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The Camelbak H.A.W.G Commute 30 Backpack is packed with features that make the daily ride to work a little bit simpler. The large main compartment makes shopping on the way home easy, as well as allowing me to cart around a lot of kit on race day.
In use, the H.A.W.G has quietly done its job without any fuss. There is plenty of space for bulkier loads and I love to see simple, dedicated spaces for the usual commuter clobber of laptop, headphones and keys. Add in side pockets for easy access to your bike lock and very good weatherproofing and this becomes a great investment.
It's probably best for me to start with a little run-down of the things that I want in a commuting backpack. It needs a large main compartment for when I pop to the shops on the way home, a protective laptop sleeve, an easy-access lock pocket, zippered compartments for laptop accessories, wide and supportive shoulder straps, and finally, a well-padded and breathable back panel for the one week of the year when it is hot in the UK.
If we run through the features on the Commute 30, we find that my wish list is complete. It won't surprise you to learn, then, that this bag works really well for me and I've loved using it.
The one thing I'm always going to be carting around is my laptop. My 13in MacBook Air M1 slides into the dedicated laptop sleeve with room to spare; when travelling for work, I was able to slide a magazine in there as well. I reckon a 17in would go in without any issues.
The laptop sleeve is positioned where it should be, too, against your back, to help you comfortably carry what is most often the heaviest single item in the bag.
The majority of the bag is made from a tough, water-resistant material, as are the zips. Carrying expensive electronics in the rain wasn't an issue. If that isn't enough, there is a water-resistant internal bag that can also hold a laptop easily.
The main compartment is large and I found that the full-length tongue-like opening makes packing larger loads quick and easy.
In this compartment, there are zippered pockets that I have used for cables, headphones, small items and my computer dongle because Apple is annoying.
The shoulder straps that support the load are wide, well padded and easy to adjust, and the small chest strap is a quick way to help spread pressure. The two sides to the chest strap are also height adjustable.
On these shoulder straps, you'll find one zippered side-entry pocket and one elasticated top-entry pocket. These are designed for things that you need quick access to, which for me is my phone and keys. The zippered pocket, while a great idea, is just a bit too small in height and width for my iPhone 11 in its grippy case. I could just about squeeze it in, but the pockets in my trousers and coat were easier options.
The top-entry pocket, though, was perfect for dropping my house and bike lock keys into.
Speaking of bike locks, I was happy to drop my Kryptonite folding lock into the elasticated side pocket. This is deep and holds quite a bit, so you could get a very large water bottle in there if you were hiking. I stuck to a bike lock and a shopping bag.
The other side pocket is zippered, offering a more secure hold, but as it uses the space of the main compartment, it's not really usable if your bag is already stuffed.
If visibility is a concern, Camelbak has helpfully used reflective material at the base of each side panel. It's used the same material to construct the light loop and there are strips on the shoulder straps too.
Although £150 is a fair chunk of cash to throw at a bag, it is by no means the most you can spend. The Chrome Barrage Freight Backpack, for example, is now £210, though George reckoned it was built to last.
If you don't need so much space, the 17L Apidura City Backpack has come down in price since Lara tested it, and is now £120. It's waterproof too.
Overall, if you're looking for a well-made commuter backpack that is capable of carrying heavier and bulkier loads comfortably, the Commute 30 does so without fuss. It is well made and backed by a lifetime guarantee, and a brilliant option for the daily ride to work.
Easy to love backpack, an adaptive and comfortable means of carrying heavier loads
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Camelbak H.A.W.G Commute 30 Backpack
Size tested: 30L
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?
Camelbak says: 'Designed for the long haul, the H.A.W.G.® Commute 30 accommodates all the necessities for your daily routine. With an easy-to-access clam-shell design, you'll never be short on storage with 30-litres of capacity, a separate laptop compartment with a weatherproof sleeve, and side pockets for beverage and U-lock carry. Stay covered from dawn to dusk with 360-reflectivity detail and a light loop for added safety. An adjustable Command Center™ Harness secures at-hand essentials and keeps them thoughtfully organized for quick access on-the-fly. The Air Support™ Back Panel promotes maximum ventilation and keeps air moving to hot zones, while the removable waist belt offers a customized fit and extra stability."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Laptop Compartment with Weatherproof Sleeve: Keep your laptop organized and protected
Air Support™ Back Panel: Designed with Body Mapping Technology to allow for maximum ventilation on the hottest areas of your back
Command Center™ Harness: Easy and secure access to phone, keys, or any other essentials
Helmet Carry: Stow and secure helmet
Light Loop: Clip on a light for added safety
360 Degree Multidirectional Reflectivity: Reflective material on all sides of the pack add safety in low light conditions
Side Pockets: Large side pockets for water bottle and U-lock storage
Removable Waist Strap: Added stability when you need it
Up to 3L/100oz CRUX® Reservoir Compatibility (Reservoir not included)
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Quietly did its job, and did it brilliantly.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The space of the main compartment combined with the full-length 'inverted U' zipper entry makes packing big loads really easy.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd have loved to have seen full waterproofing.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It sits in the middle ground of the premium end of the bag market.
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 excellent. It made lugging heavier loads and a lot of kit that bit easier. There aren't too many pockets, and the ones that are there are well proportioned.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.