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 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
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.
Reflective details: Yes
Available in: Yellow and black, Black
Best backpack for mountain biking
We've given the Flow 16 a more thorough hands-on test here 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.
Size: 16 litres + 3 litres hydration
Reflective details: Yes
Available in: Black and blue, black and red
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.
Size: 17L + 3L Hydration
Reflective details: No
Available in: Gunmetal and black, Black
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.
Reflective details: Yes
Available in: Azure, Grey, Black, Orange
Best backpack for budget
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.
Reflective details: Yes
Available in: Black
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.
Weight: Stratos 1.25kg, Sirrus 1.2kg
Reflective detail: No
Stratos available in: Black, Eclipse Blue
Sirrus available in: Black, Ruska Purple
What to look for in a commuter backpack
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
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
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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