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Turkana Hippo Hips Hybrid Luggage Review and Comparison

For those who think the following is “TLDR” [Too Long Didn't Read]: 

I’m a fan of soft luggage on motorcycles. I don’t relish the idea of a hard pannier crashing onto my leg in a fall or having to beat one back into shape after a drop. They have a slight edge over soft in theft deterrent, but let’s face it, if someone wants the stuff in your panniers bad enough, they’ll get it—be they hard or soft. But, of course, to each their own.


So, I had been on the lookout for the perfect bags for my Bonneville for a while (and eventually Tiger and Suzuki GS). The first priority was that they were waterproof, and roll-top bags are particularly good at that. The second criteria was removability—they didn’t have to be instant off but needed to be quickly removeable.


My first waterproof panniers were by Ortlieb, well-known for their bicycle luggage but who also build motorcycle luggage. The ones I had were “QRL”, which is a quick release model that had hooks and an adjustable rail with clips attached to the back of the bag that would hang on typical pannier rack tubing. The connecting system was all plastic, which never gave me a good feeling, as the adjusting bar bent under the content’s weight, but which never failed me (well, once, in an extraordinary circumstance where any system might have failed). The bags were very heavy-duty but still a single bag system, but they always kept my stuff dry. The “extraordinary circumstance” was when I hit a deer on my Bonnie T100 one night on a dark Blue Ridge Parkway and went sliding down the road on the left side of the bike. One bag tore off, breaking the plastic clip that held it onto the pannier rack. And, being a single-bag system, a hole was worn completely through the bag, rendering it no longer waterproof.


For my next bike, my Triumph Tiger 800 XCa, the search was on for a replacement. Ortlieb had assigned the moto-bags to Touratech and the quick release versions were gone. I considered other options. A friend had ridden the Trans America Trail on a CD500X and had used Nelson-Rigg “Hurricane” bags and was very happy with them. I decided to give them a try. Still a single-bag system, they worked well enough but had to be meticulously attached to the pannier frames with straps and were time-consuming to remove. I still had the Ortlieb quick-release hardware and spare parts were available, so I ordered a new clip, fashioned plates the size of the bags out of aluminum and attached the hardware to that and the bags’ straps to the plates, making them quickly removeable. This served me well, but the homemade plate was ugly, thin, and sharp and made the whole thing heavy. I worried about the straps chafing though rubbing on the thin metal. I started looking for something else.


My friend, Grep Turp, is friends with Michnus Olivier, a fellow long-distance traveler, who had helped develop a line of soft luggage, Trukana, based on his experience riding off pavement in rough sections of the African continent. Greg had a set and loved his, so I thought I’d give Turkana a try. First, I just bought the “Duffalo”, a 40-liter two-layer dry bag, with a very tough outer layer and a waterproof inner liner. It worked perfectly for all my camping gear and sat behind me on the pillion while I traveled. It was very well-built. The bag was top-opening and the waterproof inner bag was white so you could easily see inside and retrieve what you needed, rather than having to roll down the end and then dig deep into a black hole of a bag. If the outside bag got a hole, I would still have the inner waterproof bag, and even if an accident was severe enough to hole both bags (unlikely) you could buy an inexpensive new inner bag, rather than replace the entire kit. The bag also had MOLLE, so attaching other stuff to the outside was easy to do.


Eventually Nelson-Rigg came out with their own quick-release system for the Hurricane series, but I was still not completely happy with the Nelson-Rigg panniers. Even though at a quick glance the price seemed hard to beat…until you looked closer and considered everything you got for your money, Nelson-RIgg's new system was not as inexpensive as it appeared.


I considered another brand as well. Many of my overlanding friends had Mosko-Moto “Backcountry Panniers” and were very happy with them, and there’s no doubt that they are certainly a robust option that would serve me well too. Their mounting system is well-made and instant on and off. The problem (for me) was the price (and some other issues, which I’ll describe later). I would have to scrimp and save a long, long  time for the M-Ms, but I could have the Turkanas for a smaller sum and based on my experience with the Duffalo, I was certain they’d be perectly fine for me. Less money spent on kit meant more money for traveling.


I approached Michnus and asked a few questions about the Hippo Hips and the quick-release plate system. When I mentioned I planned to review them, if that is what I ended up buying, Michnus mentioned they could probably find me a discount. Well, you know we writers are not known for our high incomes, so any help financially was appreciated, but I let them know my review would be completely honest, be it good, bad, or ugly, although I expected to like the kit after my good experience travelling with the Duffalo and a couple of small crash bar bags (“Bush Babies") for tens of thousands of miles already.


At first, the plates were backordered, so I just bought the pannier system. That was no big deal, as I was in the middle of a ton of bike maintenance at the time and had no rides planned any time soon. I could wait for the plates and hardware. I had also had ordered the over the seat strap kits (a nice option, making them even more versatile), so I could hang it on the bike until the plates came or use it on the GS occasionally. About the time I was winding up all my Tiger maintenance chores (swingarm, suspension, linkage, and steering head lubrication; cush drive bearing replacement, new tires, front brake pads, new chain slider, valve check, timing gear adjustment, oil and filter change, coolant flush, etc.) the plate arrived and I attached them to the homemade pannier racks I had welded up when I first got the Tiger.


I loaded them all up a couple weeks ago and headed out for a week-long, two-thousand-mile camping trip to Appomattox, Virginia, and the Horizons Unlimited Travelers’ Meeting there. I had a good chance to use them in a day-to-day situation and was completely happy with their durability and functionality. The Hippo Hips came with, not only the panniers and racks, but also two MOLLE system bottle holders and two Bush Baby five-liter bags, which attached on the front and read ends of each bag. I had used an old military MOLLE bottle holder attached to the end of the Duffalo before, and while it worked, it was less than an elegant arrangement. With the new set of bags, I was able to neatly store my one-liter MSR fuel bottle for my stove on the left side (aways from the exhaust) and a 2-later water container on the other side. At the back in one of the Bush Babies I kept a powerbank/jumpstarter and on the other my MSR gasoline Dragonfly stove (which kept gas smell away from my food, as I had to store it in the top box with my meals/food before). The Duffalo, as before, carried every bit of my camping gear (tent, footprint, sleeping bag, liner, pad, tent, poles, tarp, camp chair, and a “Moto Winch”) with room to spare. I’d not lost any space in the panniers (in fact had a slightly larger capacity) and kept my tools at the bottoms on both sides (keeping weight low) with the waterproof inner bags on top, filled with my clothes. I also had a Bush Baby attached to the crash bars, port and starboard, containing a med kit and water filtration. I had everything I needed and everything in its place. With the addition of a couple spare parts for the Tiger, I could have taken off from there around the world and not have been in need of anything else.


So, in summary let’s compare those three options: Nelson-Rigg Hurricane, Mosko Moto Backcountry Panniers, and Turkana Hippo Hips Hybrid. While you read this keep in mind the Turkana Hippo Hips come with outer and inner bags, mounting plates and hardware, two bottle holders, and 2, 5-liter bags for the price of $629.00 and weighs 15 pounds.


Nelson-Rigg Hurricane

This pannier set seems the least expensive option, but when you look at adding all the other things that you must buy separately to match the Turkana Hippo Hips package, the price is quite a bit higher than at first glance. The N-R panniers are strap-over types and cost $299.95 (sounds cheap!) but they do not come with the quick release plates, which will cost you an additional $329.95. N-R also offers MOLLE mountable bottle and regular bags for front and rear mounting on the panniers, but they are extra, at $49.95 for the 5-liter and $34.95 for the bottle holder each. When you add all that up to the equivalent of the Turkana system the total is $799.70. Another factor is weight. The package from N-R weighs in at 21.53 pounds. While the PVC tarpaulin material of the bag is heavy-duty, you do not have the added protection of an out tear resistant bag, and once it is holed it is no longer waterproof. There are light inner bags, but they are fabric and not waterproof, although they can be removed while the bags stay on the bike). The pannier’s volume is 27.5 liters.


For me, the single-bag system takes these out of consideration for me. But for a light inexpensive option (without the quick release plates) they are a reasonable option for the moto traveler. I can’t judge how quick the quick-release versions would come off as I have not had an opportunity to try them myself (I had the old throwover models) but based on the photos of the attachment mechanism of the plates, it looks like a simple pull and lift and the bags would be off. Warranty from all these manufacturers is good, with N-R having a Lifetime Repair or Replacement.


Mosko Moto Back Country Pannier Kit (v2.5)

This set I’ve gotten a very close look at, and it is indeed robust but it is also heavy—a whopping 27+ pounds (27 plus the weight of the additional bags, which I could not find a weight listing for). The kit is $1300.00, but only includes two auxiliary bags, so when 2 extra auxiliary bags ($90 each) are purchased to match the set of four on the Turkanas. This bumps the price up to $1380.00. The main pannier bags are 30-lter. The auxiliary bags also do not attach with MOLLE but with screws, although there is MOLLE on the outer bags. The Moskos are also a two-bag system, so that’s a plus, although I could not find an option on their website to buy just the inner bag. It looks like you have to buy and entire inner/outer pannier. The fabric of the outer bags on these is tough, but are no heavier than the Turkana outer fabrics, from what I call tell, both being made of 1680 Denier.


For me, the weight and the price of these take them out of consideration, but if those two things do not bother you, then they would probably serve you well for years. And this kit has the easiest and quickest quick release mechanism of the three. With a pull on a cord, the dovetailed section attached to the back of the bags releases from the plate, left on the racks. Warranty from Mosko is a bit more complicated. Two-year limited Repair or Replace, but if caused by a crash this goes to 5 years.


Turkana Hippo Hips Hybrid

These use a robust two-bag system, with easily and cheaply replaceable waterproof bags for the inners. The entire kit: two panniers with inner and outer bags, two bottle holders with MOLLE, and two auxiliary 5-liter bags with MOLLE, and the quick release plate and hardware.


For me, the price of these makes them an easy purchase, and the two-bag system is ideal. I like that if you somehow damage an inner bag. they are easily and cheaply replaceable. (I did replace my inner bag on my Duffalo once, probably due to me storing a wet tent in it too many times, but it cost me only $39.) The inner pannier bags are light yellow making it easy to see the contents, unlike those black PVC bags so many use. If you have the need, you can buy waterproof inner bags for the Bush Babies, as well. The strap and buckle system Turkana uses to attach the bags to the plates takes a bit more time to take on or off, but now that I’ve done it a couple times on mine, I would say I can have both bags off in a matter of under five minutes, and that is partly because my bigger homemade racks interfere a bit with the slots through which the attachment straps go, making it a bit more difficult to toggle the buckles into the correct position. On a standard rack this would not be a problem at all, and I’d think getting them off would take less than a minute per side. The price and durability of this system more than compensates me for the tiny extra time it takes me to remove and mount them. One the way back from Virginia, I was gifted a hotel room and removed both bags very quickly and hauled them to my room for the night. In the morning reattaching them was no more difficult. At $629.00 the Hippo Hips “Hybrid” system is the most cost effective. And at 15 pounds this kit is also the lightest of all three.

Weighing The Turkana Components. Top—plate and all hardware and straps. Bottom—pannier with both auxiliary bags attached.


Take a look at Turkana Hippo Hips at to get more details and for installation and use videos and for a peek at some of their other great products. Stay tuned, as I just ordered the Pellipouch handlebar bag from them and will post back here once I’ve had a chance to use it.

What you get with each plate

Plate attached to my left pannier rack. Ignore my ham-fisted hole drilling. I had to drill two holes to access the allen heads holding the Rotopax to the back of the rack and did a pretty sloppy job of it. There are plenty of options for the locations of mounting points with these plates, making them useable with virtually any pannier rack.

A detail of how the plate attaches.

Here are the panniers on the Tiger using the strap system (optional).

Using the quick release plates instead leaves open areas on the pannier rack struts to store small things. Here is a fire extinguisher I mounted there, which is easily accessible and detachable using quick release zip ties. On the right side I keep a Turkana fly fishing rod mounted similarly.

Here's a view from under the bag. You pull a buckle through a slot on the plate using the red tabs and then rotate the buckles to rest against the back of the plate and hold the bag in place. There are two on the ends of the bags as well and two at the top, yielding six fastening points altogether



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