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The Oxford Aqua Evo 22L Backpack is really waterproof, really well made and really useful for shop runs and commutes. It's easy to use and – unless you're desperate for brand cachet or designer looks – better than a lot of the competition.
If you want to carry stuff comfortably and feel completely secure it won't get wet, this is an excellent way to do it. It's not huge, but as it takes a normal plastic shopping bag's worth of stuff it's a useful size for urban runs.
Firmly Velcroed inside is a similarly useful padded sleeve (25cm wide, 40cm deep and 31cm high), and if your laptop is more than 31cm wide it can poke out the sleeve-top safely retained by an elastic strap. You also get a couple of smaller fabric pockets and a zipped mesh one. I found the laptop sleeve made a useful divider if not used for electronics.
Outside there's an 18cm-deep pocket with a waterproof zip (17cm opening), which is pretty handy if you don't want to unroll the whole thing, though it tapers strongly towards the bottom (it follows those obvious seams) so it's not massive. There's also a very firmly attached loop for keys and suchlike just inside the mouth of it.
There are also a couple of (very rugged) loops for hanging lights from.
Four 'AirTech' pads hold the bag away from your back, and the big gaps – along with the crinkle-cut foam – do a pretty good job of letting you cool. It does get sweaty if you're working hard (or wearing a less-than-tight top that blocks it), but it's perfectly good for what it is.
The foam of the pads is pretty firm and I found myself noticing the edges of the lower ones at times, but it's more a vague irritation than discomfort.
The shoulder straps are well padded (and mesh backed for ventilation), and you get webbing chest and waist straps. I'd need either a very heavy load or a very steep and rough trail to want the waist strap personally, but it's not removable.
The straps are easily adjustable for a comfy, secure fit, as are the buckles for securing the opening – you can seal this with just a couple of folds at the top for maximum capacity, or roll it right down for compactness. Just be sure to squeeze the air out first!
All the stitching, welding and fabrics feel very strong; Oxford makes stuff for motorcycles as well, and as far as strength/quality goes I'd feel perfectly happy subjecting this to 100mph windblasts and motorways of rain. I certainly have zero concerns with this for bicycle use.
Out on the bike it basically ignores rain – beyond the straps and back pads staying a bit damp for a while – and proved 100 per cent waterproof even under a shower, where it suffered a truly biblical downpour for several minutes.
It's cheaper than a lot of similar packs. The unusually named Brompton Backpack made with Liberty Fabric Jonathan is £145 despite being 14L and only waterproof with a cover, plus it's not too comfortable for use off the bike. I can only blame Jonathan.
The Camelbak H.A.W.G Commute 30 is even more at £150, though it's bigger at 30L, has lots of useful pockets, and is generally great for the task, although it's not totally waterproof either.
The Built for Athletes Cycling Backpack is considerably cheaper at £49.99, although it's smaller, a bit sweaty as it's unpadded and – despite the looks – is definitely only showerproof rather than waterproof.
This is a great pack that does exactly what it promises to do – carry your stuff comfortably, securely and dryly. If you're about town in all weathers, it's ideal.
Totally waterproof, very ruggedly made and cheaper than some less capable competition
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Oxford Aqua Evo 22L Backpack
Size tested: 22 litres (46cm x 39cm x 14cm)
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?
Oxford says: "Oxford's Aqua Bags are one of the easiest ways to get your gear from A to B, safe and dry. They are made from tough PVC tarpaulin, which is welded to form waterproof seams."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* 22 litre capacity waterproof backpack
* Super lightweight rip-stop material
* Roll top backpack with side compression strap
* Waterproof rating IPX-6
* Airtech back system improves air flow circulation and comfort
* Front external pocket with carabiner
* Highly reflective details
* Reflective loops at the base to attach taillights
* Carry handle
* Removable padded laptop sleeve
Approx size when filled:
* 46cm (H) x 39cm (W) x 14cm (D)
Feels tough, looks neat.
You can feel the firm pads sometimes, but it's a minor irritation.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – it does exactly what it should.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Quality build, completely waterproof, useful inner storage, easy access.
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 cheaper than a lot of similar packs. The Brompton Backpack made with Liberty Fabric Jonathan is £145 despite being 14L and only waterproof with a cover, plus it's not too comfortable for use off the bike. The Camelbak H.A.W.G Commute 30 is even more at £150, though it's bigger at 30L, has lots of useful pockets and is generally great.
The Built for Athletes Cycling Backpack is considerably cheaper at £49.99, although it's smaller at around 10L of usable space, a bit sweaty as it's unpadded and – despite the looks – is showerproof rather than waterproof.
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
This does everything you expect of it really well, and it's cheaper than a lot of packs that aren't as waterproof. Overall, it's excellent.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc 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: general fitness riding, mtb,