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 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 (Get it on Amazon). 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Check out this post for some other pannier options
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.
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.
What is your favourite method for keeping your stuff dry? Add it to the comments below to guide fellow London Cyclists!
More useful updated cycling accessory roundups:
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.