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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 six of 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.

As 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

Lomo Hi-Viz Dry Bag

4.5 out of 5 star rating
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

It’s big, it’s tough, it’s waterproof, it’s bright, it’s 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
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.

Osprey has opted to make the rucksack from water-resistant fabric, but this bag isn’t 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
The dashes on the side panels are reflective for added visibility.
Altura
  • £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
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 rucksack feels larger than its 22-litre volume and the heavy-duty base means it stands up when unrolled.

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 Rucksack

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The dhb Slice 30l Rucksack is a well-organised commuter bag.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £40 as tested
  • 30 litres
  • Stylish and comfortable

The dhb Slice is a good-looking rucksack and our tester had no qualms using it for their commuter and travelling around the city.

Inside, there’s a compartment for a laptop and there are external zipped pockets for valuables.

The quality and durability of the Slice are impressive, but a waterproof cover would be nice.

Elops Speed 100

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

This 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.

Oxford Aqua V20

4.0 out of 5 star rating
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 Reflect 360

4.0 out of 5 star rating
When light shines on the Proviz Reflect 360, it’s very hard to miss.
Proviz
  • £69.99 / €90 / $120 as tested
  • 30 litres
  • Incredibly effective reflectivity, quality construction

This bag’s colour looks like a muted grey until car headlights pick it out, and it reflects over pretty much all the exposed surfaces. ‘Bright’ really doesn’t do this justice.

Unlike some, it’s not fully waterproof, but it coped with heavy showers, helped by fully waterproof zips.

It has a healthy 30-litre capacity, a laptop sleeve, light loop, mesh and zip pockets, while hip and chest straps keep it stable. It’s a quality bag, with great reflectivity and a good price.

Vaude ExCycling Pack

4.0 out of 5 star rating
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
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’s Commuter Daypack Urban Line is a great bag, but it comes at a relatively high price.
Ortlieb
  • £155 / €159.99 / $225 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
The Rapha Roll Top has everyday style and commuting capability.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £100 / $135 / AU$175 / €120 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
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?

The extra features of cycling-specific backpacks will appeal to those who ride regularly.
Campagnolo

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

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

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?

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.