We both use Vaude Aqua Back Plus panniers. They are panniers with a little extra (waterproof) pouch on the outside. You can use it for things you might need to grab quickly while on the road, like an energy bar or a spare tire. The whole set has a total volume of 51 liters. Mounting the panniers to the racks is through two QMR (Quick Mount and Release) hooks. These hooks click onto the rack. To get them off, you pull the handlebars to open a spring and then you can lift them off the rack.
Ron’set is a couple of years old already and we’re pretty happy with it. We don’t have as much luck with the other set, which we bought especially for this trip. After a few weeks, one of the outer pouches tore. We tried to repair it with duct-tape, but it still wasn’t 100%. Just a short while later, the plastic back plate (which holds the strength and body of the pannier) of the same pannier tore. We managed to repair that with superglue and also duct-tape. And then the mechanism of one of the QMR hooks broke, the spring didn’t work anymore. But this didn’t prevent us from removing the pannier and putting it back on. It still worked properly.
The next thing that broke down was the plastic back plate of the other pannier. It tore off completely at the corner so the pannier lost its shape and strength. Because of this it wasn’t possible anymore to mount the pannier on the rack without the help of a strap and duct-tape. We were able to cycle a couple of thousands of kilometers. Then the plate tore completely at one of the QMR hooks and we needed another 2 straps to hold everything together until we had new panniers. But we weren’t able to take the pannier off the rack anymore and it was hard to open with all the straps around it.
After we contacted the store where we bought them, we were told that Vaude would send new panniers to Chile. We were happy with that service. When we finally opened the box with the new panniers, we discovered that they had sent a different model (Aqua Pro Back). That’s a model with a different closing system (with a flap instead of rolling it) and without the handy pouch on the outside. We weren’t too happy with that, but they will have to do.
Since then, we cycled about 23.000 kms (14.300 miles) and they’re doing fine. It took a little getting used to handling and packing them, but they’re okay.