As a huge fan of camping and especially hill walking you tend to learn that dry bags are the answer to all your problems. You can keep your gear dry in them, use them as a pillow if you forget yours, and even carry water in them in an emergency.
When I saw these drybag style BTWin 500 pannier bags therefore I had to give them a test, so I took the plunge and got a pair in the rather dashing dark blue to match my Stowaway.
The bags are a fairly simple affair, just a kind of dry bag with a hard board backing and plastic clips to hang over your rack rails (these are adjustable for different sized rails). They’re tall so I doubt they’ll work on a 16″ bike but they fit fine on my 20″ Raleigh without fouling the chain or deraiuller.
Made of a nylon material and with a coating on some sections they look nice enough and feel substantial enough to last a while, and with them being separates you can replace one at a time (even switching between the colours if you’re feeling a bit Mondrian). They’re available in black, red and blue in case you’re wondering.
On the Raleigh they only work in two positions – the front one being a little too far forward and thus heel catching, the back one being slightly too far back but clear of obstructing you as you pedal. In the rearmost position they do block side views of the large rear reflector which isn’t ideal but they do have handy mounting loops for additional lights and reflectors so that’s good, and there are reflective bands and squares on them.
Adjusting the clips is done using a standard PZ2 screwdriver – something I’m sure you’ll all have on your multi-tool. Once seated in place (again, Raleigh didn’t make this easy due to the spring loaded section on the rack) a clip rotates to prevent them lifting, and for extra security you can loop them together if you wish to prevent them being rotated back.
Around the back of the pannier is a Velcro loop, the pretty much standard affair to stop the panniers lifting and jumping – although I’ve usually never bothered with these on any panniers as I’ve never actually had problems with this.
At 20 litres a bag they can swallow a heft of gear, and due to them being separate bags it means you can remove them individually and just use one if you feel so inclined.
The top closure is a roll down dry bag affair with the standard single clip strap. Nothing too adventurous but it does mean you can expand the bag or shrink it down with quite a degree of adjustment to accommodate your gear.
One pannier alone swallowed all my camping gear, although as they’re rated at a shade under 10kg I have to distribute my 15kg camping load across a pair to be sure.
When fitted they don’t interfere with your top rack at all leaving it clear for another bag, or in my case my Zelter Shelter bag.
They’re stated as waterproof, so I tested them by spraying water at the front of them for a while and I can confirm that they are water resistant but definitely not waterproof. A few wet spots made it into the bags, so if you’re absolutely adamant that your gear must remain dry as a bone then you might want to put an additional dry bag inside.
There are no internal pockets, just one huge 20 litre maw so if you have small items or need pockets then these aren’t the paniers for you unless you put another bag or case inside.
I will add that Decathlon (who sell these bags) do state that they aren’t suitable for cycle touring and are really intended for rides of up to 1 hour. I’m not quite sure what to make of that – does that mean you can only use them for 1 hour total? Interesting liability diversion I suppose… “You’ve used it for 1 hour and 14 seconds and the clip broke so we aren’t refunding you”? Hmm.
As for the lights, well the official items come in at about £15 a pair and look absolutely great for visibility.
I can assure you that as a folding bike fan and folding bike camper, over the coming months I’ll be putting them through their paces and I’ll report back how they last.
As a final note you’ll see that I’ve also got a dry bag on the front on my bike. This is a separate review to follow later.
Rating : 🟡🟡🟡🟡🟡🟡🟡🔵🔵🔵
A solid 7/10. I like the idea and I like the implementation but I’m not a fan of the caveats Decathlon impose on their use and the phrase “waterproof” shouldn’t really be used to describe something that’s “water resistant”. You’ll be ok in a heavy shower but if you’re going to be riding in torrential rain, dry bag the contents or look elsewhere.
Available from Decathlon in the UK priced at £24.99 each.