Mar 08 2014
Not long ago I wrote an unsolicited paean to Ziploc Big Bags, my go-to solution for protecting the contents of panniers and packs from rain, splash, and dust. Big Bags have a lot to recommend them. They’re big, for one thing, not to mention sturdy, lightweight and waterproof. They’re also reasonably cheap. And you can probably find them on a shelf at the nearest HyperMart.
But reader Ric Ashcraft reminds me that Big Bags have some competition, and he’s generously allowed me to reprint his letter. So, without further ado, here’s Ric’s approach to the problem of protecting cycling kit on extended bike tours:
I liked your article on the giant Ziploc bags to line panniers. I've been doing something similar for years now. I bought a box of trash compactor bags. These are heavy-duty bags, and each one has lasted maybe 45 days of touring. I ignore any small holes, and my gear has never gotten wet.
The thing I like about these bags is the color: white. My panniers are rather cheap Jannds, and they are black inside and out. The black interior really sucks up the light when you are trying to find something inside. However, with a white liner bag it is much easier to see inside.
Of course, there is no ziplock closure with trash compactor bags. And some trash compactor bags are scented, which I would avoid. Mine have plenty of length, so I just roll them down and close the pannier. These bags are so large that I use them only on my rear panniers. Their size is really overkill for my front panniers, so in the front I use white tall kitchen bags. These are much thinner and more fragile, and I get maybe 15 days use from these.
My tours are usually 10 to 18 days long, and for that duration, I carry two spare tall kitchen bags and one spare trash compactor bag. But in several tours, I have never dipped into my spare bag inventory.
I think Ric is on to a good thing here. I, too, struggle to find items in the dark recesses of my black panniers. In fact, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had to upend a pannier and dump the contents out to find an article of clothing that was hiding in plain sight. And while Big Bags are transparent, this doesn’t help you locate an elusive pair of socks or a navy blue watch cap — unless you first remove the Bags from the panniers. That’s a nuisance I’d just as soon avoid.
But I still like the Big Bags’ Ziploc closure, particularly when I’m on the waterborne leg of an amphibious jaunt. Is there a way to get the best of both worlds — the Big Bag’s reassuring zipper seal as well as a white interior liner for your pack or pannier? I think there is: Just line a Big Bag with a white kitchen trash bag.
Simple? Yes. But how will it work in practice? We’ll see. Spring is in the air as I write this. Soon it will be the season of open roads and open waters. And I’ll lose no time in adapting Ric’s idea to my own needs. Until then, however, if you’re about to embark on a bike tour, and if you’re tired of fishing around in the dark for that pair of socks you know you put in your panniers — and then discovering that the cloudburst you rode through soaked every stitch of clothing you packed, including the damned socks — go get yourself some trash compactor bags.
And then spare a moment to offer a silent word of thanks to Ric.
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