Backpack Panniers (that Are Still Backpacks)




Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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:



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    44 Discussions

    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?

    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.

    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.

    1 reply

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

    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.

    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!

    2 replies

    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!

    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.


    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.

    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 !

    1 reply

    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.

    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.

    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.