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vvp for bikepacking 🤔 Mega to Mini panniers – development notes

The purpose of this post is to give folks ideas about an approach to develop DIY gear for bikepacking and possibly bikerafting. Looking critically at all possible storage areas of my bikes led me to seriously examine the role that panniers could play in extending distances and multi-sport travel,*aka bikerafting. What problems might be solved by panniers that can be adjusted during the journey? Thinking ahead to possible outcomes when Covid-19 controls are reduced results in evaluating the prospect of needing to carry all or most supplies over bikepacking trips of several weeks. Ideally this could be achieved without using a backpack. Can on-bike storage be reconfigured to meet changing needs of food and bikerafting realities? These were some of the disparate thoughts rattling around as I considered prototyping more storage options for extended completely unsupported bikepacking trips.

From these ideas emerged some usage criteria: no unnecessary weight, quickly flexible, integrated with existing gear and systems, durable and without dangles, hikeabikeable, complementary to packrafting, function over form.

I then moved on to considering what gear and food might fit into different storage locations on the bike and packraft. While thinking about how this might work on a trip, the idea of significant volume flexibility emerged.

The main integration items are drybags, compression drybags, and food packaged in ziplock bags, ultralight backpack. For bikerafting the items are PFD, cold water immersion gear, inflation and repair supplies, miscellaneous packraft components.  For a fairly minimalist bikepacker the list got long very quickly …

Typical 20 litre drybags* seemed good organizational size to start working from. This resulted in rough bag dimensions of 4 inches deep, 10 inches wide, and about 24 inches tall when open. Other integration checks included 5 and 8 litre compression drybags, ziplocks full of food, PFD, full packraft kit (raft and 4-piece paddle are carried on the handlebars). * The Sea to Summit Ultralight Drybag Backpack (a favorite of mine) is also approximately this size

The combination of usage criteria and volume flexibility results in the Mega to Mini panniers prototype. A maximum closed volume, 4 folds, of about 18 litres with a minimum volume of <5 litres when fully compressed. When empty, each pannier is flat with no protrusions.

Left pannier at close to minimum size, right pannier fully expanded with heavier gear in the bottom section.
Fatbike with variable volume panniers still attached ready to launch. Even with the raft and safety gear no backpack is required.
Set up for hike-a-bike while bikerafting with the contents of the left pannier moved to the right. Alternately a ultra-light backpack can be removed from a pannier and gear transferred completely off the bike.