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The Apidura Packable Backpack is a cracking solution for when you need to carry unexpected loads in pretty much any situation, on or off the bike. Made from tough waterproof material, with a surprising number of technical features and packing into a ridiculously compact bundle, it's a winner.
For carrying bigger loads, check out our guide to the best cycling backpacks.
It's a well-aged trope that the stuff you take on a ride will expand to fill the luggage capacity available – whether that's a jersey pocket, a pannier or a full bikepacking setup. If not at the outset, certainly as you use gear and repack it. Items folded and rolled oh so tightly in the warm, dry environs of a house or garage become bulging, overflowing challenges to be punched, poked and prodded into place, with zips nervously inched shut as the heavens open or darkness descends. So it's always a good idea to have a backup luggage solution – something light, compact and easily stowed, that can be put to work at a moment's notice when needed.
Previously, I reviewed the £28 Restrap Race Musette – a 70g bag that holds 3L – which, as it's a musette, is best used for flatter items. I gave it four stars, because it did the job very well, and rolled into a ridiculously small package, easily popped into a pocket or bag. It's so small and light you forget you're carrying it – until it's needed.
The Packable Backpack, though, redefines the luggage volume-vs-weight or cost model. At 110g for 13L that's about 8g per litre, three times better than the musette. And at £3.38/L, it's way more cost-effective than the Race Musette's £9.33/L. Yes, the total cost is £46 – and you can buy any one of hundreds of decent small backpacks from outdoors shops for that money or less. But – and here's the key – they will be far heavier and bulkier. That's what you're paying for here – less weight and, critically, less space taken up when not in use.
In its packed form, the Packable Backpack measures 7 x 8 x 9cm, or 504 cubic centimetres. But due to the rounded corners, it actually consumes 366cc of space. The Race Musette rolls up a bit smaller at around 280cc. The packed backpack is small enough to stash on bikes in locations like under the seatstay-seat tube intersection, under a saddle or under a stem.
Packing down the Packable Backpack takes a bit of trial and error to get it right, quickly. I found that loosely folding it in on itself lengthways to contain the straps, then stuffing it in with both thumbs starting at the bottom yielded the most predictable, repeatable results. Once you've crammed in as much as you can, there's the top of the bag to then scrunch over the remainder, being held in place by a square of Velcro.
Around the outside of the packed bag is a removable Velcro strap, with a plastic D-ring at one end that the strap passes through, to then cinch down and Velcro against itself. As the strap is also passed through a retaining patch, it means the whole package can be strapped very securely to a bike frame, backpack, indeed pretty much anything roughly the diameter of three fingers. If you need to secure it to something fatter, then you can reverse the strap so it doesn't go around the packed bag as well – in that case, up to a diameter of about 8cm. This method isn't as secure as strapping it down inside the strap's circumference, but given how light the bag is and the quality of the attachment point, it's likely to stay put.
When you need to use the bag, it's quick to unpack and open, ready to receive stuff. The design is along the lines of a drybag, with the top closure having intermittent Velcro patches to keep the lip closed while you then roll it down as many times as needed to secure the load. You do need to try to squash the air out as you go, otherwise you end up with a bit of a balloon.
The roll-top closure makes for a convenient carry handle off the bike.
The backpack sits high up between the shoulders, which is where you want it on a bike so it doesn't flap around – there's no waist strap needed. I'm fairly broad-shouldered and 6ft tall, and found the pack sat very nicely.
There was loads of adjustment room in the shoulder straps and the sternum strap, which can be shifted up or down in five positions and removed completely if not needed. The strap end is retained under an elastic loop to stop it dangling – nice.
On either side of the outside there are elasticated mesh pockets capable of carrying water bottles, but given how high the pack sits, unless you're a contortionist there's no way you're accessing these while riding.
The fabric is a rip-stop polyester with reflective dots applied to the rear and bottom panel, to add visibility on the bike. Most impressive is the fact that all the seams are tape-sealed for waterproofing – a real feat at this size, weight and price.
Aside from day to day use around town, I put the Packable Backpack through what's probably the extreme use-case of enduro-style mountain bike riding. I bunged my fully-loaded EVOC Hip Pack in the Apidura backpack, and added a jacket for good measure. Hitting red and black trails for a few hours, the pack sat solidly in the middle of my shoulders, and I often forgot I was wearing it, the load distribution was so good.
As backup luggage for the end of a day's bikepacking, when you want to grab the evening meal's groceries from the last shop before heading to the campsite, it can't be beat. Likewise when you're in town and get caught out with an unexpected shopping request, on or off the bike. At 110g and about the size of a closed fist, you barely notice you have it with you until needed.
It's little surprise how functional and well designed the Packable Backpack is given the lengths Apidura went to in its creation. You can read about the multi-year design-test cycle on its website – including a rider using the backpack while completing the 3,800km Trans-Continental Race across Europe.
If you don't want to spend £46 on a packable backpack, there are cheaper options out there, though that's not to say they're better value...
Compared with other offers, Apidura's own Packable Musette met with George's approval, if you don't need to carry a 13L load. The musette over-the-shoulder style might not suit you, even with a stability strap. It's also gone up from £24 in 2020 to £34.
At the almost-unbelievably-cheap end of the spectrum is Decathlon's £2.99 10L Forclaz foldable backpack – although by the looks of it it would move around a lot on your back, there's no sternum strap, or external pockets, and it's not waterproof/reflective (though the £12.99 20L Forclaz is claimed to be waterproof and does have external pockets).
Likewise, at the almost-unbelievably-light end of the spectrum, there's the 23g Albion Ultralight backpack, costing £35. But with a suggested maximum weight limit of 750g, it's not really up to the same schlepping duties of the Apidura packable.
The closest alternative to the Apidura Packable Backpack is probably the £40 Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack. At a similar 100g weight, but able to carry 18L, the Osprey offer looks good – but be aware the fabric is so thin as to be translucent, it isn't listed as waterproof, there's no sternum strap, and no strap for fixing to a bike or saddle.
Overall, the Apidura Packable Backpack reflects the effort put into its design and testing. This is a seriously cycling-specific and optimised product, that will reward the significant investment with excellent functionality and durability. Apidura offers a lifetime materials and workmanship warranty, and will help with repairs where needed.
If you need to carry extra or unexpected loads, even for quite long durations, this is quite likely your bag.
Excellent cycle-specific backpack that squashes down to almost nothing when not in use
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Apidura Packable Backpack 13L
Size tested: 13 Litres
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?
It's a 13L cycling-specific backpack that compresses into a tiny package when not in use, perfect for travellers and about-town alike.
"Designed to provide flexible storage for bulky items on long rides, the Packable Backpack compresses into an integrated on-bike pocket for easy storage when not in use. With 13 litres of versatile storage space and external mesh stowage pockets, angled for easy access while riding, the Packable Backpack is useful for carrying food and campsite essentials at the end of a long day of riding.
The Packable Backpack is waterproof, constructed from ultralight materials and features cycling-specific contoured shoulder straps for riding comfort. The integrated on-bike storage pocket attaches to the bike frame with an included velcro strap to keep the packable daypack out of the way when not in use.
The Packable Backpack is unisex and one-size-fits-all, with adjustable sternum straps. A roll-top closure allows the bag to accommodate loads of varying sizes and the rear of the pack features reflective details for enhanced visibility at night."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Packable Backpack is made from RS20D.
Designed to meet the demands of long-distance riding and carrying bulky loads, the material is ultralight and waterproof, with strong tear resistance.
Wash the Packable Backpack by hand, using a mild diluted soap if necessary. Afterwards, let it air dry.
Do not machine wash, machine dry, or iron.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliant. Holds loads stable and comfortably.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fit on the bike – it disappears.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Compared with the logical alternative from Osprey, or Apidura's own musette, it represents good value for the functionality.
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 only thing I can mark the bag down on is its premium price tag – which, given the functionality, I believe is quite justifiable. It's excellent.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
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: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L
Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.