The Oxford Aqua Evo 12L Backpack carries a surprising amount of kit for its size, and has impressive waterproofing capabilities. It's comfortable to wear, too. The only extras I'd like to see would be a few more internal storage options, instead of having to rifle through everything to find what you need.
Measuring around 43 x 32 x 11cm when filled, the Aqua Evo is quite wide and deep compared with many cycling rucksacks, but not as tall, so it sits more at the top of your back and shoulders. I found it comfortable to carry, and despite its diminutive size it seems to be able to swallow a load of stuff.
The roll top closure means that if the bag isn't full you can make it smaller before strapping it down, which stops your kit moving around.
There is just one zipped pocket inside which is big enough for an inner tube, some tools, mini-pump and so on, but that is it, so if the bag is full and you need something from the bottom you are going to be rummaging around a fair bit. I prefer my kit to be a little bit more organised, if I'm honest.
Externally there is a small pocket on the front which is big enough for a mobile phone and the zip is shielded to keep the water out.
In fact, the whole rucksack is waterproof to IPX6, which means it can cope with high pressure, heavy sprays of water, and trust me, I've had a couple of storms to test it in. Three hours riding in storm Dennis saw no water ingress whatsoever.
Those of you who like a bit of visibility are probably tut-tutting at the stealth-like finish of the Aqua Evo, but fear not, the strip around the zipped pocket and those from top to bottom either side of the bag are in fact reflective.
You also get loops at the bottom for attaching lights, for extra visibility.
I found the Aqua Evo comfortable to carry, too. The straps are wide to spread the load and well padded for added comfort, and to keep the rucksack off your back it has an Airtech system. Two foam pads attached to the back of the bag are corrugated to place less material on your back. When fully loaded the foam compresses just a little bit to let the bag sit firmly.
Altura makes a similar rucksack, the Thunderstorm City 30. It's over twice the size and comes in at £79.99, so the £64.99 asking price for the Aqua Evo seems fair.
The 18-litre Braasi Industries Webbing Urban backpack follows a similar theme and costs £105.
You can spend less: Neil liked the Proviz Reflect360 Touring backpack, which is showerproof rather than fully waterproof (though it does come with a waterproof cover). That's just £49.99, and 18 litres.
If it's waterproofing you want, though, and you don't mind not having all of your kit in organised pockets, I think the Aqua Evo is a very good option.
Surprisingly roomy for a small rucksack and does well at keeping the weather out
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Oxford Aqua Evo 12L Backpack
Size tested: 12L
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 Oxford website doesn't go into too much detail but I'd say that the Aqua Evo is a surprisingly roomy, waterproof rucksack ideal for commuting in all weathers.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Oxford lists these details:
Super lightweight rip-stop material
Roll top backpack with side compression straps
Waterproof rating IPX-6
Airtech back system improves air flow circulation and comfort
Front external water resistant pocket
Highly reflective details
Reflective loops at the base to attach taillights
Approx. size when filled: (HxWxD) 43x32x11cm
Very well made and put together.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Keeps the water out and holds load of kit.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great waterproofing and comfortable to wear.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No internal organisation.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The price looks pretty reasonable against two I've mentioned in the review; they're both bigger but more expensive – the Braasi Industries, particularly. The Proviz rucksack is cheaper, but not quite as waterproof.
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
A quality rucksack that will swallow a lot of kit for its capacity although I'd like a few more internal storage solutions to keep everything neat and tidy.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!