Over the summer Vaya Bags sent me one of their most recent bag designs — a Pannier Hybrid Bag — to review. The bag they sent me to review can be both a backpack and a pannier (hence the name “hybrid”) - in turquoise and orange material, with accents of recycled bike tubes.
Over the past couple months riding with this backpack/pannier, I’ve gotten plenty of positive feedback from friends and fellow cyclists. And I must say that hearing others sing the praises of the bag certainly added to my impression of Vaya Bags.
Vaya Bags describes its Pannier Hybrid Bag as…
A nifty little design that combines the load carrying ability of the pannier with the carry-with-you convenience of a backpack. This bag easily clips onto your bike rack to carry those loads you don’t want on your back. When not on your bike the pannier converts into a backpack for a comfortable way to carry your belongings with you. Even more, we’ve added mega cool new features such as U-lock holder, reflective tape and expandable front pocket.
The quality of this handmade in NY product is evident. The exterior material is durable and water repellent — all Vaya bags are made with canvas that is “recycled and scrap Sunbrella® Fabric from local sailboat factories;” the interior is lined to make this pack fully waterproof.
It has a rolltop closure, with velcro and a clip to keep the bag securely closed - whether packed to the max or just minimally packed, ensuring no water seeps into the bag during a downpour. Fortunately I didn’t have to endure many downpour bike commuting conditions during my time with this bag; but I did put it through the paces.
An interior laptop pocket or other such divider could have been a nice bonus, but not necessary. On the couple occasions I decided to travel with my laptop or work iPad, I just used a padded sleeve and slipped it right in the bag.
The bag also boasts a small exterior front pocket with velcro closure. That pocket was great for stashing keys and other small items that I might need to access on the fly, but I did find that small items could escape from that pocket if not secured well. I wished that pocket had a zipper or other means of keeping the contents safe. It would have also been nice to have a key strap to secure keys for easy reach.
For a daily commuting bag, this pack is about the right size — small enough to not be too voluminous but large enough to expand to carry those extra groceries you decide to pick up on the way home. It was also a good size for me; as a petite female, I often find that most unisex backpacks are just too big for me and cater to folks with larger/longer torsos. This Vaya bag did not have that issue of being oversized…. could it be that woman’s touch on the design?
I altered between carrying the bag like a backpack and letting my bike haul it as a pannier. I must say that I wished the conversion from backpack to pannier and vice versa was quicker, but I soon got the hang of it. Just a bit of tucking in and clipping straps before mounting the pannier and then untucking and reclipping the backpack straps to use as a backpack. As a backpack, it took me a bit of time to get used to the unpadded seatbelt-material straps; these unpadded straps, however, did allow for ease of tucking the straps away to use the bag as a pannier. I did appreciate the chest strap to keep the shoulder straps in place and the bag more stable on my back.
The reinforced bottom allows this bag to stand on its own when set down on the ground.
When I first started using this bag as a backpack, the bottom of the bag hit my lower back at a weird angle when just walking around, but it was fine on the bike; I don’t notice it anymore but just the other day I did wish the back offered a bit of padding.
For use as a pannier, the bag connects to any rear rack with the use of d-rings and small carabiner style clips.
I was impressed how the bag remained anchored on my bike with just those two attachment points.
I fretted that the back of the bag would get dirty when used as a pannier and that it would put a damper on my wanting to use it as a backpack, but I never had that problem (I also didn’t use it as a pannier in much foul weather when crud could have gotten kicked up onto it).
This Vaya pannier-backpack hybrid comes with reflective tape on each side of the bag for great visibility when in use as a pannier hanging off the side of the bike.
But I wished it had some reflective tape on the front of the bag that would be visible when in use as a backpack (similar to how the Vaya backpacks have reflective tape on the back) and a loop for a rear blinky light.
On the side of this pannier/backpack are a few loops — one velcro and one hanging loop for a u-lock. The velcro strap is just one more way of securing the bag to the bike - which I rarely used (and only figured that feature out after viewing some of Vaya’s product photos online). The hanging loop for a u-lock did not fit my Kryptonite lock. But I usually just clip my lock to my rear rack for transport, so that wasn’t much of an issue…. except on the odd day that I rode a different bike with a rack and found myself searching for the best method to haul the hefty lock.
Overall, I give this bag two thumbs up - especially for design and aesthetics. With a new and improved model on the way, I look forward to seeing just how much niftier this dual bag becomes. I noticed that some of the features I was looking for when I used this bag as a backpack already come standard on the regular Vaya Backpacks; the nice thing about this bag is its ability to morph into a pannier, too.
In a recent correspondence with Vaya Bags, we confirmed that a few improvements (which may also address a few of my concerns) are in the works on the revamped design of this Pannier-Backpack hybrid, including:
- We did update the U lock holder so that it is adjustable and put velcro on it to help stabilize the U lock
- We added reinforcement to the back of the bag to prevent rubbing
- We changed the clip system to a strap system to make it easier to put on and off the bike!
We look forward to the new product, which we will get our hands on within a few weeks. It will be interesting to see how the updates to the bag work in comparison to this model.
Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.