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Panniers VS Backpacks & Rucksacks: Which One Is Better For Commuting?

Écrit par : Reid Hemsing



Temps de lecture 5 min

If you're looking for a more eco-friendly way to commute from one place to another, then getting on your bike might've crossed your mind. 

After all, you won't leave any carbon footprint when you use your bike! Plus, you'll get plenty of exercise simply by commuting!

However, when you're bringing along your essentials, simply packing them up in your bike basket won't do.

Panniers vs Backpacks

So, how can you carry your stuff when you're commuting by bike? Two options you can choose from are panniers and backpacks.

But, how can you know which to use?

In this piece, you'll explore what makes each option different from each other, answering the important question: panniers vs backpacks & rucksacks— which is the best option?

Weight distribution

Did you know that weight distribution highly affects your body when you're riding a bike?

It's because you're using your body when you ride one! So, as much as possible, you have to evenly distribute your overall weight to avoid strain in your body!

When you use a backpack, all the weight becomes concentrated on your shoulders and back. This means, you'll most likely experience discomfort and fatigue during a long ride. So by the time you reach your destination, you won't have enough energy!

However, a pannier or saddlebag distributes the weight to your bike's front and rear wheels. After all, these are attached to your bike's rack! In short, your stability, handling, and overall comfort improves.

A Two Wheel Gear influencer using our panniers

Carrying capacity

Whether it's for work, grocery shopping, or simply enjoying a long ride, you'll have to bring your essentials such as water, extra clothes, extra footwear, and your smartphone! 

And it definitely sucks when your stuff can't fit in your bag!

So, carrying capacity is important when it comes to choosing your bike companion.

We know— backpacks have plenty of space. But when you've filled it with your stuff, it can become bulky, making it heavy to carry around your back. Plus, some backpacks can't load bulkier items in it!

On the other hand, panniers have more storage space compared to a backpack. This allows you to carry larger and bulkier items. Imagine, you can carry all your essentials, from laptops to work documents, to even groceries! Because of this, you can ensure that you're well-prepared for any situation during your ride without feeling weighed down!

Another storage companion for many bike riders is the trunk bag. 

So, in the decision between panniers vs trunk bags, which should you select?

Compared to panniers, trunk bags are smaller. Because of this, you can't hold anything and everything you need. So, if you have a substantial load to carry, a trunk bag may not fit everything and may even compromise your riding experience.

Safety and riding posture

You can't deny that the bag you use will affect your posture when riding a bike. In turn, impacting your balance & life.

Using a backpack for your rides can add weight to your back, which will cause you to hunch forward. This can cause your neck, shoulders, and back muscles to strain as you pedal.

However, with panniers attached to your bike, you can position yourself more uprightly and comfortably. When this happens, you can enhance your safety and reduce your risk of injuries related to poor posture!

sowing the safety features of panniers


Do you know what makes using a backpack a hassle?

It's when you have to remove your backpack every time you need something!

However, using a pannier allows you to quickly and easily access your things, without the need of removing your bag.

Most panniers have multiple compartments and pockets, making organizing your things more efficient!

Whether it's your phone, water bottle, or extra clothes, you can quickly grab everything you want without stopping your bike!

Also read our article on what the best panniers of 2024 are.

Weather resistance

If your bike is your only transportation companion, you'll end up using it regardless of the weather. So, you'll definitely need a bag that can withstand any weather condition.

You can't deny that there are many water-resistant backpacks out there, but they're still subject to wear and tear. 

After all, when you use them frequently in various weather conditions, there's no doubt it may end up with stuck zippers and tears. And even if your backpack comes with rain covers, there's no guarantee that your stuff will remain dry in the pouring rain.

On the other hand, you can ensure that a pannier can keep your belongings protected regardless of the weather. These are usually made of durable and weather-resistant materials, which can keep your things dry even when you're riding during the rain!

Two great examples of waterproof panniers are the Pannier Backpack Convertible 2.0 LITE & Pannier Backpack Convertible 2.0 PLUS.

Visibility and balance

What's the first cardinal rule on riding a bike?

Yes— finding your balance.

So, when you're carrying a load when riding a bike, you need to keep yourself balanced; or else, you'll fall and injure yourself!

Wearing a backpack during your bike rides can obstruct your view. This'll make checking traffic signals challenging. Plus, you'll have uneven weight distribution, which can affect your balance!

However, when you use a pannier, you can have better visibility and balance during your bike ride. After all, these are attached to your bike's rear, and you'll be more aware of your surroundings while riding your bike.

An image showing different bike attachments and their position for balance and visibility


You might've already realized which is a clear winner in a backpack vs pannier debate, but there's also another option that many bike riders use— the rucksack.

So, you might think— panniers or rucksack: which one to choose?

If you're trying to decide, you only have to think of one deciding factor: versatility.

Compared to a rucksack, panniers are more versatile. These accessories can be easily attached or removed from your bike's rack. So, you can easily switch every time you're headed out!

But if you're using a rucksack, chances are it won't fit with every situation whenever you head out!

With a pannier, you can have the flexibility to adapt to various situations without the need to sacrifice your comfort or convenience!

Image showing the versatility of panniers

Panniers: Your Bike Ride's Best Friend

There's no doubt that bike rides are your eco-friendly way of commuting to different places. But when you've got loads to carry, you'll need a bag that can help you carry all that stuff.

You've got plenty of choices to choose from— backpacks, trunk bags, rucksacks, and panniers. However, among all of them, it's clear that panniers are your bike ride's best friend.

From resisting various weather conditions to sufficient storage space, you can ensure your bike ride's comfortable every time!

Below you can find some of the absolute best panniers that'll help you on your commutes and biketrips.

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