The Best Cycling Backpacks
Cycling is one of the greatest ways to explore the great outdoors. 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 and your bike 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 today, we’ve compiled a list that makes it easier for you and allows you to take a look at the very best choices out there.
- Deuter Speed Lite 12
- Bonlex Hydration Pack
- Dakine Drafter Pack
- Osprey Raptor 10
- Evoc FR Trail Team Protector
- CamelBak Rogue
- High Sierra Splash 70
- Deuter Compact EXP 12 Pack
- Fox Head Oasis
- Osprey Radial 26
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top Ten Cycling Backpacks
1. Deuter Speed Lite 12
This small backpack can fit everything you need for a short bike ride on mellow trails.Read more
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 waiste 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.
2. Bonlex Hydration Pack
Large hydration pack for a good price
This stylish hydration pack carries a large amount of water in a streamlined, simple design. The heavy-duty material will stand up to the wear and tear of the trail or the road.Read more
This backpack is a 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 shoulder 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.
3. Dakine Drafter Pack
Large hydration bladder
The Dakine Drafter Pack is everything you need in a cycling backpack. Compact yet roomy, it has the versatility to take you down some gnarly single track or get you across town.Read more
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.
4. Osprey Raptor 10
Plenty of storage space
Unique, biker oriented features
Could be built tougher
With an internal frame and lightweight components that cause you to barely notice the pack while you ride, the Osprey Raptor 10 takes everything that makes Osprey famous and adapts it into a great mountain biking pack. With its medium size, this pack is perfect for spending the whole day on your bike.Read more
When it comes to this brand, you pay a lot but the returns are high. This is a pricey 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.
5. Evoc FR Trail Team Protector
Comes with rain cover
Multiple compartments to accommodate small and large items
Does not come with a hydration bladder
A larger backpack, that includes space for anything you may need while spending a few hours biking. To ensure that you are always prepared this pack includes a rain cover. It comes in sizes small, medium/large, and extra-large.Read more
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 tube. 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 waist 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.
6. CamelBak Rogue
Stays out of the way while you ride
Hydration bladder has tendency to leak
A small hydration pack, the Camelbak Rogue is designed to carry your water and not much else. This keeps it extra lightweight and makes it perfect for short rides.Read more
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, an 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.
7. High Sierra Splash 70
Very reasonably priced
Roomy and versatile compartments
No chest strap or waist belt
Another lightweight hydration pack, the High Sierra Splash is a bit roomier while remaining compact.Read more
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 waist straps, it is not recommended as a pack for trail biking.
8. Deuter Compact EXP 12 Pack
Plenty of compartment space
This medium sized backpack is another great pick for the cyclist interested in going on longer rides on unpaved roads. A built-in rain cover ensures that your gear will stay dry if you happen upon bad weather. With ample space to bring everything you need, the Deuter Compact EXP 12 you will help you be prepared for any situation.Read more
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 waist belt keep the bag cool, and the chest strap helps minimize movement. This bag is great for any cyclist, but especially one who wants to spend time on trails. It has all the room you need for your gear while remaining small.
9. Fox Head Oasis
Ample storage space
Large, comfortable straps
This stylish hydration pack is simultaneously roomy and compact. Unlike some of its counterparts, it has thick straps that make it who like to spend time on trails as well as pavement.Read more
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 waist 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.
10. Osprey Radial 26
No hydration system
This is by far the largest pack on our list. While the Osprey Radial 26 is primarily designed for the bike commuter, it is also a versatile pack that can be used for other activities as well.Read more
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 waist 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.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When looking for a cycling backpack price is not the only factor that should determine which cycling backpack you go with. When looking at the price, you should compare that to the features of the cycling backpack as if you are looking at at cheaper backpack it may not come with the features you will need while cycling. Also keep in mind that if you are looking for a cycling backpack that is higher in price, this does not necessarily mean that it is the best backpack for you or your cycling needs. Review the backpacks and make an educated decision.
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.
Once you have clarified the type of cycling that you need your 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.
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.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
When looking for a cycling backpack make sure it comes with the option to insert a hydration bladder, as this is the most efficient way to stay hydrated without stopping while cycling.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
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.