Ortlieb Gravel-Pack: A ‘bikepacking’ Pannier?

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The all-new ORTLIEB Gravel-Pack was just released as a “bikepacking-specific” pannier set. Sound like a contradiction? Read on to find out what makes them different.

The ORTLIEB Gravel-Pack (pair of panniers) was released at this year’s Sea Otter Classic as part of their bikepacking lineup “for trips requiring a little more space for equipment”. Doesn’t the addition of panniers make it not a ‘bikepacking’ setup? You may ask.

Ortlieb Gravel-Pack

  • Ortlieb Gravel Packs, Panniers
  • Ortlieb Gravel Packs, Panniers

To be fair, they are a little different from other front panniers ORTLIEB offers. They are made from the same lightweight, abrasion resistant PSR21 material used on the Handlebar-Pack, Seat-Pack, and newer additions to the bikepacking line-up. This makes them about 280 grams lighter than the popular Sport Roller fronts. In addition, each is equipped with two — as opposed to one — stabilizer hooks for securing to the rack on rough trails and rugged dirt roads. So these features do make them a little more appropriate for unpaved and bumpy surfaces. And shaving a little weight is always welcome in the bikepacking sphere.

Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers

  • Ortlieb Gravel Packs, Panniers
  • Ortlieb Gravel Packs, Panniers
  • Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers
  • Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers
  • Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers

To clarify, I haven’t ridden with these panniers, this is simply a first-look. The reason being that I haven’t had any trips on the books which required extra space over and above the seat pack. Based on ORTLIEB’s press and marketing materials, it appears as if the Gravel-Pack was designed specifically for front lowrider racks. Personally, I don’t currently ride the kind of bikes that lend themselves to low riders, which is why I don’t even own a set of front racks. But I do understand the value in running front panniers on a rear rack – especially if I was headed off on a big winter expedition or a long range trip, where over a week’s worth of food comes into play, or I needed extra space for seriously cold conditions.

Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers

  • Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers
  • Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers

Marketing small panniers specifically for dirt road exploits is nothing new, Swift released their Hinterland Jr. Ranger panniers last year with this in mind. Revelate Designs also makes the Nano Panniers, which are far lighter and more minimal. These types of small panniers can also be a great solution for small bikepackers who need more space but can’t quite squeeze a larger seat pack into the space between the saddle and rear tire. This is even more of an issue with bulkier plus and fat tires.

After a failed attempt with a roll-flap saddlebag a few years back, Gin ended up using a pair of ORTLIEB’s Sport Roller front panniers on a rear rack during our trip through Africa. All in all, they held up well. But after some bushwhacking and a lot of rough roads, they did get a little beat up, so the abrasion-resistant material is a welcome addition.

Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers

  • Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers
  • Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers
  • Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers

Ortlieb Gravel-Pack, Panniers, Surly Pugsley

All features and build quality considered, the ORTLIEB Gravel-Pack seems like a pretty good option for scenarios where extra space is needed, or when a seat pack isn’t in the cards. And if you are into the idea of front-loading, I presume these could work well in that application too. The pannier pair has 25 liters of volume and features the somewhat new and beefier QL2.1 mounting hook system. These are the nicest pannier mounts I’ve seen, plus you can remove each pannier with one hand via the quick-release handle strap. Double stabilizer hooks are nothing new as folks have been adding an extra on their front panniers for a while, but it’s nice that ORTLIEB included it, and the additional support does help on rough tracks. Each bag also has a stiff plastic backing to help it stay true. Like other bags in their lineup, the Gravel-Pack panniers are RF-welded and fully waterproof.

  • Volume: 25 L (1526 cu.in)
  • Weight: 1160 g (40.9 oz)
  • Price: $170
  • Availability: June 2017
  • adamgnewman

    People seem to forget that the big bikepacking seatbags were mostly developed for riding singletrack. Since a large amount of what people are actually riding is doubletrack and gravel roads, small panniers are a lot more practical, even if they aren’t as cool. These look great.

  • Matt M

    Get some pics of these on an orange RLT 9 Steel model immediately

  • https://www.jayonline.co.uk/ Jim Callender

    what is the rack they are using?

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    That’s the Tubus Locc.

  • https://www.jayonline.co.uk/ Jim Callender

    cheers

  • fauxpho

    Are these panniers incompatible with chains?

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    Yep. No chains or pedals allowed. It’s also requisite that the steerer tube be left uncut, the derailleur can’t be cabled, and the rear brake must be dangling. Oh, and the tires should be inflated to no more than 3psi. ;)

  • fauxpho

    :-) You must have been pretty desperate for a bike w/ rack mount points!

  • https://www.jayonline.co.uk/ Jim Callender

    is there a rack for ortlieb that can fit road frame without conventional screws at bottom of frame? thanks again.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    Yep, the only one in my stable at the moment that fits the only rack in my possession… and it’s for sale too.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    Not sure, try Old Man Mountain racks… they have racks that use the QR axle.

  • Rose

    I’ve been using Thule “pack n pedal” rack on my fully mtb and my race bike for a few years now. Works fantastic.

  • Thomas Kaiser

    I use the Tubus Disco on both road bike and mtb even with disc brakes.

  • http://theRadavist.com Morgan Taylor

    These look great! We did our big trip last year with Ortlieb Sport Packers (flap-top equivalent to the Sport Roller) on the front of both bikes in addition to our Porcelain Rocket bikepacking gear. We did indeed add a second hook on each bag, but on the Tubus Tara it was challenging to find an orientation that truly made use of the second hook like the pictured Tubus Locc and other rear racks can. This is one reason Scott at Porcelain Rocket uses the football-shaped elliptical lower rail on his hybrid-hardware panniers. Even with two hooks, the lower hooks occasionally unhooked themselves; the tops never did unless attached hastily and not locked in.

    Now, a few words about words: definitions of terms inevitably change over time, and bikepacking is not exempt from this. Purists may maintain that only a rackless setup qualifies as bikepacking, but it’s never so simple, is it? A rackless setup being ridden purely on pavement qualifies as bikepacking yet a traditional pannier setup being ridden on singletrack does not? At what point does bolting cages to forks and strapping various soft and hard objects to them cross the line between bikepacking and something different?

    The definition of bikepacking is sure to undergo expansion and differentiation, particularly with more and more people seeing bicycle travel in a different light than even a few years ago. In my opinion, it’s best we keep our minds open on this one, try not to be too judgmental, and welcome new people to our quirky corner of the bicycle industry. At its foundation the idea of bike travel and bike overnights is not tied to the equipment used, but the experiences we have.

  • Timmers Campbell

    Well said… I love riding off roads, dirt trails, etc. I have all the stuff for “touring” so I’ve never considered going out and buying additional bags just to be a part of newly coined term, “bikepacking.”

    I’d think, the difference between bikepacking, and touring, is: one is on highways, the other is on dirt trails.

    The kit you use shouldn’t matter.

  • Scott Felter

    Nicely put, Morgan. It’s all just bike touring…nothing wrong with racks and panniers!

  • Von Kruiser

    After touring offroad for years (stupid heavy) and now trying all the new ultra light bikepacking setups, I’m back to using a rear rack w/ tiny Ortlieb Accessory Packs on each side as mini panniers and mounting the seat bag on top of the rack (Tubus Vega). Easier for dropper post (when I get one) and nice place for ground cloth to hide. Also I run nothing on my back so the mini panniers are perfect addition for quick access which bikepacking does not have a lot of. This gravel pack is cool but a little too large for the distances I usually roll. These would be sweet for long epic adventures.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/77bf68fef33996443c363ab1c46cc44a94a96a97a14545028c96fc3de63b4792.jpg

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    I agree. No accusations or judgements made, just questions posed. I think there is still some confusion as to whether bikepacking as a term represents the types of bags, or the terrain ridden. Especially in light of races such as the TransContinental. We choose to publish content mostly about off-pavement adventure, and only publish routes that are a majority unpaved. This is based on the definition we use on our Bikepacking 101 page … which we thought long and hard over … not that we have the right to write the rules, we just asked a lot of people and agreed on a definition. I will add that at the time it was controversial to include ‘gravel/all-road’ and ‘dirt-touring’ as subgenres. I am sure some purists might still argue. That said, as a word, ‘bikepacking’ deserves some clarity, IMO.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    Interesting use of the Accessory-pack!

  • Tim Jessop

    These bags have the same volume as the front roller clasic panniers.. Besides the extra stay, whats the difference???

  • Tim Jessop

    Just to add perspective.. Bike Packing is to Bike Touring as Car Camping is to Back Packing.. Bike Packing is Ultra light Back Packing.. All of it is Bicycle Touring.. The terrain is secondary..

  • colavitos_ghost

    The fabric, it seems. That’s what the article said, at least.

  • Charles Kepler

    I use The Lunch Box by Oveja Negra as a small pannier and it is small. I was interested in the Nano by Revelation Design and was told it was being resigned and was not available. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e036da2470e1bc3301157e178709adc7b2baf9a4744cb9f342b567dc62b0ced7.jpg

  • Smithhammer

    There is definitely a place for small panniers that are truly designed for rough road/two track travel. I have the Rogue Panda version and they are great when some extra capacity is needed. Is it still ‘bikepacking?’ Who cares – it’s multi-day, self-supported exploring on a bike, which is all that matters to me.

  • Mark Troup

    When I need to, I use a pair of Arkel Dolphin 35s. A bit heavy, but I’ve heard too many stories about plastic Ortlieb pieces snapping on rougher off-road stuff.

  • Charles Kepler

    Has anyone used the Pinion Pocket by Wanderlust as a pannier or does anyone have one they can try and get back to us? With the daisy chain on the back it makes this bag look promising with a little one wrap velcro.

  • Jon Schultz

    I’ve used ortleib front panniers on a rear rack. The shoulder strap can be wrapped around them horizontally for more security.

  • Alex Gillan

    Hi Guys

    I’m totally new to bikepacking. I’ve been hiking for years and see bikepacking as my new thing.

    My first question – Why the aversion to panniers. ?

    Thanks

    Alex

  • Charles Kepler
  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    No aversion, but a lot of folks prefer a lighter and more aerodynamic setup with a seat pack, such as the Revelate Terrapin, Ortlieb Seat Pack M, or the Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion (all reviewed on this site under Gear > Bikepacking Bags). Some folks would even insist that proper ‘bikepacking’. It’s all just personal preference though :) The question in this posting was intended to spark the conversation…

  • Jared

    I saw these bags and immediately thought the same thing. I have a gray/orange ’16 RLTS and they would look perfect on it.

  • Alberto

    Pure marketing. We always rode fronts in the back with two clips at the bottom, and an inner tube cut around the pannier also, to make it more sturdy. Funny to see how we’re now going back to panniers!

  • Bryan Young

    I feel the standard Ortlieb panniers are more durable, but if you’re a weight weenie… they weigh more. You can buy extra lower securing hooks from Ortlieb USA for $7 plus shipping; I had an old pair of panniers that I robbed the hooks from. I do long distance trips, so I have a hybrid setup. I use Back Roller Classics to carry the extra gear and supplies needed for my up coming world tour. I’ll be on the heavy side to be in the bikepacking catagory, but I’ll be light enough to go most places you can go with a pure bikepacking setup with a little more effort. I wish I could dump the rear panniers, but for myself, it would be a wise choice to keep them.

  • Idle Prentice

    LOL – just noticed the chain. That’s good.

  • Idle Prentice

    Don’t get hung up on terminology. Let your terrain stipulate your gear. These look fantastic for 75% of the bikepacking being done today. For real singletrack, use your singletrack gear. Backpackers don’t have only one pack that does everything, neither should we. The only thing with “pannier creep” is that you lose that critical weight discipline which smaller bikepacking bags have instilled. Or have they just enforced more credit card touring? Being able to carry 5 – 10 days worth of food on your bike opens up vast areas of the map to you – all you need is your bike and a water filter and you can stay gone for a long time.

  • Tim Jessop

    And buying these would save 10 ounces per pair over the roller classics..

  • Greg Johnson

    Yes it is!

  • Greg Johnson

    As Logan says. I did a trip this spring that ran the gamut between paved, limerock, two-track, and honest curvy swervy single track. Panniers would have made me pedal slower (more carefully, less shreddy) in the single track sections. BUT I am planning a desert trip and am desperate for extra water so panniers are on the shopping list.

  • Thomas Stock

    Also totally new to bikepacking.
    Why are panniers specifically a problem for ‘single-track’?

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    Singletrack trails, especially those of the technical variety, often features narrow chutes and sections where rocks or branches could get hung up on the panniers. In addition, having more volume in your packing setup means you’ll carry more stuff. therefore, this and the extra weight of the rack simply means that you’ll have a heavier and less agile bike to negotiate trails.

  • Greg Johnson

    V – As Logan says.

  • Gringo

    ”Bike Packing is to Bike Touring as Car Camping is to Back Packing” really?
    Do you take a big coleman cooler full of steaks and beer while riding with panniers and ”bike touring”? I dont. You know what else I don’t take when ‘bike touring’ compared to car camping? A shovel, an axe, a big ass comfy pillow, a big ‘ol jug of extra water to freshen up before bed, a newspaper, whisky for when the beer runs out, a Gazeteer atlas, etc, etc….

    Your comparison either doesn’t hold water, or marks you as one of the following: A boring car camping guy who has no beer and steak, or a bike touring guy with waaaaaaaaaaaaaay to much shit.
    :-)

  • Olivier Latouille

    When we go off-road with our kids we need extra room for gear and food, so we have front roller classic panniers fixed up on back Tubus rack. I added extra stays to keep them from moving. You need to strap them around the rack if you want to avoid the noise of the pannier against the rack during downhill.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1de84b67573aff1edf23354154e87f0b3232d59de856241d08a9dc1a2e232eca.jpg

  • Tim Jessop

    Gringo… Not to be mean but, you obviously overthought my statement and added sarcasm to boot.. I simply meant one compared to the other means you take less stuff.. Obviously bike touring with full pannier setup allowes one to take More Stuff while bikepacking is a minimalist endeavor just as car camping allowes for your cooler full of beer and steaks, backpacking is a minimalist endeavor.. Perhaps if you’d learn read for information instead of reading for sarcasm, you’d understand the concept of my statement.. Happy trails, Gringo…

  • http://MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.net Max Dilthey

    Funny that you used a Pugsley to show these off. That’s exactly what I used when bikepacking with my Ortlieb Front-Rollers:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/68a59e2d06b75b8dc677a48b53f6ab1a6a3df72780bd604e02299be7f396ffb0.jpg

    I find that the Front-Rollers stay on fine with a strap around them to keep them from bouncing off. I like these panniers a lot, but since my Front-Rollers have zero wear after a few thousand miles, I have no excuse to replace them (and that’s a good thing).

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Yeah, when I think front panniers, I think fat bike. Also, it was the only bike I had at my disposal with rack mounts for the first look photos. Glad to hear your front rollers are holding up!

  • http://MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.net Max Dilthey

    Well, it warms my heart to see it in rotation for something! :)

  • http://cawlin.com/ Colin

    Panniers on racks tend to bounce around, make a lot of noise and as others have mentioned can get in the way in some terrain. Both setups have strengths and weaknesses – sometimes you just need/want more stuff or to be able to throw all your stuff in two bags and get going.

  • Guppy

    I would suggest buying a chain first. Those bags are cool, but you will not need them if you can’t get out the door.

  • Thomas Stock

    The correct comparison would be:
    Bike packing is to bike touring as UL back packing is to back packing.

  • Rory Flynn

    Good photos, helpful review. Question, what rack is being used? Probably any decent one can handle smaller bags, even with rougher surfaces, but curious.

  • Rory Flynn

    Yeah the technical quality of the photos is nice. But you might need some basic mechanical lessons. Like how to put a chain on. You ain’t going far with that drivetrain.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    That’s the Tubus Locc.

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