Pannier Review – Overland, Jandd, Ortlieb

One of the first things any bike tourist discovers is that we all do things differently.  Some of us like large panniers, others small.  Some want lots of pockets, others prefer one big bag.   Waterproof or not… Easy removal or made to stay on… heavy and durable or lighter weight but won’t last as long… 

On our three-year journey to the ends of the earth we are using three different brands of panniers that differ enormously – Overland, Jandd, and Ortlieb.  I will review these three here, giving information on both the pros and cons of each brand.

Overland

Unfortunately, this company stopped making panniers several years ago, but I’ll include this review in the hopes that some other company can pick up where they left off.  We bought our Overland panniers in the 1980’s and early 1990’s and they have served us well since then.  We only wish we could buy more now – we would stock up for the rest of our lives!


Overland panniers
Very durable – One set of Overland panniers that we have used on our Pan American journey was very well used when I met John 20 years ago (had already seen Norway, Australia, India, and many miles of the USA), and then managed to survive another year cycling the Indian subcontinent in 1990-91.  By the time we returned back home in 1991, the panniers already had the equivalent of two years full-time use, and then proceeded to serve John as he traveled in scores more countries in the next fifteen years.  They went 9300 miles around the USA and Mexico in 2006-07 and then again on our three-year Pan American journey.  In other words, I seriously doubt we could ever wear them out – if they are still in great shape after six years of full-time use I don’t know if we could possibly abuse them enough to trash them.  Our other set of Overlands was purchased in the early 1990’s, but not used until 2006 – it now has 3.5 years of full-time use on it and is going strong.

Functional pockets – We like pockets.  For a short tour, I can see how having a lot of pockets simply leads to confusion (where did I put that, anyway??), but for extended tours it is really nice to have gear sorted and easy to find.  The Overland panniers have pockets that are well positioned and easy to access.  My larger set has three pockets on each pannier – one as the cover of the pannier, another on the very outside, and a long, skinny one in the back.  The other, smaller, set of panniers has one good pocket on the outside.  I really enjoy having a variety of sizes of pockets for different items.

Mounting system – Once these panniers are on, they’re on to stay.  They have two hooks on the top to hang on the rack and two separate nylon webbing straps with hooks for the bottom.  Once the straps are cinched tight, the pannier won’t move.  This is a great security feature in that thieves can’t take the pannier easily.

The mounting system is both a pro and a con.  Once the pannier is on the bike, it is very secure – too secure sometimes.  It can be difficult to get them on and off the racks – having to reach behind the pannier to loosen the straps is a hassle.  If you have been going through mud, the straps can be extremely difficult to loosen.  This makes it difficult to take them into the tent or hotel room with you.

Easy access – one of our sets has zippers to close; the other has two side-release plastic buckles.  They are both very easy to open and close, and once they’re open are easy to reach into to access gear.

Breathable, not waterproof – The bags are made of nylon cordura which is breathable.  You can put damp items in the pannier and the vapor won’t remain trapped inside.  The panniers will repel a light rain, but nothing substantial.  If you will be riding through rain, you’ll need to stash your gear in plastic bags.  We’ve found the easiest way of bagging gear is to bag each item individually in plastic grocery bags.


Overland Pannier

Jandd

We are carrying two sets of Jandd panniers – the Large Mountain Pannier and a smaller set they no longer sell.

Durable – Generally speaking, Jandd panniers will last quite a few years.  We had one set whose zipper broke after one year and Jandd replaced the set free of charge.  It appears as though the zippers used are not quite as beefy and strong as those on the Overland, but we’ve only had a problem with one pannier.  They also have some funky rubber sleeves for the metal hooks that tend to come off – you can just slip them back on, but it’s easy to drop them and lose them.  The rubber sleeves are not necessary though.  The fabric and general construction of the Jandd panniers is solid and should last for many years.

Pockets – Although there are pockets on both sets of Jandd panniers, the pockets are not as functional as those on the Overland.  The large mountain set has a great big pocket as the top of the pannier – it’s too big and floppy.  The other pockets are flat – fine for papers and such, but we don’t carry many things that can fit in a flat pocket.  They would be more useful if they had more volume.

Mounting system – Like the Overlands, the Jandd panniers have two hooks on top to hang the pannier on the rack.  To attach it securely to the rack, it has a nylon webbing strap used to cinch a hook onto the bottom of the rack.  There is only one hook, but it attaches quite securely.  These panniers are easier to remove than the Overlands, making them easier to take into the tent or hotel, but are still quite a pain to get on and off.

Breathable; not waterproof – The Jandds are made of cordura nylon and are breathable.  They repel a certain amount of water, but will not keep gear dry in a steady rain.

Access to gear – The design of both sets of Jandd panniers that we are using is a bit awkward.  On the large mountain panniers, the top pocket gets in the way unless you can flip it up onto the rack to get it out of the way. However, if you have gear strapped to the rack, that may not be an option.  The smaller set has zippers to open but, again, they are designed in such a way as to be a bit awkward to get gear into and out of.  This point is certainly not enough to deter one from using them, but if you are getting picky, it’s something to consider.

Jandd Large Mountain Pannier

Ortliebs

Ortlieb has taken the touring market by storm these past few years, but I honestly don’t understand why.  Although they are fine panniers, they are the one brand I don’t think I will be buying again.

Durability – The Ortliebs simply are not as durable as the other panniers we have.  The plastic used in the clips broke within a year of use and they all had to be replaced – a major hassle involving a trip to a furniture maker.  Fortunately, the hooks attaching them to the rack have not broken – and Ortlieb included extras in case they do – but we still don’t trust them.  The fabric itself is fairly durable.  I have a large hole in one of mine where a mouse chewed through it, but I can’t blame that one on Ortlieb.  There are a lot of screws on the panniers which can loosen up – we need to keep a constant eye on them to be sure we don’t lose them.

Waterproof – This is the strongest pro of the Ortliebs – they are completely waterproof and you don’t need to worry about your gear at all.   You can ride through the most severe rainstorm and your gear will be perfectly dry when you open the pannier.  However, that waterproofness comes at a cost – you can’t pack anything even remotely damp in the pannier or the moisture will seep into everything else.  We found having both types of panniers to be a good idea – we can put cameras and Kindles in the waterproof Ortliebs and other gear in the rest.

Easy on/easy off – This is another very strong feature of the Ortliebs – you can take them off in a second and put them on just as rapidly.  The easy on feature, however, comes at a cost – they tend to rattle around on the bike and aren’t as secure as the others.  The newer ones come with a small insert so they don’t rattle, but the inserts are extremely easy to lose. They are also very easy for a thief to steal if he knows how to get them off.

No pockets – the design of the Ortliebs is one big compartment, which makes it hard to organize your gear.  Many cyclists find using small ditty bags works, but I rely on the pockets on my other panniers for that and just put larger items in the Ortliebs.


Ortlieb Roll top pannier
Replacing the broken buckles involved finding a furniture shop so they could take out the old stitching and put in new. We also had the hassle of trying to find replacement buckles in South America.
ortlieb pannier repair
Orlieb pannier repair
Given what we’ve learned during our many years of bike touring, what will we choose next?  We aren’t sure, but I’m leaning toward either Carradice or Arkel.  I’ve never used either of them, but have seen them on others’ bikes and have been impressed with them both.  The Carradice are made of heavy waxed cotton duck – the fibers expand in rain to make them waterproof yet they are breathable when dry.  The Arkels have an amazing array of pockets to help with organization and a built-in dry bag for when it rains. Both are built to withstand many years of abuse.
 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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14 Responses to Pannier Review – Overland, Jandd, Ortlieb

  1. Harry & Ivana October 11, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    Thanks for the review, interesting to see how taste and experience differ!

    I seriously would not want to ride one meter with a non-waterproof bag. It is by far the number one aspect of my panniers. Even if you pack stuff in plastic bags in cordura ones, the panniers themselves will still be soaking wet and likely heavy? How would you carry cameras, computers and other electronics? I want to be able to open my handle bar pannier in a second and take a picture the next!

    We love our Ortliebs that are still great after 2 years of abuse. We replaced zero buckles, but only one part of fabric connected to them, probably because of tightening too much. Anyway, nothing a few minutes and half a dollar in Ecuador could not solve.

    I have the small outside pockets on my 2 front bags, which is nice for small stuff. The rest is easily found, many things are in thin durable (Sea to Summit) bags.

    I would not want to hassle with taking and putting bags off the bikes. We had some rides and entered narrow hostels, where the bags could/should be removed in seconds. In dangerous places, we secured them with simple straps, but at least we could choose to do so.

    Anyway, as said: taste and preferences differ, fortunately :)

    Cheers, H&I

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  2. DC October 11, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    Thanks for the info :) The wife and I are at the point where we need to get 2 sets of panniers and we are trying to read up on them. I have a Jandd Expadition rack and may get their bags as well, I like secure mountings…

    We are also thinking of getting a BoB instead of two sets of panniers we shall seee…..

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  3. Thomas Arbs October 12, 2010 at 3:07 am #

    I agree to Harry & Ivana, here in Northern Europe rain is not a theoretical issue, therefore the Ortliebs’ waterproofness is their main advantage (guess it has to do with that they were designed here…) On 4 bags and 7 years we broke 1 buckle (Ortlieb will replace them, but yes, someone has to sew them on), and I never heard of a rack hook failing. But obviously you are seriously putting them to the test… The fast-on-and-off is also appreciated, though as a city cyclist I sometimes wish for a locking mechanism (locking as in “with a key”).

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  4. Michael Verhage October 13, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    Thumbs up for Ortlieb!!!
    Two years of use and they still go strong.
    Michael.

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  5. Steve February 18, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    Ive ridden with my ortlieb for only 5000 miles, but, they show no signs of wearing out. Plastic on any pannier will eventually dry out and fail, but, there are things you can and should do to slow down the process. Like not overloading the panniers. Not overtightening in attempt to reduce the rattleing, keeping out of the sun when not in use(keep buckle side down when off the bike), etc. If all these easy pre-ventitive measures are taken, they should last. Overtightening and overloading are the most common reasons for failure.

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    Nancy Reply:

    @Steve, I agree that overtightening is hard on panniers, but I feel they should be designed to be able to withstand it. My Overlands have been cinched down very, very tight for 20 years or more and are still fine!

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  6. Karl November 2, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Thx 4 the review

    I totally agree in regards to ortlieb; no ortlieb on my bike. For 20+ years I’ve been ridin’ with Madden, like Overland they made stuff to last. Unfortunately companies who work like this simply won’t survive and that’s a pitty.

    My next sets definitely wil come from Carradice because of the natural feel..
    Cotton is twice as strong when wet ;-)

    karl

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Karl, I think the Carradice panniers sound heavenly. If I ever buy new panniers (if my Overlands ever wear out) I suspect those are the ones I’ll get too. It’s worth it to pay more for panniers that will last forever.

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  7. Tom November 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    I have had the Jandd Mountains for over 18 years, and added the Large Jandd Mountains. No failures, not even them coming loose from the racks over bumpy roads. Compression straps in 2-directions is plus for me. And I can get a repair from Jandd if need be. Waterproof? Panniers will get wet even with raincovers, so I just use ziplocs for internal items I want to keep dry.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Tom, If you get good quality panniers to start with, they’ll last a lifetime. We used the plastic bags as well – I think it’s a much better system than trying to keep the whole pannier dry.

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  8. Karl November 17, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Thx for the review

    As you I don’t understand why people buy Ortlieb. As if they were to be ridin’ in the rain constantly..

    I swear by my Buzzards and Baby Buzzards (Madden). Bought them in the 90′s and still going strong!! although color has faded.

    But as with Overland, Madden is history. They made their products just to tough as in built to last.. ;)

    Don’t know which brand I’l buy in future but certainly not Ortlieb or Vaude.
    Been thing about Carradice, made of canvas. So fairly waterproof and durable with metal hooks

    greetz – karl

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Karl, My only concern about the Carradice is that they are really heavy – and even moreso when wet. The Arkels are nylon, so that’s not an issue. Good panniers aren’t cheap, but they’ll last for ages!

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  9. Karl November 17, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Think it’s time 2 go to bed.. ;)

    I just saw my reply from last year..

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Karl, HA! Glad to have you back!

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