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We all want to ride a little bit more, and one of the best ways to do that is to use your bike for transportation. Pedaling is good for you, the environment, and your pocketbook. And hauling everything you need for those activities is easy with the right bag. Whether you’re looking for a small pack to carry your lunch, one that includes a padded pocket for your laptop, or something capable of hauling a bunch of gear for a midday lunch ride, one of these top performers from our testing will serve you well.
See at-a-glance reviews below of the five best commuter backpacks, then keep scrolling for full reviews of these and other great options, plus helpful buying info.
Comfort Is Key
Whatever bag you buy, make sure the harness (on a backpack) or strap (on a messenger bag) is comfortable when the bag is loaded with the weight you’d typically carry. Some riders like the extra stability that a waist strap offers, and some packs have a sternum compression strap to help balance unwieldy loads. The straps themselves are also something to consider: Some are wide, some narrow, some with more padding than others. And if hot and humid conditions don’t keep you from riding, do yourself a favor and look for a pack that’s designed with ventilation between it and your back.
Consider What You Carry
First, the obvious: If you haul a ton of stuff, you’ll need a roomy bag. If you don’t, you can get away with something smaller. Let’s say you need room for a laptop, lunch, and a change of clothes. Look for a backpack (over a messenger bag) that has a padded sleeve to keep your device safe, plus enough room to fit the rest of your belongings. If your attire is more business than casual, choose a bag with a larger, protected main compartment that will keep collared shirts from wrinkling. And for those rainy days, consider a waterproof bag or one with a rain fly that can be easily deployed when the weather turns.
How We Selected These Bags and Packs
We tested the first nine bags on this list, with cyclists on our test team taking them out on errands in all types of weather and stuffing them with clothes, helmets, laptops, lunch, and more. For the two models we didn’t test, we researched the market, surveyed user reviews, spoke with product managers and designers, and used our own experience riding with similar bags to determine the most promising options. We evaluated these commuter bags on performance, value, comfort, durability, aesthetics, and off-the-bike appeal. Here are the best backpacks for cyclists.
Po Campo Ara Reflective Backpack
Capacity: 20 L | Laptop Pocket: Yes | Weatherproofing: PU-coated fabric
Po Campo’s Ara backpack earned a 2021 Gear of the Year award for its proprietary reflective fabric called Visi-Hemp, made from organic hemp and recycled polyester. We also loved how it felt broken-in from day one, and it has all the pockets a bike commuter could need, including two water bottle pockets, two hidden pockets, a padded sleeve for devices, many interior pockets, and a mesh harness to stash your helmet.
Chrome Lako 3-Way Tote
Capacity: 17 L | Laptop Pocket: Yes | Weatherproofing: Waterproof liner
Chrome’s Lako can be worn as a backpack or carried as a tote (which also works as a shoulder bag, hence the term “3-Way” in the name). How it works: A shorter tote handle is fixed to the front of the pack; the adjustable backpack straps can be pulled up through attachment points to create a second tote handle or down to form typical backpack straps. A detachable waterproof liner lets you keep sweaty clothes on the outside, away from clean clothes and electronics. The padded sleeve fits a 13-inch laptop, and the 17-liter main compartment fits a surprising amount of stuff. Our tester took it to the beach one day and fit a beach towel, a T-shirt and shorts, five 9-inch-long sandwiches, a hardcover book, a cellphone, a plastic container of dried apricots, and two water bottles all at once (it was a tight squeeze, but the Lako did it). According to one of our testers, “It’s freaking awesome.”
Timbuk2 Lane Commuter Backpack
Capacity: 18 L | Laptop Pocket: Yes | Weatherproofing: Stowable rain fly
This is by no means a roomy bag, but if you’re a smart packer and you want something for day trips or to just carry your laptop, lunch, and a spare jacket to the office, the 18-liter Lane can handle it. A magnetic outer pocket (no zipper) is easy to access but still secure enough that you can trust your phone, wallet, and cash won’t end up on the ground. (If that makes you feel uneasy, there is a second pocket with a zipper.) It also accommodates a 15-inch laptop that’s accessible from both the main compartment and a side zipper (if you don’t want to dig through the whole bag to get it out). It’s comfortable, too. Padded mesh strips on the back increase airflow and cut down on sweat, and one of our testers liked how the easily adjustable straps comfortably wrapped around the front of her shoulders. Despite the Lane’s compact size (spend $40 more for the Parker if you want more space), our 13-year-old tester used it all summer for two-wheeled trips to the pool, stuffing it with a towel, a phone, sunscreen, a U-lock, goggles, keys, a lunch bag filled with snacks and drinks, and a mask. And on a few occasions, he even had to deploy the rain fly when storms closed the pool early and he had a 2-mile ride home ahead of him.
Capacity: 26–34 L | Laptop Pocket: Yes | Weatherproofing: Stowable rain fly
For commuters who put in serious miles, in all conditions, and carry a laptop, shoes, and a ton of other stuff, it doesn’t get much better than the Radial. Its harness offers a lot of adjustability to fit different-size torsos and includes a ventilated back panel that conforms well and lifts the pack off your body for better airflow. The main storage compartment has a sleeve for a 15-inch laptop, expands (with external zippers) to create more space, and also has a zippered pocket for shoes. Stash your U-lock in the large front pocket, and attach your helmet with a small rectangle of plastic that slips through the helmet vents to secure it. A small zippered pocket on the side is big enough to stash a wallet, snacks, or other small items you want easy access to. On the other side is maybe the neatest feature: a wattle bottle pocket that’s angled back toward you, which makes grasping and inserting your bottle easier. One thing to note: The harness and what Osprey calls the “kickstand” (a hard plastic frame on the bottom that allows the pack to stand up without support) brings the bag’s weight up to a little over three pounds when empty.
Skog Å Kust BackSåk
Capacity: 25 L | Laptop Pocket: No | Weatherproofing: 500-denier waterproof PVC exterior
This roll-top backpack is made from 500-denier waterproof PVC with welded seams that seal out moisture. It’s light, simple, and a great deal if you just need a backpack that can hold a day’s worth of clothing and gear and keep it from getting wet—we loaded it up with a laptop, change of winter clothes, shoes, a six-pack of beer, a spare jacket, a bottle of wine, and a helmet. We also loved that because of its minimalist structure, it packed down small for storage when not in use. The straps are easy to adjust and dry quickly when you ride through rain. The one downside is that the outside marks easily. Our test model is bright yellow but got covered with black marks from the CitiBike racks. So if that will bother you, go with the black one.
—BEST INTERIOR ORGANIZATION—
Peak Design Everyday Backpack
Capacity: 30 L | Laptop Pocket: Yes | Weatherproofing: PU- and DWR-coated fabric
Even if you’re not a photographer, you might benefit from a camera commuter backpack thanks to its superior interior organization, which will keep all your gear separated and protected. Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack features a padded 15-inch laptop sleeve, 8 liters of internal expansion space with customizable internal dividers, and four optional straps to attach items to the outside of the bag as well. Its 100 percent recycled nylon canvas fabric is weather resistant with PU and DWR coatings to ensure all your tech stays safe no matter the weather. Dual side zippers allow you to quickly access gear from the side, and the MagLatch top flap offers secure yet easy one-handed access to the main compartment.
—BEST FAIR-WEATHER BAG—
Topo Designs Daypack Classic
Capacity: 20 L | Laptop Pocket: Yes | Weatherproofing: None
The 20-liter Daypack can store way more than you’d think. Our tester was able to fit two changes of clothes, cycling shoes, a makeup bag, a sunglass case, a laptop and charger, and a bunch of snacks, eliminating her need to pack a separate gym bag. The Daypack has a laptop sleeve that fits a 15-inch computer, and it’s water resistant, so it’ll hold its own in a light sprinkle (but not much more, so don’t rely on it if the sky looks threatening). The straps are comfortable, with light padding to protect your shoulders without making you feel (overly) sweaty. And if you commute in the dark, the leather tab on the back is a great place to attach a light.
ReLoad C-Series Small
Capacity: 28 L | Laptop Pocket: No | Weatherproofing: Water-resistant fabric
A black-owned business out of Philadelphia, ReLoad Bags has been making custom messenger bags since the early 2000s. If you don’t want to design your own, purchase one of the company’s stock black bags, available in a variety of sizes and styles. This C-Series Small bag is a great option for commuters with its roll top enclosure, water-resistant main compartment, and daisy chain webbing on the front, for instance. Although this model is only water resistant, you can opt for the Small Flight Pack for extra protection at an extra cost. But no matter what style you choose, ReLoad Bags all come with a lifetime warranty as a testament to their quality craftsmanship.
Rapha Roll Top
Capacity: 25 L | Laptop Pocket: Yes | Weatherproofing: Water-resistant fabric
Rapha’s smart-looking 25-liter bag is constructed with water- and abrasion-resistant material. A strap down the center creates a series of loops for holding a U-lock or attaching things by carabiner. The fancy clip that cinches down the roll top section is self-retracting, so it always tightens to just the right amount. The ergonomic back panel and padded straps keep the Roll Top sitting comfortably on your back. Those straps have reflective tabs, and the entire bottom of the bag is a reflective panel, so the bag keeps you visible to cars from the front and back. There’s a small pocket on the interior and one on the exterior for easy access to a phone or key card.
Showers Pass Transit Waterproof Backpack
Capacity: 42 L | Laptop Pocket: Yes | Weatherproofing: TPU-coated fabric and welded seams
If you’re a rain-or-shine commuter with a lot to haul, the Transit is ready to help. The exterior of the bag is made of ballistic-strength nylon, which is very resistant to wear and tear. A TPU coating and fully-welded seams complete the weatherproof design. According to Showers Pass, the large internal compartment has enough space for a jacket, lunch, camera, books, and laptop (which gets its own fleece-lined sleeve). Smaller internal and external pockets help keep contents organized, and a mesh back panel helps keep you less sweaty on hot days. Maybe the most commuter-friendly part? It comes with four integrated red LED Beacon Lights on the sides and back panels for better night visibility, which last up to 200 hours in flashing mode.
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