What is the best luggage option for a RTW trip? The advantages of hard panniers is the option to lock them, better protection and usually easier access to the content. It is also easier to leave them on the bike, because it would take some more time to remove them illegally.
Soft panniers are usually better when you crash. They cannot get deformed, they can absorb the impact a bit to preserve the rack and your bones will also appreciate them in case they should get under the pannier while crashing.
Since we travel most of the time in unpopulated areas, the soft panniers option seemed to be the better choice for us. We started to do some research and finally found the Adventure Spec Magadan panniers. Two bags with a capacity of 35l (2135cu.in.) each, waterproof liner, additional external pockets and attachment points to route a steal cable to “lock” the bags. The allover weight is 4,35kg (9,5lbs).
After two years of use we can tell you, that these panniers are performing really well. Nevertheless they have shown some weak points, too:
Our racks were specifically designed for the Magadan panniers and the Rotopax petrol cans.
The bags have a stiffened insert and two tabs, that can be attached to two hooks on the racks. In addition to the tabs, there are two double velcro saddle straps across the top to distribute weight over the rear of the bike.
The mounting is easy, but you have to make sure the weight of the two panniers is about the same. Otherwise they always move a little bit more to one side, so the load is on this side’s tabs and they obviously start to wear out. We started to attach the bags tighter by using additional lashing straps. This helps a lot, but needs more time of course.
Durability and water resistance
The outer pannier is made with a sandwich construction of polyurethane coated 1000D Cordura and a layer of Kevlar/Twaron. This makes them already pretty much waterproof. We dropped the bikes several times and you can certainly see some abrasion, but it never left a hole. The Kevlar fabric also makes them extremely difficult to cut in case of thievery. We wouldn’t rely on that, but it also makes the bags very puncture resistant in case of a crash.
The inner bag is a waterproof dry bag liner with a rolltop lock. Although they are quite good, we had some trouble with two of them, where the seam tapes came off. We repaired them with seam grip, but they will have to be replaced completely in future.
On their homepage the co-designer Walter Colebatch wrote, that they wanted the inner bags removeable to take them into your tent or accommodation.
That is a nice idea in theory. However as soon as the bags are stuffed, they are stuck and you can’t really take them out easily anymore. Apart from that – getting them back into the panniers would be a pain in the ass, too. Therefore we either left the bags on the bike, or took everything apart, as soon as the place felt a little unsafe.
The external pockets are great to have important stuff in reach. Unfortunately they have different sizes. The big one is fantastic and can even carry a 2 litre bottle. The other pocket is quite slim though and we rather would prefer the big pocket on both sides.
Allover we are very satisfied with the Adventure Spec Magadan panniers. They slided over several different surfaces, got stuck on rocks and trees while offroading, dropped into rivers and carried lots of weight for thousands of kilometers around the world. They were constantly exposed to all different weather conditions and never let us down. You can put lots of stuff in there and they are also easy to repair. We love the simple black design and the additional reflectors help to be seen easier in night time. What else do you need?