I can't stand a sweaty back when I bike, which is why I switched to panniers ~10 years ago. It's also much easier on the back in my opinion. You can get by making this pannier with a waterproof/coated fabric (I'm using 500D Cordura), some easy to find hardware, and a home sewing machine. Other things come in handy, but you can make it work with the bare minimum.

Look through the pictures and skim the words a bit before you start. If you get stuck or something isn't clear, drop me a line and I'll try and help out as best I can.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

I'm adding some optional materials/tools to either make things easier on you, or give you the option to add some accessories to your pannier. I tried to group together items from the same carrier so you can cut down on shipping cost, assuming you don't live near a decent fabric store.

Materials you definitely need:

  • Fabric. Coated water-repellent fabric works best. I'm using 500D Cordura that I found at my local sewing shop. You can order some online, but it's not cheap. A single yard (1-yard) will be plenty to sew this bag with some leftovers for small pouches.
  • Good, strong thread. Coats and Clark Heavy Duty Works ok. I use this thread from Sailrite. It's silky smooth through my machine and super beefy. It just barely goes through the needle I use and sometimes gets jumbled inside my bobbin because it doesn't want to stay wound, but I really like it. Lays a nice stitch.
  • x1 Buckle from Strapworks. Make sure you get the 1" buckle
  • x2 J-hooks. I got mine from Jandd
  • x1 bottom hook, also from Jandd, or this set, also from Jandd
  • 1" webbing, approximately 4 feet. Might as well get more so you don't have to pay for shipping next time. Also from Strapworks
  • 2" wide Velcro, 3' of the loop side and 1' of the hook side
  • Bungee cord or something strong and stretchy. I've used old bike tubes with decent results.
  • Plastic sheet for your back panel. This can get pricey so it's best if you can scrounge up something <1/8" thick that isn't too heavy. If not, I'm using an HDPE sheet that's 1/16" thick, but shipping is $$$. Plexi/acrylic can work but you'll probably want to wrap it in duct tape to keep it from cracking.
  • Screws (nuts and bolts) to fasten your your J hooks to your back panel. I used cheap aluminum Chicago screws, but you might want something a little more robust. Jandd sells just the things for cheap enough.
  • Bag pattern. So I drew up a pattern in Onshape and made it into a PDF drawing. I'm not sure if you can print it on a normal printer in sections without some special software. The pattern isn't that important. You can easily make your own. The main panel on the pattern I made is 12.5" wide x 16" tall. If you are able to print it out, the seam allowance is built-in, so cut on the line.

Optional materials:

  • 12.5" of zipper tape(continuous zipper) and corresponding zipper pull. I use #6 nylon coil teeth because it's easy to sew over/through.
  • Reflective material. I got lucky and found a huge roll of 2" wide reflective webbing. I think I paid $5 for the roll. Stuff ain't normally cheap, though.
  • D-rings and clips. This is to make a shoulder strap to carry around your pannier when you're not biking.
  • Strapworks has a huge selection. Plastic or metal, it's up to you.
  • Stretchy materialfor side pockets. Depending on your heel clearance, this might not be such a good idea. However, the pockets sit fairly high on the bag, so you might be ok. I've never had an issue with bumping my water bottle in any of the bags I've made. I found some random stretchy mesh that's pretty durable, but have yet to come across the stuff they use in hiking backpacks.
  • Binding. So I don't always cover my messy seams with binding, especially when sewing Cordura. Why? Because it's a hassle. And even though I have a binding attachment that should make it easy, it still takes me forever and the results are never perfect. Cordura doesn't unravel like canvas, and you can always melt the edges a bit if you're worried.


  • Sewing Machine. I use an old Singer I found on the sidewalk. The old, heavy cast machines beat the new, cheap plastic ones any day, IMO.
  • Sharp scissors and a rotary cutter if you have one.
  • Ruler and measuring tape.
  • Candle and matches/lighter (to melt the edges of the webbing)
  • Screw driver (to attach the J hooks)
  • Drill with drill bit or heavy punch (to make holes in your plastic panel)
  • Seam ripper (I mess up. A lot.)
  • Chalk pen (you can use a pen/marker but chalk is nice because it goes away.)

<p>Really really cool! Now I want to make one. Do you think such homemade panniers would also be suitable for longer touring trips? You have my vote!</p>
<p>thanks so much! i've only used these for daily commuting, but they'd definitely work for a tour. i think you just have to make sure your seams are strong and you use a good fastener to attach the J hooks. i'd probably use rivets if i was sure i was going to use the bag. i have a ton of bags that i've made but only a 2-3 sets of the J hooks, so they get swapped out for the newest bag. also, even though the cordura is pretty waterproof, the seams are not, so a waterproof bag or rolltop inside of the pannier would be good if you know there's going to be rain. as it, it works ok in a light drizzle. </p>
<p>Seams can be waterproofed (more or less) by binding with used bike tubes, if you can bear to sew through them... they can also be adhered to certain textiles with contact cement - but experiment with this using scraps first!</p>
<p>When I made mine, I used a short <a href="http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=53085266&cp=2568443.10768931.1253350.1256370.1254881.1255030.1306507.1259742" rel="nofollow">'mending plate' </a> I got from my local Ace, fixed most of it in my vise, then hammered one end around a properly sized rod to make the J-hook. It was easy to round off the corners with a file, and if you really want plastic on the end, a small can of <a href="http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=31785606" rel="nofollow">'Plasti-dip'</a> is cheap, and will find endless other uses around the home, shop and bike (like dipping the cut ends of newly installed brake and shifter cables, to keep them from fraying, because I can never find those little top-hat crimp-on ones bike shops use.</p>
What is the rough cost to make this start to finish? Also, this looks amazing and difinitely very useful
<p>i'd say if you have to order everything online, it could be as high as $30. i can get cordura at my local fabric shop for $5-6/yard, and i also can find decent material for a backpanel at a place nearby called scrap. so, my costs are around $15 per bag. </p>
<p>When I made my own set a long time ago, I found a large 3-ring binder getting tossed out. The vinyl-protected covers worked very wellas stiffenes for the back, replacing your $$$ plastic. if you sandwich them into the fabric or simply rivet them on on the inside of the pannier like I did, the cardboard won't get wet and disintegrate.</p><p>Those panniers lasted a long time, but eventually the already-20-year-old army surplus knapsacks I made 'em out of disintegrated from the sun :-)</p>

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