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The Vulpine City Backpack is comfortable, carries lots – possibly more than you should be aiming to – and comes with a detachable rain cover. I think it looks good and apparently it'll get better with age. I'll have to get back to you on that. It does have a few flaws in the design, though.
In our guide to the best cycling backpacks (linked below), we recommend a maximum capacity of about 20 litres for comfortable carrying. The City Backpack can go up to 26 litres when unrolled, 18 when rolled. That's a generous amount of space, and if you're happy to lug that amount of stuff around on your back, this is a stylish way to do it.
There's a laptop section inside – it swallows a 15in laptop easily and will take bigger – but that's it for internal organisation. As it's quite a big bag (and there are no side straps for cinching it in) things can get a bit lost inside, so be prepared to spend time rummaging.
There are three pockets on the outside, though. One is open, and good for sliding things in without worrying too much about shape and size... until it rains.
A second, smaller pocket sits on top of it and fastens magnetically (and very securely), while inside this is a zipped pocket of about 16x16cm. It's good for stashing things like your wallet, phone, keys and so on, and lets you save all your rummaging in the main compartment for later.
As with many backpacks, the laptop sleeve can be accessed through a side zip without unrolling the bag, but cleverly, a second zip in the inner laptop divider lets you into the rest of the bag, too.
Not so cleverly, the bag seems to want to be accessed from the top because it doesn't stay rolled very well, especially if it isn't completely full. Even when unrolled it's fairly secure because it's such a long 'flap', and if it's raining heavily you'll have the cover over it anyway. Although the fabric is very good at repelling showers...
We haven't been blessed with any rain during the testing period (I'm very worried about my new hedge), so I've had to use a hosepipe to test the bag's water resistance.
Without the raincover, water beads off the waxed fabric well – beyond the point where I'd have deployed the cover in 'real life'. With the cover on, everything stayed dry.
However... that open pocket not only lets rain in, but beading water runs down into it and can't escape, as there are no drain holes. I didn't leave water to pool for long – a matter of seconds once I'd turned off the hose – but the tissue paper telltale in the adjoining magnetically-sealed pocket was already damp.
Water running into the open pocket is free to soak into the other pockets too – and from there, potentially, into the main compartment. On the one hand you can easily avoid this by fitting the waterproof cover, but on the other it undermines the point of the roll-top design and waxed fabric in the first place.
The first time I used the City Backpack, riding home from the road.cc office with not a huge amount inside, I found it quite uncomfortable. The straps were too close together at the top, and rubbed against my neck – it doesn't have the 'yoke' design of my old Rapha pack, for instance, to keep the straps apart no matter how tight you pull the shoulder straps.
On subsequent rides I didn't hoick the Vulpine pack up quite as high, though, and it's been perfectly comfortable since – both on the shoulders and sitting slightly lower on my back. It helps with quick over-the-shoulder checks too, as less bag gets in the way, though I still get a slightly restricted view. An adjustable chest strap helps keep it in place.
The padded mesh back doesn't stop my back getting a little sweaty, but it's not a huge issue, even on longer weekend rides.
Above the outer pockets are two tabs for attaching a D-lock or lights. I found that lights can hang downwards if the bag isn't full, because the fabric isn't that stiff, and if the flap unrolls and hangs down it can interfere with them.
Also, some designs end up sitting too close to the top of the open pocket. If you use smaller square or round lights you shouldn't have a problem, but the bottom of my Knog Plus kept catching on the pocket, making me worry it'd get knocked off.
If you don't have lights on, there's a decent-sized reflective strip along the bottom, and the two triangles where the straps attach are reflective too.
There are a couple of potentially useful mini-straps on the front of the shoulder straps to hook further stuff to as well.
The grab handle at the top is handy for carrying and for hanging the thing up on hooks, or if you're really determined, for attaching yet more cargo to...
At £100, the Vulpine isn't a cheap option – though we've reviewed much more expensive bags, such as the Chrome Barrage Freight, a 34/38-litre monster at £200 (and 2,450g).
Many bags of a similar size are a fair bit less, though, and some offer better waterproofing – the 20-litre Oxford Aqua V 20, for example, is waterproof and £54.99, though you don't even get a laptop sleeve inside its roomy main compartment.
Ortlieb's Velocity 17 is a little smaller than the Vulpine, but a tenner less at £90 and waterproof. The same firm's 21-litre Commuter Daypack City backpack is closer in capacity but £125, though it's also waterproof and has a five-year warranty.
Perhaps its closest rival – in price and style – is Rapha's Roll Top Backpack, also £100, with 25 litres of capacity and a water-resistant outer.
Overall, if you're looking for a stylish backpack for 'refined commuting', as Vulpine puts it, the City Backpack looks the part and lets you carry large loads comfortably. A few tweaks to the design could make it a lot more practical and versatile, though.
Comfortable, weatherproof and has plenty of room – but room for some improvement, too
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine City Backpack
Size tested: 18-26L
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?
Vulpine says, 'A smart, superbly comfortable backpack with our trademark outstanding attention to detail. Tough against weather and wear, it protects your laptop, valuables and spare clothes.
'The waxed coated fabric aids water resistance and is designed to distress to a nice patina over time. For heavier showers there's a separate Vulpine green ripstop rain cover with reflective details and it's own stash pocket. The shoulder straps are soft and comfortable, with chest strap to keep everything in place as you ride. The padded mesh back panel channels air across your back to reduce perspiration. Subtle reflective panels aid visibility at night. Our gunmetal branded buckle binds a tough webbing structure or leather tab for flexible and secure storage. Webbing tabs can be used to keep your D-lock in place or secure bike lights. Front pocket has an easy access magnetic flap closure, with inner zip pocket for valuables. Side zip access to padded laptop compartment, also accessible from top opening.
'Tough, reflective and considered, its perfect for refined commuting.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Vulpine lists these features:
Waxed coating aids with water resistance and is designed to distress to a gradual patina over time
Separate Vulpine Green ripstop rain cover that can be stored in zip pocket at base of bag - aids against wet weather and offers low light visibility
Adjustable roll top closure with webbing and leather tabs, for flexible storage
Front pocket with magnet flap closure & internal zip pocket for valuables
Side zip access to padded laptop compartment
Fully adjustable & padded rucksack straps
Chest strap for added stability
Padded mesh back for comfort and air flow
Webbing tabs to keep your D-lock or bike lights secure
Reflective details for low light visibility
Access to the laptop compartment from inside the bag
Webbing carry handle
Leather debossed Vulpine logo patch
18-26L capacity (rolled/unrolled)
Approximate dimensions: H 44cm/63cm (rolled/unrolled) x D 14cm x W 30cm
85% Polyester 15% Cotton Canvas
Seems well made. Stitching all looks neat and tidy.
It's a comfortable bag to have on your bike, and it carries loads without looking too 'backpacky'.
It's not light according to the scales, but it doesn't feel especially heavy.
Provided you don't have it too high on your back, it's perfectly comfortable. The chest strap holds it in place well too. There's no waist strap, which might bother some, but it didn't me.
It's a little pricey compared with some of similar capacity, some of which are also fully waterproof, but they don't have the same 'refined commuter' look Vulpine has aimed at. It's the same price as Rapha's Roll Top Backpack.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Carries lots, comfortably, and looks stylish. The raincover means it's not limited to dry days.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The looks. And that it can carry loads – if you suddenly find yourself having to do a shop on the way home, even awkwardly large stuff should fit in...
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The open pocket really needs drain holes to make the most of the water-repellent design. The rolltop has a tendency to unroll, and the 'corners' of the rolltop tend to stick up when the bag's fastened, interfering with quick over-the-shoulder checks.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's similar in size and design to Rapha's Roll Top Backpack and exactly the same price, though the Rapha doesn't have a chest strap or a waterproof cover. (It doesn't have an open pocket either, which could be a plus.)
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a nice looking bag for stylish commuting that also doesn't look out of place off the bike, with plenty of space to hold more than is possibly comfortable to carry. It IS comfortable though, and it's well made. It's good – but a few tweaks would make it very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Venon My best bike is: Paulus Quiros
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Tass is our production pedant, who boldly goes hunting for split infinitives, rogue apostrophes and other things up with which she will not put. She joined road.cc in 2015 but first began working on bike magazines way back in 1991 as production editor on Mountain Biking UK, then deputy editor of MTB Pro, before changing allegiance to road cycling as senior production editor on Cycling Plus. She's ridden off-road but much prefers on, hasn't done half the touring she'd like to, and loves paper maps.