- Buyer's Guide
The 11 Best Motorcycle Backpacks for Commuting in 2022
You’re skipping four wheels for two. Public transport for the thrill of the throttle and that alluring sense of freedom. Hey, on a motorcycle even the mundane daily commute becomes an adrenaline adventure. But while it’s easy to get caught up in the purr of that enticing engine, you also have practical considerations to think about on a motorcycle commute.
Why do motorcycle riders wear backpacks?
Let’s face it, a motorcycle doesn’t offer the same load-hauling flexibility that a car does. No ample back seat for possessions to sprawl across. You need to get a little clever in the carry department. And sure, you can add panniers to the mix but they aren’t going to offer the same on/off bike carry freedom that a motorcycle backpack does. Plus when it comes to zipping through crowded streets, swapping bulky panniers for a backpack will help cut a little width off your motorcycle’s profile.
Do I need a special backpack for motorcycle riding?
Backpacks come in numerous shapes and sizes. A multitude of materials. Countless ways to organize your gear. And a variety of harness designs. So what is a good motorcycle backpack? What should you look for when choosing one? Well, you’ve got options. Some brands create backpacks tailormade for motorcycle riding. However, you can certainly use non-bike-specific packs too, as long as they offer up some key features that will make them practical for use on a motorcycle. Let’s consider these features in a little more detail below.
What makes a good motorcycle backpack
Load stability, comfort and freedom of movement
When you’re subjecting your pack to the demands of motorcycle riding, you need to feel confident that it will stand up to the abuse. The last thing you want is to be thrown off balance by a shifting load at high speeds or when leaning into turns. So how do you carry a backpack on a motorcycle?
First off, a compact, aerodynamic design will help reduce drag and keep the load close to your body. A sternum strap and waist belt will help stabilize the pack, assist with weight distribution and prevent shifting from side to side. And compression straps can help cinch the contents down for minimum bulk on your back. Additionally, the harness should enable freedom of movement, allowing your arms to steer easily. If you can dial in the fit to your specific body, even better. And when it comes to comfort, you’ll appreciate well-padded shoulder straps and a ventilated, padded back panel.
On a motorcycle you’re totally exposed to the elements. So if you’re commuting in wet weather and/or carrying items you don’t want to get wet (such as tech), you’ll want good weather protection from your pack. If you’re navigating through the occasional shower, a water-resistant pack should be sufficient, with perhaps added protection such as water-resistant zippers or storm flaps to protect exterior pockets. But if rain or snow are regular participants in your commute (or you want a pack that can double for downtime adventures in wet, muddy settings), a waterproof backpack might better suit your needs. In that case, look for features such as welded seams, waterproof liners and roll-top closures to help keep the elements at bay.
Life on a bike isn’t always easy, both for you and your backpack. So you want to make sure it’s tough enough to handle regular use. Does it need to be super burly? For most commuting environments, probably not. But if you want that downtime adventure adaptability, you’ll want to invest in something a little more rugged. It will likely cost more (and probably weigh more), but you won’t have to worry about how it will hold up when the going gets tough. If you’re sticking to cruising on city streets, you can probably save yourself some carry weight and cash with a more affordable option that still offers sufficient durability for your needs.
If you’re using a motorcycle backpack for commuting purposes, it should look appropriate in your specific work environment. If that environment is casual, you’ve got more freedom in the aesthetics department. If it’s a little more formal, you’ll want to stick to cleaner, understated designs with muted colorways.
What do you need to carry in your backpack? A laptop? Keep an eye out for padded tech protection. Lots of smaller items? Consider a bag with multiple pockets to prevent rummaging. Ready access to frequently used gear? You’ll want exterior pockets on hand that will fit those items. The ability to carry bulkier items if needed? Then you’ll want some form of expandable storage. If you favor pouches over pockets or simply don’t carry a lot, you can dial back on the organization options.
Ease of use
You’ll likely be using your backpack with riding gloves on a lot of the time. So it’s worth considering features such as glove-friendly harness buckles and easily accessible main compartments. Additional features such as excess strap management will also add to the overall user-friendly experience. Also consider how easy a pack will be to get on over bulky protective riding gear.
Do you want one backpack for the city streets and the off-road trails? Are you sticking to urban commutes or need a little flexibility to adapt to short trips? Ultimately it’s up to you to decide how versatile you want your pack to be. Maybe you’d like it to hold a hydration bladder. Maybe adjustable volume (such as through a roll-top closure or expandability) would be useful for travel needs. Bear this in mind when deciding whether a bag is right for you and how much you want it to be able to do.
Now that you have some tips on how to choose the right motorcycle backpack for you, let’s wheel out some prime picks to get you revved up…
The Ashvault Backpack went through multiple iterations to hone its bike-friendly design. And it shows with considered features such as a sleek, contoured profile for reduced drag, along with a distraction-free strap system. The highly water-resistant build includes weatherproof YKK zippers and water-resistant twill polyester with a waterproof backing. It’s also backed by a three-year warranty for peace of mind. A padded sleeve accommodates a back protector (available separately), a hydration bladder or a 13″ laptop. Additional pockets are on hand for further organization including a padded tablet pocket and a fully waterproof interior pocket for valuables. The 15L pack weighs just 0.6kg and offers double-curved shoulder straps for enhanced range of motion, a breathable back panel, and a removable chest strap. Other useful features include a helmet holder, tie-down points, reflective detailing, and a bright orange interior for improved visibility of the contents and emergency signal use.
– Volume: 15L
– Weight: 0.6kg
– Dimensions: 47cm x 32cm x 15cm
– Highly water-resistant
If weather protection is a priority, check out the 20L SW-MOTECH Triton. This waterproof backpack has a welded PVC construction with reflective detailing for enhanced visibility on the go. The ergonomic design includes a comfy, breathable back panel, a padded harness and chest and waist straps for load stability on the move. It fits a 17″ laptop inside a dedicated pocket, with a front quick-access pocket for smaller essentials and side compression straps to adjust the volume as required.
– Volume: 20L
– Weight: 1.7kg (3.6 lb)
– Dimensions: 33 x 18 x 50 cm / 13.0 x 7.1 x 19.7 in
– Waterproof welded PVC construction
Another great option if you’ll be traveling through wet environments is the OGIO All Elements Backpack. This completely waterproof backpack has a roll-top closure and reflective detailing for enhanced rider safety. A sternum strap and removable hip belt keep the load secure, with a strap containment system also on hand to secure straps at high speeds. The pack offers a choice of pockets to organize your gear, including a removable organization panel and exterior quick-access pockets.
– Volume: 26L (1600 Cu.In)
– Weight: 1.13kg (2.5 lbs)
– Dimensions: 20.5″H (rolled) x 10.5″W x 6.75″D
– Waterproof seam-welded, roll-top main compartment
Looking for a dialed-in fit for maximized freedom of movement? Kriega’s R20 Backpack delivers with a thoughtful design that adapts to the individual rider. The adjustable harness adapts to different body sizes and allows the pack position to move up or down for a tailored fit. Kriega’s Quadloc-lite™ system keeps the harness angled away from under the arms for freedom of movement and the front harness buckle is easy to use even with gloves on. Further useful features include reflective detailing, four-point compression, securing options for loose webbing, and a removable waist strap. The pack can also accommodate a CE level 2 back protector or a hydration bladder. The tough build combines 1000D Cordura® on the base and harness with 420D nylon ripstop and water-resistant YKK zippers. And it’s backed by a 10-year guarantee too.
– Volume: 20L
– Weight: 1150g
– Dimensions: 470(H) x 280(W) x 150(D) mm (18.5(H) x 11.0(W) x 5.9(D) ins.)
– Highly weather-resistant
While not created as a dedicated motorcycle backpack, the sleek and functional design of Aer’s Duffel Pack 3 allows it to adapt to two wheels. The pack is tough and durable, with a water-resistant and ergonomic design that helps keep the load stable while protecting your gear from the elements. A sternum strap and padded, breathable back panel help keep loads comfortable throughout the day, with a clean silhouette and minimal dangling parts to reduce drag. With multiple pockets on hand including a padded laptop pocket, ventilated shoe pocket, plus two compartments to store work and workout/travel gear separately, it’s a solid pick for organization too.
– Volume: 21.4L
– Weight: 2.9 lbs
– Dimensions: 20.5″ (52 cm) x 11.75″ (30 cm) x 8″ (20 cm)
– Highly weather-resistant
Want a low-key pack that moves from weekday commutes to weekend adventures? Velomacchi’s Giro Backpack is well up to the task. A water-resistant quick-access laptop sleeve keeps tech at the ready, while the waterproof main compartment features a magnetic roll-top closure. The suspension system incorporates pivoting straps that adjust to the torso for stable load carrying and freedom of movement on the go, as well as a magnetic sternum strap. The shoulder straps are stowable if required, and tie-down points allow you to anchor the bag to a luggage rack with optional straps. The pack can also accommodate a hydration bladder for easy hydration on the move.
– Volume: 35L
– Dimensions: 11″W x 21″H x 7″D (30cm x 53cm x 18cm)
– Waterproof main compartment
Durable and adaptable for the commute or downtime explorations, Timbuk’s Especial Medio Cycling Laptop Backpack combines a durable, water-resistant exterior with a waterproof drop liner to keep gear safe from the elements. Reflective detailing and a tapered design help keep you visible and let you look easily over your shoulder. Multiple quick-access pockets keep essentials at the ready and there’s also expandable storage for bulkier items. Inside you’ll find padded storage for a 15″ laptop, while the ventilated and padded back panel helps keep you cool. Plus there’s also a sternum strap and waist belt to stabilize the load. Bonus? It’s backed by a lifetime warranty.
– Volume: 30L
– Weight: 1.5kg
– Dimensions: 8.66 x 13.39 x 20.87 inches
– Water-resistant exterior with waterproof drop liner
If reducing drag is one of your top concerns, the OGIO No Drag Mach 5 should be on your radar. The aerodynamic design minimizes drag and the molded exterior shell is also weather resistant. The bag packs plenty of additional features into its slick design including a helmet strap, removable sternum and waist straps, padded protection for a tablet and a 15″ laptop, and dedicated shoe storage. The bag also includes a removable fleece-lined hip accessory pouch, ergonomic straps with a quick-release buckle, and the ability to expand if you need a little extra space.
– Volume: 22L to 24L
– Weight: 3.7 lbs (1.67kg)
– Dimensions: 20.5″H x 14.5″W x 7″D
If you like the fit adjustability of the Kriega R20 but need more space, the R30 Backpack is a good alternative. The pack features Kriega’s Quadloc™ harness for an adjustable, tailored fit and improved comfort and freedom of movement. Gear is well protected in the 100% waterproof main compartment, which combines a roll-top closure and removable white liner for weather protection and enhanced interior visibility. The pack fits up to a 17″ laptop, with two water-resistant exterior pockets for quick-access items. Reflective detailing, loose webbing strap management, and six compression straps round out the features of this durable pack. And with its burly combination of 1000D Cordura® and 420D ripstop nylon and a 10-year build guarantee, you can rely on it to keep going strong for years to come.
– Volume: 30L
– Weight: 1.6kg
– Dimensions: 490mm H x 300mm W x 210mm D (19.3″ H x 11.8″ W x 8.3″ D)
– Waterproof main body
The Velomacchi Speedway Backpack is a rugged, weatherproof backpack that adapts to weekday carry and overnight trips alike. The articulating design of the shoulder straps enables the pack to adjust to and move with different torso sizes, enhancing freedom of movement during the ride. And with the magnetic sternum coupler you can enjoy quick, convenient harness closure too. The roll-top backpack is built to take a beating and is made with Aquaforte 1000D fabric. A helmet hook, compression straps, and quick-access pockets add to the functionality of this hard-wearing pack.
– Volume: 40L
– Dimensions: 12.5″ W x 21″ H x 10″ D (32cm x 53cm x 25cm)
– Water-tight main compartment
Want carry functionality and riding protection in one? Look to the Point 65 Boblbee GTX 25L Backpack, which offers CE level 2 spine protection and up to 93% impact reduction. The pack also provides reliable protection for fragile items such as a laptop and camera thanks to its ABS shell. The water-resistant, aerodynamic design includes a ventilated, padded back panel, as well as a waist strap and sternum strap for comfort and load stability. Interior organization helps keep smaller items tidy and the pack also comes with a removable phone pocket.
– Volume: 20-25L (1220-1525cu.in.)
– Weight Carbon: 4 lbs (1.85kg); Weight ABS: 4.2 lbs (1.95kg)
– Dimensions: 22 × 13.7 × 7.8 in (56 × 35 × 20 cm)
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This article was originally published on 27 March 2019 and recently updated.