April 21, 2016

Review - Two Wheel Gear Backpack Pannier Convertible

As a way to become more familiar with hauling stuff by bicycle (a.k.a. quaxing), I got my first rear luggage rack from Bateman’s Bicycle Shop. This then prompted a search for a pannier. I wanted something that could be easily carried off bike, which lead to the discovery of Vancouver based Two Wheel Gear. Thanks to Two Wheel Gear and their president Reid Hemsing, they sent over their newest product – a Backpack Pannier Convertible – to do a review from a Toronto perspective and introduce it to the city.

If there is one word to describe the pannier’s first impression, it is versatility. The backpack pannier has two side mesh pockets for water bottles and coffee tumblers, two front pockets, and several internal compartments (e.g. laptop sleeve, zippered mesh pocket, pen holders, extra mesh pocket). If that isn’t enough, the rear pocket provides even more storage when the backpack straps are not tucked in.

The various internal pockets make this backpack pannier great for carrying camera gear

Switching between backpack and pannier modes is easy by unbuckling the straps, placing them inside the back pocket, and tucking the pocket to reveal the pannier hooks. For added security, the bottom straps can be wrapped around the luggage rack while a third centre lock rotates to fit on the rack.

Switching between pannier and backpack is done by unbucking the straps

A couple of drawbacks were evident, though the website’s product description indicated those were expected. The upper front pocket does not have a large opening, which makes it impractical to store items other than phones or sunglasses. While an older backpack with similar dimensions I had could handle my 17” Lenovo laptop, the waterproof backing made it impossible to fit it in the backpack pannier. The laptop sleeve will, however, accommodate laptops up to 15”. As per Hemsing, the intention was to keep it simple at first, but Two Wheel Gear is considering making other sizes in the future to accommodate larger laptops. In spite of this shortcoming, the capacity is still rated higher than typical twenty litre panniers (Two Wheel Gear’s website cited a 24 litre volume) and is sufficient for a wide variety of errands from commuting to light grocery shopping.
The backpack pannier is slightly too small for 17" laptops

How does the pannier hold up while cycling? Mounting to and unmounting from the rear luggage rack is easy, including the use of bottom straps and centre mounting hooks. Even with Toronto’s potholes and streetcar tracks, the pannier and goods inside remained secure. In light precipitation, the durable material used throughout was able to keep goods dry, while reflective markings helped improve night visibility. For heavier precipitation, the lower front pocket (labelled as a U-lock pocket) contains a reflective rain cover, which easily goes around the front, though it was not tested for this review. That pocket also contains a key ring, which can be strapped to the rain cover.
Front and back of how the rain cover fits

When bringing the bike on GO trains (or other public transit vehicles), the added weight of the pannier can make it cumbersome. In this situation, dismounting the pannier and converting it into a backpack will address this issue, though you can use the elevators if needed. The pannier is supportive in backpack mode with thick straps, though I would recommend scrapping the cross straps.
The backpack pannier can handle duties from bike commuting to light shopping
Due to the low Canadian dollar, the $129 USD (approx. $165 CAD) price for the graphite version per the company website may appear to be steep, though the black version is available for $119 USD (approx. $150 CAD) or $135 CAD via MEC’s website. While panniers can be purchased for as little as $80 CAD, the included rain cover, unparalleled versatility, and above average capacity provides a good value proposition for the Backpack Pannier Convertible.

The bottom line is if you want a high capacity, highly versatile pannier which can be easily carried everywhere and you don’t need to carry 17” laptops, the Backpack Pannier Convertible is for you!

Happy quaxing!
Rob Z (e-mail)

1 comment:

  1. Going camping or backpacking takes 60% preparation, in my opinion! You've got to be proactive, have the right gear and equipment, have the skills to survive in the wilderness and have enough supplies/first aid kits to take. Having a durable and sturdy backpack to carry all your gear is a must! Making sure you travel light and opt for lightweight gear is also necessary. I've recently stumbled on a site that lists the top gear for backpacking. Take a look and see http://myoutdoorslife.com/gear/camping-and-hiking/best-backpacking-gear.html