The Adventure Spec Magadan panniers live up to their lineage as simple and sturdy soft sacks

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, tried and tested by Nye Davis
The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, tried and tested by Nye Davis

‘Light is right’ – so goes the motto of Adventure Spec. The brand is all about minimising mass and maximising practicality to create robust products that simply work well, no matter what you throw at them.

The two previous incarnations of their popular, but somewhat niche Magadan motorcycle panniers were highly regarded by overlanders and with names like Walter Colbach and Chris Scott involved in their development, it’s little wonder they worked so effectively.

With such a strong lineage behind them, I opted to run Adventure Spec’s latest version for a 20,000km (12,500 mile) trip down to Cape Town; pitting them against 21 countries, a fair amount of mud and the seemingly never-ending downpours of west Africa’s rain season.

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, pictured on a dirt road in Africa

Simplicity appears to have been the predominant design objective with the Magadans. They’re designed to be robust, with two very effective three-layer Velcro straps taking the weight of the bags, a basic Velcro topped, roll closure and two big, sturdy buckles per pannier to keep things cinched down.

Whilst Adventure Spec don’t claim the Magadans to be waterproof, unless you sling them in a river they will keep the worst of the elements out – although it is recommended to use internal dry bags in conjunction to keep your belongings fresh. Adventure Spec do sell their own dry sacks separately, but any will suffice.

Tested by Nye Davis for 4 months/12,500 miles


  • Cavernous space
  • Sturdy construction
  • Simple 'saddlebag' style design to suit most bikes
  • Abrasion resistant construction
  • Fits large and small bikes alike
  • Molle webbing for adaptable storage volume
  • Lightweight
  • Big buckles work perfectly even when covered in mud
  • Loops for locking cable adds security


  • Not as quick to remove as some more premium rivals
  • Racks required for mounting
  • Does away with useful pockets featured on previous versions
  • No longer "slashproof"
  • Not fully waterproof
  • Quality
  • Value
Weight 3140 grams
Construction 1000D Cordura fabric
Fastening type Thrown over – separate strap
Volume 64 litres (plus options for additional pouches)
Compatability All motorcycles using a pannier rack
Closure Roll top and buckle
Waterproofing Splashproof only
  • Roll top closure
  • Throw over fitting designed for any rack system
  • Molle webbing allows bag to be used with the full range of Adventure Spec Molle Pouches
  • Reinforced loops for additional security straps (not supplied)
  • Stiff inserts to create rigidity
  • Large durable buckles that can be easily replaced if required. 

How big are they?

The previous versions both offered 35 litres per bag by making use of front and rear side pockets. The MK3’s lose the pockets and so volume is reduced to 32 litres aside (64 litres total).

I found the Magadans to be just right in terms of storage space, their wide opening, boxy design makes luggage easy to stow and you can comfortably fit everything needed for a long trip away when using a small additional roll bag mounted on a rear rack.

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, unrolled and opened

What features do they have?

For a pannier designed with simplicity in mind, you’d be forgiven for expecting this features list to be rather short. Nonetheless, the Magadans do incorporate several well thought out details to improve their usability.

Whilst they no longer feature the handy Kevlar layer that the MK1 and 2 bag offered, sturdy security loops are positioned on the front and rear of each bag to allow for a security cable to be passed around, thus preventing most opportunist thieves from having an easy peruse through your worldly goods.

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, showcasing the security loops with a security cable passed through

Replacing the lost side pockets, Adventure Spec have incorporated Molle webbing allowing customers to effectively build out their panniers in a modular fashion, depending on how much gear is required for each specific trip.

Adventure Spec sell their own various pouches, but any generic Molle compatible option will work. I opted for a set of cheap no-brand pouches for my test, although these deteriorated to the point of being unusable after a while and were far from the quality of the Adventure Spec offerings.

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, pictured in use in Africa

Being able to build your luggage allows for easy separation of items, meaning a first aid kit can be more accessible, messy items like chain lube or oil can be kept separate to your clothes and waterproofs can be accessed without opening the main compartment.

For users with wild camping intentions, remaining inconspicuous is often key. For that reason, the reflective tabs fastened to the rear of the bags are attached simply by snap fasteners, meaning they can be removed in a jiffy to reduce chances of being seen by passers-by.

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, bottom rear side

1000D Cordura fabric makes up the bulk of the construction, but in high abrasion areas, rubber is further overlayed to prevent rips and tears against any unplanned spills down road or trail.

The majority of parts are easily replaced, making the Magadans very serviceable mostly anywhere in the world. Buckles can be removed without need to cut straps and without the presence of a waterproof membrane, repairing the bags should be easy enough. What’s more, by using basic one-inch cam straps to keep the bags tight against your pannier rack, replacement is easy and hassle-free compared to the more common sewn on approach.

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, close up of the main closing straps and buckles

What are they like to use?

With a massive top loading opening, they’re very easy to fill with gear. The roll closure allows for the bag’s size to be adjusted depending on how much equipment you’re carrying.

Mounting can be a little tricky at first. They lack the slick design of some of their more premium rivals such as Mosko Moto’s fabulous but pricey Backcountry panniers.

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, main connecting strap

The Magadans must be used in conjunction with a traditional rectangular rack. Nothing brand specific is required, but they shouldn’t be mounted straight to your bike like some of the rackless systems out there.

Once the panniers are in place, a separate securing strap must be fed around the bag horizontally to hold them steady. I found mine drooped slightly, especially the left bag which had a six-litre fuel bladder attached which caused them to foul on the rear wheel.

To solve this, I opted to use an additional strap around the upper carrying handles to pull them together and keep them more upright.

How durable are they?

Soft panniers are favoured by overlanders for their ability to sustain impact and be unaffected where hard panniers would deform and break.

Despite somewhat unsympathetic use, including a few spills (one of which was a slide down a Nigerian highway), some rough loading onto various states of boat and an encounter with the front bumper of a taxi in Lagos, the Magadan’s held up extremely well during my testing.

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, pictured next to the ocean in Africa

They came away fairly unscathed, bar one small tear on the underside left bag after it had fouled against my rear tyre.

The bags didn’t receive a single wash on the trip, but upon receiving a scrub down back home, they still look presentable, with colours barely faded and everything admirably intact.

Do they look good?

Subjective of course, but I like the look of the Magadans, even more so when they’re covered in mud.

They’re a simple design, lacking the flashiness of some rivals but again this is a conscious effort to not attract unwanted attention.

The Magadans are unlikely to win any beauty awards for their appearance, but the simple ruggedness they exude makes them pretty handsome in my opinion.

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, pictured on a mountain range in Africa
Tried and tested by Ben Clarke - "I inherited these panniers from MCN Editor Rich Newland who had already put 2500 miles of his own on them fitted to a BMW R1250GS, but despite all-weather use you’d have been hard pressed to tell they weren’t brand new. And in fact, after a further 4000 miles in my care fitted to a Yamaha Ténéré 700, the same could still be said.

"I feel entirely confident that wherever in the world I head with this luggage, my possessions will arrive with me safe and dry. It represents incredible value when compared to aluminium kit."
Tested by Jordan Gibbons for three years, 8,000 miles - "Swiss company Enduristan have been making tough and simple motorcycle luggage since 2014. Aimed at those who want to truck a modest amount of gear overland, and are happy with Henry Ford’s favourite colour, their luggage does what it says on the tin and little else.

"When I rode to, around and back from Morocco, I used a combination of their Blizzard L throw- over saddle bags (2 x 12L) along with their medium Tornado duffle (32L). Between them, I had more than enough room to carry food, water, tools, spare bits, camping gear and clothes to last me a few weeks.
Price: From €852.00
Previous V3 version tested by Laura Thomson - "The Mosko Moto Reckless 80L Revolver is a rackless soft luggage solution that aims to give maximum capacity with minimum modification. Comprising a 1680D Ballistic Nylon yoke with leg holsters and three removable drybags (2 x 25l, 1 x 22l), the system is packed with pockets, straps and MOLLE loops, offering adaptability that isn’t seen anywhere else. The yoke attaches securely via four webbing straps, which don’t loosen under even the most relentless of riding."

"It’s not cheap - at €683.40 before VAT and import fees (when tested), it weighs in at considerably more than an equivalent Kriega set or Enduristan’s offering. However, the durability and clever design more than justify the premium. It's proof that light is right."

The bottom line

With so many options now available on the soft pannier market, the choice is mind boggling. That said, when it comes to simple, effective bags that get the job done and come without the weight penalty or wallet oppressing price-tag of the likes of Lone Rider (£918) and Mosko Moto (around £1244), the Adventure Specs are hard to knock.

Features are basic, but everything works reliably and they’re as durable as old boots. They’re nothing fancy and they certainly lack some level of bling factor, but I’d gladly opt for a set of Magadan’s to ride to the Siberian town from which they take their name.

The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers, pictured in use in Africa, with an elephant in the background

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