ARKEL DRY-LITES PANNIER SYSTEM EVALUATION:
In September of 2014, I pedaled the northern Oregon Coast, a five day trip from the Columbia River to Florence, Oregon. I used for the first time the Arkel Dry-Lites panniers, a total volume of 28 liters (1708 cubic inches). Arkel formerly advertised these bags as 32 liters (1952 cubic inches), but recently modified their claim to more accurately represent the bags’ true volume. I have not filled the bags with water to verify the actual capacity (easy to do), but I believe the updated 28 liters is accurate based on what I see on the trike (32 liters just seemed too large for the actual space available when loading for a trip). I suspect a rider must have taken Arkel to task, thus showing the larger sizing to be false. Unrolled, they may hold the 32 liters, but once rolled down to close the top, much volume is lost.
At first, having never used a roll-down closure bag before, I was cautious regarding how well I would like these bags. I was used to the more traditional zippered bags. However, with this short trip behind me now, I can say that I was duly impressed with the ease and simplicity of these bags. I really liked how they load from the top, rather than from the sides as found in many bags. Simply by unrolling the top of these waterproof bags, I had all my contents at my disposal. I kept my items in small stuff sacks for organization (see next photo), because these Dry-Lites have only one compartment, with no dividing walls.
For a 700c drive wheel, you don’t want larger bags – too much weight up high causes the rear end of the trike to sway laterally with each pedal stroke – not as stable as a traditional 20 inch rear wheel. Keep your rear rack weight VERY light if you ride a 700c!
These bags are small, probably too small for most trikers on overland journeys, but they are perfect for my new Fast ‘n Light packing strategies, forcing me to rethink my cargo needs more realistically, forcing me to think more like a backpacker than a touring motorcyclist. On my former trike with a 20 inch rear wheel, the side zippered bags necessitated me bending way over, or even kneeling on the ground, to access my cargo, but with my new trike and its 700c rear wheel and these top-loading Dry-Lites, I can stand erect and easily get to anything I may need (particularly helpful if weather is inclement).
I really like these Dry-Lites waterproof panniers having used them on the road. They are indeed totally waterproof – it did rain on one day, and my contents remained fully dry inside. They weigh practically nothing (less than one pound, believe it or not), and attach to the rear rack simply by the use of Velcro. The attachment system is kind of weird, and it does not play totally well with the Arkel TailRider top trunk, but it works well enough to be an excellent choice. The TailRider attachment straps must be fed through the Dry-Lites attachment system (clunky), but since I only do this once at the beginning of a trip, it’s no big deal. I do not remove the bags at night. They would be difficult for a thief to take.
These Dry-Lites are very poor for rearward visibility, as they are totally black, except for some small white reflective material on each bag, which does not show up in daytime hours to motorists coming from behind. Thus, as you can see in the photos on this page, I have added some Aarkvark Safety Triangles from Hostel Shoppe, and now I show up very well to drivers of automobiles. Several riders on this trip commented to me how visible I was, even back quite a ways. If you use these bags, please add these safety triangles (using silicone sealant/glue to hold in place). This hokey aftermarket fix would not be necessary if Arkel would produce the Dry-Lites in a high visibility yellow material instead of black (hopefully, they will read this evaluation and offer a future bag that is safe for the road).
So, for those of you who are ready to travel fast and light instead of slow and heavy, these bags are a natural contender. Yes, they are indeed small, but for the Fast ‘n Light paradigm of triangular journeys, that is precisely what you want! Once you learn to bring less cargo, you will appreciate the ease of travel compared to before, and will realize that super ultra light bags like the Arkel Dry-Lites waterproof panniers are just the ticket!
These Dry-Lites are very durable, and I suspect they will last a long time. Of course, as the tops must be folded over and rolled down to close the bag, and keep the rain out, I wonder how the material will endure with the repeated foldings over the years. Well, I guess I’ll have an answer for you sometime in the future – hopefully the distant future!
Arkel Dry-Lites waterproof pannier video
Arkel TailRider top trunk video. Although not shown in this video, the TailRider expands laterally to hold much more cargo than depicted here. There is an expansion bellow on the top, so you can put quite a bit in here (I keep my food in this trunk). It expands to 11 liters.
Despite the information printed on the above photograph, these panniers have a volume of 28 liters (1708 cubic inches), 4 liters less than originally thought. This is fine however, as smaller and lighter is better for fast and light trike travel. These worked perfectly for me on my northern Oregon coast journey, and I recommend them to you.
You can carry them with you, if you wish to hassle with removing them from your trike, that is. Taking these bags off requires also removing the rear rack trunk, which for me is the Arkel TailRider. It’s easier just to leave them on your trike, and make sure there is nothing of great value in them (if you’re worried about theft), or no detectable food odor (if you’re worried about raccoons at night). These bags remain on my trike for the duration of any overland journey. It’s just easier that way!
If you are going to store the Dry-Lites during the off-season, you can do so by rolling them up as pictured here. I just place mine in the bedroom closet in a flat position. I have the space, so no need to roll them up when I’m not using them.