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The best cycling backpack 2020: the best rolltop, zip-through and messenger bags

TechRadar logo TechRadar 12/31/2019 Matt Kollat
a man wearing a hat: best cycling backpack © Provided by TechRadar best cycling backpack

If you cycle to work or like to go out on your bike at the weekends, the best way to carry all your essentials with you is in a cycling backpack, which very often come in the form or a rolltop backpack or a zip-though utility backpack. Either way, they are usually spacious enough and easy to carry without getting in the way while cycling and they’re generally more convenient to transport than hanging a duffle bag on your handles, for example.

How to choose the best cycling backpack

Today, we have the luxury to be able to choose between literally thousands of bags, even for cycling. Cycling bags generally fall into three categories, though: you have the nylon, more synthetic utility style backpacks that are not all that dissimilar to hiking backpacks, maybe a bit smaller than those.

Then you have the half-shoulder messenger bags that are convenient if you need to get items out of the bag quickly, since you can just swing the bag around and open the flap to access the main compartment.

And there are roll top backpacks that can hold a metric ton of stuff and are most usually water tight, too, given the roll top closure that seals the main compartment away from moisture. 

Depending on how much stuff you need to carry, a cycling backpack can hold anything upwards 10 litres and most usually is around 20 litres in volume, which is a good compromise in size and portability. You can get a 75-litre backpack but that probably won't make you aerodynamic on the road.

The best thing about a cycling backpack is that it can be simple and stylish for the fashion conscious, or you can opt for something more ergonomic and practical if you’re going to be using it frequently. If it’s the latter you’re after, then looking out for waterproof linings and reflective padding will come in handy for those who use their bike as their main form of transport. 

If you’re more of a weekend rider, for sport or leisure, then something small and lightweight, with compartments that allow you quick and easy access to your stuff can come in handy. You may wish to opt for a cycling backpack with a bladder compartment for hassle-free hydration, and backpacks with bungee cords to attach other essential items for ease of access. 

We’ve picked out a range of different cycling backpacks to accommodate all styles and preferences, from city bikers to adventure bikers and everything in between. Check them out below to find the right one for you!

a close up of a bag: best cycling backpack: Alban rolltop © Provided by TechRadar best cycling backpack: Alban rolltop

1. Alban Roll Top Backpack

A stylish canvas bag for the urban cyclist

Best for: Urban/city cyclist | Capacity: 18L | Material: Canvas, veggie leather | Waterproof: Yes

Expandable closure
Laptop compartment 
Not designed for adventure biking

This canvas backpack is both a practical and stylish option for anyone who cycles to and from work. The cycling backpack features a padded laptop compartment which can hold any device up to 17” and the roll top closure is expandable for when you have a few extra items to carry.

You’ll also have a side pocket which has enough room for a drinks bottle or anything else you want quick and easy access to.  As well as being a stylish choice, the pack itself is made from durable waterproof canvas, so you can expect this bag to serve you well even on the rainiest of days. 

a black and yellow bag: (Image credit: North Face) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: North Face)

2. The North Face Explore Fusebox S

The mini-malist choice

Best for: | Capacity: 22 litres | Weight: 720 grams | Material: 900D 100% Polyester with TPE PVC coating | Waterproof: No

Compact
Straightforward design
Fairly small

This small but stylish backpack can hold just about enough items for quick trip around town during the day. Thanks to the small form factor and the padded shoulder straps, The North Face Explore Fusebox S backpack won't be a burden to carry around town.

Thanks to the two daisy chains at the front of the backpack, you can clip items to the bag, even a D-lock, which then won;t rattle around on the handle of the bike as you try to dodge cars in the morning traffic.

With its 14-litre capacity, The North Face Explore Fusebox S – where 'S' stands for 'small' – won't be able to hold loads of items, but if you are a minimalist, you wouldn't need more than a few things anyway.

a close up of a bag: (Image credit: Osprey) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Osprey)

3. Osprey Talon 22 Rucksack

A versatile cycling/hiking/trailing backpack

Best for: Performance riders | Capacity: 22 litres | Weight: 750 grams | Material: Mesh | Waterproof: No

Backpanel highly breathable
Bike helmet attachment 
Not waterproof

Looking for a bag that can be used for hiking and trailing as well as cycling? Look no further than the Osprey Talon 22, a not surprisingly 22-litre backpack with excellent breathability at the back panel.

The Talon 22 feels smaller on the back than how big it is, thanks to the clever holster system that golds the bag securely wrapped around your torso: the bag won't slide onto your neck, even in more aggressive racing positions, being bent over the lower bar on your bike.

The Talon also features a bike helmet attachment, reflective graphics, twin zippered hip belt pockets, stretch pocket on harness, external hydration access and a single ice axe loop.

a close up of a device: (Image credit: Crumpler) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Crumpler)

4. Crumpler Dinky Di Messenger M

Cruise around in style with this quirky messenger bag

Best for: Quick access trips | Capacity: 16L | Weight: 880 grams | Material: 1000d Chicken Tex Supreme Nylon | Waterproof: Yes

Quick access pockets
Waterproof
Usual Crumpler quality
On the small side

There is a lot to like about Crumpler bags and if you are even slightly familiar with camera bags and/or cycling bags, you've heard about them already. Crumpler's 1000d Chicken Tex Supreme Nylon fabric is waterproof and hard-wearing, making it an ideal cycling bag material that will last, even if you keep throwing your bag around, which you will most likely do, let's face it.

Although the Dinky Di Messenger M is only 16 liters in volume, you can still fit a 15-inch laptop (e.g. Macbook Pro) in the main sleeve AND a 9.7-inch tablet (e.g. iPad) in the smaller sleeve. Plus all your other stuff, like phone. keys and smartphone, of course.

a blue bag: (Image credit: Deuter) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Deuter)

5. Deuter Bike One 14 Rucksack

Retro aesthetics and compact form factor living in perfect harmony

Best for: short trips in the city | Capacity: 14 litres | Weight: 750 grams | Material: Nylon/polyester | Waterproof: No

Loads of features regardless of relative smallness of the bag
Hydration system compatible
Admittedly small

Did you like the colour-scheme of the Pepsi logo in the 70s? Then you'll love the Deuter Bike One 14 rucksack. The panel at the front is literally only missing the 'Pepsi' label, really, to complete the look.

This deceptively small backpack has a whole range of features, like the stow away helmet holder, front accessories pocket (a.k.a. Pepsi pocket), stretch mesh side pockets and even a wet laundry compartment.

For added safety, there are 3M reflectors and a mesh hip belt for secure positioning of the bag on your back. The Bike One 14 is also hydration system compatible, in case you want to use it as one.

a bag of luggage: best cycling backpack: Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City © Provided by TechRadar best cycling backpack: Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City

6. Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City

Travel to and from the office in style with this waterproof daypack

Best for: Office commuter | Capacity: 21L | Material: Nylon | Waterproof: Yes

Reflective strips for visibility
Plenty of space 
Things can get lost inside 

This large city backpack is large enough to accommodate all of your daily essentials for the office, including your laptop, a change of clothing and lunch. Owners say the roll top closer is great for expandability when needed and the padding and back supports mean you rarely feel the difference when adding extra weight as it distributes so well.

There aren’t many pockets so sometimes it can be a fumble to find things inside if it’s very full,  but it’s waterproof and comes with reflective strips so overall this pack is rated highly for those daily commutes to the office. 

a close up of a black bag: (Image credit: Salomon) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Salomon)

7. Salomon Prolog 70 Backpack

For BIG weekend journeys

Best for: weekend trips in the mountains | Capacity: 70 litres | Weight: 800 grams | Material: Nylon/polyester (PVC free) | Waterproof: No

Wet compartment
Good padding
Clearly won;t make you overly aerodynamic

Sometimes, you'll need some extra storage space, even if you're cycling. A 14-litre backpack won't cut it when you have to pack for both colder and hotter weather, camping accessories, sleeping bag and so on.

Enter the Salomon Prolog 70 backpack. It is a hybrid backpack/weekend bag that can be carried around as a backpack as much as a duffle bag and can store away pretty much everything you might need for a long weekend away from civilisation.

As expected from a bag such a size, the Prolog 70 comes with a large range of different pockets and organisational features including a wet compartment for all your laundry and wet shoes. No need to carry single use plastic bags anymore!

a person wearing a costume: (Image credit: Evoc Sports) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Evoc Sports)

8. Evoc Mission Backpack 22L

The hip kid's choice

Best for: everyday commute | Capacity: 22 litres | Weight: 600 grams | Material: P600 D PU Coated Nylon | Waterproof: No

Lightweight
Durable
Backpanel is not too ventilated

Organise your stuff like a boss with the Evoc Mission backpack. It's the ideal daily commuter backpack size with 22 litres of volume and has a durable coated nylon fabric that can withstand some bashing around. Not saying you should use the Evoc Mission as padding when you ram into buses but it will most likely survive some occasional throwing around.

Being a commuter backpack, it does have a laptop sleeve and stationary compartment – is it even a commute if you haven't got your laptop on you? What are you going to do in coffee shops? Stare out of the window?

The Evoc Mission backpack also sports a key holder and sunglasses pocket, among other useful features.

a blue suitcase: best cycling backpack: Deuter Speedlite 20L Backpack © Provided by TechRadar best cycling backpack: Deuter Speedlite 20L Backpack

9. Deuter Speedlite 20L Backpack

An ergonomic cycling backpack for ultimate comfort

Best for: Comfort | Capacity: 20L | Material: Hexlite 210 polyamide/Ripstop 210 Nylon | Waterproof: No

Lightweight
Height adjustable chest strap
Long zip loops are a bit annoying

You can expect a barely-there feel with this lightweight backpack, and owners find it works well for commuting, fitness riding, every day use and even for running. The ergonomic design with U-frame is designed to make the backpack sit close to your body and those who have tried it say it doesn’t bounce around like other bags do. 

The height adjustable chest strap means you can ensure it feels comfortable on you before setting off, and the breathable mesh panel means you won’t end up all sweaty when you reach your destination. 

a close up of a black bag: (Image credit: Rapha) © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. (Image credit: Rapha)

10. Rapha Rolltop Backpack

Premium quality backpack with some nice features

Best for: Style | Capacity: 25 litres | Material: Nylon | Waterproof: Yes

Good size
Hard-wearing outer shell
Lack of internal compartments
Outer fabric marks easily

The hard-wearing fabric features a roll-top section which clips closed and a webbing strip down the back which is the perfect way to carry a wet or greasy bike lock, keeping it away from the stuff you're carrying inside the bag. You can also clip a light to the webbing to increase visibility.

Talking of visibility, there's a large reflective panel on the bottom of the rucksack to further increase your chances of being seen at night. The padded shoulder straps also feature a reflective tab.

On the outside, there's a separate small zipped pocket which is ideal for keys or a phone, and an articulated panel that sits against your back.

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