The Arkel’s XM-28s are the baby brother to the similarly designed but more capacious XM-45s. They cost $209 and according to the Arkel site, weigh 1.6kg. As the name suggests, they’re 28 litres in capacity for the pair – you can read the full Arkel blurb with all the spec details here.
What I like:
Amazing clamping system that fastens to the rack with incredible kung-fu grip. These panniers have never hopped off – over the roughest, babyhead-strewn terrain – where other bags have. No sliding up or down the rack, either.
Super tough build. And if anything get damaged or ripped, they’re easily repaired.
Tall, svelte shape that keeps the bike’s profile slim, which is good for rocky trails, windy conditions and heel clearance.
Chunky, reliable outer zips that offer easy side access to gear buried deep within. Arkel’s pannier within a pannier system also means extra compartmentalisation for wet stuff like waterproofs. This works very nicely.
Useful top pocket and side mesh pouch. Organisation-heads will appreciate these touches.
Constructed from Cordura, the Arkels are also breathable. Damp clothes won’t ending up stinking too bad, unlike a seam-sealed, watertight rolltop pannier.
The bright waterproof covers offer extra visability.
At 28 litres a pair, these are roomy bags, and make a good option for running at the rear too.
What I don’t like:
Considering the hefty price tag, it’s a shame neither waterproof covers nor a shoulder strap are included.
Those waterproof covers mean more bulk, plus a touch more weight when stored wet.
And, you’ll definitely be needing the covers for long, heavy rains/monsoons. Even when fitted, I’d hesitate to call the XM-28s 100% waterproof – gear at the bottom will eventually become damp over prolonged rain storms (I pack my computer in a watertight sleeve). To be fair, I should add that outside of monsoonal downpours or negotiating river crossings, your stuff will most likely stay bone dry. The occasional spray of Nikwax would probably help too.
While the panniers secure very effectively to the rack, the old fashioned bungee and hook system mean these panniers can flap outwards like dog ears over rough descents. Some kind of anti sway clip would be useful.
Dust and grime can’t be conveniently hosed off like a rolltop pannier. However, I prefer the low key and weathered look over the bright and shiny finish of PVC panniers. Using the waterproof covers also helps protect them.
Not so much a dislike, but something to be aware of. Like the XM-45s, these panniers pack high. If you’re running them at the back, stacking up a rucksack or rollbag across them doesn’t really work.
First off, the XM 45s are neither cheap ($209) nor light panniers (1.6kg, plus raincovers). But they are tough, and packed with details I’ve come to really appreciate over my travels. For these reasons I still think they’re good value for money.
The main question adventure touring nuts are going to ask is: are these Arkels better than equivalents from German waterproofing specialists Ortlieb?
As if often the case with a direct comparison, there’s not a straightforward answer. Their approach to pannier design is very different – and which suits you better depends on what you value most. If quick to use, simple 100% waterproofing is your priority, Ortlieb’s rolltop models won’t disappoint. They’re very well built and completely H2O tight, whatever the weather – which is a real bonus if you’re packing anything electronic. The basic roll top versions are a lot lighter too.
But if stability, breathability, compartmentalisation, detail and repairability tick your boxes, then the Arkels come out top. I love the attention that’s gone into these panniers. All kit gets damaged or wears out in time – the XM28s feel like they’ll outlast their competitors and keep lugging my gear around for many miles to come.
They look really nice (I love the way well worn Cordura ages) – everyone I’ve met with Arkle panniers speaks highly of them, although personally I’m not a fan of too many pockets (because i’d end up stuffing them with junk).
Just a question though – is it necessarily a good thing that they hold so tightly to the rack? Won’t this make it more likely that you’ll damage the rack in a fall? I once had a spill in Vietnam that I’m pretty sure would have totaled the racks if the Ortliebs hadn’t sprung off on impact as designed.
oops, I mean ‘Arkel’, not ‘Arkle’.
Hm. Maybe, but I think I prefer the idea of them staying on… Ejecting mid descent isn’t ideal… The panniers of one guy I was riding with kept popping off, and ended up tearing..
Glad to see that you like the XM series. At the time I designed them to work best on a mountain bike (because of the frame dimensions and such), but of course they can be used anywhere.
The hook system (cam-lock) is the last thing I designed when leaving/selling the company. I had a provision for better side stabilization but I guess it never made it to production… 🙂
Maybe you could ask Paul (at Arkel) to try to improve on that point?
Still, not bad for a bag I designed 26 years ago…