In a world where traditional bicycle touring setups are seemingly overtaking strap-on bikepacking bags, micro or mini panniers make a lot of sense. If you have a rear or front rack, why not run a pannier over a lashed, structureless bag? Panniers are great for many reasons, mainly their ease of loading and stability. They don’t flop all over or rub your tires on smaller frames like bikepacking bags tend to, and if they’re packed and mounted right, they stay out of your way during the inevitable hike-a-bike. Plus, depending on how you load your rear rack, you can still use a dropper post.
John recently took the new Revelate Nano Panniers ($250/pair) out on the Northern New Mexico CDT for four days of navigating deadfall, battling cow shit, and being trounced by Southwestern Monsoons, i.e., the true test of a pannier’s reliability!
Read on for his well-used review!
Revelate Nano Pannier Overview
The Nano Pannier is Revelate’s newest offering, intended for rough and rugged off-road touring. They’re only 4″ wide, which keeps your overall width down, feature velcro/Voile Nano lashing, and have a rigid compression strap to help these Challenge Sailcloth bags retain their structure. To offer a frame-like rigidity, Revelate uses a fiberglass stiffened high-density foam frame sheet to give each bag an internal structure. This also works with the external compression system to transfer the load directly to the rack.
Empty, the Nano Panniers weigh a scant 18 oz per pair, including the straps, and are designed to carry heavy items you’d use on an off-road tour. While Revelate says the Nano Panniers are *not suited for T-racks, I ignored this and found a clever hack…
- Reported Weight: Pair: 18 oz / 510 g
- Weight as Received: 18 oz
- Volume: 7-11 L each side
- Materials: Challenge Sailcloth 200 denier UHMWPE / Polyester woven with PET film lamination
- Asymmetric: meaning each pannier is designed to fit either the right or left side of your rack.
- Super tough rattle-free mounting with metal hardware. Specialty high cycle life (10,000+ cycles) hook and loop straps
- Fiberglass internal and exterior stiffeners
- High-density closed-cell foam frame sheet
- Made in the USA with domestic and imported materials
- Please note: These panniers are made with a minimum of seams but are not fully waterproof.
*Tumbleweed Bikes recommends not using panniers on its T-rack due to people overloading them. So if you are going to use these on a T-rack, keep them full of light and airy items; i.e. don’t load 10 gallons of water in them! Or just buy the Tumbleweed mini pannier rack like I should have done a long time ago…
Nano Pannier Use
When loading your bike for a tour, it’s best to keep the weight lower, meaning heavy items should be as close to your hub and bottom bracket as possible. Modern off-road tourers have geometry numbers that facilitate this loading style, but this often works counter to the demands of the terrain.
For instance, proper low-rider pannier racks put panniers very low to the ground, which can cause pannier interference when riding deep-cut singletrack. As such, modern off-road setups need to have the panniers slightly higher when used on singletrack tours, much like how the Nano Panniers sit on my Tumbleweed T-Rack.
When you load your panniers as such, they are not only out of the way of rocks, deadfall, or plant matter, but they are also out of your way when you have to hike-a-bike.
Photo of the Desert Moose in action by Kyle Klain
Nano Panniers sit high on a rear rack, which means if you pack them with heavy items as Revelate recommends, they can cause the rear of your bike to want to sway when out of your saddle. Instead, I placed heavy items, like my 3L water bladder or camp stove, in my lower frame bag and filled the Nano Panniers with my sleeping bag, tent, down clothing, and placed my breakfast items (fruit and grains) at the bottom of one of the panniers.
I made sure to mount the bags far enough back on the rack to avoid the heel rub of my size 12.5 shoes. This was also a good measurement to ensure I had enough space to push my bike up steep hills. By placing my body adjacent to the frame bag, in front of the panniers, and behind the handlebars, I had enough room to heft the bike uphill, without hitting my legs on the panniers. Something that would be much harder to do with a low-rider setup on the rear.
“Waterproofing” and Loading
Unlike your favorite Ortlieb panniers, these bags are not waterproof and are designed to stay affixed to your rack, rather than be lifted off upon arrival at camp. Think of them as ultralight carriers, rather than typical touring panniers. Once you have your rack mounted to your frame, loop the velcro straps around the horizontal rack member and secure the hook and loop strap.
Then go to the bottom Voile Nano strap and loop it either through the rack legs, or around the seat stay and rack leg if you’re using a T-rack. I found the latter to be ideal, but for illustrative purposes, I mounted them strictly to the T-rack leg to showcase how they are indeed secure on such a rack. Check to see if the panniers are secure, and then move to the next step.
My preferred method for the Nano Panniers was to use 20L ultralight dry bags from Sea to Summit, inserted into the pannier, and then use these bags as a compression sack, which made closing the panniers even easier. By pushing all the air out of the dry bags, the Nano Panniers have to do less work when you close them up. It also makes it super easy to unpack at camp. Simply open the panniers and lift the bags out. Even in the rain, this keeps your gear dry.
The Nano Panniers are essentially large compression sacks, so once you load up your dry bags, compress them down (the Nano Panniers’ velcro straps can take a good amount of force!), and then roll and close the bag closure. From there, use the top strap to compress the pannier’s load before pulling on the side straps affixed to the rigid structural strap.
You can tell which bag has my tent in it due to the taller section poking up!
Once your gear is loaded in the dry bags within the Nano Panniers, it is entirely waterproof, stable, and ready for anything the trail throws at you. If no rain is in the forecast, you can omit the dry sack entirely, simplifying the packing procedure.
100 Miles of CDT
The Continental Divide Trail in Northern New Mexico is a personal favorite of mine, particularly during this time of year when the state’s lower elevations are in the triple digits. (We just wrapped a four-day tour last week.) While riding the CDT, you’re above 10,000′ during the days and usually camping around 8000-9000′ in the river basins or canyons. This means the days are cooler and the nights are comfortable. A 40º bag, a down jacket, merino leggings, and a bivy or tent will suffice, with monsoon rains being the only wildcard, often requiring rain gear and a rain fly.
The CDT is superb for a bike tour because of the ecotonal shifts, ranging from alpine to aspen trails, New Mexico Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir forests, and eventually, a ripping descent through the semi-arid-steppe surrounding Abiquiu.
This might sound dreamy, but there are several factors working against you. For one, there’s all the beetle kill deadfall. Our last winter was particularly brutal in Northern New Mexico, dumping record-setting snowfall and felling many trees. Over four days, we portaged over at least 100 downed trees, many of which often had sharp branches poking out that wanted to catch your spokes, frame, and panniers.
Then there’s cattle grazing on public lands, trampling riparian areas, and leaving cow shit everywhere, particularly on the trail. Suddenly clean and easy river crossings over rocky banks and bottoms turn into a thirty-foot-wide muddy mess of cow shit and trampled vegetation. It is impossible not to ride through cow shit and mud in these places. Don’t be surprised to catch dollops of feces on your bike or even your body, much less your new panniers!
I enjoyed strapping either my shoes or sandals to the top of the panniers, thanks to the long straps Revelate builds the Nano Panniers with!
Last but not least is the ongoing threat of monsoons at higher elevations, which can dump inches of water in minutes and send you scurrying off-trail into the tree line for cover. Lightning strikes are also a concern, so be careful out there!
All of these factors provide ample testing for a product like the Nano Panniers, and after four days of these conditions, I can say they’ve held up exceptionally well.
Beausage was first coined by Rivendell, and it means “beauty through usage.” I like this word more than patina, which implies the same but is way overused these days. Beausage feels authentic to careful, concerted use (i.e., not abuse!).
That said, I am hardly easy on my gear, especially while touring. Part of the reason I bought a custom titanium touring bike from Sklar Bikes was because I wanted to be able to pack my creature comforts while not sacrificing the overall weight of my tourer. A super light chassis means more weight for things like a camp chair, extra water, or fishing pole, and, naturally, camera equipment. All of which I took on this tour, including a new tent I’m testing out.
I tossed my Sklar over trees, monster trucked down rocky escarpments and lugged it over steep hike-a-bike while the Nano Panniers hit snags, slammed into rocks, and provided a bumper for my rear derailleur as I laid my bike down on a tree or hillside along bench cut trails. I am beyond impressed at how well they held up.
Upon arriving home, I took them off, unloaded them, and documented them as they were to show potential wear spots.
Would they survive a longer singletrack tour? I’d say so, 100%. The only visible wear is from the rack structure, particularly where one of the cargo cage bosses rubbed on the backside, yet it did not tear the fabric. This wear mark can be avoided by adding mastic tape (commonly used as a chainstay protector) to the rack legs themselves to enhance the lifespan of these panniers. Overall, the pannier material has neither snag nor tear.
Wrap-Up and TL;DR
Panniers and racks are the staples for any touring bike, and with the growing popularity of racks and panniers on singletrack-oriented MTB tourers, we can only expect more and more micro panniers to hit the market. Revelate is a brand with roots in off-road touring setups, so it should be no surprise that the Nano Panniers would be some of the lightest and most durable panniers on the market.
They withstood constant environmental abrasion and held a good amount of gear, freeing up handlebar bag and frame bag space and eliminating the need for a backpack, which is always a good thing.
They are priced at $250 a pair and are made in the USA, which matters to me.
- Ultralight at 18oz for the pair
- Constructed from durable yet lightweight materials and hardware
- Plastic hardware is prolific in the outdoor gear space, so if you brake a buckle, you could replace it easily.
- Durable: 100 miles of rugged singletrack and nary a snare.
- Expandable from 7 to 11 liters.
- Extra “rigid” front strap keeps them shallow, at only 4″ wide in the short dimension
- They do work with a T-rack, but be mindful of your lower mounting procedure.
- Not waterproof, but running an UL 20L dry sack fixes that problem
- Expensive at $250 but MUSA
- Racks will wear on the bag’s back, but this can be eliminated with mastic tape on your rack.
- The color might not be for everyone; I wish they came in tan… ;-)
Check out more at Revelate Designs.