Cycling rucksacks are the luggage of choice for most riders who need to carry stuff on their bikes for relatively short distances. The best cycling rucksacks are convenient, don't need any extra equipment and have features to help keep your stuff organised and dry. And of course a cycling rucksack easily comes with you off the bike. Here's a look at 19 of the best and most popular cycling backpacks.
Convenience is the great advantage of a rucksack. Throw in everything you need, strap it on and away you go, with no faffing with pannier hooks and no effect on your bike's ride.
Ease of carrying off the bike makes rucksacks the most popular way of transporting stuff on the bike.
Useful sizes for cycling rucksacks range from about 10 to 25 litres, but any bigger quickly gets uncomfortable.
Choose from cycling rucksacks with lots of internal compartments to organise your stuff or simple, lightweight single-compartment bags.
Cycling rucksacks have reflective patches for night-time visibility, high degrees of waterproofing or solve specific problems like carrying a suit.
One bag to rule them all? A high-quality cycling backpack doubles as a walking and round-town daypack.
The Proviz Reflect 360 Rucksack is a stunning way of boosting your visibility when riding at night. During the day the backpack is a subtle grey, but when a car's headlights fall on it, the entire bag reflects back the light.
As a rucksack the Reflect 360 fulfils its task well. It's spacious with a 30 litre capacity which is more than enough for a change of clothes, sandwiches and any other stuff you need to transport. There's also a laptop sleeve.
It's not a pack for riding, at least not for any significant distance, but the Raceday 60 earns a spot here because it's a terrific bag for organising all your riding stuff when you head to a race, audax or sportive.
This is a near-perfect day bag for the racer or their support team, helping them organise their lives so they can focus on the task at hand. It's not cheap, but it's super-useful and really takes the stress out of packing.
Not all backpacks are created equal, that much is clear from my time spent with this backpack. As the name suggests, it has an enormous 60L capacity that should (and does) cater even for the compulsive overpacker (that's me), and does it in a smart way.
The Deuter Race X backpack might be a bit large for some racers (and it's not like anyone but enduro mountain bikers realy races in a backpack), but its features and design make it ideal for commuters, gym-goers, day trippers and tourers.
The Race X has morphed somewhat over the years – tweaks to the size, shape, straps and access arrangements have led to this version. It's not overcomplicated in terms of pockets and access, with decent ventilation at the rear and through the straps, a comfortable fit plus a splattering of bonus features. While this all makes it stand out among other packs, just be sure to check that it's a sufficient size for your needs.
Camelbak’s Chase bike vest is designed as a lightweight minimalist pack for runners and riders, with a 1.5L bladder and a unique design that allows you to still access jersey pockets. It's perfect for fast mountain bike blats or enduro races as well as being ideal for longer gravel bike rides.
The pack uses a rather neat design that keeps the bladder-containing main section of the pack high on your back, with the broad straps on the front then housing some extra storage. This means that you can still access the pockets on a standard road-style jersey while also carrying almost as much as a normal hydration pack.
Half rucksack, half pannier, the Vario is a well made and sturdy fully waterproof pannier style bag with an effective and simple roll-top closure. It fastens securely to a rack with Ortlieb’s standard Quick-Lock fastenings. Ideally sized for commuting, the bag will easily take a 15.4” laptop in protective sleeve as well as a change of clothes.
A discrete zipped stretch fabric compartment on the front of the bag houses a rucksack harness which simply clips on to eyelets on the back of the bag with sturdy and secure clips, without needing to do anything at all to the Quick-Lock clips. The harness itself is robust and well padded, offering good wear comfort, but is a little tricky to put away again, as the front stretch pocket is quite neat in size.
Osprey's Tempest line of rucksacks is essentially the Talon range, redesigned to fit a woman's shape rather than a man's. The Tempest 20 is well made, comfortable to carry and cleverly designed to incorporate all the features you could possibly need.
Although it's listed on Osprey's website in the hiking rather than biking range, it includes cycle-friendly features – the Lidlock helmet carrier, a bike light loop and hydration reservoir compartment. It's strikingly light, especially considering the number of straps and buckles dangling off it (neatly, I might add). Attention to detail is phenomenal – this pack has so many features that Osprey has a series of handy video clips on its website demonstrating how to use them.
The Chrome Yalta 3.0 is a well-made, capacious, weatherproof and comfortable roll-top backpack with the extra practicality of an almost-full-length side zip to really enhance access. Add in some other unique features and you've got a bag that's just as good for the weekend shop as the daily commute.
So let's go through its features. Roll top for easy access and secure waterproofing? Check. Sturdy nylon sailcloth construction? Check. Multiple external and side pockets including specific options for phone and water bottle? Check. Internal 15in laptop pocket? Check. Chest strap? Check. Zipped side access for courier bag convenience? Er, check. Detachable waterproof inner tote bag? What?
The clue's in the name – Evoc's Commuter Backpack is designed specifically with commuters in mind. It's very waterproof, roomy, and can transport all your tech essentials in safety. It's also very comfortable, looks good and there are some great reflective details. The price is pretty high, but it compares well with many commuter-specific bags.
Although it feels like quite a big bag, once it's on your back you hardly notice it there. Unlike the non-cycling-specific Evoc Mission, which Matt found unusually tight on the neck and shoulders, the Commuter is exceptionally comfortable to ride with for many miles, even when fully loaded with a laptop inside.
With all the attributes you might need on a commute, it's hard to fault the Evoc Commuter. Nitpicking, a hidden pocket to stash your valuables would be handy. Other than that, it's just the high price tag that some will find a little offputting. But it really does feel like you get what you pay for here – this bag feels like it will last a lifetime.
The Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City is an excellent bag for commuting, being comfortable when laden, adjustable for fit and storage, and with a removable laptop and organiser sleeve to keep everything in place. It's completely waterproof, lightweight and smart looking, with an external key pocket and loops for holding your lock and a rear light. Pretty much the perfect bag.
There's no denying the Rambler from Mission Workshop is a beast of a bag. It's designed to be a 22 litre rucksack that can expand up to a massive 44 litres when required. Primarily it's aimed at commuters but also utility riders who are looking for a capacious bag.
The bag looks great, in a low-key urban sort of way and is made from a super tough waterproof fabric, a carbon fiber reinforced internal support frame and water resistant zips. Set up with three different compartments, each with separate external zip access, it expands to its full size via the roomy main compartment in the centre of the bag. There's a large flat pocket the full area of the front of the bag, and also a smaller smartphone sized pocket at the bottom corner of the front. The main pocket can either fasten via a more weather resistant 'roll top' method, or the traditional flap type configuration, and secures with a broad webbing strap and heavy duty buckle. The rear carrying system consists of broad, adjustable cushioned straps. In addition to the expandable central section, there are strips of fabric and rails on the straps for attachment of further accessory pockets which are available as optional extras.
This is also not a light bag, even when empty, so is definitely best suited to those who need a bombproof pack for regular heavy duty commutes, but the exceptional build quality and excellent materials mean that it'll deliver for that purpose for years. That innovative design and high quality does come at a price, however.
Watch cyclists riding through any major city and you'll see a lot of Osprey packs. They're popular for their durability, light weight, and comfort, and I have to admit to being a fan of them myself; I've used this bag extensively, even though we've not reviewed it on road.cc. The Talon 22 has a large main compartment plus zipped pockets on the hip belt, and stretch pockets to stash extra stuff. There's a widget — the LidLock — to carry your helmet when you're off the bike, and if you want to go mountain biking there's a slot for a hydration bladder. It's comfy even when well loaded.
Chrome's Barrage Cargo is a bit of a beast when it comes to a commuting backpack. It looks a bit like an extra from an urban video game with the cargo net and is made from super-tough 1050d nylon which should last forever. It has some great details, too, including a well-hidden side pocket, an EVA back panel, and the Chrome buckle, albeit in miniature.
The Craft Cadence Backpack is a tough, capable, and cavernous no-frills backpack designed for the commuter cyclist who REALLY doesn't want their stuff to get wet. We like it a lot. In backpack terms 30 litres makes it a big medium, but its shape – basically it's like a roll top pannier but in backpack form – means you can use all of the main (and indeed only) compartment's carrying capacity; it's very easy to cram stuff in. A lot of stuff. And as fully loaded backpacks go, this is comfortable. The IPX5 waterproofing rating means that, short of riding underwater through a pond, the contents of the bag shouldn't get wet. We've ridden through three months of West Country winter and we can confirm that it lives up to its waterproof promise. Given that it's put together from sonically welded 0.6mm tarp, that's not a surprise,.
Lightweight and comfortable to carry, the Proviz Reflect360 Touring Backpack delivers a lot more than just high-visibility for cycling adventures and commuting. This is a really good backpack for a variety of uses. The construction and finish is nothing fancy but it certainly seems strong, which is the main thing, as want any plastic product these days to have a long life.
The Chrome Barrage Freight Backpack is an absolute monster of a messenger bag that is comfortable on the back and full of useful features beyond just its huge size. It's not cheap, and it's not light, but it is excellent. The Barrage Freight offers a huge amount of practical storage space with more than enough pocket separation to keep things practical and organised. We also like the cargo nets, subtle high-vis elements and, most importantly, its incredibly robust material and hardware that make it very impressive. There is no getting around the fact that this is a very expensive bag, but the price is justifiable given how long we'd expect this bag to last. If you need the capacity, this bag is an excellent choice.
The 100% Transit Backpack is a well-made and practical backpack with a plethora of useful pockets and enough storage for just about any commuter. 100% has done an excellent job with this bag. It offers loads of practical space, numerous organisational pockets, and enough capacity for most commuters. It could be improved with a chest strap and a rain cover, but aside from that there is little not to like here.
If you want super-simple, waterproof comfortable gear-carrying at a bargain price, look no further. The Gourdon 25 has one main 25 litre storage compartment with a buckle-fastened roll top, and a narrow pocket that can accommodate a 1L hydration pack. That's it. It weighs less than 450g. For a bag that's so simple it's surprisingly comfortable to wear. The shoulder straps are padded, and there's a thin waist strap and sternum strap that keep the bag securely in place when you're in full flow on the bike.
Deuter's Giga rucksack has a vast array of nooks, crannies and compartments to help you organise your stuff, and it's comfortable to carry on and off the bike. This is a rucksack for the super-organised who want a place for everything, and everything in its place. Its 31-litre capacity is split between four compartments of various sizes and there's a pair of side pockets. That's all held on to your back by thickly padded shoulder straps with a sternum strap to pull them in round your chest.
The Henty Wingman is a clever bag that allows you to carry a suit and various other items to work when you commute by bike. It's made from a heavy duty tarpaulin fabric, a lot like those used for messenger bags. Think of it as a bit like a standard suit bag that you use to keep a suit clean and safe in a wardrobe, but one that you can roll up and carry on your back when you cycle.
If you prefer to be loaded on both shoulders there's also a rucksack version.
There's a huge range of options in rucksacks for cycling, from bike-specific packs with lots of pockets and hidey-holes to help keep your stuff organised, to walking daypacks that can be used on the bike, to ultralight bags for minimalists.
You don't want to carry too much on your back, so our recommendation is not to go bigger than about 20 litres, though we have listed a couple of bigger bags for those who absolutely must take along the kitchen sink.
What else should you think about as well as size?
Backpacks vary in how well they keep out the wet. Roll-top bags made from seam-welded waterproof materials will generally keep out almost everything. More conventionally-constructed bags need liners to keep clothes and electronics dry; some have built-in raincovers that help.
At one extreme you've got bags like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro that has just one compartment and no additional features to speak of; at the other, Deuter bags and especially the Giga Bike have pockets, pen slots, laptop sleeve and more. It's horses for course. Some love to have a place for everything, others prefer to rummage in one compartment. Tip for rummagers: get a bag with a light-coloured interior.
The more you're going to carry, the thicker the padding on the shoulders and back needs to be. The downside of this is that a thickly-padded bag is more likely to make your back sweaty in hot weather, so look for cooling channels and vents in the padding to keep that under control.
A rucksack will cover a large part of your jacket in winter, so a bit of extra visibility is a good idea to compensate for the patches of reflective material that will be hidden.
Proviz takes this to its logical conclusion with its Reflect 360 pack, which is entirely made from reflective fabric. If your pack doesn't have enough reflective patches, Proviz and others make reflective covers to boost your visibility.
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John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.