- Buyer's Guide
What makes for the best bike commuter backpack? What makes it different than any regular pack? While you can technically use any backpack to commute, bike commuting packs have a few features that will make your life easier on and off the bike.
Bike commuter backpacks need to handle active use. That means keeping you as cool and comfy as possible while you pedal out the daily grind. A lot of elements come together in creating a pack that’s comfortable enough for daily commuting use.
Ventilation is a key feature to consider. While it’s almost impossible to avoid some sweating, a well-ventilated design can go a long way to staying as dry as possible. Airflow channels in the back panel and breathable shoulder straps will help keep sweat patches to a minimum.
Sufficient padding for your daily load will make a big difference to bike commuting comfort too. You’ll want a back panel that’s well-padded and ideally cushions your back against any hard or irregular objects inside the pack. Wide shoulder straps will help distribute the load and should also offer a good balance of padding and ventilation. An adjustable sternum strap and waist belt will keep the pack secure against your body and prevent the load shifting around while you’re on the go. A simple webbing waist belt will likely be sufficient, allowing your hips to move freely while still stabilizing the load.
When choosing a bike commuting pack, think about your torso length, how tall the pack is, and where it’s likely to sit on your back as you ride. The goal is an unobtrusive design that prevents your helmet from hitting the top of the pack.
Bike commuter backpacks come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to pick one that’s not only suitable for your specific body shape but also complements your load. If you carry a lot, you’ll need a large bag. Commuting with just the essentials? You’ll be able to cut the bulk and roll with a smaller pack. If you need a little flexibility when it comes to volume, consider packs with roll-top openings or external carry attachment points that will allow you to adjust to changing loads.
Organization for smaller and larger items
Unless you’re using additional carry options like panniers or handlebar bags, your bike commuting pack will need to hold everything you need for the day. For some, that might include a change of clothes and work shoes. Probably a laptop. Maybe documents and folders. Packed lunch. Cables and chargers. And at the very least your essential EDC. Whatever you need to carry for your commute, your pack should provide the level and style of organization you need. If you like using organizational pouches, a more minimalist bike commuting pack might fit your needs. Alternatively, you might enjoy packs with built-in organization for a variety of different items. Features such as a helmet carry solution and the ability to separate shoes from clothes can come in very handy for carrying both on and off the bike.
While your bike commuter backpack will be putting in the hard graft during your daily cycles, it’s important to remember you’ll be carrying it off the bike too. Consider what style would be appropriate for your particular work environment. Is it a casual workplace where anything goes or do you need to maintain a more formal appearance? Since your pack will be accompanying you from your bike into your day-to-day work, make sure it conveys a suitable work-ready style.
The more visible you are when cycling, the better. Look for features such as reflective detailing and attachment points to secure a bike light. Also consider how visible your surroundings will be while wearing the pack. You should be able to turn your head to look behind and to the side and not have the pack obscure your view. Depending on how low the pack sits, this might not be an issue, but additional features like compression straps and roll-top closures can help compress the pack into a compact size that won’t obstruct your view.
Durability and protection from the elements
Sure, you’re not climbing mountains during your commute (well, probably not). But regular commutes will still take their toll on a pack. So consider bags that offer quality materials and long-lasting construction. A durable pack that will last for many years not only offers better value for money but also peace of mind that your gear won’t spill out and scatter across the road because of fabric rips or failed stitching.
Weather protection will also go a long way to bike commuting peace of mind when rain, snow and mud strike. Unless you live in a particularly wet environment, you won’t need a completely waterproof pack. Water-resistant material finishes, roll-top closures, and water-repellent zippers all help keep the elements out. If you need added protection, you may want to consider seam-welded construction or a rain cover. You can also store electronics or clothing within their own waterproof pouches/bags inside the pack.
Now let’s take a closer look at the 10 best bike commuting packs to suit a range of loads, styles, and organization needs…
Osprey Metron (US$180)
Right off the bat, this is probably the best bike commuter pack on this list for most people. While it’s not from a small company and it doesn’t have that small-batch feel, the feature set, styling, and construction are almost perfectly thought out. This pack can fit in the world of the Spandex-clad commuter just as well as the more casual commuter doing three miles to work.
Let’s start with the overall silhouette. The pack is decently narrow at 13.79in (35cm) at its widest. It has a tapered shape and flares out slightly at the top but still fits within the limits of your torso. The pack has low-profile mesh side flat pockets that will fit a cycling water bottle without adding too much width. Depth-wise, the pack is also decently shallow at 10.24in (26cm), but it has a special helmet carry feature that expands the depth significantly when needed. Height-wise, the pack sits moderately high at 18.91in (48cm), but not high enough that your helmet will constantly bang against it. The total volume of the pack is 26L, but you can expand or compress the front significantly. With all these features comes a weight penalty, 2.6lbs. It’s cycling, grams count.
On the bike
The pack’s tapered shape and simple webbing hip belt let your hips rock freely; it really stays out of the way of your pedaling. The biggest advantage of this narrow silhouette is keeping a decent aero profile and giving you the freedom to look behind you, something wide bags won’t allow. The pack sits slightly high on the body, so try to keep your heavy objects low to prevent arm fatigue. The side gusset has two tall mesh flat pockets, one zippered. You can barely tell they’re there, in a good way. They blend into the silhouette of the pack and are accessible while riding due to their position and design. These pockets work perfectly for quick-grab items like your phone and wallet.
The back harness is extremely comfortable and well vented. It features a semi-suspended mesh with molded foam underneath; it will not chew through your jersey. The suspended mesh will also give some separation between the main volume and the rider’s back; you won’t feel any irregular objects poking through. The shoulder straps are lightly padded and decently breathable as they are partly made of mesh. They feature a sliding/removable sternum strap with a whistle side release buckle. There are also load lifters, they mostly keep the pack close to your back to avoid clearance issues with your helmet. As a cherry on top, the pack includes a rain cover that’s conveniently stuffed in a zipper pocket on the bottom of the pack.
The pack is jam-packed with bike commuting features. The face of the pack has a hidden helmet carry feature. It is comprised of a molded plastic retention unit, attached to a bungee cord that will keep your helmet snug against the pack. There is a tight mesh compartment hidden at the back of the face that will fit a U-lock. On top of that, there are dual compression straps that will hold loose apparel and any bulky objects (8L – 26L expansion).
There is a spacious sunglasses compartment lined with a non-scratch material that will fit large, wrap-around style cycling sunglasses. Directly on top of the sunglasses compartment, there is a crescent zipper opening that contains the organizer compartment. It is a deep compartment with three elastic mesh organizer flat pockets, stacked onto three nylon compartments. Excellent for your commuting items and bike tools/spares. There is also a key clip in a red color that pops out nicely and is easy to spot. The main compartment is voluminous. It has a 15” padded laptop compartment, document or tablet sleeve, and an isolated zipper compartment that will fit a pair of shoes or dirty clothes that you definitely will have if you bike commute. This is such an excellent feature that you don’t see often.
The pack is made from 500D Nylon with a 210D liner.
I genuinely think there is nothing else you can add to make it a better bike commuting pack. At $180 MSRP (Metron 24), this Osprey pack gives incredible bang for your buck.
Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City 21L (US$170)
Best Waterproof Option
The Ortlieb Commuter Daypack is probably the most minimalist pack on this list. The pack is fully seam welded, rolltop design, waterproof, and shows mastery in this type of construction, like all other Ortlieb products. Like the Osprey Metron, this bike commuting pack can also fit both hardcore and casual commuters.
The overall silhouette of the bag is simple and very futuristic-looking. The best way to describe the shape is the capital letter “D” when seen from a top orthographic view. The flat part of the “D” would be the back harness. In terms of proportion, the pack looks deceivingly wide and short when empty, although it isn’t. Once you fill the pack out, the depth increases and the width decreases, due to its patterning.
The pack measures 11.8in (30cm) in width depending on how high your roll-top sits. Height-wise, the pack measures 19.7in (50cm) when the roll is fully compressed, as you’d normally use it. Fully extended, the pack measures around 25in (63cm). Depth-wise, the pack measures 6.1in (15cm) giving it a total volume of 21L. The side gusset is essentially nonexistent. The face of the pack becomes the side as it transitions around the curve; the face and side gusset are included in the same pattern. The pack is also very light at 1lb 10oz.
On the bike
The pack sits slightly low on the back when riding, so it won’t interfere with your helmet. The low stance also helps keep the mass low on the bike, preventing your arms from feeling fatigued from the extra weight. Do be careful if you’re riding with the pack almost fully unrolled, as it will get in the way of your helmet and visibility.
The back harness has die-cut foam pads that work as air vents. These foam vents are bonded onto the back panel and won’t peel off with normal use. The foam is firm enough to keep its shape but soft enough to keep your jerseys from pilling. It also feels nice on your back, almost like a massage. The shoulder straps have a slight “S” curve, are thin and slightly padded, but are not really breathable as they’re made of the same material as the body. They are generally comfortable, though I wouldn’t carry anything too heavy as you’ll start to feel the pressure. The included sternum strap is removable and adjustable via custom-molded plastic clips that interface with a die-cut hole array. The waist belt is fully removable and made of 1in webbing; it is totally unobtrusive while riding. It is attached to the bag with custom molded, bolted hardware.
Inside the pack’s main volume, you can find a fully padded 15″ laptop compartment. Stacked on it is a zipper compartment with an organizer inside. The organizer has two open pockets that work well for bulky peripherals or charging cables. The rest of the main volume is just cavernous space and works great for clothes and an extra pair of shoes. The left side does have a decent spacious zipper compartment for loose items like your phone and wallet. The zipper is water-resistant, but it does not have a zipper garage on top and I suspect water can slowly seep into the pocket. The face of the pack is mostly flat, except for a daisy chain to secure the roll-top with a G-hook. There are also six, laser-cut, PALS-like holes. You can attach anything that uses a webbing mounting system to them, clipped cycling lights, or a U-lock.
Materials-wise, the pack is made of “PS33”, which I can best describe as 1000D Nylon with a heavy polymer coat. It feels smooth to the hand and is waterproof. The pack has no liner, but the organizational features inside are made of a 210D Nylon with some decently thick padding on the laptop compartment. The bottom of the pack is reinforced with a heavy polymer coating for abrasion resistance.
If you’re into futuristic looks, fully seam welded construction, minimalism, and a company that knows what they’re doing very well, the Ortlieb Commuter is the pack for you. For the number of custom parts, materials, and construction, $170 is a pretty good deal.
The Yalta 3.0 is probably the most cross-functional pack of the bunch, and the one with the strangest name, if that’s worth anything to you. I would place it in the more casual bike commuting category, just based on aesthetics, even though it can pretty much handle anything. It has a unique set of features that makes it excellent for general commuting, travel, and general city exploration.
The silhouette is subdued and clean. The pack has a roll-top or flap-top design that’s secured with a G-hook and webbing. The pack’s height measures 20in (51cm) when rolled and 26in (66cm) when unrolled, but beware, it really gets in the way when you try to look back and can interfere with the back of your helmet when riding. The pack’s width is 11.5in (29cm) and the depth is 7in (18cm), adding up to a volume of 26L. The pack weighs in at 2.2lbs, decently average for a pack of this caliber.
On the bike
As far as riding comfort, the pack feels balanced but sits decently high. Again, keep your heavy objects on the bottom and close to your body. Also, keep the roll-top as low as you can to increase visibility over your shoulder. This pack’s roll-top has a wide stance and it will essentially make you a sailboat with the spinnaker unfurled. Beware of headwinds.
The back harness panel has a compression-molded pattern for ventilation. It is comfortable on and off the bike and works decently well for venting muggy air. It also gives you some distance between the back of the pack and your laptop, so your spine won’t be hitting any hard objects. The shoulder straps are wide and generously padded, spreading the weight over a wide surface area to avoid that concentrated pressure. I find them extremely comfortable on and off the bike, even with more weight than I want to carry (camera gear on top of EDC gear).
The back side of the straps is made of aero mesh and the front feels like 500D Nylon. They also have some retro-reflective daisy chains for attaching keys or pouches. The straps also include a sliding/removable sternum strap. The pack does not have a waist belt and it cannot be added. I can see this being a dealbreaker for some, even though the pack won’t sway side to side without one.
The face of the pack has one zipper compartment, located directly in front. It is a general pocket with no internal organization. On the left side of the pack there is an angled zipper that opens into a vertical pocket. It will fit a cycling water bottle and up to a 32oz bottle, barely. On the back panel, there are two vertical zipper pockets that have a velour-like liner. They can fit sunglasses, but it’s an odd place to stow them as they may or may not get crushed on your back.
The interior organization can be accessed through the top, or through a large vertical zipper opening on the side gusset that, as you unzip, reveals the interior volume. On the organizer panel you can find three large separate zipper pockets, perfect for peripherals, chargers, and simple bike multitools or spares. Stacked behind it is a padded laptop compartment that fits a 15″ MacBook Pro. The laptop compartment and organization are designed to be accessed horizontally. You can sling the pack to your chest and access the side zipper; it is so convenient and well thought out. The pack also features a removable tote bag that is secured with Velcro inside the main compartment. This is extremely useful for separating your clothes and shoes from other items. It is also great for grocery shopping.
Materials-wise, the pack is made of a 22X Nylon shell with Cordura TPX laminate technology. If you’re not familiar with this material, it very much feels and looks like X-Pac VX-21. The material itself is waterproof. However, the pack is not bonded so water will eventually find its way in. The interior liner, organizer, and laptop compartment are made of 210D nylon. All zippers are YKK brand.
All in all, the Yalta is a great all-rounder pack. I wouldn’t say it is ideal for bike commuting and it is not marketed as so, but it does the job quite well. At $145 it still provides great bang for your buck and will work for essentially any occasion.
Afterschool Projects ASP Rucksack (US$256)
Epic for the Stylish Casual Commuter
If you’re more of a traditionalist and prefer a very simple, semi-clamshell type pack with high-end materials and construction, that is decently versatile, the ASP Rucksack is for you. Although this is not marketed as a bike commuting pack, it can most definitely handle the job. Aesthetics-wise, I would place this pack in the more casual commuter and fashion realm as it carries with cool and playful vibes.
The ASP Rucksack is totally symmetrical in construction and features. The silhouette is slightly square and stubby, measuring 18in (46cm) high, 15in (38cm) wide, and 4in (10cm) deep. On the outside, it has a semi-clamshell top opening, a general zipper pouch in front, two compression straps and two, non-elastic mesh, dump-pocket type water bottle holders with a cinch cord.
On the bike
The pack sits low on the back, even when adjusted tightly to your body. This is good as it keeps all the weight closer to the bike and gives you full visibility. The back harness has no external padding or venting, it is a plain piece of VX-21 with a reinforced 500D Nylon bottom pattern. The 500D feels softer than other 500D nylons, but you might get some apparel pilling from the friction. You can also slightly feel the laptop’s hardness on your back (I carry a beefy, mil-spec Lenovo P series), which isn’t ideal. I also have a boney spine. I would not ride more than a couple of miles with this pack unless you don’t mind a swampy back.
There is a passthrough for a waist belt; however, they are not available from Afterschool Projects yet. The shoulder straps are decently padded and quite wide. They feel nice on the bike and do a good job of distributing weight. The straps also have daisy chains running from top to bottom. The pads are made of aero mesh with VX-21 on the top side. The straps also have a simple load lifter webbing/ladder lock system and a sternum strap that is adjustable and removable via button snaps.
The face of the pack is quite simple. It has a large, general-purpose zipper pouch with a flat pocket divider inside that can work as a simple organizer. There is also a metal key clip inside with a generously long bungee cord. At the top-center, you can find a simple webbing carry handle.
On the side gussets you can find decently large, cinchable and gusseted, non-stretch mesh pockets. They can comfortably fit a 32oz bottle. On top of the mesh pockets there are simple ladder-lock compression straps. These can be useful to secure a tall water bottle or any other tall objects you have in the side pockets. Both sides are perfectly symmetrical. At the top, you can find another webbing carry handle, opposite to the front carry handle.
The main volume is very simple. It has a zippered, padded laptop compartment that can fit a 16″ laptop. Stacked onto the laptop compartment, there is a wide and tall open mesh sleeve, good for separating apparel items.
Materials-wise, the pack has a combination of VX-21 and 500D Nylon. The interior is lined with what feels like Ripstop 210D Nylon, which is a step above most common liners.
This is a stylish, minimalistic pack with premium materials and construction for the fashion-oriented commuter. It is not designed for bike commuting specifically, but you will definitely emanate some heavy clout, which is basically the most important feature. At $256, and made in the USA, this is in the upper tier of price tags, and the right choice for folks who care about brand and style points.
Update: if this is your vibe also check out this pack rereleased as the upgraded Mission Workshop Speedwell VX.
Mission Workshop Rambler (US$380)
Best Gear Hauler and Organizer
The Rambler is no exception to how well built, gorgeous, and sometimes complex in terms of construction Mission Workshop packs are. At a first glance, the pack looks relatively simple, but upon further inspection, you will see that it holds a couple of secrets. This pack fits both the hardcore and casual commuter. This is a great pack for those who like to haul a bunch of gear and prefer separate pouches for organization.
The Rambler’s biggest feature, literally, is the ability to double in volume from 22L-44L with a single clamshell zipper. The pack measures 19in(48cm) x 13in(33cm) x 5in(13cm) in its 22L configuration. The pack also has the ability to be used as a roll-top for the rear compartment, or in a more classic flap top. It weighs in at 3.7lbs, which makes this the heaviest pack on this list, so try to pack light.
On the bike
In the 44L configuration, the volume is very much in the x-axis. You’ll feel a significant difference in bike handling and arm/shoulder pain, even though it does have compression straps to prevent it from getting too huge. I would never ride with a pack this size or haul that much gear when bike commuting, but this pack allows you to do so. When used in the 22L configuration, it feels much nimbler and balanced. However, the volumes are awkward to use effectively as there are no organization panels and there is a lack of easy access. This pack is ideal for going from point A to B, without accessing on the go.
The harness panel has some aero mesh for ventilation, some padding on the lumbar area, and a passthrough for an optional (sold separately) waist belt. The shoulder straps are J-shaped, wide, decently padded, and super comfortable. Inside the back harness the pack rocks two vertical, carbon fiber stays. Giving the pack significant support for bigger loads. This whole back harness is up there with some of the most comfortable packs I have worn.
On the face of the pack, on the bottom right side, you can find a small, phone-sized, flat zipper compartment. On the top, you can find one of two laptop compartments. This one is accessible via zipper and will fit most 13″ laptops and tablets. The front also has generous webbing and a 2in side release buckle to keep the flap top closed.
The side gusset contains a large, zippered, clamshell opening that once unzipped, enables the bag to expand. Inside this zipper, you will find another half clamshell zipper that will open into the cavernous main expanded volume, ideal for apparel and spare shoes. You can also see the main laptop sleeve inside. There are also two compression straps with ladder locks that will keep this volume tight and manageable.
Behind the main volume you can find the main laptop compartment, which can be closed by either rolling the top, when the pack is in 44L configuration, or folding it as a flap when in the 22L configuration. This compartment can fit laptops up to 17″; however, the opening is tight horizontally and it is disappointing that the bottom is not padded at all, so be careful when setting the pack on the floor vertically. Between this compartment and the front laptop compartment, you can divide your clean and dirty clothes, if you want to use it that way.
The entire outside shell of the pack is made from HT500, which is a smoother alternative to 500D Cordura that ages gracefully with some patina. The inside material is not specified, but it looks and feels like PU-coated 420D diamond ripstop. All zippers are YKK AquaGuard.
This is an aesthetically stunning pack, and it is built like a tank. Other than bike commuting, I can see myself using the Rambler for traveling for month-long trips. At $380, the pack is not cheap, but the construction and quality are extremely high, and it is made in the US, San Francisco specifically, where I once paid $2600mo for a studio, so I get their pain.
CamelBak H.A.W.G. Commute 30L (US$170)
The CamelBak H.A.W.G. and M.U.L.E. Commute are the brand’s new offerings, specifically aimed at bike commuting, but not limited to it. The aesthetics are fresh for the brand and a departure from their typical sporty and military styling. The packs have numerous features that make a significant difference on and off the bike. These packs will do great with both hardcore and casual commuters, even though the pack has a bit of a corporate, Patagonia-vest-in-downtown-SF vibe to it.
The H.A.W.G. version of the pack is the larger, 30L brother to the M.U.L.E. 22L. Even though they might look almost identical aesthetically, they have a few significant differences in features and volumes. The biggest difference is that the H.A.W.G. has a full clamshell opening with a secondary half-clamshell, laptop-specific compartment top opening. In terms of size, the H.A.W.G. measures 10 x 19 x 12 in / 26 x 48 x 31 cm. The volumes are easily accessible, and the shoulder strap “Command Center” compartments are extremely useful on the bike. The pack weighs in at 2lbs 4oz, which is decently low for a pack this size.
On the bike
On the bike, the pack feels unobtrusive and sits decently high on the back, getting out of the way of your hips and your helmet. 30L is overkill for my personal use, but it doesn’t look or feel like a 30L pack and I can’t quite explain why. Maybe it follows the fashion advice of “black makes you look slimmer”.
There are some ultra-functional, bike commuting features on the back harness. First off, the Air Support™ padding for your back. These three elevated spacer mesh and foam pads do a great job at getting rid of the hot, moist air stuck between your back and the back harness. They’re also really comfortable and non-abrasive. On the bottom you can find a simple, removable waist belt made of 1in webbing for keeping all that mass from swaying sideways.
The shoulder pads have reflective strips, hose retention elastic webbing, a sliding/removable sternum strap, and two extremely useful compartments called the “Command Center™”. This feature comprises two integrated pockets on each side of the shoulder straps. One is a zippered elastic mesh pocket, and the other is an open elastic mesh pocket with a key clip inside. The Command Center™ pockets are ideal for your phone, keys, and slim wallet. You can easily access them while riding and off the bike, without taking the pack off.
The face of the pack is very simple and sleek. It has a shield-shaped, stretch-gusset, open top compartment for any loose apparel items you want to shove in there, similar to a “beavertail”, but not removable. There is also a zippered sunglasses compartment with a fuzzy velour liner, laser-cut holes to attach a rear blinker light, and lastly, two webbing loops on the top side that allow for helmet carry. All these features are integrated into a very sleek-looking package.
The side gusset has a huge, stretchy mesh bottle compartment on the left side, but it doesn’t look sloppy since it’s sewn decently tight against the body, and it follows the pack’s curves. On the right side of the gusset, you can find a zippered vertical compartment that is both a general volume inside but also has a mesh flat pocket inside with a carabiner loop. On the top side of the gusset, you can find a hydration hose opening, the main clamshell zipper, and a secondary, half-clamshell opening for the pack’s second-largest volume, the laptop compartment.
The main volume has a general flat pocket on the back side, and two zippered compartments on the opposite side. Inside the laptop compartment there is a hydration sleeve with a webbing loop to hold the bladder. Opposite to the bladder sleeve you can find the laptop compartment, which is designed as a roll-top sleeve with a thick PU coat for waterproofing, and padded nylon walls.
Materials-wise, the pack uses coated Cordura N330D for the outer shell. The material feels super smooth to touch and has a beautiful luster in the light. Since it is coated, it has a decent level of weatherproofing. Inside, the material feels like a standard 210D nylon. There are also quite a few reflective details for low light visibility on the face and shoulder straps of the pack. Zippers are YKK, but only the main volume tracks are AquaGuard zippers.
The H.A.W.G. retails at $170. It is a solid deal for an ultra-functional bike commuting pack. If you can rock the professional and tidy look.
CamelBak M.U.L.E. Commute 22L (US$140)
I’ll keep this one short and sweet since the M.U.L.E. is nearly identical in aesthetics to the 30L version. Features-wise, it deserves its own spot on the list since it has some significant volume and feature differences.
If I were to ride past you with the M.U.L.E., then the H.A.W.G., you would struggle to tell the difference. They both have almost the same lines, materials, the Command Center™, Air Support™ and the front-facing gusseted, shield-shaped compartment. However, the similarities end there.
The M.U.L.E. is 22L. The way they managed to get the volume down by nearly 10L and kept the same look was by completely removing the separate half-clamshell, laptop opening. The laptop roll-top sleeve was moved into the main compartment and it also serves as a hydration bladder sleeve. The main opening was changed from a full clamshell to a top loader zipper opening. On the side gusset, there is no zipper pocket; both sides have flat mesh open pockets. On the bike, the 22L feels significantly nimbler and it has more than enough room for a spare change of clothes, shoes, laptop, and peripherals. The M.U.L.E. retails for $140.
Apidura City Backpack (US$164)
Best Option for Minimalists
The Apidura City Backpack is for the bike commuter and the minimalist EDC individual who is looking for a technical, yet minimalist bag that has a mature look and top-notch construction. The pack will excel in all weather conditions, so whether you commute in the gloomy, cold, and wet PNW, or the boiling hot and humid Florida afternoons, this pack has your belongings covered and dry.
The pack’s main volume (17L, 45 x 30 x 15cm, 17.7 x 11.8 x 6in) is simple. It has a half bucket, half flap-top type opening that is secured with a G-hook and Velcro system, revealing a simple yet perfectly organized interior. The overall silhouette is subdued, elegant, and similar in shape to a gas station paper bag, in the best way possible. The pack is also light at 1.6lbs.
On the bike
The City Backpack rides decently low on the back, giving you a lower center of gravity and preventing your arms and back from feeling the extra weight. Back and side visibility are unobstructed thanks to the pack’s low stance. The shoulder straps are super-sleek with a soft, neoprene-like hand feel and minimal webbing for the sternum strap. The back is decently well vented with a molded padding panel for heat dissipation; this feature follows the same design aesthetic as the shoulder straps. There is also a removable webbing waist belt for keeping the pack secured against your body.
The main volume includes a large, easy-to-access compartment for bulky items like spare clothes and shoes, a padded laptop sleeve with Velcro closure, two elastic mesh pockets sewn onto the laptop compartment’s face, one elastic strip within one of the mesh pockets for securing pens, and a large zipper pocket sewn onto the inside of the pack’s main face for miscellaneous items.
The side gussets have a slight crease as the bag packs very flat. The front face is flat with some very minimal welded binding on the flap for reinforcement.
The City Backpack is made from CT420 Marle laminated fabric. It has a semi-heathered look and it is fully seam welded on the outside, with only one external waterproof zipper on the right side which has a key clip inside. The pack has no liner inside except for the bottom, padded laptop compartment and the right side, where the external zipper compartment is located. The pocket liner appears to be 210D nylon and is bright yellow for better visibility. The large internal zipper pocket and laptop sleeve appear to be 420D Ripstop nylon. The laptop sleeve is internally lined with Nylex, velour or “soft touch” material.
There’s a lot of design knowledge built into the Apidura City, and it shows throughout the build and use of this pack. It’s a fine commuter, and quality option for $164. And Apidura really do excel as a small brand that caters to their biking community.
Ortlieb Atrack BP (US$270)
Best Waterproof All-Rounder
The Atrack BP is for the bikepacker, bike commuter, and adventure traveler who is looking for an advanced technical bag that is riddled with features and top-notch construction. The pack is perfectly designed to fit your body contour while riding a bicycle in all types of terrain and weather. If you’re getting this pack for bike commuting, just make sure you know what you’re getting into as it’s only ideal for those who want to go from point A to point B without accessing the pack in between. It is also for the hardcore commuters who slay some gravel in between the office and home.
The pack is rated to 25L (w: 26 cm | 10.2-inch, h: 56 cm| 22.0-inch, d: 25 cm | 9.8 inch), but you can most certainly push those limits. The pack’s limit is essentially your limit and what you are comfortable riding with. The pack’s main volume is narrow and expandable on the vertical axis on both the top and bottom. It is also compressible with the integrated webbing/hardware system, keeping the pack from moving and bouncing. I like to think of this pack as a mini duffel with integrated shoulder and hip straps (also removable). The pack weighs 2.8lbs. It’s not the lightest, but that’s understandable with the amount of hardware it has.
On the bike
The shoulder strap and back padding system are all linked to a unique, lightweight steel rail system with webbing straps. The webbing has sizing marks woven into them, allowing the whole padding system to be height adjustable for different users. The pack’s aero mesh padding and stiffener are integrated into the pads but not the main volume. No matter what irregular object you have in the pack, you will not feel it on your back since the main volume is almost completely independent from the padding. This system also allows for some incredibly effective ventilation and evaporation. The pack is also hydration compatible via a waterproof plug located on the top left side behind the shoulder strap. The shoulder straps also include a basic slide adjust sternum strap with a side release adjustable buckle.
The hip belt is very narrow and out of the way to allow your hips to move freely while riding. The entirety of the back padding system and shoulder straps are individually adjustable thanks to an impressive amount of injection molded parts, steel rails, and webbing array. The system enables riders of all torso sizes to find a good fit.
Riders who like ultra-simple, duffel-like interiors with few compartments and no lining or padded laptop sleeve are in luck. This is the ideal pack to fill with padded sleeves and organizing pouches. The pack is cavernous inside and only has four small nylon zippered compartments that work for spares, tools, or electronic peripherals. The only way to access the pack is through a chunky waterproof TIZIP zipper that is located on the back of the pack. My guess is that this zipper position further helps with the waterproofing since rain and wind will not be able to make it between the back padding and your back. I can also see this being an amazingly effective theft-deterrent system. The pack also has two decently sized exterior bottle pockets that are welded onto the sides.
The pack is made of lightweight PU laminate ripstop (PS21R) with a hexagonal weave and coated 1000D nylon (my guess, not specified).
The Ortlieb Atrack BP is a highly specialized pack made by a highly specialized brand. I do not think any brand can pack this level of manufacturing, feature set, and pricing without owning their own factory. At $270, the pack is for the serious commuter, but you’re basically buying a commuting space suit.
EVOC Mission Pro 28 (US$150)
For the Casual Commuter
The Mission Pro 28 is for the casual bike commuter, regular commuter, and adventure traveler who likes a pack with plenty of organization for a myriad of electronics or bike spares and tools.
The pack has a classic look in terms of silhouette, it’s a Klettersack and clamshell hybrid. The pack has a front bias clamshell zipper opening, but also has a top flap/lid cover that is latched with a pair of magnetic buckles. In terms of size the pack measures 11in x 18.5in x 6in (28.5 x 47 x 16cm) adding up to 28L.
On the bike
The Mission Pro feels surprisingly nimble at 28L. The pack sits at a mid-back position and is not in the way of your helmet or peripheral vision when looking over your shoulder. The back panel has excellent airflow. It is comprised of a padded foam array covered in a very smooth aero mesh shell that you can probably enjoy even when topless.
Unlike other packs on this list, the waist belt has a lightly padded hip belt that can be hidden into a hip belt passthrough on the back panel. This padded belt rocks off the bike, but I am not a huge fan of it on the bike as it is a little too tall for my liking and it gets too close to my ribs. That will vary from person to person.
The shoulder straps are quite simple, they have a very mild “S” shape, they are decently padded, and have the same super-smooth aero mesh as the back panel padding. The straps also include a fully removable and adjustable sternum strap. The pack is average in weight at 2lbs.
This pack has a ton of organization. The front zipper pocket has a decently sized organizer with numerous pen slots, SD slots, general open pockets, and a mesh/clear poly zipper pocket. On the right side of the gusset, you can find a gusseted flap pocket with a magnetic closure. On the left side you can find an open mesh pocket, ideal for water bottles up to 32oz.
The main clamshell opening is quite simple and ideal for apparel items and shoes. It has two open side pockets and a general sleeve on the back that can fit a laptop, pair of shoes, or any documents you want to slide in there.
On the back panel, there is a zipper opening for a laptop-specific compartment. The compartment is lined with a quilted and fuzzy material, it is also heavily padded. There is also a thick neoprene tablet sleeve that will prevent your laptop from making full contact with it.
Finally, the top lid has a general zipper pocket with a key clip. Ideal for those last items you have to throw in the pack before leaving the house.
Materials-wise, the outer shell feels like it is made out of a very smooth 1000D nylon with a PU coat inside. The liner inside feels like 210D nylon with a clear pattern printed on it. The laptop-specific compartment is a quilted, slightly fuzzy nylon. All zippers are YKK.
I think EVOC has done a great job melding features from different category-specific backpacks. It is very useful and convenient whether on the bike, on foot or traveling. For $150 it makes a great casual bike commuting and all-rounder bag.
This article was originally published on 4 November 2021 and recently updated.
This article was written by new contributor, Gino Romano, industrial designer, cyclist, minimalist and master of carry memes. Follow his adventures on Instagram.