The best cycling backpacks for road, mountain and commuting

The best cycling backpacks for every need and budget.

The best cycling backpacks: Altura Thunderstorm 30, Camelbak HAWG Pro 20, Deuter Race

by William Austin-Lobley |
Updated on

Cycling is, essentially, excellent. Whether you are a road cyclist, mountain biker or commuter, heading out on a bike is not only healthy, but it’s great for the environment and a rewarding way of exploring cities and the countryside. But this is only true if you’re using the right equipment because the correct gear helps keep things light, breezy and functional. One area where this is particularly true is with cycling backpacks.

Backpacks carry our supplies - food, hydration, tools, clothes and locks - but they also cover our back, weigh us down and dig in all the wrong places. Or at least they do if you don’t choose your backpack wisely. There’s a whole range of cycling backpacks available that are designed to fulfil our every cycling need. To help you find the right one for you, we’ve rounded up the very best cycling backpacks below.

Head to the bottom of the page to see what to look out for when selecting the best cycling backpacks, or read on to see our favourite backpacks for commuting, mountain biking and road cycling. We’ve also included the best budget cycling backpack and a versatile hiking backpack for those who enjoy multiple outdoor pursuits.

Best backpack for commuting

Altura Thunderstorm 30 Backpack
Price: $69.99

The Altura Thunderstorm 30 Backpack is the ultimate choice for commuting cyclists. Inside, there’s ample room for clothes or a jacket to be stowed alongside work materials. There’s a sleeve for laptops up to 15-inches, and a small zip pocket and key anchor for valuables. As a rolltop pack, there’s some flexibility over how the capacity of the bag - on days when you’re not carrying as much, the pack can roll up into a tighter size.

Externally, the bag has plenty on offer, too. The shoulder straps are fully adjustable and comfortable, with a chest strap helping to keep the load stable during travel. The back panel is padded with modest channelling to improve airflow. The Thunderstorm 30 has several well-positioned loops for attaching cycle lights and a waterproof rating of IPX6, meaning that the bag can defend against even the heaviest of downpours.

Size30L
Weight600g
Reflective detailsYes
Available inYellow and black, Black
Altura Thunderstorm 30 Backpack

Related: The best bikes lights | The best road cycle helmets

Best backpack for mountain biking

We've given the Flow 16 a more thorough hands-on test so we'll keep this brief - this is a fantastic backpack for long days on the trail, with three litres of water storage (bladder not included) and space for essentials, extra layers, food and tools too. Best of all its clever design means it doesn't move around at all, and it comes with a back protector and rain cover. Quite the package.

Size16 litres + 3 litres hydration
Weight1,210kg
Reflective detailsYes
Available in Black and blue, black and red
USWE Flow 16 hydration rucksack
©Adam Binnie/What's The Best

Best hybrid rucksack/hip pack

And now for something completely different - this expandable hip pack is part of a collaboration between Specialized and Fjällräven, giving you the best of both worlds, whether you prefer to ride with a hip- or backpack. We've been out riding with this clever bit of kit - click through to the Our review tab to find out more.

Pros

  • Hip pack and back pack in one
  • Hugely flexible
  • Holds two water bottles

Cons

  • Better at carrying lighter loads
Size4.5L - 11.5L
Weight325g
Reflective detailsNo
Available in Green, yellow, black
  • "I prefer riding with a hip pack to a backpack (unless it's a big day out or somewhere super gnarly, in which case I'll take the USWE Flow 16 above) but there's a definite downside in that once it's packed out, I've got no more space for anything else.

    "That might sound obvious but if I'm riding with my family, one of them will inevitably want to take off a layer and won't be able to carry it, or we'll stop at a particularly nice bakery and then regrettably be unable to bring anything home.

    "The genius of this hip pack is that it has a roll-top section that expands its volume and two shoulder straps to secure it, so it's the best of both worlds. Made from tough vinylon it's weather (but not water) proof and feels durable and built to last.

    "There's a hydration pack sleeve in the rucksack section and two expandable pockets on the hip pack part for water bottles. The padding for your back is very comfortable but the straps are a bit narrow if you're carrying a lot of weight.

    "It also functions incredibly well as a just a hip pack if that's all you're after, with plenty of storage space and a divider to keep your kit from banging around. I love it!"

Camelbak HAWG Pro 20 Hydration Pack

Rrp: $170.00

Price: $158.39
Alternative retailers
Competitive Cyclist$159.95View offer
Outdoor Gear Exchange$170.00View offer
DICK'S Sporting Goods$179.99View offer

When you’re hitting the mountain bike trails, take the Camelbak HAWG Pro 20. The pack’s main storage capacity sits at 17-litres, which is great for carrying an extra layer, food and some maintenance essentials, like a repair kit and inner tube (in fact, it even comes with a tool roll). Of course, as a Camelbak, the HAWG Pro has a separate hydration pocket and the 3L bladder - enough to keep you hydrated throughout a day of uphill climbing. Externally, there’s a stow pocket, zippered pocket and specialised helmet carrying buckles.

Efforts have been taken throughout the pack to lessen its weight and improve airflow. The shoulder straps and back panel use a mesh to provide cooling comfort, while the hip belt has been trimmed down to the bare essentials - the straps are pliable and don’t dig in, and there are some stretch pockets for hydration sachets and other small items.

Though it’s a pretty expensive pack, its build and design ensure that it’s an investment worth making - it’ll last years.

Size17L + 3L Hydration
Weight1.15kg
Reflective detailsNo
Available in Gunmetal and black, Black

Related: The best cycling accessories | The best cycling water bottles

Best backpack for road cycling

Road cycling is all about low weight, limited drag and high speeds; the trick to attaining these criteria? Minimalism. In steps the Deuter Race Rucksack, a positively dainty 8L pack weighing in at only 530g.

It’s an uncomplicated pack - the main compartment capacity sits at 8L, providing space for a light layer, food and maintenance essentials. There’s a small zippered pocket on the top for valuables, and side stow pockets for sachets and other small items. There are four small loops for attachments and lights.

The pack is also compatible with 2L hydration bladders. There’s even a reflective rain cover for when things get damp. The shoulder straps and hip belt are made from a lightweight and breathable mesh, and the chest strap helps keep the pack locked in place.

Size8L
Weight530g
Reflective detailsYes
Available in Azure, Grey, Black, Orange
Deuter Race 8L Rucksack

Related: The best entry-level road bikes | The best cycling shoes

Best backpack for budget

Dhb Slice 15L Rucksack
Price: £28 (was £35)

www.wiggle.co.uk

If you’re on the hunt for a budget pack, look no further than the dhb Slice 15 Rucksack. Its slimline design makes it suitable for trial, road and commuting, and the 15L capacity offers up plenty of storage for essentials. It hugs in close to the body via the chest and hip belt for maximum stability, while the padding and channelling keep things comfortable.

There’s plenty of storage points in addition to the main compartment. There are two stretch pockets for bottles and waterproof stowing, a pocket for a 2L hydration bladder, and a fleece-lined pocket for quick-access valuable storage. Just be aware that the pack isn’t waterproofed, so a separate purchase of a rain cover might be needed.

Size15L
Weightn/a
Reflective detailsYes
Available inBlack
Dhb Slice 15L Rucksack

Related: The best cycling gifts | The best mountain bikes under £500

Best multi-purpose backpack

Looking for a backpack that’s just as good on two feet as two wheels? The Osprey Stratos 26 (men’s) and Sirrus 26 (women’s) are highly versatile packs that are an excellent choice for commuting and trail cyclists - even though they're primarily designed for hiking.

The 26L capacity offers up plenty of storage space for work equipment, clothes, food and water - whatever you might need across multiple outdoor pursuits. Stow pockets, bucket lid zipper and compression straps are all here, and there’s even an integrated rain cover and internal sleeve for hydration bladders. The mesh straps are well-padded and comfortable, and the hip belt is as good as you’ll find on a dedicated cycle pack.

Maybe the best thing about the Stratos/Sirrus is the adjustable mesh suspension back panel, which provides a decent gap between your back and the pack. It basically creates a wind tunnel that helps fight against the dreaded back sweats - something hated by hikers and cyclists alike. The only thing to the two bags detriment is that they are the heaviest bags on our list.

Size26L
WeightStratos 1.25kg, Sirrus 1.2kg
Reflective detailsNo
Stratos available in Black, Eclipse Blue
Sirrus available inBlack, Ruska Purple
Osprey Stratos 26 & Sirrus 26 Backpack

What to look for in a commuter backpack

Commuter crossing road

Waterproof: protect your technology, paperwork and change of clothes from even the harshest storms

Large capacity: space for work equipment, change of clothes and shoes, food and water

Technology sleeve: keep laptops and tablets safe from damage

Reflective: be safe, be seen

Loops: loops that allow for locks to be stored externally and for cycle lights to be mounted

What to look for in a mountain bike backpack

Mountain biker taking a rest near lake

Medium capacity: for tools, a day’s food, first aid kits and an extra layer

3L hydration: long trials away from civilisation - who knows where the next tap will be?

Stable positioning: chest strap and hip belt help keep the load centred and stable

Stow pockets: for rehydration sachets, snacks, GPS, waterproof layers

What to look for in a road cycle backpack

People on road bikes

Waterproof cover: keep your extra layer safe in a downpour - if it’s sunny, leave the cover behind to lessen weight

Small capacity: forces you to pack only the essentials to keep weight as low as possible

Minimalist design: No frills, no drag

Hydration sleeve: For longer rides and races, can be left behind if not needed

William Lobley is a Deputy Commercial Content Editor and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology, gaming and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

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