The North St. Bags Guide to Choosing a Pannier

How do you pick the right pannier? Like so many great questions the answer is: more questions! This guide will help you ask the right questions, and how to pick the best panniers for your ride.

What are panniers?

There are a ton of different types of bike bags. "Pannier" comes from an Old French word for "bread basket". Fast forward through a few hundred years of technology and language development and you find it's now a blanket term to cover any bag, basket, or box attached to the side of a bike or motorcycle. 

North St. Bags panniers are made to work with most standard rear and front racks for bicycles. We may be able to make some accommodations for cargo racks with thicker tubes, or racks smaller than the suggested sizing.

If you have any questions about your rack, reach out!

We also offer convertible backpack-panniers. These are packs with hidden, modular backpack straps that transform the way you carry the bag off-bike. Their versatility makes them some of the best panniers for commuting. Did we mention they rock for traveling, touring, and day trips, too?

How do you say "panniers"?

We have this conversation a lot in the shop, and we can conclusively say: you're doing it the right way. Don't be afraid to have some fun with the pronunciation - we know what you mean, and if we don't, we'll ask. The regional accents on our team mean that we tend to go for "pan-ear", but give us a "pan-yey" or a "paneer"? Don't worry - we got you.

What do you pack? 

Each ride and rider is a little bit different, and you know your needs best. Make your own daily commute checklist, including any off-season clothes and accessories that you might not be carrying right now. We have a suggested list below– tailor yours to suit your life.

Suggested Daily Carry Packing List:

  • Laptop
  • Charging cords
  • Tablet
  • Change of clothes
  • Shoes
  • Rain jacket
  • Water bottle
  • Lunch
  • Lock & keys
  • Flat repair kit
  • First aid kit

What weather do you ride in?

Are you aiming for postal service levels of rain-or-shine, sleet-or-snow commitment? Or do you bring your bike out to soak up seasonal sunshine? There’s no wrong way to travel by bike - you’ll likely find your priorities change over time. Considering what kinds of weather you face will no doubt help you choose the right materials for your bike bag.

We make our gear with two basic kinds of material - a rugged waterproof sailcloth, and a super abrasion resistant, water resistant nylon. If you’re interested in going deep on our fabric choices, you'll find more on that here. Our classic panniers and convertible backpack-panniers are made with both of these in layers. The nylon outer shell protects the cargo and liner from friction, while the sailcloth lining helps keep the interior compartments dry.

What bike and rack are you using?

Every bike is as unique as it's rider. Panniers can be used for commuting, hauling kids to school, rock hopping down some single track or a long distance tour. You'll want to make sure that the bags you choose will fit on your bike setup, and serve the rides you want to take!

We design our bags to be as universal as possible so that you can swap them from bike to bike fairly easily. That said, there are some factors to be aware of. Many cargo bikes, for instance, have different size tubing on their racks. We offer different top hook sizes to accomodate this. Read our article on how to select the best hook size for more information.

You can also find more information about our hook spacing here.


How to Choose the Best Pannier for Your Needs

Now that you have your packing list, weather forecast and bike specs figured out, it’s time to talk about finding the best panniers. 

We note our bag volume in liters. It's industry standard bag sizing description, but isn't always a clean translation to reality for folks just starting to pack.

I.E. Can’t visualize what 20 liters of clothes, snack bars, and supplies looks like off hand? You’re not alone!  If you don’t have a pack to compare size to, grab everything on your packing list and a couple brown paper grocery bags.

Grocery bags are not 100% standard, but most are between 18-22 liters. Knowing this, you can get a good estimate of what you’ll need to pack your daily carry.

Here’s a breakdown of how our panniers size up:


Cyclist opening panniers on a gravel trail | North St Bags


Micro Panniers

14L | Single layer waterproof EcoPak sailcloth

Our Micro Panniers come in two versions, Commuter and Adventure, which have different attachment systems for different uses. The Commuter Micro Pannier uses hooks and a bungee tension system for quick and easy mounting and removal, best for street riding. The Adventure Micro Pannier features a hook-and-loop attachment system for gravel touring, sturdy enough for hopping rock gardens and taking gravel waves in stride, and flexible enough to attach to oversized cargo racks for a semi-permanent pannier option.

"...Perfect in every way. Made with great material, high quality build, and the perfect size for a daily commute." - Adam F., real life Micro Pannier user


Guy mounting a grocery pannier to city bike in a park. | North St Bags

Gladstone Grocery Panniers

15 liters | Single layer water resistant 1000d Cordura or EcoPak sailcloth

"Easy to install on my rear bike rack and looks great." - Sylvia L., real life Grocery Pannier user

Woman with her bike and pannier on a pedestrian bridge. | North St Bags

Route 24L

24 liters | Built with durable 1200 denier Recycled Cordura (re-Cor®) and lined with waterproof, recycled EcoPak sailcloth.

"Strong, solid construction. Big enough to accommodate all my necessary items. The addition of the interior removable pocket helps me stay organized and not lose my essential charging tools. Awesome bags." - Morgan S., real life Route 24 user

"Love these panniers. Ridiculously burly with high build material quality." - April N., real life Route 24L user


Woman with her bike and a Morrison backpack pannier on a city street.

Morrison Convertible Backpack-Pannier

22L | Durable 1000d Cordura construction or waterproof EcoPak.

"Best damn bike bag pannier/backpack I have ever owned." - Sam B., real life Morrison user

Couple sitting on park bench with a bike and pannier in the foreground.

Woodward Convertible Backpack-Pannier

32L |  Waterproof EcoPak sailcloth or 1000d Cordura or recycled 1200d Cordura (custom colors option!)

"I have used the same midnight Woodward since 2015. On the bike, on the bus, on a hike, weekend trips. It has never fallen off the bike, it has never hit my heel, and it has kept all my gear dry since day one. On top of that it just looks fantastic." - Jackson M., real life Woodward user


Remember that you can split up your equipment between different types of bike bags. Panniers are great for the big items that you don’t need to access until you get where you’re going.

Pair the versatility of a convertible backpack-pannier with the simplicity and space of a dedicated pannier.

Handlebar bags, fuel pouches, and fanny packs keep smaller items at your fingertips. A trunk bag by itself is a compact and aerodynamic alternative to panniers, or can be paired with a set of rear rack bags for a fully loaded back seat.

If you have any questions about which bag is right for you, we're always happy to make recommendations! Reach out to us and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

Travel Well and Adventure Right

-The North St. Bags Team

Curtis Williams