Bicycle Touring Without Panniers (Best Alternatives)

It doesn’t matter why you don’t want panniers on your bicycle. Maybe your bike isn’t suitable for them, or perhaps you don’t have a rear rack to hold them. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about cycling without panniers and what are the best alternatives out there.

Through my bike touring experience, I must say that I prefer cycling without panniers especially if you are going on a shorter tour, and here is why?

Pros & Cons of Non-Panniers Bike Setup


Lighter Bicycle– Panniers can be really heavy especially if they are fully loaded. Without them, your ride will be less physically demanding particularly if you are cycling on very steep roads. Your overall speed will increase and you will be much faster than a fully loaded bike with panniers.

No more bouncing– Panniers usually tend to bounce even when you cross over the smallest rock on the road. This thing was frustrating me all the time when I was cycling. Also, your bike will be much more narrow which means you’ll be able to get in between more places than usual.

More Aerodynamic– The non-panniers setup is much narrower than one with panniers which means more aerodynamic. This is not always the case but I find that most of the time it is.

Cooler Look– This is more of a personal thing but for me, a non-panniers setup looks way better than a regular one with panniers.


Less Space– The biggest disadvantage of a non-panniers bike setup is definitely a lack of space. Classic bike touring setup has approximately 100l capacity while non-panniers setup has a capacity of 45l on average.

This is a huge difference and if you can afford to lose that privilege of having a lot of space on your bike then I think a non-panniers setup is the best option. But if you need to have a lot of space then panniers are a no-brainer.

Difficult packing– One more disadvantage of a non-panniers setup is the difficult packing. Due to the limited space that you have, you need to be careful when packing up. Because if you pack something wrong, you would not have room for other things, just like with a suitcase.

Best Non-Panniers Bike Setup

Here is how non-panniers setup for bike touring should look like.

Saddle Bag

This should be your main bag because it can carry a lot of stuff and it’s located right behind your saddle. Depending on the company this bag can handle between 17 and 20 liters. It is the place you want to pack all your most havier things, like tent, chain, food, etc.

One pro tip that I learned throughout many rides is to pack all your heaviest items first, closest to the saddle. That way you will be much more in balance and your bag will stay in place and it won’t fall over.

Frame Bag

When it comes to frame bags you have 2 options, a full-frame bag or a half-frame bag. The only difference between them is that with full-frame covers the entire triangle on the bike and you don’t have room for your bottles.

I personally prefer a half-frame bag. It has a capacity of around 4 liters and I usually put inside my tools, water filter, extensive battery, some toiletries, etc. You also want to make sure you don’t overfill the bag because then it would start to rub your legs!

A full-frame bag is also a good option it can take up to 6 liters and you can also put some clothes next to these other things.

Front Bar Bag

The front bar bag is located on your handlebar and it can take up to 20 liters which is quite nice. This is the place where I put my mattress, clothes, stuff for cooking, toiletries, etc. Remember if you load up this bag with heavy stuff, it will be quite difficult for you to control the bike.  

Accessory pack

The accessory bag sits on top of the front bar bag and it has a capacity of 3,5 liters on average. It is easily accessible and that’s where I keep most of the things I need on hand such as survival items, air pump, documents, sunglasses, map, etc.

Top Tube bag

This is the smallest bag on the list and it has a capacity of less than 1 liter. I only keep 2 things in it and those are my wallet and my phone. Sometimes I put in some sweets that I eat along the way and that’s it.


With a backpack, you can carry an additional 15 to 20 liters and I can help a lot if you don’t have enough space for all the things you need.

But even then I would not recommend it, especially for bicycle touring. I have a whole article on that topic if you want to check it out here is the link.

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