The Best Cycling Backpacks
Cycling is one of the greatest ways to explore outside. Whether you are climbing steep trails, flying down downhills, or clocking miles on a road bike, it is important that you have a backpack that can carry everything you require for the day. How large your backpack needs to be, depends on the distance you are trying to cover and the terrain you are on.
Other important factors that should be paid attention to are the accessibility to water, the comfort and stability of the straps, and the breathability of the backpack. With so many packs on the market, we’ve compiled a list that weeds out some of the best choices. We also look in more depth at what to look for when buying a backpack for your bike adventures.
- Dakine Drafter Pack
- Stable straps
- Fox Head Oasis
- Ample storage space
- Comfortable straps
- Deuter Compact EXP 12
- Large compartment space
- Very sturdy
10 Best Cycling Backpacks
Dakine Drafter Pack
Not the cheapest bag out there, but worth spending a bit extra on a piece of equipment with this much quality.
This bag comes with a 3 liter hydration bladder.
This bag had the capacity to hold 10 liters worth of gear, including the 3 liter hydration bladder. Multiple pockets on both the inside and outside allow you to store everything you need in very specific spots. Outside straps for your helmet also let you store that before and after you ride.
The mesh shoulder straps are incredibly breathable, keeping you cool while you are having fun. A thick, padded waist belt helps lift the pack off your back. Along with the chest strap, the heavy-duty waist belt helps keep the bag in place.
This backpack is perfect for the adventure cyclist. Whether you’re a mountain biker, a downhiller, or an enduro racer, this pack will stay put when you want to concentrate on the ride, and can carry everything you need in a pinch.
- Very breathable
- Large hydration bladder
- Stable straps
- Multiple attractive styles
- A bit pricy
Fox Head Oasis
The Fox Head Oasis is a bit more expensive than other hydration packs of this size. However, with added space and heavy duty straps you are getting what you pay for.
This bag comes with a 2 liter hydration bladder.
This small bag still offers plenty of storage, with 6 L of compartment area besides that two already allocated to the hydration bladder. Two outside compartments allow for more space and make getting to things like your phone easy.
The lightweight, mesh shoulder straps on this bag make it comfortable and breathable. Thick chest and waste straps keep the bag in place and make it perfect for trail riding.
This versatile pack offers cyclists who like to explore multiple kinds of terrain everything they need.
- Ample storage space
- Large, comfortable straps
- Breathable material
- A bit pricy
Deuter Compact EXP 12 Pack
This pack is definitely more expensive than others with similar features and of similar size.
The Deuter Compact EXP 12 comes with a 3 liter hydration bladder.
This pack can accommodate 12 to 15 L worth of gear. Zippers along the side can be opened to increase its size. With multiple large storage areas and pockets, it is easy to pack your gear into this bag so that it is well organized, which can be important if you are taking this bag into the backcountry.
The straps on this bag allow for air flow while being sturdy enough to keep the bag solidly where you want it. The mesh on the shoulder straps and waste belt keep the bag cool, and the chest strap helps minimize movement.
This bag is great for any cyclist, but especially one who want to spend time on trails. It has all the room you need for your gear, while remaining small.
- Plenty of compartment space
- Very sturdy
Evoc FR Trail Team Protector
This is one of the more expensive backpacks out there. However, when its durability is considered the pricing seems fairer.
Although this backpack does not come with its own water bladder, it does include a pocket with space to add one later. It also has routing for the drinking tub
This 20 L pack in on the larger side, making it ideal for longer day trips when food, tools, and multiple layers are needed.
Sturdy straps, including a chest strap and padded waste belt, and back support keep this pack in place while trail riding. The straps could be more breathable though, and can get hot on warm days.
The FR Trail Team Protector is perfect for the cyclist who wants to spend all day on the trail. With multiple styles that all strand out brightly, it is also one of the most stylish packs on the market.
- Very durable
- Comes with rain cover
- Multiple compartments to accommodate small and large items
- Multiple attractive styles
- Straps can get hot
Osprey Raptor 10
When it comes to this brand, you pay a lot but the returns are high. This is a pricy backpack yet you can be sure that you are purchasing a truly quality item.
A 3 liter hydration reservoir is included with this pack. The pack also has a magnet on the chest strap the secures the reservoir nozzle in an easy to reach spot, which is a truly unique feature.
This 10 liter pack has pockets designed specifically with cyclists in mind. There is easily enough room for everything you would need on a long day ride, including tools, layers, and food.
The straps on this pack not only hold it steadily in place but are so secure and comfortable that you can forget you have the backpack on. The wide, paddled waste belt and helpful chest strap do their job perfectly while maintaining rider comfort.
This is one of the top cycling bags on the market. It may be expensive but you know it will last.
- Extremely comfortable
- Plenty of storage space
- Unique, biker oriented features
- Not too durable
Deuter Speed Lite 10
This bag does everything it needs to without breaking the bank. This does mean you get fewer features, but if you’re looking for a pack that is perfect for an after-work ride, this is it.
The backpack has a compartment for a 2 liter hydration bladder.
At 10 L, this bag is very small and lightweight. Pockets are minimal, with one larger storage area and one small compartment up top.
A chest strap and detachable waste belt keep this pack in place when it needs to be. However, be warned, the straps are small and won’t work well if your waist measures more than 40” around.
This backpack is designed for cyclists who want to bring the bare minimum on a ride. With a very reasonable price, it is also ideal for someone who needs a pack but doesn’t have a lot to spend.
- Small straps
Bonlex Hydration Pack
This backpack is bit expensive but it does a good job and offers a large carrying capacity for water.
A 3 liter hydration bladder is included with the purchase of this bag.
This bag is very small, with enough space to fit the water bladder, and two pockets on the outside that have enough space for a few things such as keys, wallet, phone, and energy bars.
Adjustable straps, including a waste and chest strap, make it possible for this bag to fit both a child and an adult. Padded should straps allow this bag to sit comfortably.
This hydration pack allows you to carry enough water for a long ride while minimizing all other weight. It is great for longer rides where you do not require extensive gear and tools.
- Large hydration pack for a good price
- Simple style
- Material is heavy
- Expensive for what it is
High Sierra Splash 70
This backpack comes at a great price. With it you get all the features of a hydration pack, but with a bit more space to hold your gear.
This bag comes with a 2 liter hydration bladder.
As a hydration pack, the primary function of this bag is to carry water. However, the High Sierra splash is set apart in that it has larger pockets and an outer strap system that allows one to attach something as large as a helmet to the bag.
Wide shoulder straps make this bag very comfortable. There is no chest strap or waist belt included.
This is a great hydration pack, perfect for long road bikes. However, due to its lack of chest and waste straps, it is not recommended as a pack for trail biking.
- Very reasonably priced
- Roomy and versatile compartments
- No chest strap or waist belt
Osprey Radial 26
This is an expensive backpack however you are getting an enormous amount of space and the guarantees of quality that come with the Osprey name.
This bag does not come with a hydration pack, but can accommodate one.
At 26 liters, this is the largest pack on our list. It can accommodate many items at once, increasing its versatility and usefulness.
The straps on this bag are basic, with thin shoulder and waste straps. It does also include a chest strap.
Although this is not the perfect adventure pack, due to its size it offers versatility that the other packs on this list do not. It is ideal for a cyclist who uses their bike to both get to work and to explore outdoors after work.
- Well ventilated
- No hydration system
- Small straps
One of the least expensive packs on this list, the Camelbak Rogue is a good deal if you a looking for a small bag. This is especially true when you factor in the hydration bladder that it comes with.
A 1.5 liter hydration bladder is included with the purchase of this backpack. Overall this system does a great job of hydrating, although it has been known to leak.
This bag is small. It includes one large pocket that houses the water system, and two small pockets on the outside. There is enough space for a multi tool, energy bar, and your phone and keys.
Sturdy shoulder straps and a small chest strap keep the bag in place while you ride.
This bag does the job it sets out to do – keeps you hydrated for a few miles. It has enough space that it can carry everything you need for a short ride, and is extra lightweight so that you’ll barely notice it’s there.
- Stays out of the way while you ride
- Hydration bladder has tendency to leak
The Criteria We Followed
What type of cycling will you use the backpack for?
When choosing your backpack for biking the first thing you need to think about is what kind of biking you do. A road cyclist and a mountain biker have very different needs in terms of fit, weight, and space. This is particularly important if you plan on biking on trails. Rocky, uneven terrain will cause a loose-fitting backpack to bounce around, creating discomfort and increasing the likelihood of problems like chafing. As a general rule, a backpack that fits well, without moving around, is superior no matter what terrain you plan on riding.
If you are a road biker it is likely that you will be looking for a pack that is minimal in terms of weight and carrying capacity, while maximizing the amount of water you can carry. The danger of your bike breaking down while biking on a road is curtailed by the fact that you are remaining in populated areas where you can get assistance if needed. Often times, these type of cyclists are also looking a go as fast as possible over a short distance, meaning water, an energy bar, and a multi-tool are all they carry. Of course, some road bikers want to cover greater distance, in which case a larger bag is necessary. However, most of the time a small hydration pack should suffice.
Mountain biking, which can take you miles into the backcountry, requires far more equipment. If this is the type of cyclist you are then you should be looking to buy a bigger pack that can accommodate much more gear. A spare tire, bike pump, changing kit, and multi-tool are all needed in case something goes wrong. Spending a full day biking also means that you need to bring food and not just water. Layers and a map are also integral when venturing away from civilization, as the possibilities of bad weather and getting lost are always there. Backpacks that range from 10 liters to 20 liters are perfect for this type of adventure. What you choose really depends on preference.
Slightly different from mountain biking is downhilling. Although both take place on trails, mountain biking involves going across flat, uphill, and downhill terrain, while downhilling is exactly as the name suggests – just downhill. This type of biking is usually done in short time increments, either by driving to the top of a hill or taking a lift at a resort. It is also a fast-paced sport where minimizing gear is always optimal. For this reason, a larger backpack with gear carrying capacity is an impractical hindrance, and the ideal pack for downhill is a small hydration pack.
The final way you may want to use your cycling backpack is as a bike commuter. For this type of biking, you want to maximize the carrying capacity and comfort of your bag. A backpack of 15 liters or larger should work for most bike commuters, although this is purely dependent upon your needs. When you commute using your bike comfort becomes even more important as you will be using this bag on a daily basis. Make sure the bag has good ventilation and that it sits well on your back. Although there are many brands that design bags specifically for this type of cycling, you are best off purchasing from a brand that makes athletic bags, as these are more often designed with comfort and function first and style second.
What do you need to bring with you?
Once you have clarified the type of cycling that you need you backpack for, the next step is to figure out how much stuff you will actually need to pack in that bag. This depends first and foremost on the length of the ride. If you generally don’t plan to do more than two or three hours of biking at a time, a small hydration pack may be all that you need. This is true even if you will primarily be doing trail riding. Once you get into longer rides of four hours or more, than you will need to start carrying much more with you.
Another consideration when thinking about what you will need to bring with you is the climate in which you will be cycling. If you plan to primarily ride in a humid environment you will need to bring less water with you than if you are going to be biking in the desert or at a high altitude. Likewise, some areas have temperature fluctuations and weather patterns that need to be accounted for in terms of extra clothing. For example, in the desert, it may be in the 90s during the day, while at night the temperature drops into the 40s. In other parts of the country, such as the Rockies, thunderstorms come from seemingly nowhere during the summer. If you are biking in a climate such as this you will need to bring many extra layers, meaning you will need a bag that can accommodate this.
When deciding what you need to bring it is also important to think about how many miles you will be going, and how far away from other people these miles will take you. This is different from time on trail, since if you are only going to be riding for three hours but are going deep into the woods you will still need to bring survival gear that could save your life if something goes wrong. Equipment to fix your bike, food, and extra layers (if you are riding in a variable climate) are suddenly necessary. If this is the kind of biking that you will primarily be doing than a medium to large pack that can accommodate the necessary gear is what you should buy.
Finally, there is the personal aspect of what you want to bring with you. Each of us has our individual preferences, and these should be taken into account when picking a cycling pack as well. Even if you don’t necessarily need to bring extra gear, if you like having a sweatshirt or a snack with you at all times, you will want to make sure you buy a pack that can accommodate this. Remember that when it comes to getting into the outdoors it is always better to be more prepared.
How much water do you need?
Most cycling packs are also hydration packs, meaning they have a system with a water bladder, hose, and nozzle that allow you to drink without stopping and removing your pack. For this reason, one of the most important considerations you want to take into account when picking your bag is how much water you want access to while you ride.
If you are in the habit of hydrating well before you work out you may want to get a pack with a smaller bladder. Another reason to get a smaller bladder is if you are trying to minimize the weight you are carrying. The cyclist most likely to want this is the competitive road biker whose speed can be affected by small changes in their weight and by taking the small moments to stop to drink. A downhill biker will also not need to carry much water as they are typically not too far away from infrastructure where they would be able to get a drink. Cyclists who fall into these categories should look for a hydration pack with a bladder of 1 to 1.5 liters.
If you are less concerned with weight and plan to ride for a few hours every time you go out, a larger hydration bladder is a good idea. A 2-liter hydration pack is the most common size, and can be found in many styles of backpacks. The size provides ample water for mellow all day rides or intense few hour rides.
If you are going to be frequently biking all day under intense conditions it is a good idea to get a 3-liter hydration bladder. Strong heat and sun, elevation gain, and sustained cardio all qualify as intense conditions. Full or multi-day rides are also scenarios where an extra liter of water may mean the difference between staying hydrated or not, which in part determines whether or not you finish your day. When biking, an intense cardio sport, it is incredibly important to drink enough water.
Like most other products, there are a few brands that produce backpacks whose quality is unquestionably a step above the rest. For backpacks this brand is Osprey. Although their backpacks are expensive, buying from Osprey brings with it a guarantee of quality that cannot be matched. Their internal frame technology literally lifts these packs off your back, making them the most comfortable backpacks around. They are also incredibly thought out, taking into account every detail that the person who that pack is aimed toward would think about. These are backpacks that you can trust.
Other tried and true brands that appear on our list are Dakine and Deuter. Both of these brands market their gear to outdoor enthusiasts. A knowledge of what is required to be comfortable in the outdoors is necessary when designing gear people want to use while doing these activities. These two brands have this knowledge.
When it comes to the hydration pack, no other brand has as much sway as Camelbak. This is in large part because Camelbak is who invented the hydration bladder in 1989. The rest of their prevalence comes from the fact that they continue to make quality hands free hydration backpack systems.
The few brands listed above are of course a small portion of the many quality companies that produce cycling backpacks. The first place to look is, of course, the list above, however, this list only comprises a few, albeit quality, examples of what is available on the market. Don’t stop here, but use the list and advice enumerated here to find the cycling backpack that is perfect for you.
Q: How often should I replace my cycling backpack?
This depends on two factors. First is the quality of the material. When looking for a bag pay close attention to the small details of the make of the pack. Stitch quality, thickness of fabric, and overall sturdiness of the item are important indicators as to how well the bag is going to stand up to a beating. Also, pay attention to how water resistant the bag you want is. Most high quality modern athletic backpacks now range from being water resistant to water repellant. Having this feature is important if you ever get caught in a rainstorm.
The other factor that determines how often you will have to replace your backpack is how you use it. If you barely take your back out of the closet, it may be very low quality but will last years. Conversely, a high-quality well-loved bag will eventually fall apart, although with good gear this should still take a few years to happen.
The best way to really see how quality the backpack you want to buy is, is to see it for yourself. If possible go to a local outdoor retailer and see what the bags they have really look like. Holding a few different bags and trying them on is a useful exercise even if you are still going to buy somewhere else. If you don’t have an outdoor retailer nearby or are disappointed in the selection you found, looking up reviews online can be very useful. Both professional and buyer reviews offer insight into the quality of the product and give ideas on new places to look.
Q: Do I have to spend a lot of money on my cycling backpack?
Like most things, you get what you pay for. The highest quality backpacks are more expensive because of just that – it costs more to produce something that works very well. When you pay more you are also paying for more features and space. A 20-liter bag will cost more than most 10-liter bags, and a backpack that includes a 3-liter hydration bladder will cost more than the one with a 1.5-liter bladder.
It is possible to spend very little money on a cycling pack, however, the likelihood is that it will be a tiny bag. Good deals are out there though, so as long as you can be flexible on your needs you don’t have to spend very much at all. It is important to remember though that you are buying this backpack with very specific needs in mind, and that it can be better to spend a bit more on something that is going to be truly useful to you.
Q: What are typical features of a cycling backpack?
One of the most important features of a cycling backpack is its water carrying capacity. Already touched on extensively throughout this article, with these backpacks water carrying capacity is typically found in the form of a no hand hydration bladder that allows the rider to drink without missing a beat. If you feel that you still need more water than what your backpacks hydration system can offer, look for a bag with side pockets that can fit one or two extra water bottles.
Backpack straps, also covered extensively above, are another important feature of a good cycling backpack. Look to see that a back has a chest and waist strap, which will keep the bag more securely in place while you are riding. Both should be adjustable so that you can change the way to pack for so that it stays comfortable no matter how much you’re carrying or how hot the day is. Chest straps are typically thin and do not need to be padded. Sometimes they include an emergency whistle so that you can signal for help without using your hands. Waste belts come in a variety of thicknesses, with the more padded ones offering greater back support. The thickness, padding, and breathability of the shoulder straps are also important to pay attention to, as this may determine your back comfort and whether you overheat during your ride.
Other features to pay attention to are the number, space within, and functionality of the compartments and pockets, whether it comes with a rain cover, and if the bag has an internal frame that will lift it off your back. When you identify which features are most important to you it makes finding the perfect cycling backpack that much easier.
Q: What will I need to carry in my cycling backpack?
The bare minimum that should be in your backpack every time you go for a ride is water, a small snack such as an energy bar or some nuts, and a multi-tool. You will typically also want your phone, wallet, and keys. Once you get into longer rides, or begin venturing deeper into the backcountry, you will need to fill your bag with many more items. Firstly is a complete bike repair kit, since no one else will be able to assists you if something goes wrong while your hours away from the closest road. In your repair kit should be a tire patch kit, a spare tire tube, a bike pump, and again, a multi-tool. On these same adventures, it is likely that you will also need to be carrying your lunch (sandwiches are some of the most convenient lunches to bring on the trail) and some snacks. You should also have with you a myriad of other items that keep you prepared for anything. A map, a raincoat, sunglasses, and a small knife are smart things to always keep in your bag. If you backpack did not come with a rain cover for itself it may also be a good idea to add that to your list of gear.
Whether or not you use it every time you ride, all cyclists need a good backpack that fits the type of riding that they like to do. The packs designed for this sport vary in many different ways, and contain a myriad of features that often come down to the rider’s preference. With this list, it is our hope that you now have more clarity on what your preferences are, and are therefore more prepared to find the perfect cycling backpack for you.