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The Specialized/Fjällräven Cave Pack is a top-quality 20L laptop backpack that features the classic Fjällräven aesthetic, with Specialized's bike-specific knowhow. It's designed to work specifically with the Specialized/Fjällräven Cool Cave drop-in pannier, and for that it works well, but as a cycling-specific backpack there's not a lot here that really justifies its high asking price.
The Cave Pack is one of several new on- and off-bike luggage pieces from the Specialized/Fjällräven (or S/F for short) collection, designed specifically to fit the Cool Cave being reviewed later – an open pannier which boasts a 20L capacity. It also includes the Cave Tote (a glorified tote bag), and the Cave Drybag.
The Cave Pack is constructed from Vinlyon F with a polyamide 210D lining, and weighs 550g (37g more than S/F claims). It boasts 20 litres of interior space, with a spacious main compartment for stashing larger gear; a slim front compartment which is good for things like documents; and a small top compartment that will happily stow your keys, wallet, phone, and more.
There's also a laptop compartment at the back that is just big enough to fit my 16-inch MacBook Pro; and there are even two side pockets for water bottles. Additionally, there are two loops on the underside for attaching a helmet to. Being slightly picky, there are no pockets inside for housing smaller items, which is a slight shame.
Overall, it's quite a compact bag, but I was surprised by just how much you can squeeze inside. Although it's not very tall or wide, there's a generous depth to the bag.
The laptop padding is a little on the thin side, and although I didn't find it a problem for my back when either walking or while cycling, I don't think it offers enough hardware protection – especially at the corners of the laptop. When the bag was in the Cool Cave, I heard the laptop knocking against the bottom of the pannier, and although there have been no issues so far, I'd want a bit more padding.
The shoulder straps have a thin amount of padding which is enough for short journeys.
Cleverly, the excess straps can be neatly fastened to the top of the straps via poppers when you're using the Cave Pack, though doing this every time is a bit of a pain, and I didn't bother after the first few times. There's also a double grab handle on the top that is attached to the strap by a single popper – perfect for grabbing and going.
The Cave Pack isn't weather-proofed, but according to Fjällräven the vinyl fibre '...swells when it becomes damp. Dampness also makes the fabric denser, enabling it to withstand moisture without the need for a coating'. On one particular rainy commute (an hour's worth of light, but persistent rain), I was concerned all my gear was going to get wet, but to my surprise everything was dry inside when I got to work.
On an aesthetic note, I've always liked the subtle but eye-catching style of Fjällräven's bags, and this Specialized/Fjällräven collab backpack is no different. It actually looks pretty much like a standard Fjällräven Kanken backpack, which is definitely a good thing.
It's available in Ochre, Ox Red, Navy, and Green, which are standard Fjällräven colours, so you're sure to blend in on the high street. From a purely practical perspective, the yellow isn't the best option if you're going to be properly using it every day – it really highlights any dirt. The rear of the backpack features a reflective S/F logo, so even if you're not using the Cool Cave, you'll get a pop of highlight at night.
As I mentioned earlier, the Cave Pack is designed to fit inside the Cool Cave. And it does, rather neatly, allowing you to quickly place it inside and remove it when you're in a rush.
The only downside is that when the Cave Pack is filled to the brim, it's a bit of a squeeze to get it inside the Cool Cave; they both have the same storage capacity, which seems odd to me. Placing water bottles in the side pockets makes this even trickier, as they really push the sides of the bags out.
At £115 the Cave Pack isn't particularly cheap, although if you're interested in the equivalent Fjällräven bag – the Kanken Laptop 15" – it's the same price, and is essentially the same bag without the Specialized logo (which some may prefer) and the helmet loops. Either way, it's a fair chunk of money for what is essentially a fairly simple backpack – albeit a rather nice one, which does seem to offer some level of weather resistance.
For a bit less (and sticking with the S/F, Cool Cave-compatible theme), S/F's Cave Tote and Cave Drybag are £65 each, which is nearly half the price of the Cave Pack, and both offer an identical 20L capacity, albeit neither of them are backpacks.
Realistically, most 15-inch backpacks would probably fit into the Cool Cave without issue, so if you already have one and like the idea of the Cool Cave, then you don't really need the Cave Pack unless you want to be all matchy-matchy.
If you do need a bike-specific laptop backpack that may or may not fit inside the Cool Cave, you could try the Altura Grid Travel Bag that Stu reviewed recently. This features a 20L capacity, loads of reflectivity, some weather resistance and at £70 it's also much cheaper.
The Oxford Aqua Evo 22L that Steve rated highly when he reviewed it is another solid alternative that may just fit inside the Cool Cave despite its slightly larger storage capacity. It offers full weatherproofing and is about £25 cheaper.
The Cave Pack is a bit pricey, but if you're a fan of the Fjällräven aesthetic and you like bikes (why else would you be on this site?!) then you'll probably jump at this collaboration backpack. If not, then... well, it's a very good bag, but other than the water bottle pockets, the helmet loops, and the fact that it fits the Cool Cave, there's not a great deal about the Cave Pack that justifies its price tag.
A decent backpack that plays nicely with its own pannier system, but it's expensive for what it does
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized/Fjällräven Cave Pack
Size tested: 20 L
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?
S/F says: "Compatible with our super-practical Cool Cave pannier, this is a hardwearing daypack for everyday rides to work and weekend outings. Designed to slide perfectly into the Cool Cave so you can pedal without having to wear it on your back. It has a separate, fully padded laptop compartment, an easy-access pocket on top plus a large front pocket. Perfect for everyday essentials, with padded shoulder straps for comfort and two handles on the top. Part of the Fjällräven/Specialized series for urban rides and bikepacking adventures."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Material: Vinylon F: 100% vinylal
Lining: 100% polyamide 210D
Laptop case: Yes
Laptop size: 15"
Laptop dimensions: 36 x 25 x 2cm
Number of pockets: 3
Pockets: Inside compartment, Outside compartment
Typical Fjällräven - it's well put together and should last you a long time
Decent weather proofing, storage capacity and it's nice enough to carry. It also works neatly with the Cool Cave, so you don't have to carry it while riding.
It's had a bit of abuse in the last couple of months of regular use, but other than the Ochre colourway showing up the dirt, it still looks great.
The straps are quite thin, as is the laptop padding, but it's pretty comfortable to wear on or off the bike.
It's quite expensive, but at least the price is in line with regular Fjällräven products – it's the same price as the Kanken 15" laptop bag.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Works well on or off the bike, whether you're using it with the Cool Cave or not.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Despite its small size and low weight, you can really cram a lot of stuff inside.
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?
It's not the most expensive we've tested, but it's certainly at the premium end, and you can get a lot of bag for a fair bit less than the Cave Pack. For instance the Altura Grid Travel Bag has much the same features, but only costs £70, while the Oxford Aqua Evo 22L is a bit more expensive than the Altura, but you get full waterproofing.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? If I bought the Cool Cave, possibly – just to match
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your overall score
There's a lot to like about the Cave Pack, and if you've already got your heart set on the Cool Cave then you'll probably see the matching backpack as a bit of an essential purchase, unless you already own a nice backpack that fits (possibly you already own a nice Fjällräven backpack). It doesn't have a huge number of cycling-specific features, but it's a great bag in its own right, just a bit on the expensive side.
About the tester
I usually ride: Condor Italia RC custom build My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, mtb,