Revelate Designs Nano Panniers Review: A New Standard
Weighing just 255 grams each with a 7-11L volume, the Revelate Designs Nano Panniers were just completely redesigned with a unique four-point compression system that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before. Miles has been putting them through their paces on a 2,000-kilometer dirt tour around Australia, and he put together a detailed review ahead of today’s launch. Check it out here…
Panniers designed specifically for off-road riding and bikepacking have made a real comeback over the last five years. Today, there are quite a few designs with different sizing and attachment systems, providing a fool-proof cargo hauling solution for folks who need extra space or are riding bikes with limited saddle bag clearance. Some might say we’ve seen modern bikepacking bags travel full circle at this point—from super minimal fabric bags back to racks and panniers—and there are more options than ever.
Alaska’s Revelate Designs was one of the first bag makers to offer a dirt-touring-specific mini pannier option with their Nano Panniers, which were first released back in 2016. They were updated in 2018 but have remained relatively unchanged since then, existing as a low-profile zippered mini pannier and often popping up on rigs tackling remote routes and winter events. In the last year alone, we’ve seen a number of new panniers come to market, everything from canvas roll-top bags to bolt-on bags for racks and forks with triple-pack bosses, many of which we’ve reviewed here on the site. I’ve been lucky enough to try out a number of them, but I usually come back to my beloved Porcelain Rocket (now made by Rockgeist) Microwave Panniers due to their simple design and removable drybag. During the wet times of year in the Pacific Northwest, they are pretty hard to beat. I probably would have brought them with me on a recent six-week bikepacking trip in Australia if it wasn’t for Eric Parsons at Revelate Designs letting me know that an updated Nano Pannier was nearly ready for launch.
Design and Construction
The new Revelate Designs Nano Panniers are incredibly lightweight. At just 255 grams per pannier, they are some of the lightest panniers out there, and they’re by far the most minimal I’ve used. They are based around a single main compartment that’s accessed via a roll-top closure and side-release buckle. The body of the pannier, including the front, base, and backside, is constructed from a lightweight Ultra PE fabric from Challenge Sailcloth. Part of their EcoPak Ultra collection, the Ultra 200 fabric weighs in at just 3.5oz per square yard, and according to Challenge Sailcloth, it has double the tear strength and abrasion resistance as 500D 8oz Cordura. It consists of a 200D face Ultra PE fabric that’s blended with high-tenacity polyester with a 0.5-mil film backing. Like the rest of the EcoPak lineup, Ultra PE is made with 100% recycled fiber and film. In short, it’s lightweight, durable, and waterproof, three qualities that make sense for a lightweight pannier.
On the back of the pannier, positioned on either side of a strip of Rhinotec fabric, there are two velcro straps and aluminum loops that strap directly to the top of your rack. The lower attachment point is a simple Voile Nano Strap attached to a small webbing loop. There are two small metal loops for adjusting its position and an additional rubber keeper for gathering up the tail of the Voile strap.
The front of the bag is where things really get interesting. The pannier is based around a four-point compression system that’s designed to compress its contents and the bag itself tight against the rack. In the middle is a floating plastic-coated fiberglass strut with four adjustable webbing straps extending from each side and wrapping around the pannier. The side straps extend to plastic ladder lock buckles that are positioned directly beside the interior strut. The bottom strap runs through a ladder lock buckle and sewn in directly to the base of the bag, looping up under the load. The top strap has a side release buckle and loops up and over the roll-top closure, compressing the top of the bag downward. Because all straps are independently adjustable, the strut can be positioned differently depending on how full the bags are, and any unnecessary bunching is kept at bay with all straps cinched down.
Inside, the panniers are just as simple. There’s a single X-Pac sleeve on the backside (rack-facing) of the bag, accessed via a small velcro flap. Inside the sleeve lives a high-density foam panel, which provides structure for the bag and some padding between the rack and the bag’s contents. The foam is unlike anything I’ve seen in a bikepacking bag. At just ~5mm thick, is incredibly dense, absorbs vibrations, and weighs in at just 50 grams. Along the top of the foam panel is a removable fiberglass strut, that aligns with the upper attachment points on the back of the pannier, providing additional structure and rigidity to the entire system. Both the foam panel and strut are easily removable and replaceable. Although I haven’t tested it yet, I’m willing to bet the foam panel would double as a nice seat pad in a pinch.
As one might expect, all load-bearing points are reinforced with sturdy bartacks, the interior seams are finished with standard seam tape, and the bottom interior corners are finished with waterproof seam tape to help keep the elements out. Since the main seams running down the sides of the panniers aren’t sealed, the panniers aren’t 100% waterproof, but they have proven to be highly weather-resistant. More on that below. It’s also worth noting that all of the straps with longer tails, including the top strap and lower Voile strap, are finished with rubber keepers to keep things tidy. Details like this do not go unnoticed.
2,000 kilometers in Australia
The Nano panniers arrived just in time for our Australia trip. I had no time to give them a shakedown ride, so I crossed my fingers and tossed them into our duffel bag for the trip. Their minimal design and low-profile stature made them easy to lay flat inside the bag, and this also holds true when installed on the bike. One of the main reasons modern saddlebags became so popular, aside from weight, is that traditional panniers aren’t very low-profile and make hiking your bike or riding technical terrain cumbersome on narrow trails. At just 4” wide, they feel slimmer than other panniers I’ve used, extending about as far as my platform pedals but still providing some realistic room for fitting in bulky items like compressed sleeping bags and clothing.
When packing, I’d open the roll-top closure, release the side compression straps, stuff gear into the back, and then cinch down all of the straps to maintain their profile on the rack. Depending how much the panniers were packed, I’d adjust the position of the exterior strut by loosening or tightening the lower compression strap, effectively tweaking the position of the strut and the main compression point. When tightened down, the strut flexes down slightly toward the ends but not enough to sit flush against the bag. I was worried I’d snag the corners on my legs while hiking, but it ended up not being an issue. Since the female end of the top compression strap is attached to the strut, the male end rests on top of the rack platform and is easy to locate and close. This is unlike the Rambler Panniers I recently reviewed, where the strap hung down in front of the pannier, making it awkward to retrieve and close while packing.
As far as the rack attachment system goes, it’s one of the simplest I’ve seen. Several bag makers have started using Voile Nano Straps for the upper attachment points along the rails of the rack, which work, but can sometimes shift on the rack, depending on how they secure to the panniers. Revelate opted for a velcro strap and aluminum loop, purposely positioned tightly to remove all slop. They are also offset slightly to one side of the pannier, which allows their position on the rack to be dialed in depending on heel clearance and preference. Instead of the traditional bungee or webbing strap that other panniers rely on, Revelate opted for a Voile Nano Strap for the lower attachment point. When secured, the panniers don’t move. The lower Nano Strap and metal hardware paired with the upper straps creates tension from top to bottom, ensuring they don’t shift, bounce, or wiggle in any direction.
Lightweight Panniers Compared
In fact, the new Nano panniers are the most stable panniers I’ve used, setting a new standard for 7-11L panniers in this weight class. Here they are compared to others in this class…
|Revelate Designs Nano Panniers||510g||11L||No||$250|
|Rockgeist Microwave Panniers||920g||13L||Yes||$285|
|Stealth Mountain Panniers||680g||8L||No||$160|
|Tailfin Mini Panniers||760g||10L||Yes||$210|
|MLD Ultra Poco Panniers||280g||9L||Yes||$170|
|Rambler Bags Panniers||710g||8.5L||No||$335|
|Bedrock Hermosa UL Panniers||630g||13L||No||$300|
Looking above, the Mountain Laurel Designs Ultra Poco Panniers are perhaps the closest competitor as far as weight and capacity goes. They are also waterproof, while the Nano Panniers are not. However, the compression system and attachment design on the Nano panniers are certainly a step above, and while I haven’t used the Poco Panniers myself (Cass is currently testing a pair), they don’t look as sophisticated to my eye. In fact, the Nano’s compression system sets them apart from most off-road panniers, as it keeps the load from bulging to maintain their slender physique.
As mentioned earlier, the Nanos aren’t waterproof but are constructed in a way that minimizes the number of seams. When I asked Revelate about this, they described the panniers as being “frame bag supplements” designed to carry heavy and dense items like food, fuel, and water. They suggest putting bulky sensitive sleeping gear and layers in a waterproof handlebar bag, seat bag, or on top of the rack platform. Since I was using a large roll-top handlebar bag from Rambler on this particular trip, I found the panniers made the most sense for carrying my sleeping gear and clothing, so I just eventually added some standard plastic grocery bags inside, which fit well and kept my gear dry in some seriously wet weather.
As far as durability goes, the Ultra 200 fabric is holding up great. Partially due to its abrasion resistance but also because the panniers don’t move, there are only a few superficial marks. I’m not worried about the fabric wearing out any time soon, and that’s saying something after I’ve already logged around 2,000 kilometers on them this year. The only obvious wear points are the tiny metal loops at the lower attachment point, which are developing some rust, likely due to their nickel-plated finish. It’s not ideal, but it’s also not a dealbreaker for me.
- Bounce and rattle-free thanks to the simple yet effective mounting system
- Unique compression system maintains their low-profile shape
- Roll-top closure keeps the elements out and is easy to pack
- Great size and weight for dirt-touring trips
- A good alternative to saddle bags for those who like to use a dropper post
- Not waterproof, but the design is fairly weather-resistant
- Won’t be big enough for some winter trips
- Pricey at $250/pair, but comparable to other options on the market
- Not as easy to take on and off the bike as a removable drybag system
- Capacity: 7-11L each
- Material: Full 200 denier UHMWPE / Polyester woven laminated fabric
- Weight: 510g (18oz) / pair
- Dimensions: 10.5 x 4 x 10-16” (LxWxH)
- Place of Manufacture: USA
- Price: $250 USD/pair
- Manufacturer’s Details: RevelateDesigns.com
The new Revelate Designs Nano Panniers raise the bar when it comes to dirt-touring specific mini panniers. The unique compression system, floating fiberglass strut, and simple overall design are all effective and functional. When a little extra packing space is needed or when sacrificing dropper post travel isn’t an option, the Nano Panniers and a lightweight rear rack, such as the Tumbleweed Mini Pannier Rack or Old Man Mountain Divide, starts to make certain saddle bags seem obsolete.
It would have been ideal to see a 100% waterproof version for those of us living in wet climates, but they’ve proven to be so functional that I’m fine with stuffing my gear into a plastic bag when rain is expected. Without question, they are expensive, and some folks will surely experience sticker shock when shopping for new panniers, but considering their weight, the quality of the materials, and just how solid they are on a rear rack, they’ll be worth the investment for some. I definitely see the Nano Panniers coming along on more trips this summer, and I’m excited to try them out on a front rack soon too.
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