Ortlieb Gravel-Pack: A ‘bikepacking’ Pannier?

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.

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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

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