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.
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.
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.
1. Material & Fabrication Method
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.
3. Weight & Carrying Capacity
The Right Bag for You
- - 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.
- - 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.
|Sizes Available||25L, 35L & 45L||32L & 48L|
-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.|
|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.|