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Best cycling backpacks 2023: commuting backpacks and more rated and reviewed

The best backpacks for commuting and urban cycling in 2023

best cycling backpack collage.

The best cycling backpacks can make the difference between arriving at your destination with your stuff safe and dry, and arriving to find it all soaked through from an unexpected rain storm.

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The best commuter bikes are bound to have racks or mounts for panniers. But the best hybrid bikes might not, and a cycling backpack is less hassle. A small bag can carry your essentials, while a larger one can fit in your laptop and a change of clothes.

If you’ve invested in one of the best electric bikes for the commute, you might need a sizeable backpack to carry your battery and charger. It isn’t wise to leave the best road cycling helmets locked to your bike, so consider if you can fit your lid in too.

Our expert testers have picked the best cycling backpacks on the market and put them through their paces.

We looked for backpacks with effective and dependable waterproofing or water resistance. This is perhaps the most important feature because if you’re cycling to work, even only on nice days, you’ll eventually get caught out by a freak rain storm.

On top of that, we looked for durable and easy-to-use closure systems, such as a roll-top or waterproof zips, and enough capacity to carry everything you’re likely to need on a day-to-day basis.

Because this guide is geared mainly towards cycling backpacks for commuting and urban use, we’ve focused on hi-viz or reflective options. If those colours aren’t to your taste, many of them are also available in more muted tones.

Once you’ve worked your way through all of the reviews, keep reading for our buyer’s guide to cycling backpacks.

Best cycling backpacks in 2023

Camelbak Mule Commute 22L

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Camelbak Mule Commute 22L backpack
The Mule can hold a hydration bladder inside and your helmet clips on top.
Our Media
  • £120 as tested
  • 22 litres
  • Available in black
  • Weight: 717g
  • Ideal for the daily commute

Camelbak’s Mule Commute 22 is a lightweight, low-volume cycling backpack and a shrewd choice for the sprightly commuter.

The padded and weatherproof laptop section has a wraparound closure for added protection. There are also two zipped internal pockets.

The bag’s ‘weather-resistant’ outer has a clip for your helmet, comfortable raised pads to keep your back from overheating and three elasticated open pockets.

Two secure pockets on the bag’s arm straps make items easy to grab when the Mule Commute 22 is strapped to your back.

While the bag comes only in black, 360° reflective details will help you be seen at night and a light can be clipped on.

The bag is compatible with Camelbak’s reservoirs (not supplied).

Lomo Hi-Viz Dry Bag

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Lomo Hi Viz 30l Cycling Dry Bag for commuting on a bike
Lomo’s bag is simple, but spacious, tough and cheap. What’s not to like?
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £32.99 as tested
  • 30 litres
  • Spacious, waterproof and durable

The Lomo Hi-Viz Dry Bag is big, tough, waterproof, bright, cheap and its hi-vis fluorescent yellow PVC is decked in reflective stripes.

So what are the downsides? Well, you’ll get a bit sweaty on longer rides or when carrying heavy kit, but this 30-litre PVC bag will swallow all your belongings and keep them bone dry, thanks to the roll-down top and welded seams.

It lacks any extras, but for under £40 we really aren’t complaining.

Osprey Transporter Roll

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Osprey Transporter Roll commuter backpack with 25l capacity
The Osprey Transporter Roll is comfortable and has plenty of features.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £95 as tested
  • 25 litres
  • Comfortable and practical but not waterproof

The Osprey Transporter Roll is a smart-looking rucksack that is comfortable and practical, but not fully waterproof.

There is a large main compartment with an organiser section, laptop sleeve and mesh pockets. The roll-top design enables you to adjust capacity, increasing the 25-litre volume a bit or reducing it to stop belongings from moving around.

The back panel is secure and the shoulder straps are comfortable when you’re on the move.

Altura Thunderstorm City 30

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Altura Thunderstrom City 30L
The dashes on the side panels are reflective for added visibility.
  • £79.99 as tested
  • 30 litres
  • Available in two colours, subtle reflective details

Altura’s Thunderstorm bag adds little reflective dashes all over the sides, back and bottom for highly effective, all-round visibility. If the hi-vis yellow version is a little too loud for you, it’s also available in black.

The 30-litre compartment has a laptop sleeve and two internal pockets, but the outside’s clean lines are completely pocket-free.

There’s a light loop, the roll-top is cinched with a metal buckle for effective waterproofing and the padding is well vented, which prevents sweat build-up.

Chrome Barrage Cargo 22X

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Chrome Barrage Cargo 22X commuting backpack with 22l capacity
The Chrome Barrage Cargo 22X is built to last.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £190 as tested
  • 22 litres
  • Waterproof with additional cargo net capacity

Chrome bags have a reputation for lasting a very long time, and the seriously constructed Barrage looks to continue that tradition.

The bag has a welded-seam waterproof tarpaulin liner and an abrasion-resistant exterior.

An exterior cargo net provides extra carrying potential.

The downside of the strength is the weight of this bag and it takes a few rides to wear in the straps.

dhb Slice 30L

4.0 out of 5 star rating
DHB Slice 30L backpack
For your money, you get good capacity and practicality.
Our Media
  • £45 as tested
  • 30 litres
  • Available in black
  • Rain cover included
  • A well-priced all-rounder

The dhb Slice is a stylish, affordable and well-made backpack for commuting and day-to-day travels.

The chest and removable waist straps are comfortable, but the shoulder straps’ padding could be better.

Although not waterproof itself, the Slice has a bright yellow waterproof cover that aids visibility, as do the reflective graphics.

The 30-litre capacity is relatively large. Two external zipped pockets for valuables, a front pouch, two water bottle outlets and a helmet net add to the Slice’s versatility.


Elops Speed 100

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Elops Speed 100 20l commuting bag from Decathlon
The Elops Speed 100 is a good budget option.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £30 as tested
  • 20 litres
  • Affordable and good usability

If you’re new to cycle commuting, the Elops Speed 100 is a good backpack option thanks to its low price and durability.

While the rucksack has a nominal capacity of 20 litres, the roll-top design means that can be extended a touch.

The light grey interior is a nice touch, helping you spot things when staring into the backpack.

It would be nice to have zipped internal and external pockets for valuables.

Fox Transition Duffle Bag

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Fox Transition Duffle Bag for commuting with 45l capacity
The Fox Transition Duffle Bag has a large 45l capacity.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £100 as tested
  • 45 litres
  • Versatile but has no laptop sleeve

The Fox Transition Duffle Bag is designed for travelling, but the large volume will be appreciated by anyone who has a serious amount of stuff to carry.

Despite its size, it never felt like it was swinging around or in danger of throwing you off balance. The padded straps with a mesh lining are also comfortable.

The bag is made from a 450 denier TPU-faced ripstop fabric, which is water-resistant.

There’s no laptop sleeve but there are two exterior pockets with waterproof zips and one with a fleece lining to protect your cycling glasses.

Mission Workshop Speedwell

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Mission Workshop Speedwell bag
Both chest and waist belt can be moved to different height positions to customise the fit.
Adam Gasson / Our Media
  • £305 as tested
  • 20 litres
  • A durable, do-it-all backpack

The Mission Workshop Speedwell is a tough and waterproof backpack, thanks to its combination of X-Pac and MultiCam Cordura fabric.

The backpack can fit a hydration bladder, as you’d find in hydration packs, and has room for a 16in laptop.

The design of the Speedwell makes it highly versatile, with our tester using it for commuting, gravel riding and hiking.

The floating harness provides airflow while keeping the backpack stable. There are chest and waist straps to help customise the fit.

The bag’s robustness does come at a 1.29kg weight, but the comfort means it doesn’t feel heavy.

Ortlieb Atrack CR Urban

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Ortlieb Atrack CR Urban commuter backpack with 25l capacity
The Ortlieb Atrack CR Urban has a 25l capacity.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £185 as tested
  • 25 litres
  • Secure and waterproof

Thw atrack CR Urban is a high-quality, sustainably made rucksack from a leader in bike luggage, Ortlieb.

The 45-litre bag uses waterproof fabric and has well-placed back and hip padding. This helps avoid having the watertight zip dig into you, which is placed on the back of the rucksack.

Ortlieb has incorporated lots of features, including a daisy chain of attachment points on the outside, alongside stretch mesh side pockets.

The price is a significant outlay, but you’ll likely end up using this bag for more than your daily commute.

Osprey Radial

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Osprey Radial backpack
High capacity and practical features bring weight and bulk.
Our Media
  • £150 as tested
  • 26-34 litres
  • Available in Black; Tan concrete
  • Weight: 1.5kg
  • Rain cover included
  • Well-equipped, well-made pack horse for big, heavy loads

The Osprey Radial is a substantial cycling backpack that can carry a lot. Undoing an internal zip extends the 26-litre capacity to 34l.

The adjustable mesh back makes space between you and the back panel, helping you avoid the dreaded sweaty back.

The hi-viz rain cover stows away in the base. A separate internal pocket can hold shoes away from the well-cushioned laptop and document sleeves.

Details such as plenty of pockets and a helmet clip are useful, but they add to the weight, bulk and price.

Oxford Aqua V20

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Oxford Aqua V20 Backpack commuter backpack with 20l capacity
Oxford’s Aqua V20 is a little smaller than some, but is available in lots of colours.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £54.99 / $64.95 as tested
  • 20 litres
  • Available in lots of different colours, excellent waterproofing

The Aqua has a simple design – an effective roll-top opening into a single 20-litre compartment – but it’s available in loads of colours, all of which have extensive reflective details with 360-degree visibility.

With the top tightened, it proved impervious to water, with even the external pocket waterproof.

The bag is tough and easy to clean too, although it may leave you a little sweatier than some. It’s bright, straightforward and well-priced.

Proviz Reflect360

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Proviz Reflect360 backpack
You’ll be seen and be able to carry a laptop.
Our Media
  • £69.99 as tested
  • 30 litres
  • Available in Grey
  • Weight: 570g
  • A well-proportioned bag that wants to be seen

The Proviz Reflect360 bag is grey but glows like the moon when light is shined on it, thanks to millions of reflective beads. A bike light can be strapped on to the front.

Inside, the laptop sleeve doesn’t fully close, but a large mesh pocket and a couple of smaller ones zip shut. The main compartment is roomy.

Outside, mesh pockets on either side are on the small side. A more spacious zipped front pocket will fit your phone, wallet and more.

The bag’s body is water resistant rather than waterproof (the zips are waterproof, however).

Thule Paramount

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Thule Paramount backpack
The Paramount is premium-priced but top quality.
Our Media
  • £150 as tested
  • Available in Olive; Black
  • Weight: 1.43kg
  • Rain cover included
  • A brilliant, durable and organised commuting bag

The Thule 27L Paramount is a well-crafted commuter backpack full of cycling-specific features.

These include the frontal opening for a bike lock and helmet, an enclosed hi-vis rain cover, stash areas for bottles and a covered eyewear/valuables compartment at the top.

The laptop area is sizeable and reinforced, and the main compartment has lots of room.

Thanks to comfortable straps and a breathable, supportive mesh back area, the Paramount is fine for short/mid-range commutes. However, the 1.43kg weight might rule it out of longer adventures.


Vaude ExCycling Pack

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Vaude ExCycling Pack
Vaude’s ExCycling Pack has a capacity of 40 litres.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £120 as tested
  • 40 litres
  • Highly organised and rain cover

With a high volume, the Vaude ExCycling Pack provides plenty of room for belongings. It isn’t just a cavernous bag, though. There is a laptop sleeve, which can be accessed externally, and mesh organiser sections.

A rain cover helps to keep things dry. There is a water-repellent treatment should you get caught in a shower before you have time to unroll the cover.

The bag is well constructed from environmentally and ethically sourced materials, according to Vaude.

Our tester’s only gripe was the wide and square shape obstructed the view when looking over their shoulder.

Also consider…

These bags scored fewer than four stars in our test, but are still worth considering.

Altura Grid Backpack

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Altura Grid Backpack with 30l capacity
The Altura Grid Backpack’s front pocket is surprisingly reflective.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £60 / $74 / AU$97 / €66 as tested 
  • Storage space without bulk
  • Not waterproof

For one of the lightest bags on test at 578g, the Altura Grid Backpack is not short of outer or inner pockets, and has a laptop sleeve.

The roll-top can be zipped to keep contents – probably nothing more than day-to-day work items – secure.

But the Grid isn’t made from particularly technical materials, so it’s only water resistant and not the most hardy.

Ortlieb Commuter Daypack Urban Line

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Ortlieb Commuter Daypack Urban Line
Ortlieb’s Commuter Daypack Urban Line is a great bag, but it comes at a relatively high price.
  • £155 /$225 / €159.99  as tested
  • 21 litres
  • Tough construction with lots of good details

Roll down the top of this high-quality PVC-free 21-litre bag and it will keep the dirt and rain out. It also has reflective stitching for night-riding safety.

Features include a light, D-lock loops and a padded laptop sleeve. The German-made PU-laminated Cordura and cotton blend bag has a reinforced base, comfortable back pads and adjustable, removable chest and waist straps for maximum versatility.

It’s a fantastic bag… at a price.

Rapha Roll Top Backpack

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Rapha Roll Top Backpack for commuting with a 25l capacity
The Rapha Roll Top has everyday style and commuting capability.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £100 / $135 / €120 / AU$175 as tested
  • Looks good on- and off-bike
  • Poor comfort

The Rapha Roll Top belies its sleek design to incorporate handy commuting features. Made from water- and scratch-resistant fabric, the bag has divided internal pockets and a reflective base panel.

You can hook your bike lock through loops down the front of the bag, rather than take up space inside.

The Roll Top isn’t really suitable for longer commutes, however, because if you’re carrying a laptop it will press against your back through the sleeve.

dhb Waterproof Rucksack 25L

3.0 out of 5 star rating
dhb Waterproof Rucksack 25L commuter backpack
The dhb Waterproof Rucksack 25L is a worthy budget option.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £50 as tested
  • 25 litres
  • Waterproof but struggled with comfort

The dhb Waterproof Rucksack has sealed seams and a watertight zip to make it completely waterproof.

The construction is durable and the large size made packing straightforward. While there’s no dedicated laptop sleeve, the waterproof design eases the water-ingress nerves.

The rucksack felt bulky and lumpy on the back, despite adjusting the straps. But this might be a compromise you’re willing to make for the sake of keeping your possessions dry.

Buyer’s guide to cycling backpacks

Do you really need a cycling-specific backpack?

Road cyclist riding with a Campagnolo backpack
The extra features of cycling-specific backpacks will appeal to those who ride regularly.

It depends. If you’re just looking to pop out for sunny pootles around your local park, then you’ll probably be fine with any old backpack.

Just watch out for unexpected showers and think about lining your bag with a bin liner if you’ve got anything in there you don’t want to get wet.

Those who cycle regularly or on mucky roads, though, will almost certainly appreciate the extra features cycling-specific backpacks offer. These usually include waterproofing, vented rear padding, increased visibility and mounts for locks and lights.

Backpack vs panniers

Rad Power RadWagon
An e-cargo bike, such as this RadWagon by Rad Power Bikes, might just be the ultimate in load-carrying bikes, but is possibly overkill if you just want to carry your laptop to work.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media

When deciding between the best bike bags for commuting, you typically have two choices: a backpack or a pannier bag.

Most people riding short distances and carrying reasonably light loads are likely to be better off with a backpack rather than panniers.

The simplicity and take-anywhere nature of a backpack is hard to beat. A cycling backpack can also usually be pressed into double duty as a backpack for hiking or city use.

Panniers are great for touring, or for cyclists who want to carry larger or heavier loads, such as shopping, but you’ll need to install a rack on your bike (assuming it has the requisite mounts), and they’re usually more cumbersome to carry when off the bike.

If you’re looking to transport really big loads, such as children or work equipment, you might even want to consider a cargo or electric bike.

Zips vs roll-top

Black rucksack modelled by young man in faded orange t-shirt
Roll-top designs are good for waterproofing.
Matthew Allen / Immediate Media

Roll-top bags are usually what you see professional cycle couriers using, and for good reason. Zips are compact and flexible for shaping, but can be a weak point for waterproofing, and are also much more likely to wear out and break with heavy use.

A roll-top bag, on the other hand, can be opened/closed hundreds, if not thousands, of times without any major wear and tear. For this reason, many bags will use a combination of zipped pockets and roll-top main compartments. This helps maximise both durability and the convenience of having separate pockets for specific items.

How much capacity do you need?

CamelBak M.U.L.E. 15l mountain bike backpack
It’s good to have more rather than less room.
Simon Bromley

The majority of commuters carrying items such as a laptop, some spare clothes and valuables will generally need around 20 to 30 litres of space. Aspiring pro bike messengers might need up to 40 litres, but that’s probably overkill for most people.

Those who commute during the winter will need a little more room for carrying bulkier jackets and the like.

Likewise, if you commute in bib shorts and a jersey with clipless pedals and cycling shoes, you’ll probably want to change into something else at the end of the journey. Don’t forget to factor in extra space for a change of clothes and shoes.

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All things considered, it’s probably best to have a little more room than you think you’ll need – it’s always going to be useful to have enough space to be able to pop to the shops on the way home.