The Ortlieb Velocity 17L backpack is a durable and practical roll top bag that is big enough to fit most kit in, and comfortable to carry.
During 'normal' times, the bulk of my review of a bag would be based on how it performed day-to-day on my commute. Given that my commute doesn't currently exist, my usual cargo of shoes, shirts, and trousers has been replaced by groceries, hand sanitiser and the like.
While most of my commuting kit is pretty small and flat, the same can't be said of groceries, so it's given me an opportunity to test other aspects of a roll top, like how flexible they are – the reason they have become so successful among bike messengers as they allow for a huge range of loads.
For instance, I once sold an old turbo trainer and when the guy turned up to collect it he managed to fit the 20kg awkwardly shaped unit in a roll top bag and cycled home. However, as I am sure he discovered, the downside to this flexibility can be that you lose rigidity, which helps with comfort.
Carrying groceries was a good test for this, and unlike many roll tops the Velocity does well thanks to a semi-rigid back with pads. This means you get a certain degree of comfort and airflow on the back, without oddly shaped items sticking into you. The five back pads are fairly simple, with large gaps between them to allow for airflow and for them to mould around your back. Airflow was pretty good, although not as effective as something with even more rigidity.
Aside from the semi-rigid back, the rest of the bag is largely flexible, which meant that I could fit a large variety of stuff in it without needing to worry too much about their shape. Although I couldn't fit a full week's worth of shopping in it, it was certainly good for a few days' worth.
Inside the bag there's a removable zippable pocket and laptop pocket section, which attaches to the inside of the bag with Velcro. This is a nice addition as it gives you the option of more organisation, whereas traditional roll tops tend to just have a large main compartment and nothing else. Here, you can safely put your small items or items you need quick access to in one easy-to-find compartment. I found this particularly useful for keys and locks when I had to make a couple of stops.
The bag is held closed with a Velcro strap that runs over the top of the rolled top and fixes to a central strip on the front of the bag. This setup – as with most roll top bags – allows you to vary the size of the bag to suit differing loads. The only slight – and it is very slight – issue with this is that you can't just put the strap over a fully unrolled top. In the past I have needed to ride with things sticking out of the top, like poster tubes and wallpaper rolls, and not being able to do that is a bit of a shame.
The straps on the bag are wide, well padded, and offer airflow through a mesh liner. At one point I carried around 20kg on my back and didn't find them to be particularly uncomfortable, plus with some of my longer rides I didn't notice any excessive sweating under the straps, which can sometimes happen.
A chest strap and waist strap help with stability and weight distribution, and both are easy to remove if necessary.
In terms of weather protection the bag does a really good job of keeping everything out. I didn't have the chance to test it in anything more than a drizzle outside – which I was particularly pleased about from a riding perspective, less so in terms of reviewing – so I chucked a few pairs of socks inside, did it up and sprayed it with the hose for a few minutes. Nothing got through. It's classified as IP64, which means it's protected from dust ingress and water spray from any direction, but like Patrick reviewing Ortlieb's similarly classified Commuter Daypack, I'm confident that it would withstand rain.
Another thing I particularly like about this bag is that it's repairable. Normally, if something were to break you would probably just chuck it out and get another; here, even though it is clearly built to last with high-quality components and materials used throughout, you can easily replace elements. Ortlieb offers a huge range of spare parts that are easy to fit, with just a simple screw and plate design. This means the bag could last for as long as the company offers these spares.
That helps justify the cost which, at £90 RRP, is relatively high compared to other roll top bags, although it does also have features like the semi-rigid back and organising pockets.
For instance, the Altura Thunderstorm City 30 backpack comes in £10 cheaper while offering 13 litres more storage, and the Craft Cadence IPX5 Waterproof 30 Litre Roll Top Backpack that Tony looked at is £20 cheaper, and again offers an additional 13 litres of storage, and an external pocket.
It is £15 cheaper than the Braasi Industries 18-litre backpack that Vecchiojo reviewed last year, and a lot less than the 22-litre Chrome Barrage at £175.
Although it is more expensive than some rivals, and it would be nice to be able to use the strap while the bag is unrolled, the Ortlieb Velocity 17L is a very good rucksack that carries a variety of loads while offering effective protection from the weather and still being comfortable to wear. It should also last a very long time.
Practical, comfortable and repairable roll top backpack
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ortlieb Velocity 17L backpack
Size tested: 17L
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 is the smaller version of the existing Velocity backpack which has become very popular amongst messengers and commuters. For those who don't need the larger version but still want all the same features.
Ortlieb says, "With a volume of 17 liters, this backpack is ideal for shorter people or for all of those who simply need less space for their precious cargo. Velocity's little brother has all of the features of the big brother, only in a somewhat smaller size and a volume reduction of 6 liters."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
This courier-style backpack has been one of ORTLIEB's most popular products for many years. It is simply unbeatable when it comes to accompanying you to work, school, and play. Some of the Velocity's distinctive features include its durability, waterproof performance and rear padding that ensures excellent ventilation. The Velocity's carriage system has now been ergonomically optimized for even greater carrying comfort. The waist belt is easy to adjust and even detachable.
The Velcro roll closure makes for wonderfully easy access and packing. And if the Velcro pad should ever wear out after many years of intensive use, you can return your Velocity to ORTLIEB to have it renewed, so as to give your backpack a second life. This makes the Velocity a sustainable, lifetime companion. The backpack's interior has also been given a new design. In addition to the large zippered inside pocket, both Velocity models now have a padded laptop compartment.
Sturdy pack bottom with rear edge guards and quadrapod design
detachable chest and waist belt
interior with laptop compartment
holder for attaching optional rear light or helmet
MATERIAL PD620, PS620C
WEIGHT 810 g | 28.6 oz
HEIGHT 45 cm | 17.7 inch
WIDTH 28 cm | 11 inch
DEPTH 14 cm | 5.5 inch
VOLUME 17 L | 1037 cu inch
PROPERTIES Made in Germany, IP64
Very well made with sturdy materials used throughout combined with strong and robust plastic parts which even if they do break can be replaced very easily.
Easy to fit in what I needed and carry it on my back comfortably.
Everything feels built to last, and if something doesn't you won't need to shell out more than the cost of replacing that one part rather than the whole bag.
Roll top bags can be quite uncomfortable to carry, but with the pads, good quality straps and semi-rigid back, this one is more comfortable than you might expect.
It is more expensive than some rivals, but features like the more rigid back and organisational pockets go some way to justifying the additional cost. That each component is so easy to replace also increases its value, as you wouldn't necessarily ever need to replace it.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, it fitted in everything I needed without any issues.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
That the parts are replaceable, so the bag could last a lifetime.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It would be nice if I could use the strap without having the top rolled.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
An RRP of £90 is relatively expensive compared to other roll tops – the Altura Thunderstorm City 30 backpack comes in £10 cheaper with 13L more storage, and the Craft Cadence IPX5 Waterproof 30 Litre Roll Top Backpack is £20 cheaper and again offers an additional 13l of storage, and an external pocket. It is cheaper than some though – £15 less than Braasi Industries' Webbing Urban offering, and £85 less than Chrome's Barrage.
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 a very good bag that offers practical elements for everyday use. It is slightly more expensive than competitors, but its ease of repair means it's likely to last a long time.
About the tester
I usually ride: CAAD13 My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
George spends his days helping companies deal with their cycling commuting challenges with his company Cycling for Work. He has been writing for Road.cc since 2014.
When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.