I recently nabbed a pair of Ortlieb’s Gravel Pack panniers to replace a pair of front Ortlieb Roller Plus panniers I’ve been running on the rear of my Divide for the past couple of years.
Still, with years of life remaining in the Roller Plus panniers, they’ve found a new home on the rear rack of my wife’s touring bike. Ever since last summer’s cycling trip to Hokkaido, she’s adopted then as her own and I’m sure they will give her with many years of trouble-free service.
Here’s my initial take on the new bikepacking lineup offer from Ortlieb…
Rugged and Durable Construction
The Gravel Pack panniers are designed to provide space for longer rides. They round out Ortlieb’s bikepacking ensemble consisting of a saddle pack, a partial frame bag, a handlebar bag, and a front pouch. Ortlieb’s webpage shows the panniers in a front mounted set up on a low-rider rack. More on that in a bit.
The new Gravel Pack bags are a thinner, more streamlined design providing a slightly narrower profile when mounted on the bike. There are no inside pockets or shoulder straps like on the Roller Plus model. A two-clip setup locks down the roll top enclosure. An orange cinch strap secures the center of each roll. The fixed length of the double clip closure straps doesn’t allow any overstuffing. Stiff plastic back sheeting keeps the panniers rigid.
Constructed of lightweight PSR21 abrasion and weather resistant material, the bags have a combined payload of 25 liters. With RF welded seams and waterproof roll top double clip enclosure will keep the contents dry, though I still double bag all sensitive gear just to be sure. I’m able to fit the same long distance gear setup in the Gravel Packs as I could in the front pair of the Roller Plus panniers. No worries there.
The rail locking system employs two mounting hooks instead of one for increase mounting security. To eliminate wear and tear and bag rattle, I also cinch the panniers down with a pair of burly elastic ROK Straps. The straps eliminate virtually all of the rattle, even on the roughest roads.
Not a Big Fan of Seat Packs
Most of my travel is on paved and unpaved road with occasional ventures onto singletrack. I tend to ride longer distances over extended periods of time, which necessitate more gear. Saddle packs run a bit too small to accommodate the additional kit. Plus, seat packs tend to wobble and can be a hassle to pack and unpack.
Two small panniers provide enough added space for my gear without becoming excessive. They’re excellent for long distance self-supported bicycle traveler rolling with kit weighing in on the lighter end of the spectrum.
Panniers are more convenient for accessing gear than saddle pack. Panniers are easier to organize. As part of my load plan, the left pannier contains the camping gear, hygiene kit, and things I use on a daily basis. The right bag houses lesser used items, such as extra clothes, the medical kit, a repair kit. It also houses spare parts like a spare carbon drive belt, a couple of inner tubes, and a folding tire.
Running a Rear Pannier Only Set Up
Intended for a mount as part of the Ortlieb bikepacking set up, I’m running the Gravel Packs on the rear. Like other Ortlieb panniers, these easily clip on and off. They’re a perfect fit on the bike’s Tubus Cargo Evo rear rack. Pictured as a front mount set up in Ortlieb’s bikepacking line, I’m running them as a rear pair without a front rack or panniers.
For me, two rear bags provide a cleaner, more stable carrying option. The bike is more stable both when riding and on the double-legged kickstand. The rear bag setup may not be the best for weight distribution and puts more weight on the rear wheel, but after 30,000 km it hasn’t been a problem yet.
The top of the bags mounts just about flush with the upper deck of the Tubus Cargo Evo making a good surface for my photo backpack and a food sack.
List price is running $170 for the set.
Ortlieb is an industry standard when it comes to durable, well-built panniers and bags. Their kit is rugged, reliable, and time-tested. The Gravel Pack panniers are in keeping with this tradition and a nice addition to their bikepacking lineup. The bags are a viable option for long-distance bike travelers interested in rolling with a little less kit and sporting a lean, trim rig. The Gravel Packs make a light and tight set up on my Divide. Their trim profile is a nice update to the stalwart Roller Plus panniers. There’s no loss in the payload. I’m still able to haul my current long distance kit with ease.
Highly recommend. Two thumbs up.