Written By
Published Jul. 29, 2019

With more and more of us opting for pedal power, how we carry our essentials is key to a hassle-free ride. Whether it’s for our daily commute, road riding, a blast around an MTB trail or just for sheer cycling pleasure, you really need a cycling-specific backpack.

More than a straightforward daypack, a bike bag should be lightweight, streamlined, breathable and comfortable, depending on the type of cycling you do. They should also offer plenty of space for your equipment, whether that’s urban gadgets, work papers, or essential bike trail equipment.

To help you choose the bag that’s perfect for your biking life, we compiled a list of the best cycling backpacks below.

The Best Cycling Backpack

For the all-around cyclist, effective hydration is essential. And with this insulated hydration backpack from Mubasel you’ll be able to quench your thirst. This back is a great value for the money, and you get a super-looking cycling backpack that’s also well made. Perfect as an MTB backpack or for more general biking activities, you get a lot for your money. A two-liter, BPA-free hydration bladder that’s also leakproof and comes with effective thermal insulation means you can be sipping cool water for up to five hours. Inside the pack there’s also a decent amount of storage, with three compartments to fit phones, wallets, maps and even a lightweight change of clothes. Outside you get a stretch mesh pocket.

Comfort has also been addressed with this smart cycling backpack as you get well-padded shoulder straps plus an adjustable waist strap for extra stability. It is not totally waterproof, but for the price this is an awesome all-around cycling backpack.

Key Features
  • Lightweight, breathable fabric
  • 2L leakproof hydration bladder
  • Thermal insulation for up to 5 hours
  • Three internal compartments
  • Padded shoulder and waist straps
Specification
  • Brand Mubasel Gear
  • Weight 1.6 pounds
PROS

A well-made backpack for your on-the-go hydration needs

Plenty of internal space for your essentials

CONS

The bladder is not in a separate internal compartment

Perfect for a long day on the trail, we think the Oasis 1100 is one of the best cycling backpacks for MTB sports.  It has a decent 18L capacity but is slim and lightweight, so you can just pop it on your back and get on with your trailblazing! There’s also an easy-to-use and clean 2-liter hydration bladder – we like the push-lock cushioned bite valve for quick and easy water dispensing without the dribble.

There’s also a decent amount of internal space plus external pockets, bungees and mesh slots for all your essentials.  It is also super comfortable even on the gnarliest of trails thanks to its low-profile frame, adjustable straps, foam stabilizer and breathable air mesh back panel. It comes with a rain cover too.

Key Features
  • Low-profile, slimline design
  • 18-liter internal capacity
  • 2L hydration bladder
  • Air mesh back panel
  • Choice of five cool colors
Specification
  • Brand TETON Sports
  • Model 1001O
  • Weight 1.98 pounds
PROS

Lightweight, adjustable and comfortable – even on the toughest rides

CONS

Pack itself is not waterproof

For a simple and sturdy way to transport your precious tech when on your bike, check out the Rogue from Timbuk2. As a top loader, the Rogue is a bit of a square, but the geek look is pretty cool. Definitely for the urban cyclist, its outer is made from water-resistant TPU and the whole design feels tough enough to cope with the mean city streets.

There’s a decent sized internal compartment, big enough for a 13-inch laptop we’d say and zipped outer pockets. You also get external webbing for attachments and straps to keep everything in place. The shoulder straps are adjustable, although they are quite close together so perhaps not the most comfortable if you are really broad across the top.

Key Features
  • Out shell made from TPU
  • Top loading main compartment
  • Six internal/external pockets
  • External ID window
  • Water-resistant
Specification
  • Brand Timbuk2
  • Model 422-3-2119
  • Weight 1.4 pounds
PROS

A sturdy bag that is good for urban commuting

CONS

Narrow shoulder straps – not ideal for the broad shouldered!

Small, but perfectly formed, this lightweight daypack from outdoor specialists, Osprey is a tough mountain bike backpack that’s surprisingly spacious to boot. There’s no internal hydration bladder but there is an inner sleeve which can accommodate a tablet or a water reservoir, making this backpack ideal for going from daily commute to weekend blast out on the MTB trail.

Space-wise, you get a large internal compartment, which can easily pack a change of clothes and all your biking essentials, while outside you get a ‘shove pocket’ as well as a couple of zipped ones for security. It comes with a mesh-covered foam back panel and spacer-mesh, adjustable shoulder straps as well as a chest and waist strap to keep the whole thing securely in place.

Key Features
  • Water-resistant
  • Inner sleeve for gadgets or hydration bladder
  • Front panel ‘shove’ pocket
  • Side mesh water bottle holders
  • Attaches to other Osprey backpacks
Specification
  • Brand Osprey
  • Model 10001697
  • Weight 1.24 pounds
PROS

Spacious, adaptable backpack for city or mountain biking

CONS

Doesn’t come with a rain cover

Inexpensive and cheerful, the Zomake lightweight backpack is a good back up to have in the office or at home when you have unexpected stuff to carry. Zipped down to be stored inside its front pocket, the capacity of this bike bag is surprisingly large – up to 20 liters – so it’s also a good pack to have on a shopping trip where you are likely to come back with more than you went with!

And, despite its lightweight credentials, it’s also pretty sturdy thanks to the water- and tear-resistant nylon material. As a serious cycling backpack, it lacks features such as a hydration bladder and an air-mesh back panel, but for a casual cycling backpack, this is a great-priced Plan B.

Key Features
  • Ultralight outer that’s water and tear resistant
  • Packs down into its own front pocket
  • 20 -liter capacity
  • Abrasion resistant zippers
  • Adjustable shoulder straps
Specification
  • Brand ZOMAKE
  • Weight 7.8 ounces
PROS

Great price for a lightweight, foldaway backpack for casual use

CONS

Side water bottle holders are on the shallow side

Limited features for the more serious cyclist or MTB’er

If you’re after a multi-sport hydration pack that to fit seamlessly on your back, then take a look at this sleek number from Mubasel Gear.  A quality hydration backpack that won’t break the bank, this cycling backpack is impressive. The compartment holds a 2-liter BPA and leak-free bladder (which comes included) which has a large enough opening to add ice on those hot summer riding days. And, thanks to the large opening, it is super-easy to keep clean.  What we also like about this small cycling backpack is there is still room for your essentials, with a zipped side panel for a lightweight jacket and your gadgets as well as a mesh pocket for your tire pump and nutrition bars.

Key Features
  • 2-liter bladder, that’s leak and BPA-free
  • Lightweight, with adjustable straps
  • Mesh back panel
  • Zipped side pocket for your gear
  • Large mesh front pocket
Specification
  • Brand Mubasel Gear
  • Weight 15.5 ounces
PROS

Great value for a lightweight, 2-liter hydration bladder

Excellent capacity with plenty of pockets

CONS

Drinking tube is a bit on the long side, so make sure it is secure

Space, size, durability and access to a decent water supply – the Tactical Molle has everything a serious cyclist needs when out clocking up those miles. This hydration backpack is also a tough dude that fits like a dream, thanks to its ergonomic design. And the army styling just adds to its appeal.

As one of the best cycling backpacks, it sits nicely on your back, and the padded shoulders, along with the chest and waist straps keeps everything secure. You also get an internal 3-liter hydration bladder so ideal for endurance road cycling or MTB. Made from 100 denier, water repellent nylon, your gear is also going to be kept dry and safe, and with a main compartment plus two roomy outer pockets, there is plenty of space for all your essentials.

Key Features
  • Made water-repellent nylon
  • Military grade webbing
  • Inner 3-liter capacity water bladder
  • 360-degree rotatable mouthpiece
  • Inner and two outer pockets
Specification
  • Brand MARCHWAY
  • Weight 2 pounds
PROS

Extremely tough and hardwearing backpack

Impressive 3-liter water bladder capacity

CONS

The larger bladder means you do sacrifice inner storage space

The Outlander is a great cycling backpack when you don’t want anything to weigh your biking performance down. Lightweight, water-resistant and durable, and with a roomy 20-liter inner capacity, this is a pack to simply strap on and go. And when your done with your time on the trail, this little beauty packs down into its own pocket for easy storage. Pop in it your car and you will never be without when the urge to go two-wheeling calls!

There is no hydration bladder, but you do get two side water bottle pockets, plus two front zipper pockets and plenty of inner space, so this cycling backpack can also double up as your commuter bike bag too. A nice price, a great range of colors and really durable, this is a versatile cycling backpack you’ll get a lot of wear out of.

Key Features
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Water and rip resistant nylon
  • Abrasion-resistant metal zippers
  • 20-liter inner capacity
  • Folds down into an inner pocket
Specification
  • Brand Outlander
  • Weight 11.2 ounces
PROS

Super-light and convenient

Plenty of inner storage space

CONS

No inner pocket for a hydration bladder

Our next pick is this versatile and tough daypack from Sunhiker that can take you from commute to trail without breaking into a sweat.

Although it looks small, it has a decent capacity for day bike trips, offering up to 25 liters of space for your stuff. And while there is no inner hydration bladder, you do get two decent sized water bottle pockets that are easy to reach, even when you are pedaling. It is designed to last, made from tear, scratch and water-resistant nylon. It also comes with breathable mesh shoulder straps that are a decent width and plenty of external pockets and compartments. And in the design, Sunhiker have got the balance and weight distribution pretty spot on.

Key Features
  • Tear, scratch and water-resistant nylon
  • 20-25L inner capacity
  • Two water bottle pockets
  • Mesh shoulder straps
  • Reflective shoulder stripes
Specification
  • Brand Sunhiker
  • Weight 11.2 ounces
PROS

A tough, durable and effective cycling daypack for the money

CONS

Waist strap is on the short side so not the ideal fit for everyone

For some retro urban cool on your work commute or cycle to college, we love the look of this laptop backpack from Kaukko. The old-school knapsack vibe is enhanced by the durable fabric and quality build, making it an effective cycling backpack for all your tech. Made from durable polyester that can repel a shower, the straps and buckles are also sturdy enough to keep everything neat and secure. Inside you get a compartment to fit up to 15.6-inch laptops, as well as a spacious main compartment for your A4 folders, binders and paperwork. And there are enough outer pockets for your smaller stuff. And for such a smart-looking, formal backpack, we liked the comfort fit, thanks to the padded shoulder straps and back panel.  A desirable, urban cycle backpack at a budget price.

Key Features
  • Durable 600D polyester
  • Laptop compartment
  • Drawstring closure with flap over
  • Three outer pockets
  • Padded shoulder straps
Specification
  • Brand KAUKKO
  • Model HS-AP03-12-FBA
  • Weight 2.16 pounds
PROS

Nice-looking cycling rucksack for your essential gadgets and tech

CONS

The inner dimensions could do with being a little deeper

With the looks of a watersports dry bag and in a color to make sure you are seen, the BackSåk is an awesome bag that’s perfect for those soggy commutes or unpredictable trail rides.

Made from a heavy duty 500-denier PVC to keep things watertight, you can confidently take to the road with the BackSåk, knowing that all your gear is going to stay bone dry. Welded seams and a roll-down top just adds that extra layer of waterproofing security, making this a wet weather top buy. Space-wise, you can choose from an ample 25 or 35 liters, plus zippered inner and outer pockets. And while there is no hydration bladder, there are external D-rings to clip on a water bottle or two.  Add in a padded back support and cushioned shoulder straps and with this super waterproof cycling rucksack, you can be sure of a dry and comfortable bike ride.

Key Features
  • Waterproof 500D PVC
  • Roll-down top closure
  • Welded seams and zippered pockets
  • Available in 25L and 35L
  • Foam padded back and straps
Specification
  • Brand Såk Gear
  • Weight 2.4 pounds
PROS

A bright and waterproof backpack that works well for wet-weather cycling

Well-padded foam back panel for prolonged comfort

CONS

This is a large backpack so can be on the heavy side when full

Sleek and unassuming, this is a well-balanced urban cycling backpack that sits well on your back and holds all your gear snug and secure. You get all the build quality you would expect from a backpack at a mid-to-high end price, but it is not too over the top or in your face.

What you do get is done well – spacious and well-organized padded storage for your laptops and tablets up to 15 inches, alongside well-designed pockets for all your extras. Airflow channels have been added to the molded back panel and padded straps for a cool and comfortable ride, even in a hectic rush hour and the integrated sternum strap disperses weight to keep. You and your backpack nice and balanced.

Key Features
  • Water-resistant and tough 850D ballistic nylon
  • Three large inner compartments
  • Padded and faux-fur lined laptop pocket
  • Quick and easy access pockets
  • Padded back panel and shoulder straps
Specification
  • Brand Incase
  • Model CL55532
  • Weight 1.74 pounds
PROS

Lovely business-like styling with plenty of space for your tech

CONS

No external pockets for a water bottle

With its iconic good looks and a tough urban reputation, the Little America Backpack from Herschel is a rucksack classic.  Tough, stylish and practical, you get a quality commuter backpack that works well with the pedaling city lifestyle.

Made from 100-percent polyester, with an inner drawstring closure and secure over flap, the inner is padded and fleece-lined to keep your tech cocooned and protected. Everything is clipped together with magnetic strap closures. Add in an air mesh padded back panel and contoured shoulder straps and you can make that bike commute in both style and comfort.

Key Features
  • Polyester outer and nylon lining
  • Inner drawstring closure
  • Padded and fleece-lined laptop sleeve
  • Headphone port in inner pocket
  • Padded air mesh back panel
Specification
  • Brand Herschel Supply Co.
  • Model 10014-00001-OS
  • Weight 2.1 pounds
PROS

Durable, great gadget protection and business meeting-ready styling

Effective back padding with air mesh for a cool urban ride

CONS

Could do with a couple more inner pockets to keep things a little more organized

With security and safety often a concern, Nomatic has come up with an awesome bike backpack that thinks it is Fort Knox. Our premium pick is at the top end of our best cycling backpack budget, but you get a whole lot of security for your dollar. It does have the look of a small carry-on and will expand from 20L to 34L when you need it too, but it also fits neatly on your back thanks to its innovative strap system.

To keep your laptop and personal belongings safe as you ride you get lockable external zippers as well as a hidden RDIF blocking pocket on the back of the bag for your cards and smartphone. Add reflective ink and you will also be safe and visible at night. Made from water-resistant 500D tarpaulin fabric, you also get two water bottle pockets and plenty of extra pocket space for your smaller items. And at less than four pounds in weight, this is a super backpack for your cycling commute.

Key Features
  • Water-resistant 500D tarpaulin
  • Expandable design – up to 34L
  • Lockable zippers
  • RFID blocking pocket
  • Flexible shoulder strap system
Specification
  • Brand Nomatic
  • Weight 4 pounds
PROS

Quality safety features without making it a bulky, heavy cycling backpack

CONS

Expensive – at the top end of our review budget

Now here’s a fantastic idea – a suit carry case that transforms into an easy to carry cycle backpack! The team at Henty Wingman came up with a cool niche product that is an essential for the business commuter that prefers two wheels to four but still needs to look corporate smart. The waterproof roll up bag design keeps a full suit or uniform wrinkle free, while its two-bag combo design enables you to keep wet, dirty or worn clothes separate from your fresh apparel.  Plus, you also get a dedicated storage space for a 15-inch laptop so you can carry everything with you to that business meeting. A great idea which is also a time and labor saver so if you are a regular cycle commuter that needs to make a quick change on arrival, then you will certainly get your money’s worth!

Key Features
  • Two-bag roll up system
  • Patented system keeps clothes wrinkle free
  • Dedicated section for your gadgets
  • Adjustable and padded straps
  • Space for a full suit plus shoes
Specification
  • Brand Henty
  • Model WBP-1-GRY
  • Weight 4.5 pounds
PROS

Innovative roll design really does keep your clothes pristine and wrinkle free

CONS

The bag is not waterproof, and it doesn’t come with a rain cover

Best Cycling Backpack Buying Guide & FAQ

What to Consider When Buying a Cycling Backpack

While an all-purpose rucksack will do, a backpack specifically designed for the cyclist is always going to be a good buy, especially if you’re frequently out on your bike, as a commuter or a recreational user. To match your cycling expectations, here are the key features to look for:

  • Capacity

The internal capacity of your new cycling backpack needs to match your needs. So, if you are on the daily commute or a casual rider, a smaller capacity that is the right dimensions for your gadgets and essentials is the way to go. But if you are on for a hard couple of days on the trail, you’ll need a larger capacity to pack in all your food, kit and essential supplies, so look for a cycling rucksack that gives around 20-30 liters of space, without being too cumbersome.

  • Breathability

Not only does your new bike backpack need to be comfortable and fit well when on the move, it also needs to help you keep cool. Look for breathable fabrics located in the right places; a good cycling backpack will use mesh or similar fabrics where the pack rests against your body and will often include a channel construction to allow for an airway between your pack and your back.

  • Waterproofing

Especially if you’re a regular commuter or like all-weather mountain bike weekends, a bike bag that will keep its contents nice and dry is an essential. Many packs come with a waterproof, removable cover you can pop on when the heavens open but for all-round peace of mind, opt for a pack that is made from a reliable, waterproof fabric. Also check that it’s sufficiently sealed to prevent unwanted leaks – taped seams are the way to go.

  • Safety features

Anything you can do to make sure you are seen is an essential in our books, so look for a cycling rucksack that takes safety seriously. Reflective details on the pack are not going to ruin its aesthetic and could well be a life saver.

  • Hydration

Cycling is thirsty work and those water bottle pockets you get on hiking rucksacks don’t work quite so well when you are on your bike. Look for a cycling backpack which has an integral hydration system, including a bladder and compartment, as well as a shoulder loop where you can neatly stash away the drinking tube.

  • Straps

Comfort is king, especially when it comes to the best cycling rucksack as chaffing and pressure on your shoulders is the last thing you want as you ride. Look for padded shoulder straps for extra ride comfort and an adjustable chest or hip strap is also an added bonus as they help to keep the pack stable and in place.

  • Pockets

Get your commuter or mountain bike backpack organized and you are on for a decent ride. Inner, padded compartments are a good idea on your daily commute to keep those gadgets safe, while external, easy to reach zipped pockets are ideal for your essentials. And also check for effective storage or attachments for your bike maintenance kit as you never know when you will need it.

Woman riding mountain bike

Why You Should Invest in a Good Cycling Backpack

If your bike’s an essential part of your life, then a good cycling backpack is essential. Whatever your biking activity, you want to ensure all your items are safe and dry without getting in the way of your cycling life. Comfort, durability and convenience also key so when it comes making an investment in your biking kit, a top-quality cycling backpack should be at the top of your list.

Different Types of Cycling Backpacks

To make sure you get the perfect pack for your own personal pedaling preferences, you need to consider the main types:

  • Hydration: A hydration cycling rucksack does exactly what is says on the tin – it ensures you have easy access to sufficient water to keep you hydrated throughout your biking trip. For day MTB rides out on the trail, or quick whizzes around town, look for a slim backpack with a 1-2l bladder capacity. Lightweight and neat, there is limited storage space in these water boys so if you need extra gear space, opt for a cycling backpack that can also accommodate water bottles for hydration on the go.
  • Day pack: For the commute to work, shopping trip or day ride without the need for too much gear, a bike daypack is ideal. Small enough to wear around the city streets yet spacious enough for your laptop, gadgets, or lunch, maps and a waterproof jacket, a day pack is typically 20 liters or less in capacity and can have a range of internal pockets and protected sections, depending on what you need to carry.
  • Midsize: Exactly as it is described, midsized packs will have a larger internal capacity to carry your essentials for a day or two on the trail, and also space for a hydration bladder or water bottles.
  • Expedition: For hardcore cycling journeys or awesome MTB expeditions where you need to take all your essentials and overnight gear, an expedition bike pack is the way to go. For a balanced ride, opt for a capacity of 20-30 liters and try not to overpack. Expedition packs are also designed for comfort on prolonged bike journeys, so look out for air vent backs and padded waist straps.

Backpacks vs. Panniers

It’s a matter of capacity and how much space you need when it comes to the backpack vs pannier dilemma.

Backpacks offer superior convenience for the busy day or trail cyclist, as you just need to pack, then pop on and go, whereas panniers need to be fixed to your bike. But panniers offer so much more capacity than what you can safely – and comfortably – carry on your back, so are a good option for overnight trips or longer distance journeys. Match the carrier method to the reason you need it and you can’t really go wrong.

Best Cycling Backpack FAQ:

Q: What is a cycling backpack?

A cycling backpack has been designed specifically to work with the demands of life on two wheels. Slimline and lightweight, the pack aims to be more aerodynamic than hiking packs and gives the cyclist support and padded protection where they need it. They should also be sufficiently framed and vented to allow for back support and cooling airflow, waterproofed to protect against the elements and have enough pockets and internal space for all your essential belongings, whether that is your workplace tech or kit to keep you going out on the open trail.

Q: How do I maintain my cycling backpack?

Always check the care instructions from your cycling backpack manufacturer so you’re using the right cleaning methods for the fabric and tech-spec. But as a general guide, clean out your pack after every trip and if caught in the elements, open the back up and allow to thoroughly dry. Use a wet cloth with a light detergent to wipe away surface dirt and grime and periodically lubricate zips and any moving links. Cyclist riding bike with backpack

Q: How do I choose the right size backpack for me?

You will need to select a rucksack based on how you intend to use it – daily commuting, a day out on the trail or a longer multi-night trip. The best way to choose the right size of cycling backpack is also to try it on! Check the straps and length of pack to ensure you can create a secure fit with your new cycling backpack without it impeding your cycling progress or causing discomfort.

Q: Are messenger bags or backpacks better for commuting?

It all depends on your type of commute and what you need when you get to work! Messenger bags tend to be more streamlined so ideal if you have minimal amounts to carry but they are worn across the body so can be harder to keep in place or out of the way. For total peace of mind for a secure bag as well as sufficient, protected space for your tech, your wallet and even your lunch, then we recommend you opt for a cycling-specific rucksack.

Our Top Pick

In a choice of 10 cool colors and with a build quality you would expect on a more expensive model, we are happy to make the Mubasel Gear Insulated Hydration Backpack our Top Pick. Perfect for all-round cycling, there’s a decent amount of space for your stuff and it fits snugly comfortable on your back. Plus, you get a 2L hydration system built in, with a thermal bladder that promises to keep your water cool for up to five hours. All-in-all a great value cycling backpack, that performs well and looks great too.

Sources:

  1. Mountain Bike Comfort Accessories – HowStuffWorks

MORE TO READ