Types of Saddle Bags
These cases have solid sides, top, and bottom. They’re typically made out of plastic or aluminum. These bags provide you with the most protection and security. They’re weatherproof and lockable. Most solid bags require you to bolt them to the bike. This makes them harder to remove and will require additional hardware for installation. These saddlebags tend to be bike-specific.
Soft bags tend to have more variety and forgiveness when it comes to size and shape. This makes them more universal in their fitment on different bikes. They’re typically made out of leather, ballistic nylon, waterproof vinyl, or another composite material. Most of these bags don’t require additional hardware to install and can be easily removed.
These bags require you to bolt them onto the bike. While they technically aren’t permanent, they’re difficult to put on and remove. This extra effort makes it not worth taking them on and off regularly. You’ll find that you’ll need an extra bracket and hardware to attach the bags to your bike.
These bags can be easily removed and mounted on your bike. Some are easy enough to remove every time you park the bike. Others are easy to remove, but a bit more cumbersome. Removable bags typically don’t require extra hardware or mounting brackets. Some have a special bracket that the bag hooks onto.
Best Saddle Bags: Reviews & Recommendations
This saddlebag is made from a durable PVC material that’s accented by reflective piping. The chrome hardware gives it that classic motorcycle look. Each saddlebag has two main compartments and two bonus pockets on the front.
These bags can easily click on and off your bike, which makes them perfect for traveling. They have reinforced stitching along the main seams of the bag. This lets you pack them full without fear of them falling apart.
However, you can’t adjust these bags as much as you can other bags. This increases the risk that they won’t fit your bike. They also aren’t completely waterproof and tend to leak when it rains.
These stylish bags will make a statement on your bike with their chrome metal detailing of studs and an eagle. They have quick release straps and an adjustable yoke. The material is waterproof and UV-resistant.
These bags stand out with their level of design and detailing to make them super stylish. The UV resistance will prevent cracking and drying out from extended time in the sun. Their adjustability makes them work on a wide range of motorcycles.
Unfortunately, you can’t lock these bags, so don’t leave anything of value in them. The metal eagles do not come on the bag, so you’ll need to install them yourself before you mount them on your bike.
This two-piece set is made of PVC material and has a stylish diamond plate stud pattern. They are waterproof and feature a quick release system for mounting and detaching the bags from your bike.
The unique stud pattern makes these bags more attractive than all of the plain bags on the market. The double buckle design gives them an added layer of security that other bags lack.
One downside is that the straps on these bags are not the most durable. This can cause them to tear away and break if you overload the bags with too much stuff or too much weight. If they get too close to your exhaust, the heat can cause these bags to melt.
The Nelson Rigg Sierra Dry Saddlebags are an excellent choice because they are made of 24-ounce tarpaulin PVC and are 100 percent waterproof. All seams are heat-welded for added protection. Designed to fit most adventure and dual sport bikes, they are available in black or yellow, and the main compartment is 15 inches long by 8 inches wide by 14 inches high. They can accommodate up to 27.53 liters per side. The mounting hardware is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and is much less likely to break compared to plastic buckles. The saddle bags are easy to mount using the four quick-release cam buckles and double pull straps.
Inside are removable liners and stiffeners, which hold the bags’ shape when they’re empty. The material is UV-coated and easy to clean. Overall, they stay dry, keep the dust and dirt out, are quite spacious, and hold tons of stuff.
One downside is that they are a little bulky. There have also been some complaints that you have to use all the straps every time you open and close them, which can be inconvenient.
The Dowco Willie & Max Synthetic Leather Compact Slant Motorcycle Saddlebag Set is made of synthetic leather with sewn-in handles, so they’re easy to move on and off your bike. The UV- and water-resistant vinyl is designed to withstand the elements, while the plastic reinforcements help keep the saddlebags’ shape. One of the best features are the quick-release buckles and zip-off yokes. There is plenty of space to store a variety of items, the bags are made in America, and they come with a limited lifetime warranty should you experience any problems related to defects. Designed for cruisers, street bikes, and touring bikes, the bags are available in two sizes, compact (12 x 9.5 x 5.5 inches) and large (16 x 11 x 6.5 inches), so you can choose the right fit for your motorcycle. Overall, they’re durable, fit a wide variety of models, and look good.
While they keep water out, they’re not 100 percent waterproof, so keep that in mind. You can also tell they’re not made of genuine leather, and you may need to purchase brackets for installation.
Our Verdict on the Best Saddle Bags
Benefits of Saddle Bags
- Weather protection. When you’re on your bike, you’ll experience all kinds of weather. This isn’t great for your cell phone, laptop, or other belongings. Weatherproof saddlebags can keep your belongings safe and dry.
- Extra storage space. Whether you’re riding to work or just out for the day, you need a place to put your valuables. Sometimes your pockets just aren’t an option. This is when saddlebags give you much-needed storage space.
- Ability to ride further. If you want to travel further, you’ll need to bring a change of clothes and personal items. Saddlebags can act like your luggage. Now you can travel overnight or longer while riding.
The material the saddlebags are made out of will determine how durable and waterproof they are. The most common materials are leather, nylon, plastic, and synthetic leather. Plastic bags are vulnerable to cracking. Leather will give you that classic motorcycle style and durability. Nylon bags are some of the most durable on the market.
The bag you choose needs to fit your bike, so they don’t interfere with its operation or your ability to ride. Avoid oversized bags, especially if you have a large exhaust. Measure the length of space from behind your leg to the back of the motorcycle. Then measure the height from the mounting point to just above the exhaust. Custom bags will ensure you get a perfect fit but also cost the most.
The simplest closure is a fold-over flap that provides no security. Other closure options include Velcro, snaps, buckles, or proprietary closures. Some hard saddlebags let you lock them with a key. Consider the level of security you want when choosing the type of closure you want on your bags.
Saddle Bags Pricing
- Under $100: Saddlebags that are under $100 are made of cheap materials and are not likely to last long. They lack reinforcement of the stitching, and the material can rip or crack. They also tend to have a universal fit, so while they’ll work, they won’t have a perfect fit.
- $100 to $350: These bags are a bit better in quality and can be made from genuine leather or ballistic nylon. They’ll have reinforced stitching. They tend to have a universal fit, so they won’t have an exact fit for your bike. Options are mostly soft-sided with limited hard-sided styles.
- $350 to $600: These bags are larger in size or are designed to fit a certain make and style of bike. This gives you a better and more secure fit. You’ll find more hard-sided options in this price range.
- $600 and up: These bags have the most features and will typically come with the required mounting hardware. You find more unique shaping details, several additional pockets, compartments, and reinforced stitching.
- Interior Compartments. Take a look at the inside of the bags. Some have one large compartment, while others have several smaller pockets or dividers. These extra pockets can keep smaller items more accessible and prevent them from getting lost in the bottom of the bag. Some bags have removable dividers to give you complete freedom in how you use your bags.
- Cost. Consider your budget when deciding which bags to buy. You need to balance your budget with functionality to ensure you can afford what you need. Hard-sided and permanent bags tend to be more expensive than soft-sided and removable bags. Custom bags are the most expensive option but provide you with the best fit and most functionality.
- Weatherproof. Pay attention to whether or not the bags are weatherproof or waterproof. This will tell you how protective they’ll be in weather such as rain. Weatherproof bags will keep your items dry in light rain but tend to leak in a heavy downpour. Waterproof bags will give you the greatest amount of protection.
- Pay attention to the method used for securing the bag closed. You can find bags that have a flap, while others have a tie, snap, buckle, or strap and loop closure.
- Think about what you intend to carry in your bags to see if they will accommodate the weight and size of the items. Some bags are only meant to carry small, lightweight objects, while others are meant for cross-country travel.
- Match the style of your bags to the style and look of your bike. If you have a lot of details and chrome, then continue that trend with bags that have extra detailing. If your bike is more simplistic, then look for more streamlined bags without a lot of accents.
Q: Will all saddle bags work on any bike?
No. You need to find a set that’s compatible with your motorcycle. Make sure you have accurate measurements before you purchase a set. Also, make sure that they don’t interfere with your lights or sit too close to your exhaust.
Q: Does material matter when it comes to saddle bags?
The material that your bags are made out of will affect how much you can put in them, their durability, and their security. The most secure bags are hard case bags that you can lock. Other options are leather and PVC.
Q: Should I look for additional pockets in saddle bags?
This is a personal preference. Some bags have a single compartment, while others have several pockets. If you want small items to be quickly accessible, then smaller compartments may be good. If you have a few large items, then one large compartment may be the better choice.
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.