Review: Ortlieb Vario PS
Panniers are a staple for carrying stuff on your bike, but sometimes you need to lock your bike and continue on foot. Standard panniers tend to have some sort of carrying straps, but they aren’t very convenient off the rack. Ortlieb Vario PS rises to the challenge by doubling as a backpack!
This isn’t the only backpack pannier out there, but based on my experience and research, it’s likely one of the best. Why? First off, the build quality is good, and being Ortlieb, it’s fully waterproof. As a pannier it functions just as one would expect. It’s really the backpack side that makes things interesting. And I say side for a reason. Unlike in many other backpack panniers, the rack mounts and the backpack straps are on different sides of the bag. This gives room for properly implementing both.
The only hiccup this product runs into is in the backpack mode. There’s a plastic bottom plate, which unfortunately has a tendency to burrow into one’s lower back. Unless remedied, this can make the backpack really painful under a heavier load. Luckily the bottom plate is detachable so one can just take it out, or put some padding to it’s edge. Still, this is a rather dumb design flaw in an otherwise great bag.
The bottom plate is shown in lighter grey. Otherwise one can see that the bag is quite roomy. (Credit: Ortlieb. Fair use)
Despite the one flaw, Vario PS is still probably the best pannier backpack out there. If you’re ever riding with just one pannier, this is a near perfect choice.