Urban Velo

Banjo Brothers Convertible Waterproof Pannier Backpack Review

banjo_backpack_pannier-1 Being a teacher carries with it many rewards, an unencumbered commute not being among them. Panniers help with this at least while on the bike, removing the overstuffed backpack and providing relief for the sweaty back and achey shoulders that can accompany. But how about when I dismount and unhook the panniers? Off the bike, most perform as well as a lopsided briefcase.

The transformer mechanism of the Banjo Brothers Convertible Waterproof Pannier Backpack is one of those so-simple-it’s-stupid concepts. A large flap provides top closure and conceals the backpack straps in pannier mode, with a simple hook and elastic strap rack attachment. Unhook the bag from the rack, flip over the flap to expose the backpack straps and hide the pannier mounts, adjust the straps and you have a backpack. The pocket on the flap remains outermost in both modes, with zipper access on both sides, which is convenient for never fumbling for wallet and phone. Though it may not be my first choice for hiking around all day, the padded straps and chest strap make it a serviceable backpack. To transform back to pannier, the straps fold back neatly and quickly, securing the ends and requiring little fuss. Flip the flap and you’re good to go. Banjo Brothers’ execution is simple, fast, and functional.

banjo_backpack_pannier-3The bag has 1100 cubic inches of space—plenty of room for laptop, change of clothes, work shoes, and lunch and the roll-top closure with burly, removable welded-seam waterproof liner keeps everything dry. Two side outer pockets, one zippered, one open, are decently sized and though the zipper was mangled on our sample, Banjo Brothers has a reputation for great warranty and replacement service. This bag would have been replaced right away, but I was too busy using it to care. Light loops and reflective piping help with low-light visibility

When overstuffed with an open top the roll-top waterproofing is null and void, and unfortunately, the straps to clip the flap over the top in backpack mode when it’s this full sometimes aren’t long enough to reach. At 3 lbs it’s not the lightest, although removing that waterproof liner on dry days can save almost half a pound. At $80 it’s a total commuter bargain.

Written by Katie Horowitz, VP of Education, PPWP.

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