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Earlier this year I had a long-running (very, very long-running) debate with my daughter about the wisdom of buying a ‘fashion’ backpack. Her view? It was the coolest brand of backpack around (I won’t mention the brand). All her friends had one. Her life would not be worth living if she did not get this backpack….now! And she’d like it in the Classic Dusky Blue And Peach Pink Fuzz color. Please and thank you very much.
I did try and point out to her, in a calm, quiet, and logical manner, the negative points of this backpack, in terms of:
- It wasn’t big enough (by a long stretch) for her school books (and all the other junk) she carries to and from school every day
- The storage wasn’t very practical, having one main compartment and one teensy-weensy little second compartment
- The straps had no padding and there was no waist or chest strap, so all the school-books-and-stuff weight would cut into her shoulders and be very uncomfortable
Of course, I lost the argument (when has a father ever won an argument with his daughter…?) and she got the backpack.
That was three months ago, and she now has a new backpack. Apparently the old one was too small, too impractical, and, do you know, the straps really dug into her shoulders…
The point I’m trying to make here is that it’s important when buying anything to consider what the key features are that you need out of the thing you’re looking to buy. Otherwise your parents will end up having to fork out for a new one 3 months later. Harumph.
So, I’m going to run through the key aspects that you should look out for when you’re buying a new backpack for bike commuting. Before that, I’ll review the top backpacks for biking.
For those who can’t wait (or are being hassled by their daughter), here’s my recommendation for the best backpack for your bike commute. It’s the Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack and you can find it here. My favorite color? That would be the yellow – see the review for my reasoning behind that.
Which are the best backpacks for your bike commute?
If you’re lucky enough to only need to carry a handful of essential items with you on your bike commute, then the Lixada could be the perfect backpack for you.
At 18L it will carry your rain jacket / extra warm layer, plus keys, wallet, phone, etc. There’s one main pocket (which also takes the optional water bladder), also a zip compartment on the rear, and one attached to the shoulder strap. This pocket, in particular, is great for your phone.
Straps are padded and comfortable, and there are waist and chest straps as well. These combine to give a really nice snug fit for the backpack, keeping it from flopping around as you dodge the traffic. By itself, the material of the backpack is water-resistant. Adding the additional cover gives it a waterproof finish to keep all your gear dry. There’s also a mesh cover on the back to tuck your bike helmet inside when it’s not on your head.
Overall the Lixada is a great little backpack. It’s designed to be lightweight so you won’t feel like you’re dragging a heavy back round with you. Big enough to carry the essentials. Small enough to stop you from needlessly taking non-essentials.
I’m a big fan of this style of waterproof backpack. Made from heavy-duty PVC fabric this has a roll down style of top which gives it a fully waterproof closure and construction.
Bags like these are designed to work great on boating expeditions, so they’re the perfect choice for bike commutes that feature an excess of H2O. Whether the water is coming at you from above (rain), below (cars splashing you with puddles), or every angle at once (you live in Scotland like me), this bag will keep your gear dry and safe.
The Earth Pak is available in two size choices of 35L and 55L. Both are generous for bike commuting and allow plenty of space for a full change of clothes, lunch, and that important paper you were working on last night to secure your much-hoped-for promotion.
The bag has one main compartment, inside which there are also 2 extra zippered mesh pockets (perfect for your phone). Everything in there will stay bone dry on your commute. On the exterior, there’s also a large front pocket – handy for quick access to items. This pocket is splashproof only so if you’re going to store your phone in there, pop it into the IPX8 waterproof phone case that’s included free-of-charge with the bag.
The bag has two padded shoulder straps, plus waist and chest straps. That makes it comfy and secure to wear even when it’s packed full. My favorite color is the yellow. Why? Well I like to be as noticeable as possible when I’m on the bike. That bright yellow PVC means that no-one has any choice but to see me as I cruise along.
For me, the thing that I like most about this bag is that it’s so versatile. I hate having multiple products for multiple occasions and that’s why I think this bag is so good. It’s ideal for your weekday bike commute and then moves seamlessly into use on your weekend camping and boating escapes.
Thumbs-up from me.
Do you remember, back in the day, when you could leave your computer at the office? Seems weird nowadays, doesn’t it?
These days, many bike commuters need a backpack with a comfy spot to cocoon their laptop safely whilst they pedal to the office. If that’s you, then the Thule Pack-n-Pedal might just be the luggage option you’ve been looking for.
If you’ve been involved in the cycling game for a while you’ll recognize the Thule brand. They make some of the best quality bike rack systems to fit onto your car. And they also make a variety of luggage options for a wide range of uses.
So they know a thing or two about carrying bikes on things and carrying things on bikes.
The Pack-n-Pedal has an overall volume of 1465 cubic inches and this is divided up amongst the main central compartment and a host of smaller compartments spread conveniently around the pack. It’s padded in all the right places for a comfortable fit and has handy storage features, such as the helmet attachment system.
Not only is it waterproof, but it also comes with an extra rain cover, for double protection. That cover is in a bright blue with reflective details, to give even better visibility.
Storage for your laptop or tablet is in a padded, removable 15” sleeve. It’s also interesting to know that the sleeve is then stored inside the main compartment towards the top of the pack. That means it’s not tight up against your back (as is the case on some other packs), so it’s much comfier to wear.
It’s another hit from Thule.
When you need to pack your suit to carry to work then, to my mind, there’s only one choice for backpack: the Henty Wingman.
Crafted by a team in Tasmania, this is probably the ultimate in bike backpacks. First up, it’s not some cheapo pack. But, as with many things in life, you get what you pay for. With the Wingman, what you get is top quality features in absolute spadefuls.
Take a look at the photos on Amazon and you’ll see it has an unusual design. That’s because it’s essentially two bags in one. There’s a central ‘tube’ compartment that stores all your ‘stuff’: shoes, towel, toiletries, etc. This has a capacity of 18L. Then wrapped around this is the actual suit carrier itself.
Rolling your suit and shirt is the best way to get a wrinkle-free finish when you unpack it. Unlike folding when, no matter how careful you are, it always ends up with horrendous crease marks all through your outfit.
Both bags are waterproof. The inner tube can be used by itself as it has a great shoulder strap. The main bag has padded shoulder straps, plus chest and waist straps.
Want more? Okay, well there’s also a secure laptop pouch on the main bag with space for a 15” screen.
Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
Key features to look out for with bike commuting backpacks
Clearly there are a range of stuff-carrying options for a bike commute. Pockets for small stuff. Huge rear panniers for the big stuff. But one of the most convenient and aerodynamic methods is the backpack. Tucked in behind you on your back it offers little wind-resistance and means that you can arrive at the office full of energy and ready to crush that in-tray.
But what are the key features to look out for in a cycle commute backpack? Let’s take a look.
Comfort is key
Single strap messenger bags may well look hip and are handy for couriers looking for a quick-draw on those packages. Unfortunately, that single strap isn’t the most comfy and will mean that the bag will keep moving around and require constant readjustment.
Far better to look for a proper backpack with a pair of padded shoulder straps and (ideally) a chest and waist strap. These keep your bag and contents where they should be. The waist and chest straps also help to distribute the weight much more evenly across your torso, rather than dig into your shoulders.
I live in Scotland. It rains a lot here. You might live in a similarly rainy climate (and, if so, I commiserate). Even if you don’t it’s important to keep your stuff, whether it be a crisp white business shirt, or delicate laptop, protected from any sudden downpours or splashed-up puddles.
Many backpacks are designed from the group up to be waterproof. They’re fantastic. Some backpacks are water-resistant to begin with and also come with an optional rain cover as well.
If you’re in any doubt as to whether a backpack is fully waterproof then I’ll give you an old trick from my cub scout days. Put all your important stuff inside a bin liner, secure the top, and then put the whole lot inside your backpack. Nothing will get through that.
Suit roll up
If you need to carry a suit to work then it’s best to roll rather than fold. And, if you’re rolling, then you’ll need a specialist backpack that will take this shape. Yes, you can ‘get away’ with a standard backpack. However, there are better options available that will keep your business clothes wrinkle-free.
Going back to the messenger bag (I don’t have it in for messenger bags, honest!) there’s another disadvantage to them as well. That’s the fact that they only have the single large compartment. Perfect for couriers, but not great for commuters.
For commuting, you need a number of different sections to house all your different categories of stuff that you’re carrying. Best to look out for backpacks that have one main large-ish compartment and a range of smaller compartments.
Some packs also have separate sections for wet/dry stuff or mucky shoes, which are very useful.
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