When packing your panniers, it is important to remember where you put things. This allows for ease in locating emergency items in a pinch. It also helps you to quickly set up for camp and quickly pack up in the morning for an early start.
For rear panniers, we stuff the down sleeping bag into the left panniers to prevent accidentally dragging it over a greasy chain. For ease of packing your sleeping bag, sling it over your shoulder while stuffing it into the pannier. The sleeping sheet should be the only other item on that side.
In Bob’s right rear pannier, we put the spare bike parts, bike tools, tent (without the stakes and poles), and lotions. In my right rear pannier, we pack the tent fly. Emergency food and anything else remaining can be tucked in anywhere. We roll our tent poles and stakes inside a sleeping pad and secure it on top of the rear rack.
The front panniers are loaded with clothes. Tops on one side and bottoms on the other. It doesn’t really matter what side you choose for each. Just remember where you put them! You will be grateful when you can quickly find that rain jacket.
When packing, it is best to keep the heaviest item on the bottom for a lower center of gravity for better bike handling. Depending on what you pack, it may be different from our heavy items, but we find that the bicycle tools and spare bike parts are among the heavier items.
We like to pack in an orderly fashion so we can easily locate items. Orderly packing also allows us to pack with speed when necessary, like when we have to stealth camp. Please read my blog article, Stealth Camping, if you would like information about that.
There really are no rules on how to pack. If there is one piece of information that I can stress that you follow, it is to keep the heaviest items at the bottom of your panniers. It really does make a difference in how your bicycle will handle.