Make it yourself
In our society we are led to believe that high quality goods can only be made in a factory by a machine, or by a company at the very least, but it is amazing what you can make if you decide to have a go yourself.
Before my environmental education cycle tour last summer I needed some new panniers because my grandpa's ones that I had been using had fallen apart and one of them had been stolen when someone nicked my bike. If I buy things I like to get products that are really going to work and really going to last. The best products in the pannier world at the moment arguably seem to be Ortliebs, but they will set you back nearly £100 for just one let alone a pair of them. I didn't really have this amount of money to play with so I decided to try and make my own & I was amazed at how easy and cheap it was! So here is how...
Purchase some army surplus rucksacks. Carefully think about how they open, whether they are waterproof, what exactly you are looking for. I ended up with two grey satchels one with an over the shoulder strap and the other with detatchable rucksack straps. They cost me around £15 for the pair.
Work out how you are going to attach hooks to the backs so that they can slot on to your rack and find some suitable hooks. I was fortunate that my satchels had built in metal buckles on the back for attaching the straps, so I bought some heavy duty bungees (about £6 for 2), cut the cord off and threaded them through the buckles so that the thick bit of the hook stopped them from being able to get through, see photo! I then secured them in place with some plastic coated wire (donated from my mum's garden shed!).
Waterproof! I bought some silicone waterproofing spray (about £12) which I sprayed all over the outside of the bags, except the bottoms, so that any water could drain out! I also already some big dry bags that I put everything inside for going in the panniers, so no risk of getting wet.
Attach to bike. I used a couple more heavy duty bungees to secure my panniers to my bike rack, as they had a disconcerting tendency to jump off when I sent over bumps!
And voila! Two panniers that will last for absolutely ages, I can repair them myself and they cost me about £30 to make, although I did have a few things already. Not bad! They really didn't take any skill to make either, just a bit of imagination! And they have already survived an epic cycle tour unscathed except for a wee bit of decorative mud.
So what else could you make if you set your mind to it? Let me know how you get on.