What is the Best Cycling Backpack? Commuter Rucksack Guide

*This is a 2016 update to a 2014 guide*

Backpacks and rucksacks for cycling come in all shapes and sizes.

Whilst it is more than possible to use any kind of backpack while cycling, there are benefits of having a travel backpack designed with the bike rider in mind.

Cycling backpacks will usually have adjustable straps on the shoulders, chest and waist. These are there to hold the pack in position, so getting out the saddle to ride away from traffic lights or up a hill doesn’t involve the feeling of being a tortoise about to lose its shell.

A quality rucksack for cycling will also generally have a number of different pockets for keeping things segregated and an attachment or two for lights/helmet etc. Many also come with high viz waterproof covers, and the material is generally designed with ‘getting caught in a downpour’ in mind.

Top 4 Best Cycling Backpacks for Commuters

dhb Slice 30 – £26.99

A bargain of a backpack, the Slice has the space to carry a full change of clothes and office bumf. It also has some nice big reflective logos on the back – these can never hurt going home in the winter.

The Slice comes with a bright waterproof cover, although the bag material itself will withstand most light showers. The hip belt has pockets for quick access items and there are more than enough other little pockets to keep your on bike and off bike life organised.

dhb Slice 30

Andreas did a full review of the bag a few years ago – spec wise it hasn’t really changed since.

Deuter Speedlight 10L Backpack – £29.99


This is Michelle’s top pick and has been dutifully serving me for close to three years. The 10L pack is good for basics and not being weighed down, but larger sizes are available. At £29.99 its really good value for a solid pack.

The Speedlite is fit for a range of sports, cycling included – but reassuringly running and skiing too. It’s fair to say those involve much more movement, and the Deuter rucksack certainly sits still and comfortably when used for riding.

The fabric is ‘HexLite210 / Ribstop 210’ – and it’s always been resilient, I’ve only experienced ‘wet socks and trousers’ from leakage through the fabric on very wet days, and never severely. The straps are adjustable and do their job, and there are some reflective details, though I wouldn’t class this as a particularly visibility focused pack.

Osprey Talon 22LTempest 20L  – £67-£76

These are multi-sport bags with great features for cycling. The Talon is the men’s/unisex version, while the Tempest is a women’s specific pack. They share the same features, the women’s one just has a shorter back and narrower shoulder straps – great for making sure the bag fits you on the bike. The shoulder straps are nice and soft so they don’t dig in at all.

Osprey Talon 22

Both the Talon and Tempest have a large main compartment for food, clothes, laptop in a sleeve, etc. There is a small top pocket for easy access items such as wallet and phone. The hip belt has two pockets which are great for things you might want to get out very quickly, like keys. There is a helmet holder on the front and a loop for a light, along with great stretchy pockets for gloves, jacket etc. The back system is also pretty breathable in warmer weather without being too stiff.

The bags don’t come with a rain cover, but for anything other than prolonged, intense rain it will not be needed. A standard hi-viz cover will fit great if you want something for the winter.

I personally have the 33L version,  great if you need to carry a lot of stuff. It does lack the convenient zip entry and helmet holder but is great at keeping water out and your back cool.

Ortlieb Velocity Back Pack – £65.99

Ortleib are like the crème de le crème of backpacks (and panniers…), they know about rain and they know how to create waterproof material. The Velocity is a dedicated rucksack, rather than a pannier that converts to a rucksack, so it performs well while riding.

Pleasantly plastically, you know this rucksack won’t leak, and as well as adjustable shoulder, chest and waist straps, you get a handle to carry it nonchalantly into the office. The inner pocket is removable too, so you can even leave the soggy shell to dry and carry just what you want to your desk.

You get 20L with this one, but as it is all in one main space it feels pretty large. There is a great range of colours available – including a high-viz yellow option – so you can stand out or blend in.

Check out our detailed review of the Ortlieb Messenger Bag, similar to the Velocity, from Georgie here.


If you want even more options for commuter bags and backpacks to carry about your person while on a bike check out these reviews:

What do you use to carry your kit around on the bike?

Join 10,221 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

29 Responses to What is the Best Cycling Backpack? Commuter Rucksack Guide

  1. Dunc 30/09/2014 at 5:19 pm #

    But Ortlieb is German, not Cumbrian right?

  2. MJ Ray 01/10/2014 at 10:09 am #

    I use an alpkit xtra dry bag, with its strap looped through both low loops to form a shoulder strap for off the bike, but non-droopy for when it’s strapped to the bike as either rack top bag or saddle bag. Cost about £10

  3. Mik 01/10/2014 at 10:50 am #

    I use a Trespass Ultra 22 hydration pack for day to day use
    http://www.trespass.com/ultra-22-00454 there is no way it’s 22l but it fits a basic change of clothes and my ipad in plus a 2l platypus for drinking from. From motorbiking days I learnt nothing is really waterproof so I double wrap the contents with two plastic bags which works in everything but ridiculous downpours (where some edges will be damp). The quality isn’t fantastic (inside bits are starting to come apart) but it’s lasted a very large number of journeys and for the price compared to buying a camelback can be considered a consumable.

    If I need to carry trousers and shoes etc. then I use a 28l Diemos which is much bigger, I’m not convinced that having it held away from the body makes much difference and am kind of glad most of the time I don’t need to carry that much.

    Both of them are regularly on sale, I paid £18 odd for the Ultra and £32 for the Diemos.

  4. AH 01/10/2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Unless I’m carrying loads (my bigger bag carries about 15L) I favour a saddlebag. No sweaty back, nothing getting in the way when you look round, waterproof, once you set off you don’t even notice it.

    • AH 01/10/2014 at 1:51 pm #

      Bigger saddle bag that is that carries 15L.

  5. Gavin 01/10/2014 at 10:26 pm #

    I use one of these


    30 pounds, waterproof and well built. Can’t ask for more

  6. Vincent 02/10/2014 at 12:07 am #

    Don’t use backpacks. They get your back wet in no time.

    Instead, get a waterproof clip-on pannier:

  7. Dave 02/10/2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Use Topeak’s MTX quick track bag and beam rack system. Carry’s everything I need without the sweaty back.

  8. Tom 02/10/2014 at 8:28 pm #

    The Deuter speed lite pack is part of their ‘alpine’ range rather than being a cycle specific backpack, hence it not being particularly ‘visibility focused’, most of their actual cycle specific range have a high viz built in rain cover that stows into a small pocket in the backpack. Most also have a net thing to strap a helmet to. The bike range also tend to have better ventilation to reduce sweaty back’…

    i’ve got this one, it’s pretty good:

  9. Spencer 02/10/2014 at 10:18 pm #

    I’m using a Deuter Race Exp Air which is a nicely put together backpack. Only complaint is do find it bit of a tight squeeze to fit all the gumpf I carry with me when commuting (lunch, drinks, change of clothes, tool kit, pump, etc).

    Do prefer to ride with panniers though.

  10. Ben Hopkins 03/10/2014 at 10:41 am #

    Overboard prosport 20l dry back pack.
    Like the ortlieb but cheaper. I use an eagle creek shirt carrier, and take 5 shirts plus underwear on Monday, keeping trousers, towel and washbag at work. I only have to wear backpack for 2 of the 10 commutes. Spare tube, levers, multitool, phone and wallet all fit in a small saddlebag.

  11. Mike Lyons 03/10/2014 at 1:15 pm #

    Wiggle’s own brand dhb includes the ‘slice’ rucksack in various sizes which includes most of the features listed above. I think the 25litre size is good value at 25 pounds (sometimes less)

  12. Gary W 03/10/2014 at 3:19 pm #

    I use a Chrome messenger bag. Really comfortable, waterproof and quite original looking

  13. Tom 03/10/2014 at 6:00 pm #

    i’ve also got an Ortlieb messenger backpack, mainly used when I know I’m going to end up in the record shops of Soho, as it’s pretty much the only backpack that you can fit an LP in safely!

  14. Kie 03/10/2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Backpacks are bad for the back, best to use other methods for regular carrying.

  15. Wayne 05/10/2014 at 9:38 pm #

    Hi all. I have been using an ‘overboard’ brand waterproof backpack. I have found the bag to be good and fit for purpose and can been found for a reasonable price, especially when on a sale. The bags can be found on Amazon and Overboard also have their own website.
    Hope this info will be of help.

  16. Mark 07/10/2014 at 6:08 pm #

    i use a walking pack, which has a sort of mesh to lift the pack up away from your back. it means you only get a small sweaty area at the base…. not bad!



  17. Caz 08/10/2014 at 11:08 pm #

    I use a Deuter Speed Lite 10L Rucksack (green). I’m a first-timer at all this so didn’t realise just how small it is but I’m able to fit all I need into this for work. I really like the side mesh pockets and top one for keys/lights.

  18. Leah 15/10/2014 at 4:48 am #

    I’m seeing a few comments about typical backpack issues: sweatyback, prone to back problems etc. I’ll advise to keep an eye out for Henty’s newest product launching this winter (or summer if you’re from the southern hemisphere). Although they strive for quality, durability and aesthetics — they’ve got a new bag in the works that’s likely to appeal to ‘the rest of us’. I hear it’ll be cheaper, too! 😉

  19. Joe 03/11/2014 at 7:02 pm #


    I’m curious as to whether the “Deuter Speed Lite 10L Rucksack” would be large enough to carry a 15″ laptop? If anyone has the two…

    • Dan 02/09/2016 at 11:35 am #

      Hi, I tried the Deuter 16L EXP and it just about fit a 14″ but was quite uncomfortable pressed in my back.

  20. Emily 01/09/2016 at 2:33 pm #

    Hey all,
    We have updated this post from 2014 to keep things current. The previous comments have been left as they are pretty helpful to anyone looking for a backpack for use while riding a bike.

  21. Malcis 02/09/2016 at 10:20 am #

    Quick shout out for the Notabag – a hi-viz folding bag that converts to a back pack. Clearly not a serious backpack for daily use but a godsend for last minute shopping or anything that doesn’t fit in my front carrier.

  22. Dan 02/09/2016 at 11:33 am #

    I use the Alpine Lowe Edge2 18l

    it fits a 13″laptop, a waterproof jacked, gloves tools and a shirt. everything I need and is small enough to be comfortable.

  23. Dan 02/09/2016 at 12:41 pm #

    splashed out on a citybrik by kitbrix.

    pretty comfy split compartment rucksack.

    bottom half waterproof ideal for food / sweaty clothes

    top half decent size for ipad and personal stuff.

    you can unzip the internal divider and make it one big bag too.

    padded so when its in your back it doesnt sweat stick to you.

    firm base so that you can put it on floor and it wont get wet.

  24. David Bier 02/09/2016 at 1:49 pm #

    Just started cycling to the station and bought a Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter Backpack. Seems good after a week…:)

  25. Mark 05/09/2016 at 3:29 pm #

    Have just started using one of apidura’s rear packs (Big saddle bags) and loving it. Will only take the rucksac on days when I have a large load. But for a long commute (~19 miles) it is so much nicer not having that extra weight on your bag, and that huge sweat patch that goes with it.


  26. Phil 14/09/2016 at 10:09 am #

    Carradice Shopper panniers: they hold ( nearly ) everything ( not 12″ vinyl sadly ), laugh at rain and you don’t have a sweaty or hurt back.

  27. Don 17/09/2016 at 11:38 am #

    I have been using Polaris RBS Radar (25l). Has a main section to carry my work stuff: admin, lunch and additional bits (use for waterproofs when needed) with a internal pocket for valuables. The smaller section I use for lights & basic bike tools/equipment and an internal pocket for bike keys etc. There’s provision for a Camelpak and rear light. Outer zipped pockets for other gear. The main reason I bought this is its unrivalled hi-viz design (lime green other colours available). Downside material not waterproof but I have bought their packaway cover to go with it.

Leave a Reply