Orca vs Dolphin: Which Waterproof Pannier is Right for You?

Photo by Bertrand Lemeunier

Whether you’re commuting by bike or planning your next multi-day bikepacking trip, you can’t go wrong with a pair of 100% waterproof bike bags. It only takes one furious downpour of rain to soak you to the bone, leaving you uncomfortably cold and humid for the rest of the ride. Lucky for you, a solid pair of weatherproof panniers can keep your spare clothes and other essentials as dry as the Sahara desert, be it your iPad for work or your sleeping bag for the night. That said, not all panniers are the same. In fact, choosing the perfect bag according to your needs can cause quite a headache. Arkel offers two lineups of waterproof panniers with a variety sizes and colours. Known as the Orcas and the Dolphins, each lineup has its own perks, but they also share features that are unique to the Arkel brand. Let’s break down the differences and similarities between these two product lines, and figure out which pair of bike bags is the right fit for you.

Table of Contents

Shared Features

Cam-Lock® Attachment System

Since Arkel’s foundation in 1988, a lot of progress has been made in developing key features that make Arkel products unique. Among these include the Cam-Lock®, the patented attachment system that is integrated in the Orcas and Dolphins. It allows cyclists to mount their bags onto their bike rack in a clever, hassle-free way. Thanks to its ingenious conception, the bike bag will never pop off the rack even in the toughest road conditions. It is also solid enough to trust it with your electronics such as your camera or tablet. Although a laptop may fit inside the bag depending on its size, it is not recommended because there is no dedicated laptop compartment like in other commuting panniers made by Arkel.

Assembled by folks with disabilities

Another distinctive Arkel trait is the inclusion of CRDITED, a social service program for folks with intellectual disabilities and disorders. These individuals participate in the assembly of the Cam-Lock® itself. While both bag shells come from an ethically sourced supplier in Asia, the entirety of the Orca and Dolphin lineup are assembled with the Cam-Lock® in the Arkel headquarters in Sherbrooke, Canada.

Crdited Program
Francois, a member of the CRDITED Crew

Waterproofness and safety

Thirdly, both bag lineups are entirely waterproof and open up thanks to a roll-top closure. D-rings have been sewn on the sides to attach an optional shoulder strap to carry the bag once off the bike. Even the minor details are important, especially when it comes to safety. For example, both bag types have two dedicated tabs for blinker lights and reflective material for extra visibility, especially at nighttime. Lastly, both lineups are available in red and grey.

Orca Series

Dolphin Series

Key Differences

Material & Fabrication Method

The two main differentiating factors are the material and fabrication method. The Dolphins are sewn and taped to seal the seams. As for the Orcas, they are made with a more robust material using high frequency welding, which avoids having seams altogether. This gives it an edge in terms of durability due to the heavier fabric and the absence of seams.

Outside Pockets

As for usability, they both feature outside pockets, but with different technicalities. The Orca lineup contains a 2D pocket that is ideal for small, flat items like ID Cards, keys, or a granola bar. On the other hand, the Dolphin models have two water bottle pockets as well as a front pocket that can hold bulkier 3D objects like tools, spare clothes and more. This can be explained due to the previously-mentioned fabrication methods. Indeed, the Dolphin panniers’ voluminous outside pockets are sewn and then taped for waterproofness. In the Orca construction, the welding process uses moulds that make outside pockets with any volume difficult but flat 2D pockets possible.
Interior of the bags: Dolphin (top) and Orca (bottom)

Weight & Carrying Capacity

From a technical standpoint, both models offer different sizes. At 25 liters, the Orca 25 pair is the smallest bag available weighing only 3.4 lbs, while the Dolphin 48 pair swallows almost twice as much gear (48 liters), with only 4.8 lbs on the scale. Although Dolphin panniers are lighter, the Orcas have a removable inner cradle, which allows the bags to stay up when put on a flat service. That said, it is possible to shave off some weight by removing the cradle.

The Right Bag for You

It ultimately comes down to what features and look you prefer. Both bags are packed with perks from the bag’s sturdy attachment system to the inclusion of the CRDITED crew in the assembly process. That said, the Dolphins are less heavy, all while having outside pockets for your water bottles and other gear. This can be ideal for someone who wants a lightweight pannier for a weekend bike trip, or even to commute to work with a 100% waterproof bike bag. On the other hand, the Orca is slightly more durable and stays up on flat surfaces thanks to the removable cradle. With this in mind, it could be the ideal bike bag for an ambitious expedition in rough conditions.

Comparative Chart Between the Orca & Dolphin Panniers