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'.
The capacity is less than it looks at 17 litres, as it's not very deep. That was ample for any load I wanted to carry on my back on a bike, however, and the bag was small enough that the 'ears' of the rolled roll-top don't get in the way when you look over your shoulder.
One big compartment
Like most welded-seam bags, it's essentially one big container; pockets are harder to do when you can't sew them in. Nevertheless, there is an outer pocket with a waterproof zip. This is about 20cm square and quite shallow. It will hold gloves, cycle clips, and lights, but not anything chunky like a D-lock.
SealLine's Urban Backpack Organizer is available separately. That gives you some internal sub-dividers for small items. Otherwise there's nothing inside except the part-length stiffening board that helps give the backpack its shape.
The roll-top closure is fastened down not by a velcro strap or plastic buckles but by what SealLine call a 'QuickClip'. It's a metal hook on an elasticated strap, engaging with one of three fixing points. It's faster than using buckles, and Seal Line reckon you can do it one-handed.
You can – sort of. You really need your other hand to hold down the roll-top, unless you clamp the bag between your legs. I'm not sure it's actually any more useful than a velcro strap, but it is quick and it is secure; it never came undone by accident.
Padded back, comfy straps
The back of the bag has mesh-covered foam padding to keep your back more comfortable and a bit less sweaty. This padding is good, except it doesn't extend to the base of the bag; the bottom 10cm or so is unpadded, as well as unstiffened internally.
As the heaviest items will end up at the bottom of the bag, you might find they press into your back if they're an awkward shape. This happened to me with a bottle of beer, a D-lock and various other gubbins in the bag.
The shoulder straps are wide and comfortable, with plenty of adjustment. Waist and chest straps enable you to snug the bag down so that it doesn't bounce about on your back, even if you're pedalling ten-to-the-dozen on a fixed-wheel bike.
It's not as convenient as a courier bag for short trips (which is all I use any kind of backpack or shoulder bag for), as you can't get into it without taking the backpack off your bag. On the other hand, two straps divide the load better between your shoulders, so it won't twist your back if you're carrying a heavier load or riding a long way.
There's a small reflective logo on the back and the big 'pull tag' on the QuickClip is reflective too. More reflectivity would be nice.
On the whole, I preferred this to the cheaper Polaris Aquanought backpack. The SealLine Urban Backpack is much less faffy to get in and out of. I don't think it's quite as nice as Ortlieb's Velocity, which is simpler (no outer pocket, velcro roll-top strap), but more comfortable on your back, and again, cheaper.
It's available in green, orange, grey, red, and also in a 37-litre Large size for £99.99.
Well made, waterproof roll-top backpack at a premium price
road.cc test report
Make and model: SealLine Urban Backpack Small
Size tested: Small, Green
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's a commuter backpack.
Cascade Designs say:
The freedom you feel after clicking into your pedals beats the hell out of waiting in traffic any day. Lightweight and rock-solid, our RF-welded Backpacks offer seamless all-weather commuter protection. A watertight roll-down closure with QuickClipTM attachment provides easy access, and an optional organizer slips onto the internal frame sheet, neutralizing even the fattest Monday-loads. On the outside, you get good looks, a weatherproof zip pocket and our Modular Accessory Pocket system for attaching add-ons like a Zip Pocket or Mobile Electronic Case. A light clip-loop helps keep you visible and a deluxe, waterproof and ventilated suspension with carry handle and stowable waist belt keep you rolling in any weather.
Watertight: Simple, effective roll-top closure protects from the elements. Easy Access: QuickClip Closure allows for one-handed access to your stuff.
Burly fabrics: RF-welded, PVC-free 600D PU-coated polyester body and scrim-reinforced urethane detailing.
Add-on Accessories: Easily attach Mobile Electronic Cases or Zip Pockets to the external M.A.P. System or add the Backpack Organizer.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Width 10 cm
Volume 17 litres
Materials 600D polyurethane coated polyester body, 400D HD TPU coated nylon bottom
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's a good quality waterproof backpack that stays stable on your back.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Comfort is fair but could be better.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No. I use a Carradice Courier Bag for short trips.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
I usually ride: Ridgeback Solo World fixed wheel My best bike is: Planet X Pro Carbon Track (with front brake)
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,