Rambler Bags Panniers Review
Not quite micro panniers but still not full-sized panniers, the Rambler Bags Panniers are low-profile and spacious and feature a timeless aesthetic that’s easy to love. Miles and Emily have been bikepacking in Australia for the last month, and they report back on how the panniers have been holding up. Find their review here…
For our first trans-Pacific bikepacking trip, Emily and I decided to complicate things further by riding bikes we have never seen in person. We flew into Sydney, laid eyes on our rigs, and packed up everything we’d need for the next six weeks in just a few hours before heading out for our first day of riding. “Hectic” would be an understatement for that afternoon.
Without having a good idea of tire clearance for bags and gear, we opted to install an Old Man Mountain Divide rack on the back end of Emily’s bike. When clearance is limited, racks save the day. Using a rear rack also meant Emily could bring some small panniers along for the ride since we were packing for all kinds of weather when heading into autumn here in Australia. We’ve had lots of rain, some cold nights, and everything in between. We’ve been grateful to have enough layers and gear to be comfortable through it all.
I had been chatting with Kuba, the founder and owner of Rambler Bags in Pennsylvania, about getting our hands on some of their bags to review for a while, and we thankfully made it happen for the Australia trip. I consider the Rambler Bags Panniers to be small panniers rather than micro or mini panniers as they’re probably closer in size to a set of traditional front panniers. They have a slim rectangular profile that’s designed to be spacious as possible without being too bulky. They have a large main pocket with a flap-style opening and side-release buckle closure and external elastic “pockets” for lashing gear to. The rack side of the pannier has a replaceable plastic stiffener to provide rigidity and shape. The inverted webbing V-strap lifts the weight of the bag from the bottom, and the upper attachment uses a hardwood dowel, Voile strap, lower bungee/hook, and a webbing strap for a secure and versatile setup.
We’ve been testing the panniers made from a coyote ECOPAK EPLX400 X-Pac with a high-vis orange nylon liner fabric. Since they are made to order, you have your choice of fabric colour, and they can also be made from #8 duck canvas. The panniers aren’t 100% waterproof, but they are highly weather-resistant due to their fabric choices and construction. The seams are all finished with seam tape and the flap closure does an adequate job at keeping the elements out. On first impression, the Rambler Panniers seem solidly built and are quite pleasing to the eyes, although they feel slightly heavier than other small panniers I’ve used.
Installation is as straightforward as it gets. The two upper Voile Nano Straps loop under the hardwood dowel and around the rack. For racks with lower hook mounts, Rambler includes a bungee/hook for the lower attachment, as well as a webbing buckle. Since the Old Man Mountain Divide works with both, we’ve been using both, which makes for a solid setup with only some very minimal wobble on rough terrain. My only complaint is that there isn’t much excess room behind the dowel, making getting the Voile strap looped underneath a little finicky at first. Once they are installed, they stay put, but for anyone who’s swapping straps between bags often, I’d suggest letting them live on the bags. The lower webbing strap is a nice touch, making the panniers compatible with almost every type of rear rack out there.
The wide opening and flap closure are somewhat unique among modern panniers. Since Emily has spent more time loading and unloading them, I asked her what she thinks about the design and had this to say: “It’s handy for packing and is easy to open, taking just seconds to open up. The cinch closure is functional and tightens the load effectively, but the design requires me to get off my bike to grab the strap (which falls down under the pannier) to close them. It almost seems the flap isn’t quite big enough for the generously sized opening. When the panniers are packed full, there isn’t much overlap on the opening. It’s been important to manually fold in the sides before cinching the top down, and I’m happy to have my clothing and sleeping gear stashed safely inside a plastic bag to keep the weather out.”
For drier climates and shorter bikepacking trips, the design works well. However, Emily and I both agree that we’d like to see a cinchable drawstring closure/liner of some sort to help keep the contents clean and dry without sacrificing the size of opening. While the panniers aren’t waterproof, they held up well in some of the seriously wet weather we’ve had in Australia over the past few weeks. There was only a small amount of ingress on the bottom of the bags, which is why Emily introduced a plastic bag to keep her sleeping bag and clothing dry. The elastic “pockets” on the sides of the panniers have a classic look to them, but I can’t imagine storing or stashing anything there without worrying about something getting caught up in the wheel.
Although the backside of the pannier, complete with bungees and webbing straps, is a little busier than others, it does its job well. When all strapped in, there is very little movement or bouncing around. We just finished up a run down the Munda Biddi Trail in Western Australia and I’ve spent my fair share of time staring at the panniers from behind Emily. The are solid. I think the wooden dowel, V-strap design, and various straps contribute a lot to this.
- High-quality construction and materials
- Aesthetically pleasing design and styling
- Quick to access contents
- Near-universal rack compatibility
- Not waterproof
- Top flap seems slightly small for the opening
- Somewhat heavy, but not a deal breaker
- External elastic “pockets” don’t add much real-world value
- Capacity: 8.5L per pannier
- Material (as tested): Coyote ECOPAK EPLX400
- Weight: 355 grams (12oz)
- Place of Manufacture: Pennsylvania, USA
- Price: $335 USD per set
- Manufacturer’s Details: RamblerBags.com
It’s fun to see bag makers modify their designs and watch products evolve over time. Even the version I was sent to test has already been tweaked slightly. The Rambler Panniers have an unmistakable aesthetic and have been the most asked-about bag during our time bikepacking around Australia. They’ve proven to offer just the right amount of storage for an extended bikepacking trip, are holding up well after several weeks of bikepacking, and the strap/attachment design is sturdy and functional. While the large opening is easy to use, the current flap design doesn’t offer much protection when the panniers are over-packed, which seemed to be a regular occurrence on this particular trip. It’s also hard to ignore the price tag. At $335 for the set, these are some of the most expensive handmade panniers we’ve seen. Overall, we’ve been glad to have them as part of our kit and have been loving the convenience of panniers that hit the sweet spot in the nexus of weight, capacity, and size.
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