Best Cycling Backpacks
The wind whipping through your hair, the fresh air caressing your cheeks, and the slight burn of your hamstrings. There really is nothing better than exploring the outdoors on your bike. When you’re on the trail, you are going to need a great backpack to carry all of your essentials in. Many cyclists like to carry with them, a small repair kit, a first aid kit, water, and snacks. Depending on your path and distance, you may prefer a 12L or a 20L pack. You should also take into consideration the accessibility of the water, as well as the overall comfort, stability, and breathability. To get you out on the trails in style and speed, we have done the research for you and compiled this list of the ten best cycling backpacks available today.
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Top Ten Cycling Backpacks
1. Deuter Speed Lite 12
Best for light loads
This small backpack can fit everything you need for a short bike ride on mellow trails. It weighs less than one pounds and has a comfortable carrying weight of twelve pounds. It is a minimalist pack that will get you and your belongings comfortably from point A to point B.Read more
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.
Overall, this is a 12-liter pack. When using the hydration reservoir, you are left with 10-liters of space. The pack can also be purchased in a larger size of 16 or 20-liters. The bag itself weighs about 12-ounces and has a comfortable carrying weight of 12-pounds.
A chest strap and detachable waist 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.
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.
2. Bonlex Hydration Pack
Large hydration pack for a good price
Not a lot of room for items other than water
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
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.
For the most part, this is a hydration pack. With the reservoir full, there isn’t a lot of space left for other items. Reviewers say that there is just enough room to slide in a small toolkit, a snack, and their cell phone. The bag itself weighs just under two pounds.
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.
This cycling backpack is fairly priced. As long as you realize ahead of time that it is built mostly to carry your water, you’ll be happy. With three liters of water, you can really ride for a long time.
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
This bag comes with a 3-liter hydration bladder. There are 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.
This bag had the capacity to hold 14 liters worth of gear, including the 3-liter hydration bladder. It is slightly heavier than we would like, weighing in at 2.5-pounds. However, it is a great sized backpack that leaves you enough room for the essentials while still carrying a great amount of water.
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.
The Drafter is not the cheapest bag out there, but worth spending a bit extra on a piece of equipment with this much quality. The 400D Nylon ripstop fabric has proven to be durable and long-lasting.
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
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 the spot, which is a truly unique feature. As for pockets, there are three interior slip pockets, one interior zippered pocket, and four exterior pockets. As an added bonus, a roll out tool pouch is also included.
This 10-liter pack has pockets designed specifically with cyclists in mind. For the minimalist packer, 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.
When it comes to Osprey, 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. 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
Although this backpack does not come with its own water bladder, it does include a pocket with space to add one later. The bladder can be up to three liters in size. It also has routing for the drinking tube. Additionally, there is an integrated rain cover, as well as a belt pouch for smaller accessories.
This 20-liter pack in on the larger side, making it ideal for longer day trips when food, tools, and multiple layers are needed. There are plenty of interior pockets for organization. It weighs just under three pounds, which is a bit heavy. Be careful to not use up all of the capacity and weigh yourself down.
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.
This is one of the more expensive bike backpacks out there. However, when its durability is considered the pricing seems fairer.
6. CamelBak Rogue
Stays out of the way while you ride
Hydration bladder has a 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
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 could be due to the on/off lever from Crux. It seems simple enough but may need a few tweaks to really make it perfect. The harness, straps, and back panel are made from a breathable mesh that will keep you from overheating.
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. The bag itself weighs only eight ounces!
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.
The Camelbak Rogue is a good deal if you a looking for a small bag. It is moderately priced and offers a great deal of durability. If only Camelbak could improve the Crux hydration system, this might even be in the number one spot.
7. High Sierra Quickshot 70
Very reasonably priced
Roomy and versatile compartments
No chest strap or waist belt
Another lightweight hydration pack, the High Sierra Quickshot is a bit roomier while remaining compact. With an overall capacity of 9.8-liters, this is a great essentials backpack.Read more
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. With it, you get all the features of a hydration pack, but with a bit more space to hold your gear.
The name of this bag is deceiving. It says 70 (the reservoir holds 70-ounces) in the name, but that would be a very large cycling backpack! This bag has a capacity of 9.8-liters. It has an average weight of 1.4-pounds and has a small but well thought out design.
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.
This backpack comes at a great price. It holds up well with repeated abuse and has a stable feel on your back.
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
The Deuter Compact EXP 12 comes with a 3-liter hydration bladder. 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.
This pack can accommodate 12 to 15 L worth of gear. Zippers along the side can be opened to increase its size. 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. It is a little bit heavier than some of our other additions, weighing in at 2.4-pounds.
The straps on this bag allow for airflow 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 pack is definitely more expensive than others with similar features and of similar size. Sometimes what you really end up paying for is the brand name and style.
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 likes to spend time on trails as well as pavement.Read more
This bag comes with a 2-liter hydration bladder. Two outside compartments allow for more space and make getting to things like your phone easy. In total, the four separate pockets allow you to easily organize the contents. There is also a storable stretch mesh helmet holder to be used before and after rides.
This small bag still offers plenty of storage, with 6 L of compartment area besides that two already allocated to the hydration bladder. Due to its small size, it is best suited for short rides. It weighs slightly over one pound.
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.
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.
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 bag does not come with a hydration pack but can accommodate one. There is plenty of organizational features, including a dedicated laptop sleeve. Also included are a useful helmet attachment and a rain cover. It is ideal for a cyclist who uses their bike to both get to work and to explore outdoors after work.
At 26 liters, this is the largest pack on our list. It can accommodate many items at once, increasing its versatility and usefulness. The overall weight of this backpack is 3.3-pounds.
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.
This is an expensive cycling backpack however you are getting an enormous amount of space and the guarantees of quality that come with the Osprey name.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
The features of a cycling backpack can make an ordinary pack an extraordinary pack. It’s always important to check out the pockets of a backpack. Having one big main compartment is great and spacious, but doesn’t usually provide much organization. Think about where you will store your toolkit, your keys, phone, towels, and snacks.
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.
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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 the 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) is 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.
The overall comfort is an incredibly important criterion to consider. If your backpack is rubbing you the wrong way or causing you to overheat, you're not going to want to use it. When determining the comfort of a cycling backpack, check out the shoulder straps, back panel, and overall fit. Some backpacks feature waist or chest straps to help even out the weight distribution and offer more stability.
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 biking 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 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 a 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.
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. 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.
Checking out the durability of a cycling bag is always a great idea. Depending on the terrain you prefer, the pack may be in contact with rock faces and bad weather. Checking out the materials and how resistant to abrasions they are is important. Also, if you happen to take a fall, it is good to know that the contents of your bag won't be strewn across the trail.
Other Factors to Consider
Whether you are gearing up for a long or short ride, every ounce matters. Most likely, you will already be packing a toolkit, snacks, possibly a rain jacket, phone or camera, keys, and other miscellaneous items. Add a water bottle or hydration reservoir into the mix and it weighs you down a bit more. For this reason, it's a good idea to check out the weight of the backpack itself. If you are speed biking or biking over mountainous terrain, you are going to feel every ounce.
Frequently Asked Questions
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, the thickness of the 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 bicycle 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 to see it for yourself. If possible go to a local outdoor retailer and see what the bags they have really looked 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 backpack, 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 the 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 snacks 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.
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