Happy Trails Panniers and Top Box Review

In the 1990 film Crazy People, the late, great Dudley Moore plays an ad executive who, following a nervous breakdown, creates a series of blunt, truthful advertisements. The movie was terrible, but the tagline for a Volvo ad was unforgettable: “They’re boxy but they’re good.” The same can be said for the Happy Trails panniers and top box we installed on a 2005 Suzuki V-Strom 1000, which are the very definition of rugged utilitarianism.

Happy Trails sent us the Denali Pannier Kit ($1,017), which includes two panniers, a model-specific SU (Structurally Unique) Rack and all the necessary mounting hardware. The Denali panniers have a tall, narrow design that offers lots of volume—a cavernous 47.5 liters each—without excessive width. They are identical in size and shape, weigh 11 pounds each and are 20 inches tall, 18 inches long and 7½ inches wide. Installed, the Denalis measure 37¾ inches across, which is 1½ inches wider on each side than the bike’s handlebar. Each pannier has a ¾-inch lip around the inner top edge that reduces the inner opening to just 5½ inches—so narrow that we had trouble fitting a standard camping mess kit inside (for wider options, consider Happy Trails’ Teton or Owyhee panniers). The Denalis are L-shaped, with extra space on the inside bottom of each pannier, which is offset somewhat by the 45-degree Canyon Cut that provides more cornering clearance.

Happy Trails Panniers and Top Box
Happy Trails Panniers and Top Box

Happy Trails’ 58-liter Top Box ($299.99) is powdercoated black just like the panniers, weighs 15 pounds and measures 22 inches wide, 14 inches deep and 12 inches tall. The bottom edges have the same Canyon Cut so the pannier lids will clear. Happy Trails’ panniers and top boxes are made of light-but-strong TIG welded 2mm aluminum. Thanks to the thick rubber seal around the inner top edge of each box, when the lids are closed securely using the dual cam latches, the luggage seals out dust and water. The lids use a Slot Hinge Design that pivots to the outside, and each lid has four footman loops for strapping on additional gear. The Denali Pannier Kit and Top Box include lid locks; the pannier keys match and, for an extra $25, a single key will lock all three boxes. For additional security, each cam latch includes a hasp for a padlock.

Following the provided step-by-step instructions with photos, installing the SU Rack and, for mounting the Top Box, the Tail Plate ($138) and optional Quick-Disconnect Top Box Mount ($88.89), was straightforward. The panniers came pre-drilled, but we had to drill holes in the Top Box. The only other tools required are metric hex keys and combination wrenches. We wished for an illustrated diagram to go with the parts list, but appreciated the advice to leave all bolts loose until the installation is complete. Once installed, unscrewing two knobs each allows either pannier or the top box to be removed quickly. Even though the Denali Pannier Kit included everything, the SU Rack, which is made of extra-strong Drawn Over Mandrel (DOM) steel tubing, can be purchased separately ($289) and is compatible with soft or hard luggage, including Givi saddlebags and Pelican cases.

The grand total for everything shown and described is $1,568.88, a solid investment for 153 liters of tough, secure storage.

For more information: Call (800) 444-8770 or visit happy-trail.com

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