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Trailers Or Panniers: Which Is Best?


When deciding between trailers and panniers, remember that it’s not a case of which is ‘best’ but rather which is right for you.

Also, it’s possible to combine a bit of both. For example, you could have two back panniers with a lightly loaded trailer – or even more if you’re two people, cycling through a remote part of the world.

Trailer & Panniers
Here’s how to combine a trailer with a few panniers. Photo by Patrizia & Bro.

To help you figure out which option is the most appropriate, here are some pros and cons to both panniers and trailers.

Pannier Advantages

  • Easily carried one-by-one into your tent or hotel room and over obstacles like fences and streams (no single bag is very heavy)
  • Your luggage can be sorted into different parts and stored per bag, making things easier to find (in theory!)
  • Accessible while riding; you can reach things strapped on top of panniers or stored near the top, without getting off your bike
  • Simply designed, with few moving parts that can get lost or break
  • Versatile. Use all 4 for longer trips or take just one on a short day trip; carry a single pannier as a ‘day bag’ when visiting cities

Pannier Disadvantages

  • Put strain on a bike, particularly the back wheel, possibly causing broken spokes
  • Increase tire wear and wind resistance
  • Need to be reasonably well balanced between the left and right sides or the bike will feel unstable

Panniers
Panniers are perhaps the most common option for bike touring.

Trailer Advantages

  • Ideal for carrying bulky, heavy items such as lots of water across deserts
  • Kids trailers give the children a place to rest, away from strong sun or bad weather
  • Handy for home use as well as touring (carrying groceries, collecting large purchases from shops)
  • Often built with a wide profile that encourages cars to leave more room when passing
  • Easily unhooked so you can ride a ‘naked’ bike without racks
  • Aggressive dogs tend to chase the trailer, keeping them away from your legs

Trailer Disadvantages

  • May be harder to pack for train, plane and bus journeys
  • More mechanical parts that could need repair or replacement (spokes, tire, skewers)
  • Can be tricky if you need to back up, park or navigate through narrow gaps

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One Response to “Trailers Or Panniers: Which Is Best?”

  1. charles fleury says:

    I do not ride my bikes..I float on top like a cloud.
    The biggest mistake is bringing too much stuff.
    I have spent 2 years with a seven pound base weight.
    May you float like a cloud instead of being buried under materialism.
    A If you need it…. do not bring it
    B Pack as light as you can,then cut it in half before going

    bikes are not donkeies

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