If you are touring for more than a day you may want to free your back from your backpack and invest in some good equipment. We know some people like to have a trailer but before adding a 3rd wheel we recommend -and have used on our trips- bike panniers.
Panniers are about the size of a bag or larger, and they hook into the side of a front or rear bike rack. It is kind of standard to have 2 smaller panniers in the front and 2 in the rear. We also have a handlebar bag for wallet, passports, alcohol gel, multitool, and any other quick stuff needed.
When traveling on a plane we check-in everything except one or two panniers which we leave as carry on. They may have a shoulder and hand strap to carry them. Just don’t expect them to be as comfortable to carry as a traveling bag or backpack, but you can use it a such for a short time. Buying flag patches and shields from each place is cool, but glue them into your panniers instead of sewing them with a needle… that waterproof function you do want to keep in good shape.
Another great advantage is protection falling. They will protect your shifter controllers when you fall -not in case you fall, but when-. When falling mostly the shifter controller -which happens to be an expensive part- is what is damaged first. With panniers, your clothing, food, books, toiletries, etc inside the pannier will take one-for-the-team and absorb the fall.
Like most things today, you are spoiled by choices. When you shop around make sure they are waterproof, lightweight, durable, and easy to hook in and out of the rack. Even the pricey ones will suffer, so make sure that the pieces that assemble them (eg. the bag attachment to the hooks) have standard screws that you can find on a regular hardware shop.
“I’m giving it a try” Entry level doesn’t mean bad quality, either of the three options below perform perfectly for your first rides.
“Give me the best value” When you are out there you’ll be happy you picked the best quality your money can buy.
This last one in the list is the one we’ve been using for 7 years, a few falls, rain, snow, sun, dirt and still works perfectly. If you can buy it from your local shop, please go ahead and do that. After you tried to support your community, if they don’t have exactly what you need, please go ahead and order it online. Please take your time to adjust it to fit your rack.