- Buyer's Guide
Best Mountain Bike Backpacks of 2021
For many, mountain biking is the ultimate outdoor adventure. A way to explore nature, while embracing the uphill slogs to be rewarded with thrilling rapid descents. Testing your skills on challenging technical trails. Or simply cruising around your local favorite spot to unwind after a busy day. Maybe you race. Maybe you don’t. Perhaps your weekends are spent on day-long excursions. Or maybe you squeeze in a quick ride during your lunch breaks. However and wherever you ride though, you’ll likely need to carry some supplies. So what should you be thinking about when choosing mountain bike backpacks?
Mountain biking is thirsty work and it’s important to stay sufficiently hydrated. How long you’ll be out for and whether refilling spots are available will play their part in determining how much water you need to take with you. Water bottle cages can work, though sometimes bottles may become dislodged. It’s always good to have additional options for water storage, especially if you want to carry a lot for long days out. Mountain bike backpacks with water bottle pockets enable quick access to water. But for even greater convenience, consider a hydration bladder.
The bladder hose should have a system (either magnetic for ultimate ease or another clip option) to keep it secure on the go. Many packs accommodate left and right shoulder strap use for securing the hose. Some packs come with bladders while others require an additional purchase, so make sure to check before you buy. You may also have an existing bladder you can use too. However, bear in mind bladder designs are different so some bladders won’t fit in certain packs. It’s always a good idea to check beforehand to ensure your desired pack/bladder combo will work.
You need to be self-sufficient on the trails. So mountain bike backpacks should handle everything you need on the trail for that specific outing. Suitable organization for your gear will make your time on the trails much more enjoyable. Pick a piece that will organize the gear you most frequently ride with. Mountain bike backpacks should offer easy access to snacks and tools while keeping the rest of your gear organized too. Some packs include protective pockets for delicate items like sunglasses or phones and may come with removable tool rolls too. Packs with waist belt pockets allow you to reach smaller essentials without taking the pack off. With a variety of designs offering a range of organizational options including straps, pockets, inner sleeves, and more, you can find a pack that has the right level of organization for your needs.
The pack’s volume should ideally complement your ride. If you’re only out for a quick ride, you won’t need to carry as many supplies as a day-long outing. The less you can get away with carrying, the better for keeping the load down. But you still want to make sure you have everything you need close to hand, especially when you may be miles away from accessing any other gear. Smaller packs will help keep the carry bulk down for shorter rides. But if you need to carry spare clothes, food, body armor, tools, and more, you’ll need to scale up your carry capacity. Features like compression straps and external carry attachments can provide useful flexibility for carrying more or less gear as required.
Things can get gnarly on the trails so impact protection is great if you want additional peace of mind. Some packs are compatible with back protectors but it’s important to check before you purchase, as the protector may not be included so you’ll need to purchase it separately.
Potentially scraping against branches, rocks, and other abrasive materials while out adventuring can be tough on your pack. So you’ll want a bag that’s durable enough to take scrapes and tumbles in its stride. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that increasing durability often comes with an increase in weight. Try to find a pack that offers a good balance of sufficient durability for your riding environment while keeping carry weight down. There are lots of abrasion-resistant materials on the market nowadays that will give you the durability you need without excess weight.
The chances are pretty high that at some point your pack will come into contact with rain, mud, and dirt. Weather-resistant materials will help keep the contents safe and make the pack’s exterior easier to clean. Want even more protection from the elements? Consider a pack with an inbuilt rain cover (or look for a third-party option to stash inside your pack).
Mountain biking can be grueling enough as it is without an uncomfortable pack distracting you. A pack that sits stably and securely against your body will make riding much easier than a pack that’s constantly shifting from side to side or bouncing as you move. At the very least you’ll want a sternum strap for more casual rides, though a waist strap will help give you extra stability for more difficult and technical rides and help keep the weight on your hips. While wide shoulder straps will help distribute the load and keep you comfy, you can afford to opt for reduced padding in favor of increased ventilation in the shoulder straps.
Things are likely to get sweaty out there, so a ventilated back panel is important too. Look for airflow channels and materials such as air mesh that will help promote air moving between your back and the pack. Many mountain bike backpacks offer airflow channels, and some even have suspended back panels to maximize airflow.
In terms of fit, it’s worth checking if packs come in different options to suit men and women. Different torso lengths and shoulder strap designs can suit different body types and increase carry comfort. Some packs may be offered in various sizes or have adjustable torso lengths and harnesses to tailor the fit.
So now that you have a few key considerations to keep in mind, check out some of the best mountain bike backpacks in 2021 that could be your next trail buddy…
CamelBak are well known for their outdoor-ready hydration packs. And if you’re looking for a minimalist mountain biking hydration pack, their HydroBak™ Light is a great option. The pack comes with a 1.5-liter Crux® reservoir with Quicklink™ disconnect, as well as an additional 1L cargo space for trail essentials. The pack’s Air Support™ Light Back Panel and ventilated harness promote cool breathability on the go. Additional features such as zippered storage for small valuables, helmet carry, and reflective detailing enhance the functional design. Add in the budget-friendly price and you get great value for minimalist bike carry needs.
Don’t need to carry a lot? But need to move quickly? This pack might be just right for your needs. The EVOC CC Race 3L Backpack has been designed with enduro bike racing in mind. It offers 3L of cargo storage, as well as an included 2L bladder. So you can stay hydrated while carrying essentials like tools and snacks. Despite its compact size, you still have features such as zippered pockets and exterior storage for bulkier or quick-access items. When you want to ride fast and light with minimal gear, this pack is a solid choice.
The REI Link 15L Hydration Pack demonstrates that you don’t need to splash the cash for a feature-full pack. The pack’s included 2L bladder is situated at your lumbar, helping you to maintain a low center of gravity and good balance. The main compartment is accessed via the rear, allowing you to place the front of the pack on the ground and keep the harness clean while you access gear. Inside you’ll find pockets for organizing tools and spare parts, while exterior quick-access pockets house snacks, a phone, water bottles, and other essentials you need at the ready. The pack is also made with bluesign® approved ripstop nylon with a DWR finish to help protect gear from the elements.
CamelBak’s iconic M.U.L.E. gets an update to push its functionality even further, with the addition of CamelBak’s 3L Crux® reservoir with Quicklink™. The pack has 9L of cargo space, offering a good balance of hydration and gear storage for tools, snacks, extra clothing, and other essentials you might need on the trails. The pack’s Air Director™ back panel and ventilated harness help you stay cool while cruising on two wheels, and the waist strap provides added stability but is removable if desired. A variety of organization options including an integrated tool roll, zippered pockets, and helmet carry keep your gear tidy and accessible too, so you can make the most of your time outdoors.
USWE have made a name for themselves by creating bounce-free action packs. How? Their award-winning NDM™ (No Dancing Monkey) suspension harness keeps the pack tight to the body while still allowing freedom of movement and breathability. The four-point harness features across USWE’s Airborne series of hydration packs, which also offer useful features such as quick-access phone storage, an included hydration bladder with a magnetic hose clip, and a choice of three sizes (3L, 9L, and 15L) to suit your carry needs.
The Osprey men’s Syncro and women’s Sylva series (available in 5L, 12L and 20L) is designed to maximize ventilation through a carefully considered blend of features. These include Osprey’s AirSpeed™ trampoline suspended back system, a LightWire™ frame, an open-yoke design for increased airflow along the back, as well as a BioStretch™ harness for enhanced ventilation and stability. You’ve got a choice of options to organize your gear, including an electronics pocket and LidLock™ bike helmet attachment. While these mountain bike backpacks don’t come with a bladder, they include a bladder sleeve and are compatible with Osprey’s Hydraulics™ and Hydraulics™ LT bladders. In terms of weather protection, an integrated rain cover provides a welcome barrier against rain or snow.
The OGIO Dakar 3L Hydration Pack offers a good balance of capacity and organization for shorter or longer rides, with 12L of storage space for tools, an outer layer, and food. The pack comes with an antimicrobial 3L hydration bladder, stored within an insulated bladder compartment. The adjustable harness lets you dial in the fit, while the padded and ventilated back panel helps keep you cool. Quick-access storage takes care of sunglasses, snacks, a helmet, a water bottle, and more. And molded construction on the front pocket provides added impact protection. It’s made with 150D TPE-backed mini honeycomb ripstop and 420HD oxford nylon, offering good abrasion resistance too.
The Osprey Raptor comes in 10L and 14L options, both of which include a 2.5L Hydraulics™ LT water bladder and integrated ToolWrap™ for separate storage of dirty or oily tools. The bladder hose can be routed over either shoulder, while a magnet in the sternum strap keeps the bite valve within easy reach. The pack’s ventilated AirScape™ back panel and BioStretch™ harness and waist belt help keep you well ventilated on the go, without restricting movement. A helmet attaches easily to the pack courtesy of the LidLock™ attachment, while interior compartments and the quick-access ToolWrap™ at the base of the pack keep items tidy and accessible.
Want the comfort and stability of a running vest, with the carry ability of a pack and added impact protection? CamelBak’s Chase™ Protector Vest gives you all of this in a sleek, tough, and practical design. The 3D ventilated mesh harness and adjustable dual sternum straps keep you cool and the load secure while you’re tackling trails. The included 2L Crux® reservoir with Quicklink™ provides easy on-the-go hydration. And a further 6L of cargo space holds your tools, snacks, clothing, and more. A center back impact protector provides peace of mind with CE level 2 protection, while an assortment of internal and external pockets let you neatly store gear for convenient access.
The CamelBak M.U.L.E. Pro 14L aims to keep you cool and comfy while you’re eating up the miles thanks to its Air Support™ Pro Back Panel and 3D Vent Mesh harness. It’s designed with body mapping technology to maximize airflow and help heat dissipate. The pack features a pocket for an e-bike battery and is compatible with CamelBak’s Impact Protector™. The pack also offers additional organization including helmet carry, waist belt pockets, and an included tool roll organizer. An included 3L bladder with magnetic tube storage provides convenient hydration too, while options for men and women help you pick the pack that’s right for you.
The Leatt Hydration DBX Cargo 3.0 offers a wide range of features covering organization, protection, and comfort. The pack comes with a level 2 back protector and safety whistle for added peace of mind on the trails and includes a full-face helmet and neck brace carrier system. An included 3L hydration bladder keeps water at the ready. And the bladder port can be routed over either shoulder or under either arm to suit your preferences. The adjustable chest harness lets you find an ideal fit, with a ventilated back panel for added comfort. Storage-wise, the 10L cargo capacity and a range of pockets let you easily organize and access your gear. A waterproof, removable phone pouch and removable tool storage card add organization flexibility too.