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Old 10-22-2011, 04:56 PM   #1
philipbarrett OP
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Location: Dallas, TX
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The Ammo Can Pannier Build

or "How I Built Panniers for $190"

I really wanted a set of hard panniers for my KLR but was not willing to spend the $600+ I was seeing online for the aluminum products. Don't get me wrong, these are all excellent, well built cases and if I was to build & sell them myself I don't think I could do any better on the price it's just more than I wanted to spend.

After seeing a number of pictures on ADV of ammo can panniers and perusing the limited information online I decided to have a go at a set myself. I also decided to come up with a build that I could share here and that someone with a simple tool set could follow. I am a qualified welder and have TIG & MIG (& Plasma cutters) to hand but that doesn't help anyone without such an investment and if you had a set made and welded up for you I doubt the price would be much different than going to the vendors on this site. So here goes;

To my mind the panniers needed to be -
1) sturdy enough for ADV riding (duh)
2) easily removable from the bike
3) lockable, both to the bike and the lids
4) simple to lock, not require multiple locks and keys to remove after a hard days riding

First order of the day was ammo cans. Looking at measurements online I decided that the 20mm ones (17" x 14" x 7.5") would be a good size for my KLR. Prices vary widely online and shipping does play a big factor, I found mine at Army Surplus Warehouse (, they have a huge variety of different sizes and the shipping was very reasonable.

Truth in advertising - I did already have a Givi rack that came with the bike. "Oh" I hear you cry it's not really $190, it's $190 plus the cost of a rack. Exactly correct but with the Givis selling for around $175 we're still way under the cost of a commercial set. If I had to buy a rack for this build I would have still chosen the Givi. It's made from square tubing which is much easier to work on (more on that later). The rest of the build requirements are really straight ahead, I made a Google Spreadsheet of the purchases which can be found here -

So onto the work. Job #1 is to remove one of the strengthening braces from each can. The cans are extremely solid and I wasn't worried about weakening them. The brace is tack welded on and comes off easily with a chisel/pry bar and hammer. While I was at it, I sandblasted the loose paint and surface corrosion from the cans, elbow grease & a sander would obviously suffice here too.

Next is the measuring. I held the can up against the bike & rack and made some marks where I was happiest with the height (the front rear spacing is easy, dead center the can on the rack). I them removed one rack from the bike & used it to layout my marks.

I wanted lower mounting brackets that would fit over the lower rack rail securely but still allow the can to slide off & on the rack. I was struggling to find something off the shelf and was about to break my no-welding rule when I came across some institutional door hinges at my local "real" hardware store. A quick slice & dice with the Dremel and they fit perfectly. I used bolts to get everything aligned and then riveted for the final build.

A framing square is a useful way of aligning everything.

Onto the top mounts. As mentioned, I wanted the cases to be easily removable and simple to lock. I figured that a mounting system accesible from the inside of the can only would allow the lid locks to do double duty. My plan was to use 2 eyebolts that penetrated into the case and pinned into place with lynch pins. Screwed in and cut short at the bolt end they could not then be loosened by nefarious hands. My Givi racks already had M8 threaded holes in just the right places, however, finding M8 eyebolts proved impossible so I gave up & re-threaded to 5/16". If you have more patience than me I'm sure they could be ordered online.

So I got the eyebolts mounted and to prevent too much metal on metal contact, glued small patches of rubber inside the case for the lynch pins to secure against. Time for a test fitting...hmm, not so good, I couldn't get the eyebolts tight enough against the cans to eliminate gap between the rack and cans. Another trip to the store and 4 J-bolts later I had it all tight & secure.

Lock mounts for the lids were simple U-bolts held in place inside with nylon lock nuts. Once the case handles are closed you cannot access the exterior bolts either.

Final fitting.

And painting, I used a hammered finish which technically doesn't need priming but the military labeling shows through the 1st few coats and so I primered first to avoid wasting the expensive paint.

Minus the 4 keyed-same locks (which I forgot for the photos) and adding in the cabinet handles,here is the finished job.

One last all-important accessory!

All in all, not a difficult job. No specialty tools needed, although I would recommend a Dremel with some cutting discs to trim the various bolt shafts and also to cut the grooves in the cases. The rubber does not completely seal the holes, however they are very high up on the bike and I use a dry bag for the stuff that really wants to stay that way.

I'd be interested in seeing other's versions of the ammo can.
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Old 10-22-2011, 05:01 PM   #2
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That's really great! Thanks for the tutorial. I've been imagining ammo cans and a way to hook such things up.
'03 TW200 QuasiMoto
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Old 10-23-2011, 07:24 AM   #3
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Good work! I've been thinking about using ammo cans, too.
"Life is hard! It's even harder when you're stupid!"
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Old 10-23-2011, 10:04 AM   #4
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Nice job, looks like the rear of your bike is twisted though.

Don't sweat the petty things; Pet the sweaty things !!!
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Old 10-23-2011, 11:11 AM   #5
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Ammo cans

I bought a set of the same cans with the same intenet. They were pretty darn heavy even empty. I made a set of aluminum ones instead. Sure would be cool if the military would have them made from aluminum instead.
Anyone on ADV have any pull with that military purchasing dept ? 2HE
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Old 10-23-2011, 01:21 PM   #6
philipbarrett OP
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Originally Posted by Maggot12 View Post
Nice job, looks like the rear of your bike is twisted though.
You mean the silly Texas inspection plate? Probably caught it with my leg walking around the bike.

@Ernie - The cases are about 24lbs each, certainly aluminum would have been about 40% less but I figured even fully loaded they were less than the weight of a passenger.
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Old 04-04-2012, 12:59 PM   #7
philipbarrett OP
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...and the whole system is for sale - $275 takes everything, rack included.
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Old 08-06-2012, 01:02 PM   #8
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My new bike rack and custom ammo can panniers


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Old 08-08-2012, 06:43 AM   #9
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Cabinet handles work great for my kids to hold on to and provide tie-down spots.

I need the mtn bike adapter setup still...
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Old 08-08-2012, 07:29 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by bigmike0351 View Post
My new bike rack and custom ammo can panniers
Are you for real? I've been tossing ideas around with a buddy about how to do this, but never really came up with anything we seriously thought would work.

Looks like the bike would be fine in the rack, but how about connecting the bike rack to the rear luggage rack? How does the weight way behind the rear tire affect the handling? I need more!
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Old 08-09-2012, 06:39 AM   #11
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These are secured with the aluminum pucks, straps are extra insurance.

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Old 08-09-2012, 01:12 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by ML WYDELL View Post
These are secured with the aluminum pucks, straps are extra insurance.

I love the piton based tie down points!
George Marsden
Los Alamos, NM

"You have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you."
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Old 08-09-2012, 09:38 PM   #13
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I'm a non-conformist, total cost was about 200 bucks. Powder coating was the biggest part of it.
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Old 06-20-2013, 08:43 AM   #14
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So I have several sets of panniers. A soft set, a set of pelian 1430s, but I just wasn't digging the look. So I purchased a set of 20mm cans and mounted them up. I used the above as a rough guide, but I'm doing a few things my own way.

Here are some pictures:

Everything is mounted, but I've got work to do still:

1. Second coat of paint
2. Seal up the happy trails mount holes (silicon). Rubber washer the quick remove uppers.
3. Do locks on other side & seal everything up.
4. I'm putting some quick mounts on each side to hold stuff like a shovel and a tomahawk. I know, going to give people something to talk about as I pass them ;-)
5. Line the bottom of the can with some foam for rattling.
6. I did have one hole in the side of the can from removing the inside strut. Sealed it with that quickmetal putty stuff - hope it sands down and paints over well...

I'm considering cabinet pulls on the top for strapping something on top. Will wait till second round for that.

Having fun.
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Old 06-21-2013, 09:01 AM   #15
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rack for 2013 1200 GS LC?

Aweeeeeesome idea

Problem is GIVI does not produce a rack for the new LC GS 1200. Other racks are available but working with rounded tubing with my limited tool set is a pain in the arse...

Anyone got a recommend on another rack to try that is not round but rather is square at least where the bags hook in??
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