Got Ortliebs? Got Pockets?

30 01 2011

My LHT loaded on tour...

One criticism I hear frequently about Ortlieb panniers is the lack of pockets to organize gear.  I figured I’d share my technique since I never find myself unable to find something. First off I have an external pocket on each pannier plus a handlebar bag [most of the time]. That gives me 4 pockets plus the bar bag to keep small items or stuff I need to access fast.  I could add two more external pockets…one on the front of each front pannier for a total of 6 pockets, but I don’t feel the need.

Left Rear Pannier

  • holds all my clothes
  • I use mesh bags for small items like socks and underwear
  • I organize my stuff logically depending on what’s happening that day
  • if no rain is expected I’ll fold all my rain gear up and put it on the bottom
  • I tend to start the day wearing warm clothes and take them off as I warm up…these items are put inside the bag on top so if I cool off I can easily grab a warm layer
  • this bag’s external pocket will hold something I don’t need often, but want fast access to when I need it like a First Aid kit
  • I often hang a safety triangle from this bag to make myself visible night and day

Dusty Ortlieb rear panniers with external pockets...

Right Rear Pannier

  • sleeping bag in compression sack
  • thermarest air matress
  • sometimes a tarp
  • sometimes part of a tent with remainder on top of rear rack or shared with touring partner
  • this bag’s external pocket contains something I don’t need on the bike like toilet paper and hand sanitizer or stove fuel

Front Ortlieb with external pocket...

Front Right Pannier

  • contains my cooking equipment and food supplies
  • extra water bottles
  • this bag gets hung up at night in bear country or stowed in a metal storage locker at a campground
  • this bag’s external pocket contains snacks

Top view of Ortlieb's on my Pugsley...

Front Left Pannier

  • tools and spare parts like tubes/tires
  • a 6′ x 6′ piece of sil nylon to sit on at camp
  • extra water bottles
  • extra food if supplies are scarce on this tour
  • this bag’s external pocket will hold bear spray if I need it on a trip, but it’s not a high risk area [in that case the spray is ziptied to bars [like in photo above]

Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus panniers have an external pocket on the side...

Handlebar Bag

  • maps
  • wallet
  • camera
  • snacks
  • headlamp
  • knife
  • cell phone
  • GPS

Can you tell I love my Ortliebs?

Even though my load is a bit different for every tour by keeping this organized in a similar way for each trip it’s very easy to figure out which bag or pocket something is in. I load each bag or pocket so that what I’ll need most is on top and what I don’t need until an emergency or breakdown is on the bottom.  Where it makes sense I use mesh bags to organize stuff inside a bag.

Another trick I use to stay organized [day to day as well as on tour] is to always put stuff back in the same spot right after each use.  That way it’s always where I expect it will be.  If I’m camping for a while rather than pack and unpack my bags all day long I use a few dumping points for frequently used items like my tent’s pockets or my bar bag stashed in my tent. When I pack up camp everything from these dumping point goes back in its proper spot before the bike starts rolling.