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Gear Review: Arkel GT 54 Touring Panniers

As we prepared for our multi-year cycle tour, selecting durable panniers that could accommodate our belongings was a top priority. Upon learning of Arkel from none other than the Metal Cowboy, a small Canadian company with just six office employees, we considered their line and ultimately elected from their wide variety of bags to carry our possessions around the world. Plus, we needed a heavy duty pannier that could take a beating, we looked no further than the Arkel GT 54.

Jen wanted to make sure we never ran out of food, and we wanted to splurge with a three person tent, so going big with the Arkel GT 54 were our prime targets for rear panniers.

Given our large load with our dog in tow, it mean that I would carry more of our camping gear, leaving the lighter items to Dave, so we needed bags that could fit a lot of gear. Plus, we tried to go as locally-made as possible for any new gear, so the Arkel GT 54 Touring Panniers (which are made in Canada) fit just the bill.

And to top it all with some social good, Arkel works with a program called CRDITED, a social service program for folks with Intellectual Disabilities and Pervasive Development Disorders, whose team puts the finishing touches on each bag after they’re returned from the seamstress.

The full length Arkel GT-54 has a capacity of 54 liters (3300 cubic inches), a removable tent tube, and pockets galore, these panniers fit our camping gear and much more, and all in a remarkably organized manner. There’s never any digging deep into the depths of my bag to locate what I need. And it also has a removable butterfly as a bonus.

Watch our video for a full visual tour and explanation of the panniers.

To give an idea of the number of items I can fit into these asymmetrically-designed bags, here’s a list of what I carry between the two:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Two sleep sacks
  • Two travel towels
  • Rain pants and rain coat
  • All of my clothes
  • 10-18mm camera lens
  • Travel brush and comb
  • Rain booties
  • Camp pillow
  • Earplugs
  • Sun sleeves
  • Thick gloves
  • Contact solution
  • All of our bike tools
  • First aid kit
  • Toiletries
  • Eyeglasses
  • Platypus water filter system
  •  3-Person tent, poles, and foot print (our entire three-person tent setup does not fully fit into the tent tube)
  • A compressible travel backpack

Arkel GT 54 Touring Panniers

With minimalism and versatility in mind, the Arkel GT 54 can go from long-term bike tour to commuter bag simply by removing unnecessary Velcro pockets.

Cleverly-designed, this bag features hidden pockets for tent poles and maps or gloves, removable pockets for easy access to every day use items like toiletries or for when you’re taking a few days off the bike and need carrying pouch for your city explorations.

The Arkel bag has a inner waterproof liner also separates dirty laundry and the durable zippers have never skipped or failed, even in high altitude where nearly every other zippered item we have has.

The rubber handles are incredibly comfortable, even when carrying the bags over a long distance, they don’t make my hands raw from the pressure. Further, the bags feature hooks to which one can attach a strap – perfect for air travel when you lack the space to stuff your panniers in your bike box and need a need a carry-on.

With Arkel’s Cam-Lock attachment system, these bags are going nowhere and will stay attached. We’ve traveled over every type of surface imaginable and I’ve even fallen a few times, but these bags stayed on securely. The thermoplastic insert prevent rattling, much to Dave’s delight and the mounts can be adjusted to fit a specific position on your rack.

The bags claim to be 100% waterproof, however we have found that’s not exactly the case given the outside pockets, so we purchased the rain covers as a preventative measure, which double as high visibility, given their bright yellow color. A bit fragile, the bags tear easily over long-term use or when brushed up against an abrasive surface.

Arkel GT 54 Panniers Fully Loaded

The hefty price of $399.95 for the pair is certainly jaw dropping, however I’m convinced I’ll never have to purchase another set of touring panniers in my life. After more than two years of every day use, the Arkel GT 54 still function as they did upon arrival.

The Cordura fabric is practically impenetrable and all purchases come with a lifetime guarantee. Whether headed out on a world tour like we are, or a shorter weekend trip close to home, we highly recommend the Arkel GT 54.

Interested in the Arkel Orcas? Dave rocked those on the back of his pannier for South America. You can read a review of the Arkel Orcas in a separate post.

Arkel GT-54 Touring PanniersArkel generously outfitted our bikes with panniers at a significant discount. As always, all opinions are our own and if we didn’t think they rocked, we wouldn’t tell you about them.


Friday 23rd of November 2018

How are the GT-54 after 2 years? of use? Would love to hear an update! Thanks!

Jen Sotolongo

Friday 30th of November 2018

They're great! No tears, zippers still work, they're a bit faded from the sun, but that's about it. We still use them when we tour. The only thing that tore were the rain covers. We used them frequently and because they're a thinner material, we had to replace them after a year or so (for non-consistent touring, they'd last much longer). We truly have zero complaints!

Bryant Leman

Sunday 7th of August 2016

Man, I want to join so bad. Think I could fit in an Arkel?


Tuesday 9th of August 2016

Is that a boat joke?


Saturday 6th of August 2016

Biking in the Bellingham/ Mt Baker area of WA state.


Friday 5th of August 2016

Cape cod!


Saturday 6th of August 2016

Cape Cod would be so lovely on bicycle!

David D

Wednesday 3rd of August 2016

I have three Arkel bags already (one Tailrider for normal long distance rides, a Urban Shopper for the grocery runs, and an Urban Commuter for the rides to and from work). The Tailrider will get the call weekend, as we head to Wisconsin on Sunday (70 mile round trip). Hopefully I will have the need for the bike touring set in the future.


Thursday 4th of August 2016

Sounds like you're a big fan already! Hopefully you'll find yourself on a longer tour soon!