bikepacking pannier setup

BikePacking vs Pannier Setup: Which is Better?

A quick guide to help the new tourer choose between a bikepacking or pannier setup. What works better for you?

Touring on a bicycle is one of the most rewarding two-wheeled experiences that one can have. You get to see the countryside at your own sweet pace. You end up noticing things on the route, you never would if you were travelling by air, rail or any other mode. Touring is best, when it is just you, your bicycle and your luggage. That is the sensation of pure freedom.

Carrying your world with you on your bicycle, means that your luggage system needs to get the job done. Whether you are planning to ride around the world, country, state or district.

If you go shopping for bags, you will first be confronted with a choice of going with either bikepacking or pannier setup. As with anything else in life, there are no perfect choices. There is a trade-off.

This article helps you quickly and simply understand that trade-off and choose what is best for your requirements.

BikePacking or Pannier Setup: Life’s Many Choices!

Weight and Volume

How much luggage you plan to carry indirectly dictates the type of luggage system you can use. If you plan to carry your house on your bicycle, then panniers work better. On the other hand, if travelling light is what you aspire for, then bikepacking wins hands down.

The bags themselves weigh more or less the same, but once you factor in the weight of the racks required for panniers, then bikepacking wins!

This victory though comes at the cost of volume. There is noticeably less space for your luggage with a bikepacking setup. Which is both good and bad. Good because you only carry the essentials, bad because there are many things you ‘want’, but are forced to forego.

Ease of Packing

Have you ever tried packing a suitcase with your clothes for a week vs packing a backpack with the same stuff? You will then easily be able to relate to the differences between panniers and bikepacking bags.

Packing and organising your pannier bags are significantly easier. Especially for the newer tourer. Bikepacking bags require more mental dexterity!

Fixing and removing panniers is substantially faster. It takes about 20 seconds to remove panniers off the racks.

Bikepacking bags on the the other hand require considerably more time. Especially considering the number of straps to be attached to the bike! It takes some getting used to before a new user will be able to pack and unpack in a jiffy.

Add to this, mid-ride, if you need to search for anything on your bike. Pannier bags are easier to ruffle through, while bikepacking bags can get infuriating if not packed properly.

Ease of Riding

How easy or convenient is it to ride with the two options?

This is where bikepacking bags outshine the pannier setup by quite a margin. There are no racks required for bikepacking bags, which means no bolts to loosen up while riding. Less complexity means you can hit gravel and dirt roads with far more confidence.

The frame bag on a bikepacking setup lowers the centre of gravity of the bike. With luggage tied everywhere, the weight is evenly distributed. This makes a big difference in bike handling. You can ride your bike around far more naturally, than having two big bags tied over the rear wheel with all your luggage.

There is also no worries about heel to bag gap on a bikepacking setup. On a pannier setup, shorter chainstays would mean your heel will hit the bag every time you pedal.

Pushing your bike up steep inclines is also easier, as there are no bags in the way of your natural stride.

But the best part is, since there are no metal parts involved in a bikepacking setup, you do not face any irritating metal clanging sounds from anywhere on your bike. A blessing on bad roads.

Bikepacking bags are also more aerodynamic, as it is all in line with the frame. There are no panniers projecting far out on either side.


With a traditional pannier setup, you might at times think twice about venturing down paths less taken. As it does tend to get in the way, while riding and pushing.

A bikepacking setup allows you to venture down trails you would otherwise think twice about on a pannier equipped cycle. This gives the rider a lot of flexibility when choosing an adventurous route.


The cost of good quality bags of either type from a reputed manufacturer is approximately the same.

The additional cost on a pannier setup is for the racks.

A bikepacking setup requires ultralight gear to really work well, and if there is one thing which the cycle market teaches you, Light + Strong is not Cheap! Tents, sleeping bags, mats, stoves etc. cost a pretty penny as you try to shed kilos and then grams.


A pannier setup requires a dedicated touring cycle or at the very least a bike with the capability of carrying loads and eyelets for racks.

Bikepacking isn’t restricted by the type of bike you already own. You can practically strap your bags on to any bike capable for the terrain and head out. Even on carbon!

Read this article on about packing for a World Tour

Choose What?

Hopefully this article has given you more questions than answers!

If you take time and answer all those questions for yourself. You will immediately know, which works better for you. Bikepacking or pannier setup.

Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you have already invested in one luggage format, then it makes sense to stick with it. At least in the short term.

If you are looking to buy a whole new setup, then you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What bike are you planning to tour on?
  • Will your tours be mostly on roads or trails?
  • Are you a minimalist or prefer to be more lavish?
  • The average duration of your tours?
  • Are you planning to carry a lot of photography equipment and a laptop?

Answering these few questions will help you choose the correct bags for your cycle tour!

Looking to buy Bicycle Luggage. Head to for your Bikepacking bags.

Also read, this travelogue which used a BikePacking setup in Uttarakhand and this travelogue which used a pannier setup in the Western Ghats.

6 Replies to “BikePacking vs Pannier Setup: Which is Better?”

  1. Good information for ardent tourers. With rising inflation make sure you have something to pack in your bags 🙂🙂🙂

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