Backpack Or Pannier – Which Is Better For Daily Commuting?

The Pannier Or Backpack – what is the most comfortable way for me to carry my stuff from point A to point B? Find out which is better for you here!

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Commuting Cyclist With Backpack

When you start commuting on your bicycle, one thing you will miss is the trunk of your car. It is just so convenient to store everything away. However, sitting in a car means you are spending money to keep it running while not getting any exercise. So, when you commute to work on your bike and need to carry stuff, which is better, a pannier or a backpack?

When you need to decide between a backpack or pannier, think about how long your commute is. The backpack wins when there’s a short commute, cooler climate or don’t have much to carry. A pannier is sensible for longer commutes, warmer climate or larger loads.

Panniers may look clunky and look; let’s be honest, they don’t always flatter the aesthetics of your bike. However, when you commute on your bike a lot, you will start to value convenience over looks. So, in this article, we will discuss whether or not you should use a backpack or a pannier. We want to cover a few different subtopics, so I highly recommend that you keep reading!

Looking for the best of both worlds? Check out the Best Convertible Pannier Backpacks!

3 bikes with panniers

Pannier Or Backpack: Which Is Best For Commuting To Work?

When you are commuting to and from work on your bike, a pannier is your best option in my experience. There will be a few exceptions. These exceptions have to do with personal preference and weather conditions. We will dive deeper into that topic further down in the article.

When you are commuting to work, you can store everything in a pannier, and this includes your laptop, your briefcase, and any other essentials that you would need to take with you to the office. You don’t have to worry about any of this stuff being left to stand outside with the bike. When you go into the office, you are most likely going to take everything in with you.

For a quick and short commute, a backpack does the job. However, when you need to commute to work, you can’t hold as much stuff in the backpack as you can in a pannier. Panniers are generally built to carry more stuff. If you only take your lunch to work, then a backpack should suffice. However, most of the time, people are carrying their laptop, papers, lunch, (kitchen sink 😂) and more to work.

Related article – Are Road Bikes Good For Commuting?

Morning commute with cyclists

Backpack Or Pannier: Which Is Best For Commuting To The Shops?

The answer to this question can depend on quite a few variables. In some cases, you will be better off with a pannier, and in others, a backpack is the better option. However, for the most part, a pannier is the preferred form of storage for your bike. 

It would be best if you asked yourself a few questions before commuting to the shops with either a backpack or a pannier.

  • What are the weather conditions like?
  • How many stops do you plan on making?
  • How much stuff do you need to carry

If the weather conditions are wet, you want to have a waterproof pannier. You also want to make sure that all the seals on your waterproof pannier are working adequately. Because you can place a raincoat over a backpack, worrying about whether or not it is waterproof is not as important!

If you are going to be making more than one stop, a pannier could cause a problem. For example, if you live in a city with a relatively high crime rate, the stuff you have already bought might get stolen out of the pannier if you leave it outside while in your second or third shop. Remember, even if you lock the bike to a pole you can’t lock a pannier.

Related article – Does Cycling To Work Get Easier?

Cycling with groceries in front basket

Is It Harder To Ride With A Backpack Or A Pannier?

Riding with a pannier is often easier than riding with a backpack. However, there is an exception to this statement. If you overload the pannier and put too much weight on one side of your bicycle, this could hinder the amount of control you have over the bike. To start out, it is advisable to get panniers that go over both sides to help you balance.

In an instance where you have too much weight on one side, you might not feel any adverse effects at all, but if you turn sharply or even hit rugged terrain, it could cause your bike to pull to one side. Depending on traffic, it can be pretty dangerous when this happens!

Riding with the backpack is also relatively easy. Many people say that it is easier than riding with the pannier, but I’m afraid I have to disagree with this statement. Yes, when you have a backpack on, the weight is often evenly distributed. However, that weight is distributed mainly on you.

If you make the backpack too heavy, you can become fatigued fairly quickly, especially in your upper body, around your shoulders, and your upper back.

Related article – Tips & Tricks For Commuting To Work By Bike

Top Panniers For Commuting

Now that we have discussed almost everything there is to know about which is best between these two types of storage, I think we should give you a few of our recommendations for the best panniers that you can buy online. Let’s take a look at two panniers that I highly recommend.


A very budget friendly option – especially if you’re just starting out.

It has an inbuilt panel that makes the pannier rigid. This back panel will help the pannier maintain its structural integrity for years. So, you won’t have to keep replacing the bag! Everything else on the pannier is built with premium quality materials.

For safety, the pannier comes with multiple hooks so that it fits on almost all bicycles. You won’t have to worry about it falling off and taking you down with it. The pannier also has reflective strips designed to keep you safe by helping motorists see you on the road. This is especially helpful if you find yourself out at night.

In terms of volume, the pockets on this pannier are large so that you can fit a reasonable amount of groceries or your work equipment in the bag.


The Waterfly 25L bag is an absolute BEAST. It is made from a PVC material which means it is durable and waterproof. Everything from the clips to the zippers is made from high quality materials. 

If you get caught out in the rain or at night (or both!), the bag is built with reflective strips so that traffic can still see you; as we all know, visibility for cars is limited in rainy weather. One additional protection from the weather is the roll-up closure and buckles without zipper.

You can remove the pannier and wear it like a backpack which makes this stand out, mainly if you use it to go shopping. Keep in mind, the bag might make you look like a backpacker 😂.

This pannier was initially designed to hold 9L. However, due to the clever design, the side pockets are large enough so that you can fit around 25L worth of goods in the bag.

Looking for more pannier ideas? Check out 10 Of The Best Panniers For Touring.


There’s a few things to consider here, so choose something that you think you’ll feel comfortable with. If you don’t like that unstable feeling, then go with a backpack, if not the pannier wins in most situations.

Luckily, backpacks and panniers are not big-ticket items that will break the bank. So, you do have some freedom to experiment, and hey, maybe you decide to use both!

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