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The most convenient way to carry your stuff on and off the bike
  • Ease of carrying off the bike makes rucksacks the most popular way of transporting stuff on the bike.

  • Useful sizes range from about 10 to 25 litres, but any bigger quickly gets uncomfortable.

  • Choose from bags with lots of internal compartments to organise your stuff or simple, lightweight single-compartment bags.

  • Cycling-specific bags have reflective patches for night-time visibility, high degrees of waterproofing or solve specific problems like carrying a suit.

  • One bag to rule them all? A high-quality cycling backpack doubles as a walking and round-town daypack.

[This article was last updated on November 23, 2017]

Most cyclists who need to carry stuff on their bikes for relatively short distances use a rucksack because it's convenient, easily comes with you off the bike and doesn't need any extra equipment. Here's a look at 10 of the best and most popular backpacks for on your bike.

Convenience is the great advantage of a rucksack. Throw in everything you need, strap it on and away you go, with no faffing with pannier hooks and no effect on your bike's ride.

There's a huge range of options in rucksacks for cycling, from bike-specific packs with lots of pockets and hidey-holes to help keep your stuff organised, to walking daypacks that can be used on the bike, to ultralight bags for minimalists.

You don't want to carry too much on your back, so our recommendation is not to go bigger than about 20 litres, though we have listed a couple of bigger bags for those who absolutely must take along the kitchen sink.

What else should you think about as well as size?

Water-resistance

Backpacks vary in how well they keep out the wet. Roll-top bags made from seam-welded waterproof materials will generally keep out almost everything. More conventionally-constructed bags need liners to keep clothes and electronics dry; some have built-in raincovers that help.

Organisation

At one extreme you've got bags like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro that has just one compartment and no additional features to speak of; at the other, Deuter bags and especially the Giga Pro have pockets, pen slots, laptop sleeve and more. It's horses for course. Some love to have a place for everything, others prefer to rummage in one compartment. Tip for rummagers: get a bag with a light-coloured interior.

Padding

The more you're going to carry, the thicker the padding on the shoulders and back needs to be. The downside of this is that a thickly-padded bag is more likely to make your back sweaty in hot weather, so look for cooling channels and vents in the padding to keep that under control.

Reflectivity

A rucksack will cover a large part of your jacket in winter, so a bit of extra visibility is a good idea to compensate for the patches of reflective material that wil be hidden.

Proviz takes this to its logical conclusion with its Reflect 360 pack, which is entirely made from reflective fabric. If your pack doesn't have enough reflective patches, Proviz and others make reflective covers to boost your visibility.

Showers Pass Utility — £165

Showers Pass Utility Waterproof Backpack.jpg

Showers Pass Utility Waterproof Backpack.jpg

The Showers Pass Utility Waterproof Backpack is expensive but it's a very useful piece of kit for hardy winter commuters. It's not especially attractive, but what it lacks in form it certainly makes up for in function.

It is worth starting at the biggest selling point of the backpack: waterproofing. It manages this impeccably, with nothing inside the bag getting wet despite my best efforts. At one point we even chucked it in the shower to see if we could get anything to go through it, but still nothing. The reason for this is Showers Pass using a fully welded construction, with a single-side TPU coating on an "840-denier 100% Ballistic Nylon". It honestly lets nothing through at all, even when we were trying to test it to failure.

Read our review of the Showers Pass Utility Waterproof Backpack

Alpkit Gourdon 25 drybag — £35

AlpKit Gourdon 25 drybag rucksack - worn

AlpKit Gourdon 25 drybag rucksack - worn

If you want super-simple, waterproof comfortable gear-carrying at a bargain price, look no further. The Gourdon 25 has one main 25 litre storage compartment with a buckle-fastened roll top, and a narrow pocket that can accommodate a 1L hydration pack. That's it. It weighs less than 450g.

For a bag that's so simple it's surprisingly comfortable to wear. The shoulder straps are padded, and there's a thin waist strap and sternum strap that keep the bag securely in place when you're in full flow on the bike.

Read our review of the Alpkit Gourdon 25

Osprey Talon 22 — £63-£90

osprey-talon22-orange

osprey-talon22-orange

Watch cyclists riding through any major city and you'll see a lot of Osprey packs. They're popular for their durability, light weight, and comfort, and I have to admit to being a fan of them myself; I've used this bag extensively, even though we've not reviewed it on road.cc.

The Talon 22 has a large main compartment plus zipped pockets on the hip belt, and stretch pockets to stash extra stuff. There's a widget — the LidLock — to carry your helmet when you're off the bike, and if you want to go mountain biking there's a slot for a hydration bladder. It's comfy even when well loaded.

Find an Osprey dealer

Osprey Tempest 20 — £64.80-£90

Osprey Tempest 20 Womens rucksack.jpg

Osprey Tempest 20 Womens rucksack.jpg

Osprey's Tempest line of rucksacks is essentially the Talon range, redesigned to fit a woman's shape rather than a man's. The Tempest 20 is well made, comfortable to carry and cleverly designed to incorporate all the features you could possibly need.

Although it's listed on Osprey's website in the hiking rather than biking range, it includes cycle-friendly features – the Lidlock helmet carrier, a bike light loop and hydration reservoir compartment. It's strikingly light, especially considering the number of straps and buckles dangling off it (neatly, I might add). Attention to detail is phenomenal – this pack has so many features that Osprey has a series of handy video clips on its website demonstrating how to use them.

Read our review of the Osprey Tempest 20

Deuter Bike One 20 Litre — £53.99

deuter-bikeone-20-12-black

deuter-bikeone-20-12-black

Deuter makes a vast range of cycling rucksacks of which the Bike One is among the most popular. Cycling-friendly features include a helmet holder, LED attachment loops, reflective details and lightweight construction.

The back is designed for airflow, there's a zipped panel for bits and pieces, a mesh waistbelt and even a compartment for soggy laundry.

Find a Deuter stockist

Proviz Reflect 360 — £69.99

Proviz Reflect 360 Rucksack

Proviz Reflect 360 Rucksack

The Proviz Reflect 360 Rucksack is a stunning way of boosting your visibility when riding at night. During the day the backpack is a subtle grey, but when a car's headlights fall on it, the entire bag reflects back the light.

As a rucksack the Reflect 360 fulfils its task well. It's spacious with a 30 litre capacity which is more than enough for a change of clothes, sandwiches and any other stuff you need to transport. There's also a laptop sleeve.

Read our review of the Proviz Reflect 360
Find a Proviz dealer

Deuter Giga Pro — £87.47

giga pro features

giga pro features

Deuter's Giga Pro rucksack has a vast array of nooks, crannies and compartments to help you organise your stuff, and it's comfortable to carry on and off the bike.

The Deuter Giga Pro is a rucksack for the super-organised who want a place for everything, and everything in its place. Its 31-litre capacity is split between four compartments of various sizes and there's a pair of side pockets.

That's all held on to your back by thickly padded shoulder straps with a sternum strap to pull them in round your chest.

Read our review of the Deuter Giga Office Pro, its very similar predecessor
Find a Deuter stockist

Rivelo Coombe — £100

Rivelo Coombe Dry Rucksck.jpg

Rivelo Coombe Dry Rucksck.jpg

The Coombe, from young British clothing brand Rivelo is a fully waterproof rucksack with enough space for commuting or even an overnighter, and is comfortable on and off the bike.

The Coombe rucksack has a claimed capacity of 18 litres, making it a fairly compact option. Fitting a laptop in is no problem, although there is no padded compartment to keep it separate from the other contents. I used it for commuting and there was plenty of space for a change of clothes and some sandwiches. Unlike other larger rucksacks, one thing I liked about the Coombe is that it would generally sit above my jersey pocket, meaning I could use these while carrying the rucksack.

Read our review of the Rivelo Coombe

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro Pack — US$155.00

Outlier Minimal backpack

Outlier Minimal backpack

If the Giga Office Pro is the Swiss Army Knife of rucksacks, this ultra-minimalist pack is a light sabre, using Space Age fabrics to do one job well — carrying stuff — at the lowest possible weight.

At a feathery 162g – a third to a quarter the weight of a similar-sized full-featured rucksack – it truly lives up to its name. This is a backpack stripped to essentials: a seam-sealed roll-top compartment, a pair of adjustable straps, and, er, that's it.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear has done a great job, nailing the shape of both the bag and the stiff, broad shoulder straps so it's comfortable with a commuting load: clothes, books, keys, wallet phone, towel etc. I didn't miss a chest strap, but you could add one to the loops on the shoulder straps if you can't live without it.

When we reviewed this pack it came from Outlier as the Minimal; the Metro Pack is the same thing.

Read our review of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro Pack

SealLine Urban Backpack — £120

Seal Line Urban Backpack Small

Seal Line Urban Backpack Small

Cascade Design's SealLine Urban Backpack shows that Ortlieb don't have the waterproof cycle luggage entirely sewn up – or rather, seam-sealed. For that is what this is: a welded-seam, waterproof, roll-top backpack aimed at commuters. And very nice it is too.

The SealLine Urban Backpack is made in the United States primarily from tough, 600-denier polyester, coated with polyurethane. The base is themoplastic-polyurethane coated nylon. The backpack's outer surface feels like Cordura rather than plasticky PVC (in fact, the bag is PVC-free), which somehow makes it seem less 'bikey'.

Read our review of the SealLine Urban Backpack 
Find a SealLine dealer

Ortlieb Vario Pack — £120

Ortlieb Vario rucksac

Ortlieb Vario rucksac

Half rucksack, half pannier, the Vario is a well made and sturdy fully waterproof pannier style bag with an effective and simple roll-top closure. It fastens securely to a rack with Ortlieb’s standard Quick-Lock fastenings. Ideally sized for commuting, the bag will easily take a 15.4” laptop in protective sleeve as well as a change of clothes.

A discrete zipped stretch fabric compartment on the front of the bag houses a rucksack harness which simply clips on to eyelets on the back of the bag with sturdy and secure clips, without needing to do anything at all to the Quick-Lock clips. The harness itself is robust and well padded, offering good wear comfort, but is a little tricky to put away again, as the front stretch pocket is quite neat in size.

Read our review of the Ortlieb Vario Pack

Henty Wingman Messenger suit bag — £135

Henty Wingman Bag - worn

Henty Wingman Bag - worn

The Henty Wingman is a clever bag that allows you to carry a suit and various other items to work when you commute by bike.

The Wingman is made from a heavy duty tarpaulin fabric, a lot like those used for messenger bags. Think of it as a bit like a standard suit bag that you use to keep a suit clean and safe in a wardrobe, but one that you can roll up and carry on your back when you cycle.

If you prefer to be loaded on both shoulders there's also a £151 rucksack version.  

Read our review of the Henty Wingman suit bag
Read our review of the Henty Wingman backpack​
Find a Henty dealer

Patrona Shirt Shuttle — £30

Patrona Shirtshuttle MK3

Patrona Shirtshuttle MK3

It's not a backpack, but we're mentioning it here as the most likely way you'd use a Shirt Shuttle is inside one. Keeping the shirts protected against crumpling and creasing, it works really well, offering good protection without being massively heavy. 

Read our review of the Patrona Shirt Shuttle

[This article was last updated on November 23, 2017]

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

8 comments

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cyclisto [328 posts] 6 months ago
1 like

Nice for many but I would appreciate if you did a similar research on more casual shoulder bags (preferably in the 2-digit price area). You may feel a little "loose" but the ventilation and look are much better.

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50kcommute [92 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

I've found that a good camera bag rucksack from Amazon has been cheaper and much more comfortable and practical than a couple of the cycling specific bags I've bought. Worth checking out.

Oh and that shirt shuttle got binned after the first few times I used it....good as an emergency, but not as a regular for the commute.

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BehindTheBikesheds [953 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

"sizes range from about 10 to 25 litres, but any bigger quickly gets uncomfortable", just lol!

Maybe if you actually tested some decent bags/packs that were well ventilated, had decent straps and support in the right areas you'd understand that your statement is utter nonsense. Sure, it'll apply to cheap, nasty and just piss poorly designed kit but then without testing stuff and looking at kit that actually functions you'd never know..., it'll also depend on how you pack the load and what the weight is, so really you're confusing volume with weight also.

Abus Messenger Bag Dryve ST 8600, in the Large is 32L, I bought three for peanuts, gave one to my son and sold the other two to fund bike goodies. Cracking bag which if I didn't have panniers I would use myself.

Has a very wide and well padded shoulder strap plus waist belt/buckle so it doesn't move around, is very capacious, fantastic quality build wise and decent levels of waterproofing. comfy all day long on or off the bike.

Can be had for under £50 if you look around.

I've used various bags over the years as a stop gap or when needing to carry more stuff than the panniers could manage. Well padded shoulder straps and good ventilation are priorities for when using on bike, reflectivity is utterly pointless if the bag itself is shit at doing what it actually needs to do aside from the fact reflectivity doesn't do dick anyway.

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ktache [627 posts] 6 months ago
1 like

I highly recommend timbuk2 courier bags.

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hawkinspeter [1098 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

Osprey make a nice courier bag too.

I can recommend the ProViz rucksack - really bright when a light hits it. I'm not sure that it's hugely waterproof as rain can get in where the two zips meet, but it's fine for most rain.

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Choco [15 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

My Gourdon 25 is still going strong 4years later, used 5 days a week, no issues whatsoever with strapping, stitching or quality. Good for light to medium loads with comfy straps. If it ever dies it will certainly be replaced with another Gourdon. Top marks for durability, weight and price points.

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LastBoyScout [329 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

Hmm - no mention of compression straps? Several of the bags you list don't have them and I'd consider them essential for stopping an under-packed bag from flapping around and/or everything falling to the bottom of the bag.

Berghaus Remote 25 with a hi-viz cover over it does me for my commute.

Work were kind enough to get me a padded sleeve to put my laptop in and, if it's wet, the whole contents go in a waterproof liner.

Only criticism is it needs beefier fabric on the bottom of it for when you put it down - it's developed a couple of tiny holes.

 

Edit: Used to use an old Lowe Alpine Pax 15, but could only just get the laptop in and not much else.

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velodinho [106 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like

Chrome are good courier bags. Expensive, but put together with quality material. Pretty much indestructible (well you could set fire to it, I suppose) and has good space (not huge).

When it's on your back you hardly feel it even with a heavy load.