- Buyer's Guide
Best Commuter Backpacks for Cyclists
If you’re commuting by bike, a backpack is one of the easiest carry formats to roll with. You can keep the load comfortably stable on your body, move your gear conveniently between cycling and being off-bike, and accommodate changing loads with relative ease. That being said, not just any pack will do. So to help you choose a pack that’s right for you, we’ve highlighted some important factors to consider, followed by a selection of top-notch commuter backpacks that have our tick of approval.
When you commute by bike, your bag is at the mercy of the elements. So you want to make sure it offers decent water resistance to protect the contents. See if the bag comes with a raincover. Look for key phrases like ‘weatherproof’, or for more extreme cycling conditions, ‘waterproof’. Roll-top closures and water-resistant zippers are also good for keeping the elements out.
Pockets and Organization
This is a matter of personal preference, but it’s a good idea to have at least one or two pockets for storing small items so they don’t get lost in the recesses of your bag. Also, if you need to regularly access items, look for a pack that offers quick-access pockets. On the other hand, if you need to carry a variety of EDC and work items, ensure your bag offers sufficient organization to keep the contents tidy and secure during the commute.
One of the most important elements to consider in a cycling bag is how it will handle the load. A sternum strap and waist belt will help to keep the load stable and reduce shifting when you’re leaning left or right. User comfort is also important. Good ventilation as well as a padded back and shoulder straps will go a long way to making your journey more comfortable. The heavier your load, the more padding you’ll need. However, lots of padding and warm climates will necessitate increased airflow to help you stay cool.
It’s important to be visible to other road users when you’re commuting by bike. Since a backpack can cover a large amount of any reflective clothing you may be wearing, it’s handy to have reflective detailing on the bag itself to boost visibility. Bags will vary in how much reflectivity they offer. Some provide a few reflective hits while others offer extensive reflectivity.
While a commuting pack should work well on a bike, at some point you need to take it into a work environment. While some work spaces are casual, others lean more towards formal, so a versatile aesthetic is important. Try to go with a bag that looks understated enough to suit a range of work settings, and – no matter how much you’re digging that neon orange – opt for colorways such as black or gray to get the best flexibility out of your bag.
The urban aesthetics are sharp, the weatherproof construction is great for rainy commutes…but what really makes this pack shine is the ability to easily expand from 22L to 44L. While you don’t want to be carrying massive loads all the time, having the freedom to do so as required (such as taking care of the grocery run after work) is awesome.
Want to travel light with just the essentials? Weighing in at less than a pound, the Especial Raider helps you cut carry weight right from the start, while also including just enough organization to keep a change of clothes and small EDC in order.
Sometimes you carry the essentials. Sometimes you’ve just got to haul. A lot. This pack’s 3,051 cubic inches will do the job, while offering other handy features such as a waterproof liner, magnetic buckles on the flap, reflective detailing, plus space for your laptop.
While many bike packs deliver a smooth ride during your commute, they hit a wobble when it comes to transitioning into an office environment. The Rapha Backpack however combines useful riding features with smart aesthetics. The minimalist, streamlined silhouette looks good in a work setting, and is complemented by reflective detailing, a chest strap and stowable waist strap for load support, a padded laptop compartment, and a raincover.
Cycling is a sweaty business. Add hot weather to the mix and things start to get pretty unpleasant. But the Radial 34 has your back with its AirSpeed™ trampoline suspended mesh backsystem to boost airflow. Plenty of other features add to the functionality, including good organization, an integrated kickstand to keep the bag upright, a helmet attachment point and an included raincover.
If sleek, pared-back style is what you’re after, the Rivington is one to have on your radar. While pleasing in looks, the pack also provides practical features such as a roll-top closure to suit diverse loads, quick-access pockets, a laptop compartment, and a water-resistant coating to shed those unavoidable commute showers.
Riding hard puts bags through the wringer. But that’s not a problem for the AP Series Fitzroy. Made with Mission Workshop’s lightweight but durable urethane-coated HT500 fabric, this pack tackles the elements and demanding use head-on. The bag also features the Arkiv closure system and a choice of pockets for organizing smaller items.
Most of the time a weatherproof bag should be sufficient for your commute. But if you need to cycle for extended periods of time in heavy rain, or you’re carrying items you just can’t afford to get wet, a waterproof pack may be the way to go. The Velocity Backpack has an IP 64 rating and a roll-top closure to keep water at bay, and comes with a removable inner pocket for stashing smaller items.
With its roll-top closure and RF-welded liner, the main compartment of this pack is a great place to keep gear safe and sound from inclement weather. The Quintessential 40 also provides exterior pockets to keep quick-access items within easy reach.
With its alpine heritage styling, the waxed canvas Assynt 17 lets you bring some mountain vibes to your daily commute. Best paired with the optional waist belt and sternum strap for load stability, this sleek little hauler fits a 15″ laptop, includes two pockets for bits and pieces, and will develop great character with use.
The Falcon M rocks an attractive combination of durability, compact urban style and flexible access. The tough 1000D Cordura exterior can take a beating, while the roll-top main compartment can also be accessed through a side zip. Side and top grab handles are useful additions for off-bike portability, and optional extras such as a phone pouch, integrated laptop sleeve or waist belt let you tweak the design to your preferences.
Great build quality and eye-catching Japanese style come together in this functional and versatile everyday pack. Handy storage pockets keep bits and pieces accessible, while exterior carry options and a roll-top closure give you the flexibility to adapt to changing carry needs.
The Bernal brings tactical and everyday elements together in a simple yet thoughtful design. Keeping you cool on the go is an integrated Super-Tramp suspension. There’s also a choice of exterior attachment points and compression straps, giving you the freedom to handle a variety of loads.
The Lagunitas packs a host of handy features into its streamlined form. Stretch panels allow the pack to expand and curve to suit different loads, with the option to add additional gear on the exterior daisy chains and gear loops. A waterproof top pocket keeps valuables safe from the elements, the padded laptop sleeve protects your tech, and an adjustable sternum strap and removable waist strap stop the load shifting while you’re clocking up the miles.
Cycling is a way of life in Amsterdam. So it’s fitting that Amsterdam-based Property Of have created a line of reflective bags inspired by this bike culture. Archie is one of those bags, and it’s more than happy to stand out with its water-resistant construction, everyday functionality and light bulb-esque reflective form.
The Peloton Rolltop is a well considered pack that delivers a host of practical features to see you through the day. Water-resistant construction, a suspended laptop compartment, a height-adjustable and removable waist belt, pockets and organization for small daily essentials, plus exterior carry options all play their part in making this a highly versatile commuting bag.
The Default handles a diverse array of loads with its rolltop design, and protects the contents from a soaking thanks to weatherproof construction (with a waterproof liner in the main compartment). There’s space for a laptop and tablet, a sternum stap and waist belt, as well as handy snaps to prevent the rolltop from obscuring your view while you ride.
Thule’s Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter Backpack keeps your gear well protected from the elements with its waterproof main compartment and rain cover featuring reflective detailing. The pack also features a stowable helmet net, a removable 15″ laptop compartment, and a good range of pockets to keep fragile items and other EDC essentials neat and accessible throughout the day.
Bellroy’s Shift Backpack merges office-friendly aesthetics with active performance, creating a pack that’s equally at home in meetings or commuting. The integrated lumbar support and removable chest strap keeps the load secure when you’re pedaling hard, while the water-resistant Venture-weave fabric has you covered against inclement weather. The bag offers padded storage for up to a 15″ laptop, with a choice of interior and external pockets to store work tools and EDC. And with its slide hook closure you can enjoy one-handed access and an adjustable volume to suit changing loads.