I snagged one of these Minnehaha canvas utility panniers last year (on sale at Restoration Hardware – weird, right?) and have put it through daily rides since then. Minnehaha touts the “Utility without a utilitarian look”, which I think means it doesn’t look super sporty like the Ortliebs and others. It passes my can-I-take-this-into-a-meeting-at-work test. They retail for $64.99.
The design is simple without frills. Black canvas, leather fastening strap, one interior pocket, 2 top hooks, and a shoulder strap.
With a 13″ laptop, pants, a shirt, spare tube, and a paperback book, there was still a little bit of room for lunch. It’s by no means a large pannier, but I’ve adapted my grocery runs to fit this bag for the last year, except when I ride the xtracycle (and buy way too much — economies of scale).
The interior pocket is big enough to fit a tube, phone, multi-tool, and a candy bar. During a downpour, I put my cell phone in it, and it stayed dry. On that note, the pannier isn’t waterproof, but Minnehaha says you can use a trash bag as a waterproof liner. I spray the pannier with some Nikwax before it rains, and it seems to help the rain bead and roll off a bit.
The upper mounting hooks have stayed put, but I lost the lower bungee-hook thing, so I replaced the hook with a cheap carabiner. Before I replaced the hook, I learned the hard way that the pannier will bounce off without a lower mount. Oops.
Overall, I’ve been pleased with the bag, and I think it’ll see a few years of good use. It’s great around town, good for an overnight bike camping trip, but not stout enough for a long tour.
For roughly 3 times the price, the Philosophy bags take canvas panniers to a new level – waterproof, made in US, touring-grade mounts. The Minnehaha pannier is a great place to start.