Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 Review

November 3, 2016
Ortlieb Vario QL2.1
Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 Ortleib_Vario__QL2.1_00.jpg Ortleib_Vario__QL2.1_23
Ease of Use
Weather Resisitance

The Good

  • Fast and easy clip-on/off on bike rack
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable carry handle
  • Stowable backpack harness
  • Exterior harness for bike helmet

The Bad

  • Minimal organization
  • Small laptop sleeve
  • Minimal reflectivity

The Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 is a high-quality waterproof pannier that is made in Germany. It has a fast and easy rack mounting system that securely attaches the pannier to the rack. It comes with a detachable backpack harness that fits conveniently into a waterproof outer pocket. However, carrying the pannier backpack-style is not comfortable for longer carrying distances with heavy loads.


The Ortlieb Vario’s QL2.1 mounting system is incredibly fast and convenient to attach and remove from the rack. The 16mm hooks are always in the open positon when carrying the pannier by its grab handle, providing there is some weight in the pannier. Otherwise, the hooks open when the cyclist pulls the grab handle. Start by connecting the stretch strap hook to the bottom of the bike rack and pull upward on the grab handle. Set upper hooks onto the rack and release the grab handle. Once the cyclist sets the pannier onto the rack and releases the grab handle, the two hooks lock securely onto the rack. 

The Orlieb Vario QL2.1 comes with a detachable backpack harness that fits conveniently into the pannier’s outer zippered pocket when not in use. Converting from pannier to backpack is relatively fast once the cyclist dials-in the attachment and practices a few times. It is not the most comfortable to carry backpack-style with heavy loads for long distance but is more than sufficient for walking into office or carrying around the campus.

Our tester only converted from pannier to backpack when she knew she would need to walk a longer distance once bike was parked. Our tester also found that she preferred leaving the backpack harness at home in exchange for more cargo space in the pannier and that carrying the Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 by the grab handle was plenty convenient and its durable and thick padding allowed for a comfortable carry with a heavier load. 

The Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 is made of tear- and abrasion-resistant nylon fabric that is both waterproof and very easy to clean with a washcloth.

The mounting system is comprised of solid plastic hooks that are strong, well-made, fully-adjustable and secure.

The Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 is waterproof and features a roll-top closure. It is essentially a dry-bag designed for a bike rack.

Organizational features of the Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 includes one large main compartment, two non-waterproof neoprene outer pockets for carrying a bike lock, pump, tools, phone or water bottle. However, the outer pockets are narrow at the bottom and wider at the top, making the pockets not as secure. 

An outer zippered pocket stashes the backpack harness. However, if the cyclist chooses to leave the backpack harness at home, this outer zipper pocket can hold additional cargo like rain gear. Inside the pannier is a small zippered mesh pocket for carrying items that need to be secure and protected from the elements, like keys, phone or wallet. 

An additional non-padded internal sleeve can hold up to a full-sized iPad but did not accommodate a 15-inch IBM ThinkPad. A detachable bungee system on the pannier’s exterior can hold a helmet or rain gear. The Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 also features an adjustable rubber stretch strap for securing the bottom of the pannier to the bike rack.

However, due to its extra length, the bottom of the pannier rested on top of the derailleur. The Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 works best on the non-derailleur side of the bike.  

Reflective elements include a single three-inch stripe on the side. 

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