Orca VS Dolphin: Which Waterproof Pannier is Right for You?

Orca VS Dolphin: Which Waterproof Pannier is Right for You?

Whether you’re commuting by bike or planning your next multi-day bikepacking trip, you can’t go wrong with a pair of 100% waterproof bike bags.

It only takes one furious downpour of rain to soak you to the bone, leaving you uncomfortably cold and humid for the rest of the ride. Lucky for you, a solid pair of weatherproof panniers can keep your spare clothes and other essentials as dry as the Sahara desert, be it your iPad for work or your sleeping bag for the night.

That said, not all panniers are the same. In fact, choosing the perfect bag according to your needs can cause quite a headache.

Arkel offers two lineups of waterproof panniers with a variety sizes and colours. Known as the Orcas and the Dolphins, each lineup has its own perks, but they also share features that are unique to the Arkel brand.

Arkel waterproof bike panniers, Dolphin vs Orcas

Left side Dolphin, right side Orca.

Let’s break down the differences and similarities between these two product lines, and figure out which pair of bike bags is the right fit for you.

Shared Features

1. Cam-Lock® Attachment System

A lot of progress has been made in developing key features that make Arkel products unique. Among these include the Cam-Lock®, the patented attachment system that is integrated in the Orcas and Dolphins.

It allows cyclists to mount their bags onto their bike rack in a clever, hassle-free way. Thanks to its ingenious conception, the bike bag will never pop off the rack even in the toughest road conditions. It is also solid enough to trust it with your electronics such as your camera or tablet. Although a laptop may fit inside the bag depending on its size, it is not recommended because there is no dedicated laptop compartment like in other commuting panniers made by Arkel.

2. Assembled by folks with disabilities

Another distinctive Arkel trait is the inclusion of CRDITED, a social service program for folks with intellectual disabilities and disorders. These individuals participate in the assembly. While both bag shells come from an ethically sourced supplier in Asia, the entirety of the Orca and Dolphin lineup are assembled with the Cam-Lock® in the Arkel headquarters in Sherbrooke, Canada.

3. Waterproofness and safety

Thirdly, both bag lineups are entirely waterproof and open from the top thanks to a roll-top closure. D-rings have been sewn on the sides to attach an optional shoulder strap to carry the bag once off the bike. Even the minor details are important, especially when it comes to safety. For example, both bag types have two dedicated tabs for blinker lights and reflective material for extra visibility, especially at nighttime. Lastly, both lineups are available in red and grey.

Key Differences

1. Material & Fabrication Method

The two main differentiating factors are the material and fabrication method.
The Dolphins are sewn and taped to seal the seams.
As for the Orcas, they are made with a more robust material using high frequency welding, which avoids having seams altogether. This gives it an edge in terms of durability due to the heavier fabric and the absence of seams.

2. Outside Pockets

As for usability, they both feature outside pockets, but with different technicalities.

The Orca lineup contains a small 2D pocket that is ideal for small, flat items like ID Cards, keys, or a granola bar.

On the other hand, the Dolphin models have two water bottle pockets as well as a large front pocket that can hold bulkier 3D objects like tools, spare clothes and more.

This can be explained due to the previously-mentioned fabrication methods. Indeed, the Dolphin panniers’ voluminous outside pockets are sewn and then taped for waterproofness.

In the Orca construction, the welding process uses moulds that make outside pockets with any volume difficult, but flat 2D pockets possible.

Different Waterproof fabric and seams for bike pannier Orca and Dolphin
Interior of the bags: Dolphin (top) and Orca (bottom)

3. Weight & Carrying Capacity

From a technical standpoint, both models offer different sizes.
At 25 liters, the Orca 25 pair is the smallest bag available weighing only 3.4 lbs. Orcas are available in 25, 35 and 45 Liters.
In the other hande the Dolphin 48 pair swallows almost twice as much gear (48 liters), with only 4.8 lbs on the scale. They are available in 32 and 48 Liters
Although Dolphin panniers are lighter, the Orcas have a removable inner cradle, which allows the bags to stay up when packing or unpacking. That said, it is possible to shave off some weight by removing the cradle.

The Right Bag for You

It ultimately comes down to what features and look you prefer as well as your needs. Here is a recap of the main points covered above.

Dolphin:

  • - Weight lighter;
  • - Have outside pockets options for water bottles and other gear;
  • -  Available in 32 & 48 Liters;
  • - This can be ideal for someone who wants a lightweight pannier for a weekend bike trip, or to commute daily to work.

    Orca:

    • - Slightly stronger and more durable;
    • - Stays up on flat surfaces;
    • -  Available in 25, 35 & 45 Liters;
    • - Stylish look;
    • - With this in mind, it could be the ideal bike bag for an ambitious expedition in rough conditions.
    Technical specifications
      Characteristics   Orcas Dolphins
      Sizes Available 25L, 35L & 45L 32L & 48L
      Weight

      -25L: 1.55 kg (3.4 lbs)

      -35L: 2.12 kg (4.6 lbs)

      -45L: 2.29 kg (5.5 lbs)

      32L: 1.8 kg (3.9 lbs)

      48L: 2.16 kg (4.8 lbs)

      Material Nylon fabric with a TPU laminated waterproof membrane Ripstop Nylon fabric with a TPU laminated waterproof membrane
      Fabrication method Welded construction Sewn and taped to seal the seams
      Durability The Orca will have a slight advantage in durability mainly due to the heavier fabric and the more robust RF welded seams. Slightly less durable than the Orcas because for the fabric and taped seams.
      Waterproof Yes Yes
      Cam-Lock® Attachment System Yes Yes
      Main Compartment Access Roll-top closure with a buckle on each side. Roll-top closure with a buckle on each side.
      Outside pockets Yes for 2022 models and older only. Ideal for small, flat items like ID cards, keys, granola bar, etc. (2D)

      Yes. On the 48L version there is a large waterproof front pocket.

      On the 32L, there is a small open pocket to slide small items like a shirt, snacks, etc.

      Inside pockets/ organisers Flat internal pocket for papers, tablet, etc No
      Exterior water bottle pockets No Yes, 2 pockets
      Laptop Compartment Not recommended because there is no padding to protect it. Not recommended because there is no padding to protect it.
      Tabs to mount blinker lights Yes, (2x) Yes, (2x)
      Available colors Red & Grey Red & Grey
      Stays up when put on flat surface Yes, thanks to the removable internal cradle (can be removed to reduce the bag’s weight). No, because there is no internal cradle.
      Reflective material for security Yes Yes
      Fabrication Origin  Designed & assembled in Canada. Made ethically in Asia. Designed & assembled in Canada. Made ethically in Asia.

      Have a closer look at both panniers

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