Framework Designs Travellers Panniers Review
The new Travellers Panniers from Australian maker Tia Evans of Framework Designs feature a versatile design that can be bolted on directly onto your favourite fork or strapped onto a rack. We’ve been testing out a prototype set for the last couple of months for this detailed review…
As of September 2022, the Travellers have been updated with a plastic composite backing that saves around 100 grams per pair. They are also now available in Ecopak, which saves even more weight over the version we tested.
When modern bikepacking was just beginning to gain in popularity, soft-sided saddlebags and lightweight harnesses were all the rage. Pack light, pack less. For a while, I entertained the idea of ultra-minimalism while bikepacking. And although I still occasionally enjoy the freedom of less, my packing tactics have changed. It’s no coincidence that we’ve published a Mini Pannier Gear Index and guide on Small & Lightweight Front Racks in the last few years. Times are changing, and bag makers are responding and innovating.
While lightweight saddlebags and rackless setups have their place, a lot can be said for a simple rear rack setup. No wagging, no dropper post interference, and increased packing space. Most recently, my hardtail shredpacking setup has involved a Tumbleweed T-Rack and small panniers or a dry bag lashed directly on top. This becomes particularly useful during the winter months and shoulder season when packing bulkier gear is essential.
Back in November, Tia at Framework Designs in Melbourne, Australia, teased some photos of a new larger capacity version of her Pint Sized Panniers. The overall design is relatively unchanged, and the main difference is their size. The Pint Sized Panniers hold up to 2.5L each, and the new Travellers Panniers almost double in capacity at 4.5L each. They both feature grommets on the backside spaced for triple pack mounts, making them compatible with most utility forks as well as some rear racks with threaded bosses on the lower struts, such as the Tumbleweed T-Rack. The panniers have a single spacious main compartment, a roll-top closure, and a durable aluminum G-hook buckle.
My prototype version had a single horizontal section of webbing across the top and down the middle, providing some options for skipping the bolt-on design altogether and strapping onto your favourite rack. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough attachment points to provide a solid, bounce-free, setup. On a recent run down the Black Canyon Trail in Arizona, I ended up wrapping a spare strap around the pannier and rack leg to keep them from moving around.
I passed this feedback onto Tia after some of my first few rides, and I’m happy to report that the final version (pictured below) features a crosshatch of webbing for nearly limitless attachment points. With the update, I can’t imagine anyone having compatibility issues with any type of rack, as long as there’s some sort of lower attachment point or leg. Voile straps work great for this, and with some creativity, you can eliminate nearly all bounces and wiggles.
Like the Pint Sized Panniers, the Travellers have a solid aluminum backing. When bolted onto a fork or rack, there’s essentially no movement. The sides are left unpadded and soft, making them easy to roll up tight when not in use or expand for larger loads. There’s a layer of water-resistant foam padding on the bottom, front, and back to protect your contents. The poly/cotton canvas exterior is waterproof but the construction of the bag is not, so Tia recommends adding a dry bag for exceptionally wet conditions. The poly/cotton canvas exterior is unlike anything I’ve handled before, and it reminds me of a mix between standard Cordura and a heavier Cotton Duck canvas. It’s not particularly stretchy but feels surprisingly lightweight considering how durable it has proven to be.
The 7″ (18cm) wide opening works nicely for the size of the panniers. On the Black Canyon Trail, I packed two lightweight sleeping pads and some extra layers in one pannier and Emily’s Sea To Summit Flame (25°F/-4°C) sleeping bag in the other, with room to spare. To paint a picture, I was able to pack the sleeping pads vertically or stuffed in horizontally.
When mounted to a rack, the weight can start to add up. At nearly 500 grams per pannier, they’re on the heavier side when compared to other small panniers with more capacity. For example, the Revelate Designs Nano Panniers weigh just 465 grams as a pair and provide an additional four litres of storage. The Rockgeist Microwave Panniers are close in weight to the Travellers, but offer a whopping 26 litres as a pair, compared to the Travellers’ 9 litres. The Travellers aren’t particularly lightweight considering their size, but they do offer more mounting options and are one of the only micro panniers we’ve seen with a full aluminum backing.
All that said, the shape and capacity of the Travellers hit a sweet spot for me. They are large enough to add some solid storage to any setup without feeling bulky, and they tuck in nicely against the bike, making them suitable for riding technical singletrack and hike-a-bikes alike. They were hardly noticeable on a rear rack, with very little effect on handling. While they work equally as well bolted to a compatible fork or strapped to a front rack, I prefer to leave my fork mostly unweighted if possible to keep the front end snappy. However, on a longer and more remote tour or a winter trip, I could easily see myself pairing the Travellers Panniers with a set of larger panniers.
Framework Designs does warn folks that the panniers are designed to be mounted parallel to your frame. This means forks with offset bosses will require an adapter like Wolf Tooth’s B-RAD Bottle Shift for a proper setup. In the same vein, depending on your mounting location, there’s the potential for downtube interference (when bolted onto a fork) and heel contact while pedaling (when bolted or strapped onto a rear rack). It’s worth making a little cardboard mockup of the panniers to ensure they’ll fit your setup before purchasing, and if you’re out of luck, take a look at the Pint Sized Panniers for something slightly smaller.
- Compatible with nearly any setup due to bolt-on and strap-on design
- Size and dimensions hit a sweet spot that’s not too big or too small
- Utilitarian design and aesthetics
- Handmade in Australia by a woman-owned and operated business
- No additional hardware or cages required
- Pricey, especially for those purchasing outside of Australia, but justifiably so
- Non-waterproof construction
- Possibility for clearance issues due to width and shape
- Just as heavy as other small panniers with larger capacity
- Capacity: 4.5L per pannier
- Material: Poly/Cotton Exterior, Nylon Liner, Aluminum Backer
- Dimensions: 7x17x3″ (WxHxD)
- Weight: 485 grams per pannier
- Place of Manufacture: Melbourne, Australia
- Price: $249 AUD/pair (~$190 USD/pair)
- Manufacturer’s Details: FrameworkDesigns.au
The Travellers Panniers aren’t the first bolt-on micro panniers we’ve seen. The Oveja Negra Bootlegger bolts onto triple pack mounts and has been around for a number of years now. But Framework Designs set their panniers apart from other options with a versatile attachment system. Plus, their capacity falls somewhere between a small front pannier and a tiny cargo cage bag, which has proven to be a useful middle ground.
The changes Tia made to the prototype I’ve been testing solve the minor fit issues I experienced when strapping onto a rear rack, and the clean design and aesthetics are easy to love. There’s no denying that the Travellers are relatively expensive and likely out of reach for any bikepackers on a budget relative to the amount of storage they offer, but for those who can afford them and are looking for a smaller fork or rack bag, their overall quality of construction, good looks, and small design touches make them easy to justify and well worth checking out.
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