How to Choose the Best Cycling Backpack

Unless you are training, there is a good chance that you are going to need to carry a couple of things with you on your ride. This is why it is so important to find a cycling backpack that is just right for you. Of course, considering all of the options out there, it can be difficult to know which ones are the real deals and which bags are a marketing ploy.

This is why we ask the tough questions with the cycling backpacks – are all cycling backpacks the same? What are the most important features required with such backpacks? And, how do I know which one is going to be a good fit for me? Check out all of the answers that we have managed to find.

Picture Brand Rating
Picture Brand Rating
Sherpani - ( Indie  )

Sherpani Indie

21 L / 1251 CI

5.0

15 reviews
Osprey - ( Radial 34 )

Osprey Radial

26-32 L / 1587-1953 CI

4.9

50 reviews
Osprey - ( Viper 13 )

Osprey Viper

3-13 L / 183-793 CI

4.8

249 reviews
Osprey - ( Verve 9 )

Osprey Verve

3-9 L / 183-549 CI

4.7

23 reviews
Camelbak - ( MULE 15 )

Camelbak MULE

2-15 L / 92-915 CI

4.8

102 reviews
Ortlieb - ( Velocity  )

Ortlieb Velocity

20 L / 1220 CI
Camelbak - ( Classic  )

Camelbak Classic

2 L / 122 CI

4.6

203 reviews
Camelbak - ( Hydrobak  )

Camelbak Hydrobak

2 L / 92 CI

4.5

108 reviews
Camelbak - ( Rogue  )

Camelbak Rogue

2 L / 122 CI

4.5

505 reviews

Cycling Backpacks: How to Find the Right One for You (Buyers Guide)

When looking for a backpack for cycling, you can’t simply use a general purpose pack. This is because these type of backpacks must serve several important functions. This is what will ensure that you, as a cyclist, will have all of your essential items, be comfortable, and be able to ride well. So, to figure out just what it is you should be examining, check out the factors mentioned here:

What is Your Preferred Type of Cycling?

Now, there are different types of cycling and biking, involving various forms of bikes. This means that no two riders will have the same necessities. Thus, you need to first narrow down the type of biking that you do to help you decide which backpack is well suited to you.

Weekend Cyclist

Do you like taking your bicycle out every now and then for a pleasant ride? Perhaps you use the bike to run a few errands. If this is the type of cycling that you do, your needs may vary. This is why it is usually a good idea to look for a backpack with one main compartment and with a few exterior pockets. You will find this more useful, especially if you like to do some shopping while you are out on a ride.

Commuting

It is becoming fairly common to see people commuting to work and school. These backpacks need to be able to carry a greater amount of weight since you will probably be carting documents and books around frequently. Most of the commuter cycling backpacks have padded compartments as well. These serve as storage units for laptops and tablets. Since organization is important with this type of lifestyle, you should consider backpacks with a greater number of pockets or compartments.

Road Cycling

The key term for backpacks for this type of biking is minimalism. Since it is all about speed and you want to maintain a competitive edge, you should look to keep your weight as low as possible. At the same time, you should focus on backpacks that have hydration features. These will let you drink water while you are cycling, without you needing to stop for a break.

Mountain or Endurance Biking

Here, the main focus is on durability and size. Since you can expect the bag to get bounced around quite a bit, you need one that is made to last. Also, due to the considerable amount of equipment you will be carrying, you will require a sizable bag. Of course, the straps and suspension system plays a big role with these type of cycling backpacks. As the bag will get moved around a lot, it needs to be kept secured to your person as much as possible.

Bikepacking

Then there is bikepacking. It is like backpacking except, you guessed it, you load up your bike and head off into the wilderness instead. Here, size and the number of compartments are the main factors. You need a large pack that will allow you to carry everything you will need for a multi-day trip. Also, separate compartments will make it much easier to find what you are looking for on your journey.

Best Cycling Backpacks

Types of Cycling Packs

There are three main types of cycling packs that you can choose from. These are as follows:

Waist packs

These are incredibly small, lightweight packs that are worn around the waist, much like a belt. These type of packs are typically meant to act largely as a water bottle holder while there are some that contain reservoirs as well. There are usually one or more pockets for storage. These type of packs work well for cyclists who are looking to cover small distances as quickly as possible.

Hydration Vests

Hydration vests, like the waist packs, are focused on providing the cyclist with hydration. With these backpacks, however, the design is more sophisticated. The hydration reservoir can be connected to a drinking tube and a sip valve. This means that the rider doesn’t have to stop to be able to drink water.

Cycling Backpacks

These are quite similar to most other backpacks. However, these type of backpacks are designed for excessive movement and to stay as stationary as possible. The backpacks can come in a variety of sizes although they do tend to be bigger, with plenty of storage capacity.

Which Capacity is Right for You?

The other important question to ask when choosing cycling backpacks is what capacity is right for your cycling needs? Whether you want minimalism or bulk, here are the volumes available:

  • 1.5 – 3 liters: these type of packs are either waist packs or hydration vests. They are suited for racers or road cyclists. Since you can’t carry much other than water bottles or hydration reservoirs, it is not advised to rely on them for longer journeys.
  • 5 – 10 liters: the backpacks of these volumes are usually considered as hydration packs. While there are reservoirs (and features) meant for hydration, they also have enough of space for most essential gear.
  • 10 – 20 liters: these backpacks are good for daily commutes or if you are planning on going grocery shopping. The packs in this volume range often come with several organization features and compartments to help you carry more stuff.
  • 20 – 30 liters: if you want to carry a greater amount of gear or equipment or are planning on a longer trek. The backpacks of these capacities will suit you best.
  • 40+ liters: These extra-large backpacks are ideal for packing for a bikepacking trip. You can carry clothes, gear, food, and other items with the storage capacity offered by these backpacks.

With cycling backpacks, you shouldn’t focus on the size of the bag but rather, how much it can carry. Opting for a larger size is rarely the right move as an oversized backpack will just hinder your riding ability. Instead, look for smaller packs that can expand so that they have similar capacities to larger sized backpacks.

What Material Should You Look For?

The materials that are used to construct cycling backpacks tend to vary quite a bit, particularly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Perhaps the most common material utilized is nylon while some more casual or commuter styles may be made from canvas. The material that you decide on will determine several functions of the backpack. Therefore, you will first need to figure out what traits you require of your cycling backpack.

Durability

If you want your backpack to withstand as much as possible, then look for ones that are made from rip stop nylon. This is a tough material that is impervious to typical wear and tear. It also tends to be abrasion resistant so it is a great choice for biking in wooded or mountainous areas.

Waterproof

Materials such as rip stop nylon are often just water resistant. This means that they will be able to keep the moisture away from gear in the event of a drizzle. However, if you are looking to keep your belongings dry in the middle of a storm, you should look for waterproof materials instead. Polyester or coated polyester have proven to be the best materials for this particular function.

The Harness System

Due to the movement of the cyclist, you can expect your backpack to swing to and fro quite a bit. This is especially true in the case of mountain biking. With smaller backpacks, this movement is offset somewhat by the size. However, if you are planning on getting a mid to large sized backpack, you should consider the harness system in place.
The ‘harness’ like feature is the system that is created when using the shoulder straps, sternum strap, and waist strap together. This helps to ensure that the backpack will remain secured to your back while cycling. So, if you want to carry a heavier load or to minimize discomfort while cycling, look for a backpack that has all of these straps.

Top Loading vs. Panel Loading

With top loading backpacks, everything is typically placed into one main compartment although there may be external pockets as well. With cycling backpacks, the most common type of top loading packs are the roll top backpacks. These have the advantage of allowing to expand or decrease the size of the backpack with ease. Panel loading backpacks are divided into separate compartments. This makes it easier to store and retrieve your items that you may need along the way.

Additional Features

These are some of the additional features you should consider for your cycling backpack:

Visibility Features

If you enjoy early morning or late night rides, you should definitely consider a backpack with visibility features. It is a good idea to choose bright colors with reflective strips. This will reflect the light back to any vehicles that may be behind you. Additionally, look for bags that will let you attach bike lights. These, too, will indicate to motorists where you are on the road.

Ventilation

While your backpack should be fastened to your back, this can cause a certain amount of discomfort. This is because it causes your back to sweat and for the perspiration to remain pooled there. Padded mesh back panels help to keep the backpack away from your torso but still firmly fixed. This allows for greater air flow in this area.

Helmet Attachments

You may not always be wearing your helmet and it can be a bit tiresome to hold on to it. To avoid this, look for helmet straps on your backpack. This way, you can secure the helmet to the bag.
This is how you will be able to find the right cycling backpack for you. Consider each of these points and determine what decision you should make according to your personalized responses.


Last updated on November 14, 2017

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