s Universal Attachment System:
    • This kit offers an adjustable aluminum rail and hooks, which can be sewn onto most backpacks. The hook system is sturdy and holds onto the bike rack securely.
  2. RIXEN & KAUL Klickfix:
    • Known for its broad range of bicycle attachment systems, their pannier hooks can be adapted to many bags. The system is robust and offers a good grip on the bike rack. They also offer various mounting accessories that might be helpful in a DIY project.
  3. Ortlieb’s QL Universal System:
    • While primarily designed for Ortlieb bags, creative DIY enthusiasts have retrofitted these onto other backpacks. They’re known for their durability and quick-locking system.
  4. Vaude’s Universal Attachment System:
    • This is another adjustable option that can be fitted onto many backpacks. It provides a stable grip and can be adjusted to fit various rack sizes.
  5. DIY Clips & Straps:
    • Using durable plastic or metal carabiner clips combined with adjustable nylon straps can be a more flexible and adaptable way to convert a backpack into a pannier. While this approach requires a bit more manual adjustment, it provides the flexibility to adapt to various backpacks and bike rack sizes.

Tips for choosing and using convertible backpack pannier attachment clips:

  • Assess Your Backpack: Before buying any attachment system, understand your backpack’s design. Some backpacks may not be suitable for certain attachment systems due to their structure, material, or design.
  • Stability: Ensure the attachment system provides stability, especially when riding on uneven terrains. You wouldn’t want the backpack to sway or bounce off.
  • Weight Limit: Consider the weight you plan to carry. Some attachment systems may not be designed for heavy loads.
  • Heel Clearance: Ensure that once the backpack is attached, there’s enough space for your heel to move freely while pedaling.
  • Protection Against Elements: Depending on your region, consider water, mud, or dust protection for the contents of your backpack and the backpack material itself.

Lastly, while retrofitting a standard backpack to act as a pannier can be a fun DIY project, dedicated convertible backpack panniers are designed with both functions in mind, ensuring better weight distribution, stability, and ease of conversion. Consider this before investing time and resources into a DIY project.

Converting a Backpack to a Pannier vs Buying a Backpack Pannier

Converting a Backpack to a Pannier: Pros & Considerations

  1. Personalization: By converting your own, you can customize the backpack to perfectly suit your needs and aesthetic preferences.
  2. Cost-Effective: If you already have a suitable backpack and the required materials/tools, conversion can be a cheaper option than buying a new product.
  3. Protective Flap: One smart solution to prevent road gunk from getting onto your back is by using a backpack with a top flap. When the bag serves as a pannier, the flap can be flipped over, covering the straps and ensuring cleanliness.
  4. Stability & Safety: A common concern with conversions is the stability of the bag on the bike. Wobbling, especially when hitting bumps, might cause the bag to get close to or even touch the spokes. This could damage the bag and pose a safety risk.
  5. Strap Security: Loose straps can be problematic if they catch onto external objects. You’ll need to find a secure method to tuck away or fasten backpack straps when in pannier mode.
  6. DIY Experience: For DIY enthusiasts, the experience and satisfaction of converting a backpack into a pannier are unparalleled

Buying a Backpack Pannier: Pros & Considerations

  1. Designed for Purpose: Ready-made backpack panniers are specifically designed for dual use, ensuring functionality and safety in both modes without compromises.
  2. Durability: Commercially produced backpack panniers are often made with materials meant to withstand the wear and tear of both cycling and daily use.
  3. Ease & Convenience: No need to fuss with DIY fixes or modifications; it’s ready to use out of the box.
  4. Cost: Depending on the brand and quality, a backpack pannier can be an investment. However, you’re paying for a product specifically designed for this dual purpose.
  5. Warranty & Support: Many reputable brands offer warranties and customer support for their products, which might not be available for DIY projects.

About The Author

codey

codey

Codey Orgill, a seasoned bicycle adventurer, has been exploring the world on two wheels for over 10 years. Since embarking on his initial cycling journey, Codey Orgill has traversed numerous countries, experiencing a series of epic adventures.

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