Introduction: Backpack Panniers (that Are Still Backpacks)

Picture of Backpack Panniers (that Are Still Backpacks)

Simple way of making your backpack mountable on your bike rack, without losing any backpack functionality.

What you need:

*webbing, or fabric that you really trust. Webbing is everywhere, though. You could even trim a little off of a strap off your bag. I pulled mine off of a suitcase i found in the trash
*bungee cord that isn't too long.
*bicycle with rack
*needle and high quality thread or floss

Step 1: Cut and Sew on Webbing

Picture of Cut and Sew on Webbing

First off, you have to cut up some of that webbing, into 3 pieces. They don't have to be very big, really. The opening in mine is bigger than it has to be. All the top two openings have to do is allow you to pull the hook of the bungee ends through. The bottom one needs to be big enough to have 2 widths of your bungee cord through.

Make sure you sew the top two far enough apart so that it's appropriate with your rack. Racks will have cross pieces of metal, and where those intersect with the side piece is where you'll be attaching the bungee hooks. Make sure that the distance between the top and bottom webbings is slightly shorter than the distance between the top of your rack and the hook at the bottom

The other thing to keep in mind is, depending on the size of your bag, you will need to offset the bottom webbing to one side or the other to prevent your heel from kicking the bag. In my bag in the picture, the bottom webbing is actually still a little to close to the center, and I need to move it maybe an inch to the right, so that when i mount it on the left side of my bike I'm not kicking it.

Sew it good and strong and make sure you use a high quality synthetic thread. Cotton threads will rot in the rain. Floss would work well, as well. I use upholstery thread, which is very strong. You can steal it at any big box fabric store, or buy it from your local fabric store.

Things that would improve the straps that differ from the picture:

*sewing over more surface area, specifically with an X in a box style. you know what i mean. A box with an X in it.
*(i will probably be doing this one) riveting into a piece of thin metal or wood or something on the inside of the bag. This will also give the bag more of a frame, if you're worried about the bag getting into your wheels.

Step 2: Threading in the Bungee

Picture of Threading in the Bungee

Well, that's most of the modification. To attach the bungee, you basically put an end of the bungee in both of the top pieces. Then pull the center of the bungee cord through the bottom one. That hooks onto the bottom of your rack, and the bungees grab onto the top of the rack.

Step 3: Secure Your Straps and Loose Ends

Picture of Secure Your Straps and Loose Ends

It's pretty important that you figure out a way to secure the straps on your bag so that they won't get into the wheel while you're riding. This is going to be different with different bags, but with my bag I'm lucky enough to have side compression straps with clips that let me just put the backpack straps and the waist strap in, keeping them in front nicely and out of the way.

You'll have to experiment. If you don't have compression straps on the side, you could make a clip that lets you just connect your backpack straps together. This would be useful as a chest strap when you're wearing the backpack like normal, as well. You could also use a strip of double sided velcro to tie things on the other side.

Step 4: Connect to Your Bike

Picture of Connect to Your Bike

Hook the bottom of the bungee to the bottom of the rack first, then just put the hooks on the top. That's it. You just turned your old backpack into nice big panniers for (probably) free. Go for a ride to celebrate and showoff.

Step 5: Carry Stuff

Picture of Carry Stuff

That's it. You just turned your old backpack into nice big panniers for (probably) free. Go for a ride and carry sweet stuff to celebrate and showoff.

I should mention that my bag had some foam that gives it a little shape and keeps it from getting into the wheel (so far). Putting something to stiffen the back may help a lot. You could even just include a piece of cardboard and pack it in if you go on a trip or something. Or have a stiff something that you velcro in. Or rivet in with the strapping. Or....

Let me know if i did a crappy job or if you have any questions

and I might as well plug my photography website, while i have you here:


bugme_not (author)2016-06-18

Anyone know what the bottom loop of the bungee cord is supposed to go around? Does it thread through the bottom part of the rack, or does it loop around the nut that tightens the back wheel, or what?

boomtech8 (author)2012-09-17

Nice. I think I might make this for commuting to school daily as having a backpack is nice and I need to carry a second for my trumpet already.

h3idi (author)2009-04-15

I like this, because it doesn't mess up your backpack from usability and it requires few parts! I'd add this- use something between cardboard and plywood (like the stuff you nail to the back of Ikea bookshelves to keep your books from falling out.) Cut a little larger than the interior, round the corners at the bottom, fit in tight, and maybe use some double sided velcro so that if you don't need it in backpack mode, you can take it out. Sweet.

fifteenrabbits (author)h3idi2012-03-04

masonite! ;)

karete (author)2011-11-01

Me likes. I plan to ride around on my bike alot more this summer so this could come in handy ajlee

totoroben (author)2011-09-27

I just wanted to say your idea inspired me to create my own bicycle pannier out of a rolling luggage bag. Rolling luggage is an ideal candidate for panniers because the rails on the back keep the bag from flopping into the wheel, and you can simply use hose clamps to attach them to the back rails. Thank you for the inspiration and I might post my own instructable soon.

zilcho (author)2011-05-02

21GeeOff21 (author)2011-02-28

I wish my feet weren't so giant. My heel sometimes hits my bag. For easy paced riding though it works great. Excellent idea. Thanks for sharing!

jmerz1 (author)21GeeOff212011-04-14

You should scoot your rack backwards

21GeeOff21 (author)jmerz12011-04-15

it's back all the way... i wear 15s...

totoroben (author)2011-03-09

If you want to use this idea, get a good bicycle rack. Some bicycle racks have an extra triangle that protrudes out the back to prevent the bag from getting sucked into the back wheel. Also, you will want your rack to go back further to have the heel clearance for this bag. I got a tubular steel rack from ebay for $25 to these specifications. You could line the inside with chloroplast to make the bag stiffer, but all in all I find your design amazingly simple, cheap and adaptable. Usually panniers cost more than backpacks because cycling is more of a niche market, but you just filled the gap here. Thank you!

jakethink (author)2010-11-02

This is so great I just moved house and commute almost everywhere on my bike now. This is perfect i don't have to spend lots of money on panniers i can just use my back pack genius. I checked out your website beautiful work man.


violator1200 (author)2010-07-18

I LOL'd when i got to this part: I use upholstery thread, which is very strong. You can steal it at any big box fabric store, or buy it from your local fabric store.

jonnybo20 (author)2009-09-03

good work i might have to do something like this . BTW i checked out your website and i really like your style. Great work! keep it up !

gclarke (author)jonnybo202009-09-03

thanks a lot. good luck with your bags

rocksalt2342 (author)2009-05-03

it seems like the pack would keep smacking against the spokes, and maybe the chain.

fenerli (author)rocksalt23422009-07-25

You obviously put the pack on the other side of the chain to prevent the latter, and incidentally to help balance the weight. As for hitting the spokes, the Y shape for the attachment is stable enough. The only thing interfering would be your feet depending on the size of the bag. Might be something to keep in mind when positioning the webbing.

beauwalker23 (author)2009-05-31

I love the photo of your bike

JackinNC (author)2009-01-24

This is really nice, thanks for posting. A small s-hook at the bottom of the bungee to attach to the rack might be a nice addition. Not necessary (as you've illustrated), but it might be good.

vincentm84 (author)2008-11-11

I really like this idea, and I've got an excellent candidate laying around the house for a pannier conversion. What I'm struggling to see is what stops the bag from sliding down the cord. I've been thinking about this ad nauseam but logic keeps telling me that the bag will simply slide down to the bottom of the cord. Obviously this doesn't happen, as I'm sure there would've been many posts complaining that it does. So what I want to know is: what stops the bag from sliding down the cord? Thanks.

The rack on the back of the bike does. You thread the bungee through the rack so that the rack keeps it up at the top. If that didn't make any sense (which it probably didn't) have a look a the pictures.

ZebulonPike (author)2008-11-04

Wish I saw this before I purchased my panniers :-( But I think I'll use this idea for short little trips to the store and such. Great idea!!!!

zzpza (author)2008-10-26

what a cunning idea! :D

scottredd (author)2008-08-02

Great idea and well executed. I've recently started bike commuting and bought commercial panniers, and wow, are they expensive. I'd love to see more more ideas on home made panniers or systems for turning existing bags, totes, boxes, backpacks, etc. into mountable panniers.

jofish (author)2008-07-27

Just tried this! It's great. Thanks.

wilderness (author)2008-07-24

excellent -i dea, approach, delivery... i have a big pair of waterproof canvas panniers from holland, and just keep some cloth shopping bags in them - they can take my backpack whole or split if very full (i.e. some contents switched to cloth bag). i had to set them up very far back because of the heel problem, and i put big stiff boards in them to stop the spokes problem. the main disadvantage is that except when i'm on a bike, they don't travel with me... right now for instance, they're in storage in a friend's attic. but i find with a bungee cord i can attach a backpack to the top of the a bike-rack quite safely and quickly, without doctoring the backpack - and it's less strain on the wheel, bag, rack etc. to have the weight on top. this is my solution when living temporarily in different cities. but i really like the simplicity of your design and the instructable is very clear j

johnpr (author)2008-04-09

looks great, i finally got my bike into order for commuting to and from school and have been debating on a mounting system for my back pack. i will probably still mount it on top of the rack though as it has a substantial amount of weight in it. i definitely plan on making a pair of paniers in this style though for shoping and general travel. thanks for the informative post :)

Lego man (author)2008-03-09

Nice bike photo, it looks like you live in halloweentown.

quicumque (author)2008-03-07

Sweet idea/instructabe. Once I learn how to sew with any bit of confidence I am doing this to my messenger bag.

tts.spy (author)2008-03-06

I tried this last year, lashed my bag to the rack just to test the concept. Problem is: heel clearance. My heels kept bumping with the bag ang I cant get it far enough back to keep it from doing so.. This instructable makes me want to try it out again. suggestions?

gclarke (author)tts.spy2008-03-06

if you offset the bottom strap to one side that'll keep the bottom corner further from your foot. you can see in mine that the bottom is slightly to the right of the center seam. it could stand to be a little further to the right, but i rarely kick the bag as it is now.

tts.spy (author)gclarke2008-03-06

aha.. tinker with this later. thanks

sleeping_gecko (author)2008-03-03

I did this to my bag last night, and I gotta say, it works pretty well. I don't know if my bag is just too heavy (three textbooks, notebooks, change of clothes, etc) today, but it wouldn't stay on (the cord stretched, the bag slid down, and it unhooked the bottom loop). Do you attach the cord in any way, or have a way to keep the hooks from sliding all the way through the loops? If mine is just too heavy, I think I can find a carabiner to clip on the rack or something, to support the weight. Either way, this is nice. I got some pieces of webbing off a bag I got for free and rarely use.

gclarke (author)sleeping_gecko2008-03-03

It sounds like the top two loops on your bag might have the opening too big. The opening really should only be big enough for the hook of the bungee to go through. the knot shouldn't be able to go through - that's what the weight is resting on, basically. So basically, if i'm understanding you correctly, you should just try sewing the webbing a little tighter on the top two pieces.

gclarke (author)gclarke2008-03-03

having reread your comment i think maybe you're saying that the weight pulls the bottom of the bag down so much that it stretches the bungee off of the bottom of your rack. if that's the case it could be that your bungee is too long. maybe try a shorter bungee to see if the extra tension helps out.

sleeping_gecko (author)gclarke2008-03-04

I'll sew those loops tighter and try it that way. The bungee was way too long to start with, so I put a knot in one end, which helped. By the way, I was looking at your website, and it says you're in Bloomington, Indiana, right? Or was that another Bloomington? Anyway, I'm from Indiana, too. About 60 miles west of Bloomington.

leebryuk (author)2008-03-02

I like the idea, and have tried numerous commercial solutions as well. The problem I've found is that the stiffened backing is very uncomfortable on my back. I might like to suggest that a thin piece of plastic be attached to the rack than in the backpack. You'd get the protection from rain and mud splash (well, at least some) and you'd hopefully keep the pack out of the wheels. One thing that I do which helps is to use a velcro strap to cinch the pack straps together. Easy on, easy off. Another solution is to use permanent mounting panniers, such as Carradice. If you poke around on eBay you'll eventually find a pair of indestructible cloth panniers that are used. They aren't particularly cheap (even when used) but they mount to the rack with nuts and bolts so someone has to have too much time on their hands to steal a beat up set of panniers. I used a cheap set of saddlebag type panniers when I lived in the UK. They survived very well in the damp salty winters. I packed them full of groceries and books and just about everything else you can imagine. They withstood the hooligans, never tore or shredded and kept everything nice and dry...all for $25. But that was in Europe and such things are easier to come by. Good job, keep refining and get longer fenders. They'll make you much more comfortable. I speak from slushy snow experience.

gclarke (author)leebryuk2008-03-03

The idea about attaching something to the rack is a really good idea. I hadn't thought of that. As it is, though I haven't had any issues with mine getting into the wheel at all, except for an end of a strap that didn't cause a problem, but was hitting the spokes. Of course you can always go buy a set of panniers, but personally I like to be involved in the things that I use everyday, and I'm using something that I have that's free and will probably hold more stuff than any pannier that I'd likely be able to afford. Not to mention that this can also be used as a backpack. There's definitely some improvements that can be made to this, and I'm taking it on a week long tour next week so I'm sure I'll figure out exactly what those could be, and I'll update the instructable with any changes I make. Thanks for the comments. Oh, and by the way, that tiny little front fender is working great for me. I started making them out of old aluminum wheel rims, as well. I just stick a piece of cardboard on my rack for a rear fender when I need it.

leebryuk (author)gclarke2008-03-04

Thanks for the compliments. You are right on the desire to hack and mod what is around you. Free is the best price. I will predict a problem though. The stress of bouncing about and handling odd shaped articles will eventually fatigue the seams on the back pack. Again, this is from personal experience. Be sure to bring some floss and a heavy duty needle. You can find some articles on the web about basic stitching. These focus on all of the ones you commented about. Unfortunately you will probably need sewing skillz. I really like the bike rim fenders. Very cool and very cheap. And please be careful about loose straps, buckles wrapping up in the spokes. I've had everything from wheel reflectors to bag buckles "marry" the spokes in a shotgun wedding. It is no fun. Come to think of it, I even had a squirrel try to jump through my wheel on a commute through a park. I guess it was a good thing it was in the wild because he wouldn't last a second near a road. For the record, he bounced off the spokes and sprinted up a tree, chattering away most angrily. He seemed unhurt, and fortunately did not lodge himself inside the spokes. Have fun on your tour and let us know how it goes!

sideways (author)2008-03-01

Awesome. I have panniers, but they are a pain to attach/take off. I have a couple old backpacks that would work great for this.

chrisdp (author)2008-03-01

Great idea.

GorillazMiko (author)2008-02-29

What a cool idea! I like the last picture the most, it blends in so perfectly! And there's snow (I think) on the ground. No yellow snow, that's good. Great job, agreeing with xtank5, me likes.

sleeping_gecko (author)2008-02-29

Looks great! To hang a backpack on my rack, I bent up a plastic-coated wire coat hanger. It wraps around one side, then hooks around the other side. I put the handle of my backpack in the hook. That way, with my bag's long handle, it isn't too close to the ground. Unfortunately, I then have to tie the bag down to the rack with innertube to keep it from swinging into the wheel. This is definitely much better! And, if people are carrying textbooks, they can just put a big, hardcover book in the back of the bag, so it rests against the rack's supports, keeping it out of the wheel. Great job!

xtank5 (author)2008-02-28

Me likes. I plan to ride around on my bike alot more this summer so this could come in handy. *faved* *+1*

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