Army Surplus Backpack Pannier





Introduction: Army Surplus Backpack Pannier

I bought an old army backpack at a flea market for $5 and attached it to my bike rack.
I wanted it set up so that the bag could easily be removed and carried around as a backpack when I parked my bike.

I was inspired by this website:
I was originally going to use the same method of making an internal dowel frame to keep the backpack rigid. But my backpack luckily had 8 metal rings on the sides that allowed me to attach it to an external frame and keep the backpack intact. No holes or sewing required, which is good, because I'm sure I would have screwed up the bag in some way.

My pack has "Bag Ammunition M2A1 034951" printed on it. Unless you've got the same type of backpack, you will probably have to attach it to your bike in some other way. Plenty of good advice here:

Step 1: The Backpack

The Backpack has 4 little metal rings on each side, 2 near the front and 2 near the back. I am going to use these to hold the backpack up against a frame attached to the bike.

Step 2: The Frame

I got lucky with the frame because I happened to have a piece of aluminum lying around that could be bent to make a square that matched the size of the backpack exactly.

The aluminum was a vertical support from a screen door. It had four spots where it could easily be bent to form five even segments. With one side overlapping, it made a square with sides of about 14 inches. The backpack is also a square with 14 inch sides. How convenient.

Step 3: Strengthening the Frame

On the side of the square with the overlapping aluminum, I drilled three holes and used a pop rivet gun to attach them together.

This held the square together, but it needed more to keep the corners at 90 degree angles. I cut two corners off of a steel plate with a jigsaw to make two right triangles. I drilled holes through the steel triangles and opposite corners of aluminum, and pop riveted those together. Now the frame was much stiffer.

Step 4: Attaching the Frame to the Bike

Next I attached the frame to my bike rack. Since I could take the backpack on and off, I didn't really care how easy it was to get the frame off.

At this point, I spray painted the frame black to make it look way cooler on my black bike.

At the top of the rack, I used two hose clamps to hold it on.

At the bottom, I drilled a hole through the aluminum and used the same screw that goes through the bike rack and into the bike frame to hold it all together. The original screw was too short so I found a longer replacement.

Although the frame lined up nicely with the rack, I had to move it a couple inches further back on the bike because my foot would hit the backpack when pedaling. This just meant drilling a new hole on the bottom.

Step 5: Attaching the Backpack to the Frame

Originally I used a few bungee cords to strap the backpack on and it worked fine, but it was a pain to get on and off. I was considering using four little keychain carabiners to clip onto the backpack's metal rings on the but was having trouble getting them fastened to the frame.

Instead I found four little flat spring loaded clips that worked perfectly. They were attached to some unrelated straps I had lying around. I sawed them off and pop riveted them to the aluminum frame so that they were aligned with the four pairs of rings on the backpack.

Step 6: Done!

Now the pannier is complete. The backpack hangs on the four clips and shows no signs of breaking or falling off, even when filled with heavy stuff. The pack is held on pretty tight, almost too tight, since it's kind of hard to get the last ring clipped on or off and it can be tough to fit large objects into the bag. But it's better than the backpack flopping all over the place and it is possible to leave some of the outer rings unclipped in order to let the backpack expand and hold more.

Thanks for reading!



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    17 Discussions

    I have used Medium rucks as panniers for touring and your ideas will make the next run even more enjoyable.

    The clips came off of another army backpack I had (my first attempt at the pannier). It had these removable shoulder straps with those clips holding things together. I just sawed them off.

    Looks like very solid construction.  Seems a bit heavier/sturdier than necessary, but that beats crying over spilled milk on the road.

    I love the pannier.  I think I'll do something similar.

    Question:  How do you like the Geax tires?  I was thinking of buying some Geax Roadsters for my bike.

    Well done! Terrific instructable- thanks for sharing

    Exceptional job. I can't say enough good things. I have a store bought set from the Netherlands. They have a similar design, except they are not meant to be removable. You did an excellent job. How are they holding up?

    2 replies

    Thanks for the compliments everyone! The pannier is holding up pretty well so far. The clips that are riveted onto the frame have loosened up a little but they are in no danger of breaking off. The design works well but sometimes I wish I just used the hook and bungee cord method that you see on most other pannier sets because it is so much quicker to get on and off. When I'm locking my bike up frequently in the city it's a hassle to attach and undo all the clips, but I'm afraid to leave the pack on when I'm away from the bike. I'm thinking about using a very small cable and lock to prevent people from getting into or removing the backpack; that way I could just leave it on more often. One more complaint is with the backpack itself. You have to tie and untie small ropes to open and close the flap which can get a bit tedious. I want to make some kind of strap with a clip instead, like a car seat belt buckle.

    I wouldn't worry about someone stealing them. Most people are looking for something that looks expensive. Old Army bags are not among those items.

    If you are worried about someone yanking one, get a large O ring (like you'd find on a key chain, the part that actually holds the keys.) and squeeze it on. Another thing would to put old gym locks to work (padlocks with combinations) and lock a loop to the rack. Just one loop will do.

    Don't worry about making them removable. It's not worth the hassle. I've used permanent and removable systems, and have been far more happy with permanent (hard to remove) systems. You really don't worry about someone stealing them.

    Accept that you'll have to have a smaller bag to place inside of the main carry bag that can pop in and out. You really don't need to carry tons of stuff.

    Remember, convenience is the key to a bike. The more time you have to fiddle with getting a bike out the door, loaded and to your destination and unloaded the less likely you will use it. Make it super easy to use and accept a couple of limitations and you'll be very happy.

    This is what I have, and it's been a God send.
    Giant City Bikes
    It cost a bit of money, but I didn't have to put on fenders or a rack (and the rack they supply is ALL business.) It also came with all lights, including a dynamo light upfront.

    The brakes are enclosed in the hubs themselves (no brake squeal in wet weather, and no brake gunk in wet weather too.) The chain is completely surrounded in a case, so there is very little need for maintenance (doesn't get dirty.) It's been a great bike, and I have easily gotten my money back by time saved, no car needed, and a great deal of smile time while riding around town.

    Keep it easy, hassle free and you'll be happy.

    Cool. I have an old Alice pack, which would be a helluva pannier for my Montague Paratrooper.

    Nice use of cheap and already available materials. Good panniers are expensive, unless you make your own.

    Nice idea, and great job. Most of the army bags could clip on your frame, doesn't it? I take mental note... Happy ride!

    The great think about military bags is there's a billion different kinds, allowing all sorts of setups. I've done something similar to this, only I left all the support on the bag (never planned on carrying it on my back) Came out nice, but I realized that I'm not actually much of a fan of panniers. Oh well.

    Dang! I wish I kept my army bag, I bought a while ago. I gave it away to a friend. :P Oh well. Nice job!

    And, of course, if someone doesn't have a backpack with rings at the corners you could presumably sew short webbing loops with rings on them onto your bag of choice without too much difficulty.