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The Altura Thunderstorm City 30 is a hardy, waterproof bag designed to be used in all weather. It's got great capacity, but is a bit of a 'black hole' with one huge compartment and a couple of small essentials areas. Its waterproofness is impressive, and comfort is quite remarkable – it would make a great choice for someone with a lot to carry to work.
The large 30L storage capacity is maximised by the way in which the bag is essentially just a box on straps – without sub-dividing compartments, you can get absolutely loads in there, probably around three shoeboxes' worth of kit.
Obviously, the more storage the merrier, to some extent. But, if you leave the larger items of your work clothes such as shoes and trousers at work and only carry some fresh essentials and maybe some lunch and a computer on a day-to-day basis, the bag almost becomes a 'black hole'. It's so cavernous that if something is at the bottom, it's quite hard to locate it without the sub-dividers of a typical backpack.
I got around this on rides to work by filling the bag with smaller carrier bags and tote bags to subdivide things – one bag with clothes, one with food and so on. Altura does mitigate this 'black hole' effect to some extent by adding a small zipped compartment for valuables (though it will only fit wallet, phone, keys and so on), a couple of small open pouches (around the size to fit a few inner tubes in each), and a sleeve that fits a 13in laptop.
The closure method at the top of the main compartment is the classic roll down and clip fastening. The opening isn't really sealed shut at all, there are a couple of Velcro tabs to keep the openings together, but no zip. If you roll the bag down properly, nothing could ever escape out of the top, but it did lurk in the back of my mind down a couple of steep descents that something could somehow find its way out, and I'd like a zip at the top for extra peace of mind.
Where the bag really comes into its own is in the comfort stakes. There are adjustable straps that go around the chest and waist, allowing the bag to be kept nice and close to the body and high up on the back, meaning your more fragile lower back isn't taking the strain of a heavy load. I carried home a load of shopping one day with it, including a few heavy bottles, tins, and packets (beer, peanuts and cigarettes, obviously). Although the bag had a fair weight to it, it wasn't uncomfortable over a 20-minute journey. It's a real bonus that the empty bag is only 600g, meaning you're starting from a nice low basis on the weight front.
The bag has a venting system created via foam pads on the back, which means air can flow up and down your spine and across the backs of your ribs, preventing that horrible clamminess that you can get if wearing casual cotton clothing, as opposed to cycling-specific wicking stuff.
The bag we were sent for review is entirely black and dark grey, which looks pretty slick but isn't so great for low-light commutes. However, it is also available in high-vis yellow as well. That said, the front, sides and underneath of the bag are covered in small reflective dashes which work really well. I like that the underneath of the bag also has these reflective touches – this is perhaps the area of the bag most likely to catch the glare of headlights and so ideal for a bit of visibility. The bag also has loops for attaching a light at the bottom and sides.
All my test rides were on dry days, so to put the bag to the test, I gave it a gentle spray with the shower head for around a minute to see how it held out, and it was impressive. The interior stayed totally dry, and there were no signs of leakage – perhaps a result of the sealed seams, and a good symbol of the general quality feel and construction of the bag.
Although the price might initially seem excessive at £80, when viewed in context of similar alternatives, it's good value. If you want to go super-high end there's Chrome's Barrage bag at £175, or there's a slightly more reasonable alternative (£105) from Braasi Industries.
Overall, I really like this bag. It's well constructed and well thought out. The only niggle for me is the lack of a zip on the top of the main compartment to keep possessions super-secure, but that's probably just my slightly paranoid nature. Sure, it's a bit of a black hole of space, but it's not insurmountable. And if I had the choice, I would probably go for the high-vis option.
A great option for a commuting bag, as long as you're prepared for that 'black hole' effect
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura Thunderstorm City 30 backpack
Size tested: 47 x 27 x 15 cm
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?
Altura describes the product as follows:
'Commuting made easy. Waterproof, durable and highly-visible, the Thunderstorm City backpack will serve you well. It might weigh only 600g, but its roll-top closure gives you flexible carrying capacity up to an impressive 30 litres.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Again, from Altura:
The polyester ripstop material with TPU coating is certified waterproof to level IPX6. Combined with sealed seams, you can ride to work with confidence on the wettest days of the year. While the draft venting back system, ensures you stay cool on the hot summer days as well.
Internally, the padded laptop sleeve will protect your laptop from bumps and knocks. Plus, it's easy to organise your valuables, with a zipped pocket and key loop. Externally, reflective details and light attachment points will help you stay visible on the road. Available in black or hi-viz yellow for added visibility.
Fully waterproof to level IPX6
Roll top closure
Padded laptop sleeve (removable) fits 13' laptop
Internal zipped pocket and key loop
Light attachment points
Chest and waist strap
Draft Venting back system
360° reflective details
Dimensions: 47 x 27 x 15 cm
The bag is very well made and tolerated some very heavy loads without signs of wear.
Very good – able to carry a huge amount of stuff, good waterproofing, and plenty of features to boost visibility.
As above regards construction.
The bag is only 600g, which is a nice low starting point if you're carrying heavy loads.
The addition of chest and waist straps spreads the load very well, and the venting system to keep your back cool works nicely.
It's not cheap, but cheaper than the competition.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The bag was great! It's comfortable, waterproof and holds a lot of stuff.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Storage capacity, good waterproofing, quality construction.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
You need to use smaller bags to subdivide all the elements you're carrying or it's a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack when hunting for items inside it. And I'd prefer a zip to seal up the top rather than just Velcro.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Although pricey, it's a cheaper option than recently reviewed bags by Chrome and Braasi Industries.
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 overall score
It's very good: robust, waterproof, and with good features for visibility, as well as having plenty of storage. And it's good value too.
About the tester
I usually ride: Giant TCR / Cannondale Supersix My best bike is: Giant TCR
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding