Carradice's catchily named CarraDry Universal/Front panniers are made from wipe-clean reinforced PVC with high frequency welded seams. They are tough, completely waterproof and should last a very long time.
The fixings are Carradice's own Quick-clip system, consisting of two hooks (with different inserts to fit different diameter rack tubes up to 13mm) and a catch in the middle, fitted into a horizontal aluminium rail. The hooks and catch are positioned in place in the rail by means of a screw, and as a result, everything can be adjusted just so. As with the Carradice Super C A4 panniers I reviewed a while ago, the hooks were not installed in the aluminium rail; the instructions are clear enough, but be careful as the edges of the aluminium extrusion are sharp. As soon as the hooks are on, plastic bungs go on both sides and those edges are safe.
There's a second, plastic, rail lower down for the clip that stops the panniers sliding forwards. The clip rotates and again the rail should be long enough that it can be adjusted to fit most racks.
This system works well, attaching to the rack securely. My commute is on grotty, potholed lanes and these stayed on throughout the test period. Attaching can be done one-handed, especially if there's enough weight in the bag for gravity to push the catch past the rack tube. Detaching isn't quite one-handed, unless you have longer fingers than me and can reach the catch from the carry handle on the top of the bag. I've yet to try a pannier that detaches easily one-handed, and in any case I prefer a more secure fastening system over one that's easy to remove.
As you can see from the picture, the lid is closed by means of backpack style buckles. The straps for these run over the top of the lid with adjusters – these are perfect for cinching down a wet jacket, though they won't fit anything much bigger.
A carry handle running between these two straps works well. There's another much smaller carry handle attached to the aluminium rail mentioned above, but it seems pretty pointless to me, as the space where your hand goes is taken up almost entirely by the catch (when it's positioned centrally).
While you might not think so if you're comparing dimensions, these are a little smaller than Ortlieb's Sport-Roller City front pannier (previously called the Front Roller City). One difference is that, unlike the Ortliebs, the CarraDry front panniers taper in towards the bottom. They're also not as tall as the measurements suggest. When Ortlieb says the height of its pannier is 30cm, that is 30cm of waterproof fabric, before the stormflap/drawcord thing starts. The advertised height of the Carradice is 35cm, which is the height including the stormflap; the height of the waterproof fabric is 26.5cm.
That's significant if you are planning to use these for commuting as well as touring. An A4 file will stick out above the waterproof fabric into the stormflap fabric, and my 13in Dell just fits inside the drawcord top and is just about protected from the elements with the lid done up.
It would obviously be unfair to mark these panniers down for that, as they are not specifically designed for commuting, but it's something worth bearing in mind. I don't think Carradice's measurements are misleading, it's just that they are done differently.
There are no pockets inside the panniers, which is my preferred layout as it makes them more versatile for different kinds of loads. If you like a separate pocket for keys, wallet and/or phone then I'm afraid you're out of luck.
The CarraDry panniers come only in the black and grey colour combination, which I think looks inoffensive. There are reflective areas on both sides, to make you more visible in the dark from the front and the back, but no reflective patches to enhance side visibility.
It won't have escaped your attention that I've been comparing these to Ortlieb panniers throughout the review. This is intentional: many a cyclist looking for a pair of decent panniers will wonder which of the two brands to go for. I use both, and a quick search on Google will return quite a few forum posts with answers to this question.
So how do they compare? I've already mentioned that the Carradice panniers are slightly smaller and shaped differently. As far as I can tell after only a few months' use, they look like they will prove to be at least as durable, being very well made indeed. If I had to be picky, I'd say the welds, while functionally fine, are not quite as neat as Ortlieb's.
In terms of value, they score well. At £55 for a pair, they are the cheapest front panniers that either of the brands make. While I prefer the look of Carradice's cotton duck stuff, these are more waterproof and work better in extremely wet conditions.
So, if you're looking for a pair of front panniers, the Carradice CarraDrys (CarraDries?) are good value, will last a long time and will do the job just fine, as long as you're not mainly transporting square-edged office stuff.
Good value, sturdy and waterproof panniers for touring
road.cc test report
Make and model: Carradice CarraDry Universal/Front Panniers (pair)
Size tested: 20 litres per pair
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Carradice says: "Waterproof front panniers. Great value."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Weight (grams): 1100
Capacity: 20 litres per pair
Dimensions: 27cm wide x 35cm high x 11cm deep
Fixing system: Carradice Quick-clip pannier hooks will fit racks up to 13mm in diameter. For thicker racks, optional adapter available from Accessories and Spares.
Other features: Welded seams for 100% waterproof protection against rain and road spray
Made from 600 denier polyester and PVC nylon
Easily sponged clean
Can be used on the rear when the larger capacity rear pannier is not needed
Hi-viz reflectives front and rear.
PLEASE NOTE: Our panniers are NOT compatible with the Blackburn Lowrider rack.
The panniers are very well made, though the finish is a little more utilitarian than my Ortliebs, which have neater welds.
Attachment is solid, no undue swaying and no water ingress at all.
I haven't had these bags long enough to put any wear on them. Whether they will last as long as the company's cotton duck range, only time will tell. I have high hopes.
The weight is about what you'd expect for a front pannier. It's a little lighter than the Super C front panniers, but then they are also a little smaller.
I think these represent tremendous value for money. They are made in the UK (I think), they should last a very long time, and they are cheaper than the Super C range and Ortlieb's Front Roller City panniers.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I've used these mostly for commuting, and while my laptop goes in, the panniers are clearly not designed for square objects, they're designed for touring. As everything worked just fine apart from the shape, they should be fine for carrying touring things like sleeping bags and clothes.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
These are waterproof and strong.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I would have preferred a more square shape, but only because I was using them for carrying a laptop, which isn't what they're designed for.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
These panniers are well made and completely waterproof, and get high marks on just about every aspect. The fixing system works very well, and I expect they'll last a very long time. They're very good, but a more square shape, which would have made them more versatile, might have nudged them up to a 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Cannondale CAAD10
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking