Biggie Smalls: Hands on with Tailfin’s New 16L Mini Panniers


Biggie Smalls: Hands on with Tailfin’s New 16L Mini Panniers

After 2+ years worth of miles on Tailfin’s 10L mini panniers, Ryan Wilson has been putting their new 16L Mini Panniers to the test while out in the Chilean Desert. Utilizing the same attachment system as the rest of Tailfin’s range of panniers, the new 16L version brings added versatility for commuters and long-distance tourers alike. Let’s check it out below.

(Pictured Left in each photo: Tailfin’s 10L Mini Pannier, Right in each photo: Tailfin’s 16L Mini Pannier)

Since I started using Tailfin’s 10L mini panniers back in 2021, they’ve become a staple of my touring setup. In fact, I’ve probably only ridden my bike a handful of times without them since I got a set. With the X-Clamp mechanism that actively grips Tailfin’s pannier mount, they’re easily the most stable and rattle-free panniers I’ve ever used, regardless of the riding surface. Every glowing word I said about the 10L mini panniers in my long-term review of them from a year ago still applies today, with another year of mileage on them.

Tailfin has previously offered mini panniers in 5L and 10L variants, along with the voluminous 22L full-sized panniers, which utilize the same, proven mounting system and waterproof construction that have made these X-Clamp bags so popular. For most of my use cases, the 10L bags have been a perfect size, so I’ve stuck with them since the beginning. Not too bulky as to get in the way or cause bike handling issues, but not so small that they seem like an inefficient use of a mounting point on the bike while out on tour

A smaller bag can indeed force you to take more care when considering what you’re bringing with you on a bike trip, and packing less can result in a better overall riding experience. However, there are situations where you simply need some extra space. That’s where Tailfin slots in the newly announced 16L version of their “mini” panniers, which I’ve been testing out for the last couple of weeks while riding in the Chilean desert.

Who are they for?

With the main differentiator here compared to Tailfin’s other panniers being size, there are a few scenarios that are particularly well suited for the extra capacity that these 16L bags provide.  

The ideal user for these bags is someone who wants versatility. The 16L size is well suited for someone looking for a commuter pannier, as its dimensions are designed to fit a 14” laptop inside an (optional) internal laptop holster. Yet it’s equally suited for throwing on your gravel bike on the weekend and heading out for an overnighter on rugged roads and trails.  

If you’re heading out for a cross-continental tour, the chances that your carrying capacity requirements stay consistent for the length of the trip are nearly zero. If you’re riding across Colombia you can typically get away with carrying a few snacks for the day and no camping gear as you’ll find re-supply points and cheap hotels at just about every turn. However, as you get down toward Northern Chile and Argentina, you might be looking at 10-15 days between re-supply points, which will require a whole lot more space on the bike, and that can be difficult to come up with if you haven’t planned your setup around it from the beginning. In that case, the extra combined 12L that a set of the 16L panniers provides when maxed out over a set of 10L bags is going to be pretty crucial.

The key here, as always, is to not just fill that extra space with extra “amenities” at the beginning of the trip, so you’ve still got the extra space when you need it! Easier said than done!

While you can add shims to use these panniers with racks from other companies, and they come included with the bags, the X-Clamp system is specifically designed to work perfectly with Tailfin’s AeroPack with Pannier mounts or their rack. I haven’t used these bags with racks from other brands, though the fixed placement of the bottom hook means it will be a case-by-case basis with how well they’ll work on non-Tailfin racks.

Laptop Haulin’

In the world of “bikepacking” or “all-terrain touring” style bags that are designed to be jostled around on rough roads, laptops are generally not something that companies put much consideration into. Given that I ride 99.9% of the time with a laptop, it’s always something that I’ve struggled to find a good place for. Typically, I’ve used a large handlebar bag for this purpose. In my case, a Bags by Bird Goldback, but it’s nice to have my packing options opened up with panniers that are purpose-built for a laptop, but also ready to tackle rough stuff without rattling around like crazy like some other pannier options on the market. Not to mention they’re waterproof! A rare combination.

Tailfin’s design team realized that if they lifted the laptop off of the bottom of the bag, it would solve two separate problems. It limits the chances of impacts on the computer while on and off the bike, and it also allows them to taper the bottom of the bag in a way to reduce the potential for heel strikes.  

The optional laptop holster takes an extra $25 from your bank account and adds about 125g to the bag’s 570g base weight. It hooks into a slot on the bag, stays in place with velcro, and takes about 10 seconds to install and 5 seconds to remove. It uses expandable elastic on the sides to accommodate various sizes of laptops, but Tailfin has it capped at 14″. I used it with my 13” MacBook Air inside of a protective case (as pictured above) and it fits well. 

The laptop holster has a soft fabric on the inside and also provides a zippered stretchy pocket to store cables or any other small items you can dream up. Time will tell how well the relatively thin stretchy fabric on the pocket holds up to items in front of it being taken in and out of the bag, but in my limited testing window, it has been fine.

The main drawback I’ve run into here is that the elastic bands on the sides of the holster tend to allow the front pocket to sag down slightly when you push the laptop in, which then lowers the bottom band, and that allows your laptop to drop down further into the bag.  The corners of the laptop then tend to push against the bottom corners of the pannier, which isn’t 100% ideal.  At a minimum, I would strongly recommend using a case for your laptop with well padded corners, both to protect the panniers in those areas, and to protect your computer.  The very bottom of the pannier still has a gap before the laptop to protect it if you take the bag off and set it on the ground, but it would be nice if all of the edges were away from the sides of the panniers.

For future iterations, perhaps the holster design could be tweaked to prevent that from happening, or maybe that’s just the tradeoff of trying to keep the bag as narrow as possible.

The last little quirk in relation to the laptop holster is that the first batch of these panniers will not come with velcro to keep the little fabric flap down when you’re not using the holster.  It hasn’t bothered me during my testing period, but it’s something to improve on with future versions.

In use, I find that it’s best to pair the laptop with bulky, lightweight items like sleeping bags. This helps to keep the weight of an individual pannier down, as they are rated to hold 8kg on tarmac and 4kg on rougher roads and trails per bag. It also provides some extra cushion for your pricey laptop in the event of a crash or your bike tipping over.

(Pictured Left in each photo: Tailfin’s 10L Mini Pannier, Right in each photo: Tailfin’s 16L Mini Pannier)

Sizing and Materials

When directly comparing these 16L panniers to the 10L versions, you’ll find that the depth is very similar, so you’re not pushing the weight of your gear too far out, which can cause bike handling to deteriorate or clearance to become trickier to manage on tight single track or while squeezing through door-frames in the city. The extra volume here comes from the added width and height of the bag.

(Pictured Left: Tailfin’s 10L Mini Pannier, Right: Tailfin’s 16L Mini Pannier)

When I first installed the 16L bags on my bike and compared them to my 10L bags, I immediately noticed how they sat lower, and the offset mounts on the 16L bags pushed them further forward on the bike. It makes sense, as the extra hauling capacity requires a little bit more consideration for weight distribution, and the 10L bags sit a bit further back than normal panniers would, though my immediate concern was if I’d suddenly run into issues with heel strikes. While I can’t speak for every bike and riding position, those fears were immediately put to rest as I’ve had no issues on that front.

Without any of the extra stuff like compression straps or laptop holsters, the 10L mini panniers weigh in at 380g (38g per liter), while the 16L versions tip the scales at 570g (35.6g per liter).

Construction is up to the same standards as Tailfin’s other gear, using CNC machined alloy for the mount as well as the rigid frame that backs the bag and keeps its contents from jostling around. It uses a 100% waterproof combination of 210D Hypalon nylon and rip-stop nylon in conjunction with high-frequency welding to keep your gear dry.  

They’re built with the same construction methods as the 10L bags that I’ve hauled across the Andes and Asia over the last two and a half years, and those are still going strong, with one or two spot fixes for wear spots that can be solved in a couple of minutes on the trail with a bit of Tenacious Tape.

New to the 16L bags is an air release valve for pushing the air out once they’re folded down. I’ve never really had an issue pushing air out the old-fashioned way, without these valves, but it could be handy in certain situations. The placement of the valve is a bit odd as it tends to rub against the compression straps if you’re using them, and can get in the way of the strap keeper when you’re tightening them down, though it’s a minor quibble.

Specs and Alternatives

Tailfin’s 16L Mini Panniers weigh in at 570g grams (without the included compression straps) and cost $125 / €120 / £100 per bag. They are rated to carry 8kg per bag on tarmac and 4kg on rough roads and trails.

The optional laptop holster weighs 120g and costs $25 / €25 / £20

For comparison, my other favorite mini-to-mid sized panniers, the 13L Rockgeist Microwave Panniers cost $285 for a set of two, and weigh 460g per pannier, though they don’t have an integrated system for carrying a laptop, their capacity is smaller, and they cost about $35 more for the pair. However, they will function well on a wider variety of racks than the Tailfin Bags, so if you’ve already got a bunch of racks sitting around, they could be a good option, depending on your needs.


If you’re looking for a versatile pannier that is perfectly suited for commuting while equally excelling as a rugged touring pannier, or if 16L strikes the right sizing balance for you, it’s hard to think of a bag that I could recommend more. This is especially true if you’ve already got an AeroPack or Tailfin’s rack, which integrate perfectly with the mount to create a waterproof and rattle-free system.  


  • Waterproof and durable construction.
  • Rattle-free clamp design.
  • Very fast to take on and off.
  • Fits up to a 14″ laptop with the optional laptop holster
  • Versatile size for use while commuting, out for an overnighter, or on a long-distance tour.
  • Compression straps are useful for hauling items like sandals.


  • Air valve can get in the way of compression straps.
  • May not work as well with non-Tailfin racks.
  • Price adds up once you include a Tailfin Rack/Aeropack to get the most out of them.
  • Laptop corners can push against the pannier corners and expose both to potential damage.


You can find more info on Tailfin’s full range of mini panniers at their website.