Waterproof backpacks are a must for the regular bike commuter – you never know when the heavens will open and you'll need to protect perhaps important documents and other valuables from the elements. Waterproofing is the Ortlieb Velocity's headline feature, and for that reason alone it's worthy of consideration, but it does have its flaws.
The hardwearing pack is constructed of a mix of tough plastics and nylon fabrics on the underside, and meets IP64 waterproofing standards with a fold-over top to seal the contents. I commuted on my bike during a few rain showers that would otherwise have seen me consigned to the train, and not one drop made it through the backpack.
The fold-over top is sealed using a seriously grippy Velcro tab. Even with the backpack absolutely full, the tab held on with only a quarter of the surfaces touching. I imagine even NASA, inventor of Velcro, would be impressed with this level of adhesion.
Capacity is a sizeable 24 litres, which in reality feels more cavernous thanks to the lack of 'furniture' internally. I'm in a mixed mind about this – either you like having one big area to throw stuff in, or you prefer more organisation with pockets and compartments at the cost of real estate.
The backpack does come with a fabric 'pocket' that attaches by four tough poppers at the top of the semi-solid back. This has a zipped section big enough for a wallet, a larger section for documents and a couple of other smaller slots, presumably for pens and other stationary. Unfortunately, I found the largest slot a touch tight for A4 documents, and too short for full coverage and protection.
I also couldn't fit my 13-inch Macbook Pro into this pocket, and even when placed in a protective neoprene casing it moved around in the backpack unless I had other bits and pieces surrounding it. Ortlieb sells notebook sleeve 'addons' for carrying a laptop safely – but they'll cost you another £20-30 depending on size. In my view, the Velocity is crying out for at least one structured built-in compartment designed to hold and protect documents and a mid-size laptop.
Despite weighing 1.22kg, the backpack is very comfortable even when that weight is multiplied by a full load. The straps are well padded and positioned, while the semi-solid foam pads on the back do well to ventilate you. To compare, I own an Osprey backpack with a technical and complicated-looking back ventilation system – it was one of the features that attracted me to it – but if I'm honest this simpler system works just as well.
Support and retention on the back is also helped by a large waist belt and a chest strap. The chest strap is a little small, while the waist belt is a little generous – but adjustments were easy to make (albeit only when off the bike), so this is a small niggle.
While riding at speed, I found the Velocity slightly distracting. While the side profile isn't too wide, which helps to minimise susceptibility to crosswinds (a real plus point), the square shape of the backpack means that when you turn your head, the periphery of your vision is interrupted by the fold of the top.
You get used to this, but the whistling noise created by turbulent air is another matter. The problem I found was that even as you acclimatised to the rushing wind, you always have to double check that it isn't in fact a car coming up behind you, because the noises are remarkably similar. Although it wasn't dangerous, it meant I was either being surprised by cars or continually looking back down the road.
The Velocity comes in a range of colours. I had this bright yellow on test, which although not high-visibility certainly helped me stand out. As it wasn't high-vis, though, I'd probably opt for the more stylish redcurrant or black instead, given the choice. You can also go with two blue hues, green or white if you prefer.
This bag is a mixed affair, then. On the one hand you have great capacity, which offers with it great 'stuffability', a solid performing ventilation system, and toughness and a level of waterproofing that will see it through anything except submersion. On the other, it's not particularly structured in its storage, lacks a dedicated laptop and sturdy document holder, and can be distracting if you like to commute at higher speeds.
With all that in mind, I find the asking price of £75 okay, and cheaper than the similar Altura Vortex we recently tested, although that has a laptop sleeve and better external storage. You can get a 20L version for as little as £52.95 (which I suspect will counter some of the turbulence issues I had) if you scout about online, but then one of the main positive aspects of the backpack I tested has been neutered somewhat as a result. I'd suggest looking at Osprey's Momentum (£80 rrp for 22L, £90 rrp for 30L) as an alternative – that's not as rigorously waterproof as this bag but for most UK use cases it's a better bag.
Impressive waterproofing, but there are better backpacks available for the money
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ortlieb Velocity Backpack
Size tested: 24L
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?
Ortlieb says: "ORTLIEB's compact messenger bag doubles as an energetic day-tripper and waterproof commuter pack. This versatile piece is a favourite with students. It features an interior pocket with zipper for organizing small items and a carrying handle. Comfortable: robust foam back for optimal air circulation. Stable: bottom is protected by abrasion protectors at corners and bottom feet. Safety: fixing for bike light or helmet."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Height: 47 cm
- Width: 28 cm
- Depth: 15 cm
- Weight 1220 g
- Volume: 24 L
- Comes with a removable inner pocket anatomical shoulder strap sternum and waist straps and a carry handle
It's super-solid and will last for years.
It holds plenty and vents well to keep you comfortable. A few niggling flaws though.
Again, it'll last for years.
It's not light at 1.22kg, but the support system camouflages this well.
It isn't cheap but it will last – look for discounts before buying.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Decently – it does the job.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Waterproofness and the ventilation system. Comfort and support were also a real plus.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of laptop/document compartment and turbulence issues.
Did you enjoy using the product? Largely, yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No – I'd prefer more storage compartments.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes – depending on their needs.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding