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One of the eternal battles of the adventure and overland riding community is the contest between hard and soft panniers. Because they both have such equally weighted pros and cons, this is an argument that has lived on forever. And because there is no satisfactory answer out there, we have decided to outfit our two bikes for The Bet with both hard and soft luggage to see which truly is the best.

Wolfman Luggage out of Colorado makes what is deservedly regarded as the best soft luggage available anywhere. It’s rare to see the level of passion and obsession they posses for their craft outside of a Japanese teahouse or Amish woodworker. The Wolfman Rocky Mountain saddle bags that they have kindly supplied us with have clearly been created out of a depth of experience – there are so many small details and features that seem superfluous or fiddly at first glance, but reveal themselves to be wholly  necessary upon your first actual offroad ride with them. Take the multitude of snaps, adjusters, belts, and fasteners we found on our panniers. Upon unpacking them, my initial thought was, “This could have been done cleaner and simpler.” Design arrogance is one my better traits. But I was eating crow as I loaded my bags full of spares and camping gear, and every belt and buckle on the bags was used for the specific purpose of securely cramming as much as possible into the defined space.

Installing was a breeze at 15min or less while packing was the normal Tetris game and internal dialogue of, “Do I really need that!?” Riding with the Wolfman luggage was nice in that even when fully stuffed they are no wider than my handlebars – thus not making the bike any harder to ride or maneuver through traffic or rocks. And as far as protection, not only did almost immediately ram a bag into a concrete pole at “my” gas station to no ill effect, but the bags survived with nary a mark after several offroad crashes and drops – skilled motorcycleship being my other best trait. That is one major benefit of soft luggage, in that the eventual crashes leave no dents or scratches on your panniers. As for the other advantages over hard luggage, we’ll take a look at some aluminum examples next week then do a definitive showdown after The Bet. Stay tuned…

Adam Kaslikowski
About the Author

Co-founder and CEO of FactoryTwoFour. I enjoy writing about all factors of this lifestyle of ours. If I'm not writing or running F24, you can generally find me in the garage tinkering on a vintage car or motorcycle. If you need anything from me, try bribing with Randy's Donuts first.

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