The Howies Broad Haven is a roomy and nicely designed backpack with big pockets, ideal for commuting. The firm and deep pads on the back also help to minimise the amount of sweat you get on your back and the rain cover brings not only effective waterproofing, but has a strong safety feature too. However, it would be nice to have more pockets for tools and to be able to separate out electronics to minimise potential scratching.
When commuting on a bike with no rack, you need to consider your rucksack choice carefully. Too soft on the back and you turn up with huge sweat patches, too small and you can't fit enough in, and if you are caught in the rain the last thing you want is for it to let water in.
The first thing you notice about any rucksack when riding is undoubtedly how it feels on your back, especially if you've loaded it up. The Broad Haven sits comfortably, with four firm and thick pads that keep the main weight of the bag off your back, allowing for a decent level of airflow and thus less sweat. It works to an extent, but I have used others that have provided a slightly more impressive flow. That said, the pads are very comfortable and even when I had my work laptop in the back compartment, I didn't feel anything digging into my back.
The straps are also well padded and there's a central one to alleviate pressure and help secure them together. The straps are comfortable, although given their thickness they did create a bit of sweat on hotter days and longer rides.
The Broad Haven has five main pockets: a large central pocket, a rear laptop sleeve, a separation pocket at the bottom, a small poach in the central pocket and a glasses/keys pocket on the front. These are supplemented with two exterior pockets, one on each side of the pack.
With a broad array of pockets like this, it is simple to fit everything in that you need. I especially like the separated pocket at the bottom of the bag that can be closed to keep dirty clothes, food or wet items apart from the rest, or opened to create a larger central pocket. The laptop sleeve also works well, providing a good level of padding; I was happy to put my laptop in there with no worries about it being damaged or scratched.
The only extra I'd like to see in terms of pockets is the ability to separate larger items within the main compartment. For instance, on Howies website the bag is pictured with a pump, multi-tool and iPad all in the same compartment. I would be worried about these solid metal objects being able to scratch a tablet or phone that I kept in there alongside them. This could simply be done by increasing the size of the front pouch within the main compartment, which is useful for change, keys or a phone, but would, if slightly larger, have a wider practical use.
In addition to the way things are stored in the pack, keeping them dry in there is also important, especially with the unpredictable British summer we've just had. To do this Howies has included a rain cover that also has a really useful road sign on it: a reflective arrow that directs traffic to pass you on either the left (for use on the Continent or US) or the right. It is available in both, so if you are in the UK or Europe, you can choose the version that works for you (or buy the other one separately for £5 if you'd like both). The cover fits in a smart pocket at the bottom of the bag, making it easy to pack away and remove when necessary.
At a penny shy of £50, the Broad Haven provides decent value for money, considering its cycling specifics. The materials used are not the most high tech (100 per cent nylon throughout) but the stitching throughout the pack is strong, and it feels well made and reliable.
Overall, I was impressed by this pack. I especially like the reflective rain cover and the separation pocket at the bottom. Both are useful in changeable weather, something that in the UK is an important consideration. Although the compartments themselves are large and can fit a considerable amount in, it would be nice to see a bit more compartmentalisation for tools and other kit. Aside from this small gripe, though, it is a great bag at a good price.
A well made and well priced pack ideal for commuting
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Make and model: Howies Broad Haven Rucksack
Size tested: 18 litres capacity, Black/Grey
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?
The Broad Haven Rucksack is primarily a commuting pack that is designed to include a decent amount of space for clothing, tools and electronics.
Howies describes it as: "Medium sized rucksack with pack away reflective roadsign rain cover. Approx 18 litres capacity, so it's big enough for a weekend's worth of kit or for everyday commuter use."
I would agree that it has enough space for kit and the rain cover works well in both keeping out the wet and providing a highly visible road sign marking to help you stand out in traffic.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Approximately 18 litres capacity
* Soft, lined padded laptop pocket for 15" laptop
* Comfortable, adjustable padded straps
* Elasticated side pockets
* Mesh outer pocket quick, easy storage
* Small lined zip outer pocket for glasses
* Interior slip pocket
* Interior zip pocket
* Dividable lower section for dirty kit
* Reflective light hanger tab
* Reflective piping details
* Padded back stands for ventilation
* Webbing strap retainers / adjusters stop straps flapping in the wind
* Zip pullers for easy access while wearing gloves
* Side synch straps for exterior storage
* Carry handle
* Helmet hanging loops
* Packable reflective roadsign rain cover*
* YKK Zips
* Printed with reflective howies logo
It is well made, with strong zips and well padded straps and back pads. A slightly thicker material would have been nice, but overall a well made rucksack.
Works well and consideration has been made to cycling-specific use, with the big and well padded rear keeping the bulk of the bag off your back to try to minimise sweating. There is also ample storage room and consideration with the design, such as the separate wet/sweaty clothes area at the bottom.
Well made and strong stitching, and with dark colours used, it's unlikely to stain and look grubby even after extended use.
Comfortable sat on your back for commuting distances, but for longer rides thinner and more ventilated straps would be better.
With an rrp of £49.99 it represents good value for money on a cycling-specific rucksack.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performed well, with ample space to store clothing and tools, while also being comfortable enough on your back.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The rain cover and pocket in which it is stored is a really strong point, as is the separation in the bottom of the bag for wet clothing or anything that you don't want in with the rest of your kit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Would have been nice to have a separate tool pocket to keep them from potentially scratching phones or tablets in the main compartment.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I liked the bag for commuting; it brings together some well thought out design and is comfortable on your back. The rain cover and separation at the bottom of the bag are particularly useful additions.
Age: 27 Height: 6 ft Weight:
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Evo 6 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
George spends his days flitting between writing about data, running business magazines and writing about sports technology. The latter gave him the impetus (excuse) to get even further into the cycling world before taking the dive and starting his own cycling sites and writing for Road.cc.
When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.