Thule's Pack 'n Pedal Commuter backpack is a large and fulsomely specced option with no end of pockets and compartments. It's stable, sturdy and comfortable on the back, and there's little chance anything inside is going to get wet. But it's not cheap and the wide body can be a problem when you want to see what's behind you.
Back in 2012 when the world was a decidedly different place, Thule – the people who make roof bars and boxes – dipped not just a toe but an entire leg in the water of the cycling luggage world with a full range of Pack 'n Pedal panniers, handlebar bags and assorted racks and mounts.
In truth, while there was a lot of innovation and proprietary technology on display, the range felt like it had been created by engineers rather than cyclists and – to me at least – everything just seemed a little too complicated. Cut to a new decade where I'm testing this Pack 'n Pedal Commuter rucksack, and it'll be interesting to see if any lessons have been learnt.
One thing I can say from the outset is that Thule is certainly still in the business of trying to cover all its bases, so let's take a deep breath and run through the features.
The bag's total capacity is a whopping 24 litres, which starts with a handy large zipped front pocket, which has its own pair of further zipped pockets – one outside, one inside – as well as two internal mesh pockets.
There's also a reinforced hardshell 'Crushproof SafeZone' pocket, which resembles a glasses case stuck onto the side of the bag.
And there's the zipped-and-roll-top main body, inside of which you'll find a large removable padded laptop sleeve with Velcro closure and – you guessed it – its own zipped mesh pocket.
Outside, there's also an elasticated mesh pocket on the side of the bag and a hidden zipped lower pocket which contains a helmet net.
Finally, just behind this, there's yet one more zipped pocket which contains a funky blue raincover.
Add in assorted reflective loops and attachment points and it's easy to see how the rather lardy all-up weight of almost 1.3kg is achieved.
Also contributing to that mass is the material used. The bag is made from what Thule calls 'Cordura-like' 500d nylon and it feels supremely hardwearing and sturdy. That said, I would cynically suggest 50 per cent of the bag's total weight can be attributed to metalwork. I counted the zips for fun and there are eight in total, which seems a little excessive and suggests that perhaps Thule hasn't completely mended its over-engineering ways.
That propensity for metaphorical belt and braces is not all bad news, though, because Thule's designers have created a very stable and comfortable system when worn on the back. The wide, padded shoulder straps and secure chest strap do a fantastic job of keeping everything in place. Even though this bag has the potential to carry a fair deal, and I'd normally like to see a waist belt for added weight-bearing in such circumstances, the Pack 'n Pedal Commuter doesn't really feel like it needs it.
Further enhancing the on-bike experience is the EVA-foam padded back panel with its pattern of grooves for airflow. The Thule Commuter's comfort levels are as excellent as its stability and, despite its relatively hefty nature and that significant carrying potential, your back is cared for very well.
Rainproofing is well covered, too. I tested the much smaller Merida Fifteen II recently and moaned about its lack of waterproofing. That's certainly not a criticism that can be levelled at the Thule. As well as the included brightly coloured rain cover – which also helps enhance rider road presence – the bag's thick nylon fabric puts up a very decent fight against inclement weather on its own. I've used it in moderate rain without the rain cover and the bag suffered no inner dampness.
However, one area where I'd say Thule has over-valued features ahead of practical use is the zipped and roll-top main compartment closure. For this, Thule has used retaining straps that clip either side, but such a design has the effect of making the top of the bag rather wide. That's no problem when you're looking forward, but it can hamper over-the-shoulder rear vision somewhat. You won't get away with a quick turn of the head to get an idea of what's behind you; rather, it needs a full upper body twist to see anything rearwards. In a self-proclaimed commuting bag, that's a bit of a disappointment.
Finally, again with commuting in mind, reflectivity isn't bad with good provisions on both the shoulder straps and bag sides. It's a shame the rear-facing surface isn't quite so well served, although there is a reflective light-attachment loop and you could always fit that highly visible rain cover for added safety.
The Thule isn't a cheap option, but it holds its own against others we've tested and liked on road.cc. Lara liked the 20-litre Muc-Off LAB.94 The Ride Pack, another very well made option which also costs £130, but with slightly less carrying capacity.
I've tested quite a few rucksacks recently and the one that probably most closely matches the Thule in terms of practicality, features, and construction is the Chrome BLCKCHRM 22X Yalta, which costs £160. In such company, the Thule's price seems reasonable – you certainly get a lot of bag for your money.
While the Chrome Yalta's 26-litre capacity is in theory a little more than the Commuter, in use the Thule seems the more practically capacious option. Indeed, I'd say total capacity is actually a little large for 'just' a commuting bag and this would be a very decent option for two days away or even a spot of credit card touring.
It's easy to mock the slightly neurotic nature of this rucksack – zip, roll-top AND rain cover anyone? – and really, there's a lot to be impressed by in the Thule Commuter. The issues with obstructed rear-visibility and weight are notable negatives, but for riders who don't like taking any chances or leaving anything behind, it's still a fine option.
Well made and and fulsomely featured commuting rucksack, but the shape can hamper over-the-shoulder visibility
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter Backpack
Size tested: 24 Litre
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?
This is a fairly large rucksack aimed at commuters, although its capacity is enough for other activities. Thule says it is a: "Stylish and waterproof backpack that carries all the gear you need for your commute in all-weather conditions."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
24 litre total capacity
Waterproof main compartment with roll-top closure
Flexible helmet net stores away when not in use
Stowable rain cover with reflective screen print
Crushproof SafeZone compartment for sunglasses, smartphone, or other fragile items
Padded, removable 15in laptop compartment with tablet sleeve
Reflective elements and light attachment points
Organisation compartment with U-lock stash pocket
EVA padded back panel with airflow channels and breathable shoulder straps
Blinky light attachment points on back panel
High-visibility interior lining
Super solid – well put together with durable material and high quality zips.
Stable and comfortable. However, it does obscure rearwards visibility.
One of the most durable rucksacks you're likely to encounter.
You certainly get a lot of bag, which means you're carrying 1.3kg before you've even put anything inside it.
Very impressed with comfort. The padded back panel looks a bit strange but works well.
Considering its durable construction, decent capacity and wide range of features and pockets, it's not a bad price. The 20-litre Muc-Off LAB.94 The Ride Pack is another very well made option at £130. And the Chrome BLCKCHRM 22X Yalta matches the Thule in many ways and costs £160 for its 26-litre capacity.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As long as you're facing forwards, there's little to complain about. Yes, the Commuter is a little heavy, but this is mitigated by the excellent shoulder straps and padded back panel. However, its unfortunate ability to obscure your view over the shoulder is a fairly significant blot on its copybook.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Huge range of pockets, features and carrying capabilities.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Impeded over-the-shoulder visibility.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, with caveats.
Use this box to explain your overall score
While there's so much to like about the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter and it does offer a huge range of carrying options and features, it's hard to look past – literally, in one case – a couple of issues. The first is the weight and general feeling of over-engineering: does any commuting bag really need eight zips? The second is that impeded over-the-shoulder visibility. It is comfy, stable and massive, though.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
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, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure