Waterproof cycling bags

On several occasions I distinctly remember scrounging a carrier bag to put inside my backpack in a last ditched effort to keep my laptop dry. In all honesty, it worked, but it’s by no means the easiest, least stressful situation to deal with.

These days I’ve got something far better suited for the job. Here’s how I went about choosing the right bag.

*Editor’s note: this is an updated 2016 edition of our guide* 

What I look for:

  • A cover for the opening – This can be a flap over the top of the zips, or a full rain cover
  • Water-repellent materials – Water needs to run off the bag rather than soaking in
  • Tough base – the base of the bag needs to be thick so than it doesn’t let water in when on the ground
  • Quick drying straps – the straps need to dry out quickly so they don’t soak my clothes all day
  • Easy to use – I don’t want to have to battle with my bag to get at my keys or phone.
  • Comfort – For short journeys this is less important, but on longer trips the bag needs to be comfortable or easily attached to my bike
  • Breathability – If wearing the bag, it needs to not make my back too sweaty (some is inevitable)

These cycling bags are designed to keep the valuables as dry as when you first shoved them in your bag. They also come with cleverly designed straps to prevent the cycling bag sliding around on your back and breathable backs to stop that horrible sweaty back syndrome. Additionally, with cyclists in mind, they have quick access pockets and reflective strips for cars to see you. A good bag for cycling is one of the most worthy upgrades you can make.

Bags you wear

Osprey Momentum 

Osprey make amazing backpacks for a variety of outdoor uses. They have a few cycling specific ones, but the Momentum is a good pick for using around London. It comes in a variety of sizes, the larger 30 litre one being the most useful for commuting as you can easily fit work stuff and a change of clothes (£76.49 from Wiggle). As it has compression straps everything stays really stable while riding and you can also make the bag more streamlined when it is not full.

Osprey Momentum

The main cycling specific feature which warrants its inclusion in this list is its built in rain cover, making the bag suitable for even the rainiest commute (it would be fine for journeys up to 30 mins without the cover as well). However, it has plenty of other features which make it a great commuter pack. There is a clip for attaching your helmet, a loop for a rear light, little side pockets for easy key access, breathable back panel…. the list goes on.

Ortlieb Velocity

Ortlieb lead the way with their huge range of waterproof bags. This is a rucksack version of their popular panniers for those who prefer to carry their belongings themselves. Its 24 litre capacity should be ample for most day uses, and as it is a large cavity, you can really stuff things in there. If you do need a larger version, there is always the Messenger which we have reviewed in the past.

Ortlieb Velocity

There is some padding on the back to get air to your back while riding and the shoulder pads should dry fairly quickly. You could happily put this bag down in a huge puddle while locking up your bike. You could probably even fall in the canal with it and be fine. Probably not a feature worth testing though.

Available from Evans Cycles for around £75

Hump Rucksack cover

Not strictly a bag in and of itself, this cover should go over most bags and will keep your stuff dry in any rucksack you chose. We have reviewed a few bags in the past which make great cycling packs and can withstand small amounts of rain. Store a Hump cover in it and you have a great waterproof pack with added extra visibility. This cover even has a small pocket suitable for a rear light. Best of all, it is a pretty cheap option at £17.49.

Hump cover

Bags your bike wears

dhb Waterproof pannier

This is a great budget option for a fully waterproof rear pannier. It has all the features of the Ortlieb backroller but at a much more affordable price of £34.99 each (perfect as you often only need one pannier for commuting). It has a three point opening, which means you can stuff it out or roll it down to fit your load, and with a 22 litre capacity, it should fit most things you need for a day in the office or out exploring. The only thing to note is it is quite a long pannier. This makes it perfect for those of you with larger laptops, but not if you have a minimalist rack.

dhb waterproof pannier

Check out this post for some other pannier options

Brompton O-Bag 

All the main Brompton bags can be made waterproof with a rain cover but the O-Bag is the only one that is naturally waterproof on its own. It will fit on all the handlebar styles and has a laptop sleeve and lots of organisation pockets. It is not the cheapest option at £200 but it will last you an incredibly long time and keep all your belongings protected.

Yellow Brompton O-Bag

A full review of the core Brompton line can be found here

Ortlieb Handlebar basket

For those of you who prefer carrying your things on the front of your bike, and don’t carry a laptop, this Ortlieb waterproof basket looks like a good option. It has enough capacity for a spare top, small tablet and all the bits and bobs of life. It costs £100 from SJS Cycles.

Ortlieb handlebar basket

What is your favourite method for keeping your stuff dry? Add it to the comments below to guide fellow London Cyclists!

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50 Responses to Waterproof cycling bags

  1. Kirses 15/09/2010 at 4:14 pm #

    I would also recommend a Freitag, never had a problem with leakage even during heavy downpours.
    http://www.freitag.ch/shop/FREITAG/shop.jsf#/models=F12

    • Bob 07/10/2010 at 7:29 pm #

      If you have a tight budget use bin liners within your reasonably priced panniers.

      Put one open bin liner inside your pannier and then put,say your laptop, inside another bin liner and then within your first liner.

      Cyclo camped in French Alps in atrocious weather. Kit kept perfectly dry.

  2. Howard 15/09/2010 at 4:15 pm #

    Nice roundup. The large Rapha Fixed Backpack is also excellent, if pricey. There’s a review on my site.

    The “Hump” backpack cover is also a nice stop gap if you have a bag you like but need to waterproof it. Again, a bit pricey but works so well that you’ll soon forget the £25 hole in your wallet.

  3. David 15/09/2010 at 4:16 pm #

    “A good bag for cycling is one of the most worthy upgrades you can make” – I disagree. A rack and panniers are far better. You can carry more weight (my work have an entertaining idea of what a portable laptop is), your back is never going to get sweaty and it is easier to twist and look behind you.

    • Andreas 15/09/2010 at 4:27 pm #

      Definitely up for debate – a lot of people prefer the throw over the back nature of cycling bags. Where as panniers I find you have to think about it a lot more.

    • Tim Lennon 15/09/2010 at 5:00 pm #

      And a bag over your shoulder doesn’t act like a sail when you’re cycling in a heavy cross-wind …

      • David 15/09/2010 at 5:04 pm #

        Apart from when crossing the Thames I’ve not found the wind at pannier level in London to be a problem. Did get blown about a bit on Blackfriars Bridge the other week but it is only short.

      • Filippo Negroni 15/09/2010 at 5:46 pm #

        mmmhhh, swinging weight on my shoulders or fixed weight on my bike… I know what I’d rather have in case of emergency maneuver or worse, accident.

        IMHO, panniers are the natural progression for a cyclist. Eventually, age brings wisdom.

        Shoulder bags, rucksacks, are all a phase… 😉

        • John 15/09/2010 at 6:05 pm #

          I have to agree with you on this one! Panniers are the best place to put all your stuff for your commute.
          I buy Arkel ones which are not cheap – but last forever – and I have a few types for shopping, commuting and trips.
          The Arkel Bug is a rucksack with pannier rack fittings, so if you have a bit of a walk from your bike parking place to work the bag just turns into a backpack for easy transport.

        • Tim 15/09/2010 at 6:28 pm #

          See your point, but my commute home goes through Richmond Park and there was a very strong wind. Panniers would have made that even harder.

    • James 16/09/2010 at 8:05 pm #

      Very well said.

    • James 16/09/2010 at 8:06 pm #

      Very well said, David.

  4. Philip 15/09/2010 at 4:18 pm #

    I have the smaller musette style Chrome Vega Utility bag and it is excellently waterproof. Buckle strap is simpler on this model than on the larger ones, so no complaints.

    • Andreas 15/09/2010 at 4:27 pm #

      Yeah the Chrome waterproof cycling bags really do keep the water out nicely.

  5. Mike 15/09/2010 at 4:31 pm #

    I have the Chrome bag, don’t understand what you mean about the belt-buckle strap that “could do with improvement.”

    I think it’s an excellent idea, makes it easy to get the bag on and off with having to faff about like I had to with my old Timbuk2 bags, adjusting the shoulder strap once I’d put it on over my helmet.

    Also, my Chrome bag has a bright red interior, which means you never lose anything in there.

    • Andreas 15/09/2010 at 5:16 pm #

      Some people find it a little bit uncomfortable. Have you never had this issue?

      • Mike 15/09/2010 at 11:21 pm #

        No, to be honest it’s miles more comfortable than my Timbuk2 was. With a heavy load that would bring blood spots to the skin on my shoulder, as it was an unpadded nylon strip.

        The strap is much better padded on the Chrome, and wider too. I wonder if people are finding it uncomfortable because they don’t have it adjusted correctly?

  6. Tim Lennon 15/09/2010 at 4:31 pm #

    Am happy to lavishly recommend Timbuk2’s laptop messenger (http://www.timbuk2.com/tb2/products/home)

    My wife bought me one nearly five years ago, and it’s still going strong. Not only great as a cycling bag, but has endured torrential downpours, and as a carry-on for flights.

    Saw Tom Jennings recommend this one for a look too: http://www.slicks.cc/suit25 It’s expensive, but looks very practical.

  7. Elena 15/09/2010 at 4:48 pm #

    I’ve had my Timbuk2 (classic messenger, ballistic nylon) since 2004; no complaints whatsoever so long as I shut it properly! The coating is starting to crack in the bottom now, but I figure it should be possible to rewaterproof it somehow… It’s really only been an issue when I’ve put the bag down, say, in a puddle.

    • Andreas 15/09/2010 at 5:17 pm #

      TimBuk2 was the other one I would have mentioned. Great cycling bags!

      • Leslie 20/09/2010 at 3:24 pm #

        Andreas had my Timbuk2 now for 12 years, used (and abused) every day and all over the world. Never an issue although not so good for lugging a laptop so I bought a Rapha for when I really must carry the thing around with me.
        Great site, keep on keeping on. Leslie

    • Tim 15/09/2010 at 6:12 pm #

      Oh dear, my last comment went AWOL. Anyway, my missus bought me a Timbuk2 laptop messenger five years ago and it’s still doing fine. Originally used the belt strap, but haven’t bothered for ages, even when heavily loaded.

      Probably proof against actual immersion based on my experience!

  8. Aggi 15/09/2010 at 4:59 pm #

    I’ve got a Carradice saddlebag and it’s incredibly waterproof. It wasn’t that cheap but very high quality plus a saddlebag keeps the load off your back. In addition Caradice are a UK made brand (made about 5 miles from my hometown)

  9. Balint 15/09/2010 at 5:19 pm #

    I’ve been using a Bagaboo (http://bit.ly/9fByHp) bag for the last 4 years now, it’s massive, big bag, very comfortable and is absolutely waterproof. The only problem is that it can take so much stuff, sometimes it’s hard to actually carry it.

  10. Pete 15/09/2010 at 8:19 pm #

    If I’m cycling home in the rain, I’m unlikely to be carrying my lunch with me. 🙂

  11. Chris 15/09/2010 at 9:27 pm #

    I have just brought this new bag to market, which holds a suit, laptop etc and also works as a carry case; interested to know what you think …

  12. Chris 15/09/2010 at 9:27 pm #

    I have just brought this new bag to market http://www.slicks.cc , which holds a suit, laptop etc and also works as a carry case; interested to know what you think …

    • Pete 16/09/2010 at 7:12 am #

      Weight: 24g (Incl suit cover)

      240g, surely?

      • Chris 16/09/2010 at 11:24 am #

        Thanks for spotting the error; should be 2.4kg

        • Pete 16/09/2010 at 11:51 am #

          2.4kg.

          Crikey, that’s quite heavy!

    • kathryn 17/09/2010 at 12:48 pm #

      Chris – I love the videos on your site! Such a good idea!

      • Chris 19/09/2010 at 10:21 am #

        thanks and I hope we get some journeys logged there; just shows cycling is a great way to see your city/town!

  13. Angi 15/09/2010 at 10:36 pm #

    I have the Knog Pig Dog courier bag…so spacious…loads of pockets and soft & padded laptop section inside too. So far it’s not let me down. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this bag on your comments sections before.

    http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/cycle/7/Knog_Pig_Dog_Laptop_Courier_Bag/5360050777/

  14. Emo 17/09/2010 at 2:23 pm #

    I have to give a shout out to Mission Workshop bags, the backpacks and messenger bags are amazing. Very technical. Also worth mentioning the Rondel SPD sneaker just released, mine are shipping as we speak.

    http://missionworkshop.com/

  15. Phil 23/09/2010 at 9:21 am #

    I’d love a pair of Carradice panniers; my budget will only stretch as far as a Super C rack pack some time next year, which should hold all my stuff for work.

  16. Rob 31/10/2010 at 10:10 am #

    For a while I kept looking for a pannier that, when off the bike, you can wear like a backpack. A gap in the market – surely some Dragon’s Den type had come up with something? Then I found one at Decathlon, but at £14.95 it was not up to scratch quality – wise, although it has some great ideas like a visibility/waterproof cover stashed away in a zipped pocket at the base. Does anyone know of a good quality “convertible” pannier/backpack?

  17. Elizabeth 10/06/2014 at 10:31 pm #

    Hey, check out North St. Bags out of Portland, Oregon! They make a backpack/pannier combo!

    http://www.northstbags.com

  18. Dave 09/08/2015 at 7:20 pm #

    Ortlieb panniers are unbelievably waterproof although a bit heavier than most still my first choice

  19. Emily 09/03/2016 at 5:04 pm #

    Hey All,

    Just to let you know that this is an update to the 2010 post with a few different bag options. Some comments may relate to bags not as easily available in the UK anymore or no longer current. They are all still great bags, we just wanted to bring you some more options!

    Add your bag in the comments to let others know of its greatness!

    Cheers!
    Emily

  20. TOM 09/03/2016 at 7:24 pm #

    weight distribution on a bike makes a big difference in handling (fore/aft). Also the center of gravity affects it .

    a lower gravity center (panniers) , make more sense to me.

    I have a rear rack with bag , a pannier (on the weight correct LEFT side) and handlebar bag. Usually try to put tools and concentrated weight in the barbag to even out F/R balance.

    Check your tires. The rear wears out first ..hence most of the weight is naturally over it.

  21. Harry 09/03/2016 at 8:30 pm #

    Have been very happy with one of these for wet weather riding:
    https://www.alpkit.com/products/gourdon-20
    Dry bag rucksack style but with a couple of pockets, available in 20, 25 or 30l and £25!
    Not sure the Ortlieb has another £50 worth of features

    • MJ Ray 14/03/2016 at 1:40 pm #

      A simple airlok xtra bungeed to the rack has been my basic cycling bag for about a year, so I’d expect their rucksacks would be good if you want to spend a bit more. I pop my airlock into a cheap folding rucksack if needed.

      When I want to carry shopping, I use double panniers that get locked to the bike and then I drop shopping bags into them. That makes it easier to unload at home and avoids the problem that most double panniers are awful to carry and most singles have fairly low weight limits on the hooks.

      For work or leisure, I hang a haversack from the saddle rails, running the strap through a rigid tube under the flap to keep it in shape. The bottom rests on the rack. I’ve not been doing that so long, though. Also, most of my satchels need rain covers.

  22. Harry 09/03/2016 at 8:31 pm #

    Have been very happy with one of these for wet weather riding:
    https://www.alpkit.com/products/gourdon-20

    Dry bag rucksack style but with a couple of pockets, available in 20, 25 or 30l and £25!
    Not sure the Ortlieb has another £50 worth of features

  23. Jen 09/03/2016 at 9:03 pm #

    Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op sell their own waterproof brand which is a pair of 20Litres – good for the small stuff. Very affordable too. And they sell some others.

    http://www.edinburghbicycle.com/products/revolution-adventure-welded-panniers?bct=browse%2faccessories%2fbags

  24. Nick Donnelly 11/03/2016 at 12:40 pm #

    Mission Workshop – all amazing gear – I own the Rummy messenger – super water proof, super stylish, super comfortable.

  25. Jean 11/03/2016 at 1:23 pm #

    I have used waterproof backpacks from Lomo and Overboard for years now. Both are pretty much designed around dry bags and are 100% waterproof even if they fall in a river and have good padding on straps as well as having waist and chest straps for a really good, adjustable fit. They’re designed for water sports but I find they’re very suited for cycling. They come in lots of sizes and fit a budget of around £25-35 upwards depending on size. Both companies have websites
    http://www.ewetsuits.com
    http://www.over-board.com

  26. janet 11/03/2016 at 5:39 pm #

    Vulpine back pack is comfortable. About 95% waterproof so use a plastic bag inside if its terrential

  27. Lois 19/03/2016 at 3:00 am #

    I got Ortlieb Back Rollers as a birthday pressie. They aren’t light and I wouldn’t have spent that much myself but they certainly do the job and keep everything dry. I prefer them to a rucksack and I use them all the time.
    I wouldn’t recommend the cheaper City version though. They also have a roll top but instead of a strap and clip closure in the middle they have a clip on each side of the roll top that clips into fixed plastic bits on the sides. I find them fiddly and annoying.

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