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Arkel Ultralight Dry-lite Waterproof Panniers Review

Arkel's Waterproof Dry-Lite Paniers only weigh 19 oz (per pair) and provide 28L of gear storage

Frame bags or panniers? Those are basically the two options you have for hauling your gear on bikepacking trips. If you prefer panniers, Arkel’s Waterproof Dry-Lite Saddle Bags are hard to beat. Weighing just 19 oz (540 g) per pair, they can hold 28L of gear.

Specs at a Glance

  • MSRP $89/pair
  • Position: rear
  • 19 oz / 540 grams for the pair
  • 400 denier ripstop Nylon with TPU coating
  • Volume for the set: 28 litres / 1708
  • Waterproof roll-top design
  • Ultralight horizontal stays kept bags clear of the wheel
  • Reflectors on all sides for safety
  • Built-in handle or optional shoulder strap
  • Rolls tight for easy storage
  • Dimensions per bag: 14.5” X 11” X 5.5” / 37cm X 28cm X 14cm
  • Compact rolled size 15” X 4” X 2”

Frame bags and bike panniers both have their advantages and disadvantages and which you pick depends on your intended route, volume needs, and personal preferences. For example, if you ride a mountain bike and plan to ride single track or on narrow trails, frame bags are usually preferable because they won’t limit your clearance like bulging hamster cheeks in a tight squeeze.

But if you ride more of a road-style gravel bike, panniers can be more convenient, in part, because they’re higher volume and more flexible. Panniers also tend to be much easier to take off and put on a bike at night than frame bags that have a million straps. For example, the Relevate Designs Tangle frame bag attached to my top tube, in the photo, above has 7 different straps that have to be unattached and reattached every time I step away from my bike so it’s not stolen. Panniers are a lot easier. You can usually just unhook them from your rack.

Arkel's Dry-Lite Saddle Bags connect to your rack with hooks and velcro straps making them easy to put on and take off
Arkel’s Dry-Lite Saddle Bags connect to your rack with hooks and velcro straps making them easy to put on and take off

Arkel’s Dry-Lite Saddle Bags have a simple roll-top closure that clips close like a dry bag with taped seams to prevent moisture from seeping in. The two bags have hooks at the bottom to secure to your rack and a horizontal lightweight stiffener (a wooden dowel) to help them keep their shape. They connect together at the top using a system of overlapping velcro straps and drape over the top of your rack so you can just unhook them and pick them up as a unit. You can also configure the velcro straps to wrap around the top tubes of your rack if you want a bit more holding security. This isn’t well documented, but it’s easy to make it work as long as you realize that you have to drape the bags as a pair over the rack: you can’t just connect just one pannier bag at a time.

Each of the panniers has reflective accents for safety and they roll up completely flat which makes them very easy to pack in a suitcase. Arkel has a good video on their website that illustrates the panniers in use.

How much storage does 28L equate to for a bikepacker? I can easily fit all of my camping gear and extra clothing minus my stove and food in both the Dry-Lite Saddle Bags without busting a gut trying to roll them closed. Instead of using a trunk bag, I pack my food, stove, and water filter in a 3 oz. waterproof bear bag called The Lunch Box made by Superior Wilderness Designs which has 12L of capacity. Separating my food from my gear and clothes prevents it from getting contaminated by food smells and the Lunch Bag is easy to hang from a tree on trips to prevent bears from getting my food. Finally, I store all my biking tools, patches, and spare tubes in a frame bag and wear a small hydration pack if water is not abundant.

Arkel Dry-Lite Waterproof Saddle Bags

Attachment System
Safety Features


These ultralight waterproof dry-bag style panniers can hold 28L of gear and weigh just 19 ounces per pair. They clip easily to a rack and have reflective accents for safety.

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How much lighter are Arkel’s Dry-Lite Saddle Bags compared to other lightweight panniers? They’re over 50% lighter weight that Ortlieb’s new Gravel Pack Panniers, which weigh 40.9 oz for 25L of storage. Nuff said!

As more and more ultralight backpackers discover how much fun it is to bikepack with ultralight camping gear, you can bet that frame bags and pannier weights are going to matter to them as much as ultralight backpack weights do.

Disclosure: The author purchased all of the products discussed here with his own funds, with the exception of the SWD Lunch Box which was a sample.

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  1. Hi
    Do you have to use both bags at the same time, or can you strap one bag to the side when you don’t need to pack as much? If so, is the one bag option less stable?

    In general the bags “look” less stable and locked-in to the rear rack compared with Ortlieb and other panniers – have you had the chance to compare with other rear panniers? Do they bounce around more with the elastic hook?
    thanks for the article, these bags look great

  2. Could the arkel bags double as dry bags in a packraft?

    • No. There’s a big difference between a waterproof dry bag that can withstand submersion and ones that are just waterproof in the rain.
      I recommend you checkout Sealine’s dry bags for ones that are capable of being submerged.

  3. What rack did you use with these bags? did you notice any flopping around due to the bags not have a rigid back?

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