I've had the same quandries and have been studying what's out there for the last several weeks.
The kaw-factory side bags are the same as Givi35's. They are nice looking and can be color-matched to your bike. That said, they are expensive and not as durable as I would want for boondocking. They are great for street use and like I say, arguably the best looking of what's out there for this bike.
Once you get away from the G35's almost everything is just a box. There are aluminum, plastic, and various shapes in the standard brands, or like the G26 which I think are too small. Really nice contoured Hepco & Becker bags are also really expensive. If you want adventure/rally cases in aluminum, there a bunch of them, also pretty expensive. I'm a cheap bastard so I wanted a least cost, most bang for my buck, and still work good.
So after going through all of the info on all of the sites, I'm pretty much down to Pelican cases because they are completely waterproof, super durable, and cheap. I have found them at wholesale pricing for $95 each. And there are many variations in size to fit any particular need. They fit on any standard rack as the rack manufactures all have an attach system for box-style panniers.
It has been said the Happy Trails and Hepco & Becker racks are a little stronger than SW Motech. I cannot say either way as I have not been able to inspect each brand up close, just going by what those in the know have said. SW Motech has the advantage of being quick-release so the racks and bags can be removed quickly and easily. In any case, they are are bolted on at just a few points so removing bolts to remove them doesn't seem like a big deal to me.
The happy trails racks use different attach points than motech, which makes adding a top rack to the hand-hold points easy. And they don't attach to the rear fender so in my case makes installation possible. Twisted Throttle told me I couldn't install their rack system without a rear fender - doh!!
Sites to learn about each brand/style:
North American distributor for SW Motech, and carry many popular brands of hardware for adventure bikes.
- pelican cases and hepco becker racks.
- wholesale/discount pricing for Pelican Cases and a host of other neat techno and backpacking stuff.
And there are probably others but these are the main ones with product that fit the Versys.
I have always just had cheap softbags. But once you buy a rack, Pelican Cases are not much more than a nice softbag set, and in some cases are less. So it was a no-brainer for me. And softbags leak unless you install covers or step up for the fancy dry-bags type and they are also quite expensive.
I'm just waiting for a reply on installation details from happy-trail. Will most likely order out their racks and case install hardware pack, and source my own Pelican Cases and install them myself. I figure to be all in for at or under $500, with a setup that should be stout enough for some adventure riding. Add some engine protection, hand guards, and some trailie tires and I should be good to go.
Hope this helps. Also, be kind to the animals here in the zoo, some of them will try to get out their cage and bite you.
We're all fellow owners and they're a really nice bunch of guys if you take the time to listen and get to know them.