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The Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City is an excellent bag for commuting, being comfortable when laden, adjustable for fit and storage, and with a removable laptop and organiser sleeve to keep everything in place. It's completely waterproof, lightweight and smart looking, with an external key pocket and loops for holding your lock and a rear light. Pretty much the perfect bag.
The Commuter Daypack City has been my go-to commuting bag now for over two years, so this is a long-term review.
It has adjustable and removable waist and chest straps so you can dial the fit for your body shape or what you are carrying. The shoulder straps are also vented, which allows adjustable positions for the chest strap as well as air to flow through them.
Once set up, the chest strap's height hasn't needed adjusting since I've owned the bag, though I do play around with the waist and chest closures for comfort on and off the bike. And unlike the Chrome Barrage tested last year, all the straps have loose-end keepers so they don't buffet about when you are pushing on.
The Commuter daypack is very comfortable on, partly because of its unloaded weight of only 742g and partly because of those odd-looking pipe lagging style pads on the back which hold the bag off your back and allow airflow between you and it.
True, anything attached to your back will make you sweat, but this is better than others I have tried with EVA moulded panels. After two years of use the pads are all present and correct and appear to have survived pretty much unscathed so far.
There are few external storage options except for the small non-waterproof key pocket. Ortlieb says this isn't waterproof, because of the zip no doubt, but I've yet to find any serious moisture ingress after many rides in the pouring rain. I do take Ortlieb's advice and just keep my keys in there, and am happy to report that none have caused any damage to the fabric, externally or internally.
One downside of the pared-back design is that there is nowhere to hold a water bottle, which can be annoying if you are taking it off the bike when locking it. Unless yours has a clip (like some of the posher reusable water bottles), so you can attach it through one of the lock loops, you'll just have to carry it in your hand. I have put it inside a few times and then wished I hadn't as it's leaked. This is my only grumble with the bag and it's not a big one for my commuting, more so when walking around with the bag for meetings. Still, it's a small black mark – maybe only a grey one.
Back to those lock loops... They can be used to attach your helmet and anything that can be strapped through the material such as a rear light which is useful – especially as there is only a little reflective Ortlieb logo on the back of this bag. (There is a high visibility version of the bag – but it's quite a bit more expensive at £195.)
The bag itself is only 50cm tall, 30cm wide and 15cm deep, so you won't be able to get as much in it as the outwardly similar but fatter Chrome Barrage Cargo I reviewed last year, but that lack of depth means you cut a slimmer profile in the wind, which is always helpful.
The bag opens and closes using the signature Ortlieb Rolltop system: simply roll the top of the bag down using the stiff lip as a guide and the aluminium buckle to fix it at your chosen height. Once buckled, the bag is completely waterproof. Not once in all the rides I have done has any water got into this bag which is incredibly reassuring as I'm often carrying my laptop, hard drive, phone, wallet and notepad in there, and it would be a disaster if it leaked.
My usual packed kit takes up a lot of the 21 litres on offer, typically consisting of: 13in Macbook, large phone and my wallet in the sleeve and organiser pockets; a tool roll, pump, one tube, a change of underwear and T-shirt, some fruit and maybe a spare waterproof all loose in the main compartment.
This varies a bit but it's the basis of my commute and will be recognisable to most commuters I would think. Sometimes when bringing kit home I wish it was a little deeper in shape, but most of the time it's spot on.
The only issue I had with my version of the bag was with the inner computer sleeve and its construction along the bottom edge. It is padded front and back to prevent damage but the sleeve was stitched together at the bottom offering no protection at all for the edge of the laptop should you accidentally drop a lightly laden bag on a hard floor. I discussed this with the UK distributor of Ortlieb, and Ortlieb, presumably hearing this from a few people, has changed the sleeve so that this is no longer an issue. Top marks for listening, Ortlieb.
The bag is made in Germany from Ortlieb's own lightweight, durable nylon fabric with thicker, tougher material on the bottom and rising 3cm up all around to give more protection in the most heavily abused part of the bag. After two years the whole bag is looking in extremely good condition. The pictures you are looking at are as it is now, rather than how it came out of the packaging. Sure, there are some creases from constantly rolling the top, but no damage or splits in the fabric from the thousands of kilometres it has done. Only a fine spatter of mud has stained the fabric from the canal path and rubbish roads around Bath.
The Commuter Daypack City is a great buy for £125 – even better when you can find it cheaper, as you can in lots of places. It's well thought out, especially now Ortlieb has beefed up that inner sleeve insert. It's proven to be totally reliable and completely waterproof just like the panniers and is yet another brilliantly made product from Ortlieb.
There are, of course, lower-priced options. Stu recently reviewed the much smaller Oxford Aqua Evo 12L, which is £64.99 but almost half the size, and has no organiser internally, let alone a laptop sleeve. Neil liked the £49.99 Proviz Reflect360 Touring Backpack, but although very reflective it's not waterproof and you'll need the rain cover to get close to Ortlieb's waterproofing.
The Commuter Daypack City does look good value compared with the Chrome Barrage: a good bag that is also very comfortable to carry, but it's not as light as the Ortlieb, has straps and a cargo net that flap in the wind as you ride, and costs £50 more.
Personally, having used this Ortlieb regularly for over the last two years, on and off the bike, without ever having to consider waterproof inner bags or covers, I think it's good value, and its durability has really impressed me. The fact that it has a five-year warranty is also reassuring.
Brilliant comfortable commuting pack to keep your kit organised and dry whatever the weather
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City backpack
Size tested: 21L
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, "Plenty of space for your day at the office – no matter whether your office is in a meadow, a café or an old factory building on the other side of town. The ORTLIEB Commuter Daypack City is a waterproof city backpack made of lightweight, durable nylon fabric. With its roll closure, its large main compartment and its padded notebook compartment, it provides a secure place for your documents and other gear no matter what the weather. And thanks to its outstanding carrying comfort, it's always a pleasant companion to take along."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The bag is lightweight at 742g and is made of Ortlieb's own unbranded nylon fabric in Germany. It is PVC free and classified as IP64 which is odd as that means it's only protected from total dust ingress and water spray from any direction, yet Ortlieb says it's completely waterproof. Even its world famous Back Roller Panniers are only classed IP64 but I've not known mine leak, so I reckon it's pretty good regardless of the classification.
Ortlieb lists these 'further features':
+ Reinforced underside
+ air-permeable shoulder straps
+ back padding with ventilation channels
+ removable breast and waist straps
+ zippered front pocket (not waterproof)
+ loops for rear light and U-lock
+ reflective yarn and reflective logo for more protection at night
+ dimension notebook compartment: 39 cm x 27 cm x 2.5 cm / 15.4 in. x 10.6 in. x 1.0 in.
Better now it's improved the protection at the bottom of the laptop sleeve.
Could have a slightly bigger outer pocket for bigger hands and perhaps a second pocket made of stretchy material to hold a bottle, like on some of Ortlieb's active lines.
Truly great condition after two years of constant use.
It's £50 less than Chrome's Barrage. You can buy cheaper bags, but... you pays your money and takes your choice. No need for additional laptop sleeves, internal organisers or waterproof covers – it has it all – and a five-year warranty.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It works well for its intended use.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The internal organiser sleeve and its waterproof nature, which has been repeatedly tested these last two years plus.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing. On my older version, the inner sleeve – but the latest ones are different.
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
The Commuter Daypack is an excellent lightweight waterproof pack ideal for use on your bike getting to work or carrying stuff around once you get there. It has all the features you need from an everyday use bag with the exception of a bottle holder. The smart slim construction hides a well-thought-out inside that will keep your valuables protected and separate from each other, from when you sling it on your back in the morning to when you dump it on the floor when you get to the office and home again. It's tougher than it looks and should last many more years with ease.
About the tester
I usually ride: Fairlight My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Bikepacking Adventure Gravel Riding