Commuting by bike to work or school with all of your items can often be a daunting task. Choosing the right back pack can make the difference between an enjoyable commute, and a wobbly juggling act.
This article originally started as just a guide to the best packs for commuters, but we’ve since added sections on what to look for, what to pack, and reviews. Check out the table of contents below.
What to look for in a commuter pack?
Choosing a cycling commuter backpack can be difficult, especially when seeing all of the options that are available.
Size. Remember to always check the dimensions of a backpack to see if it will compliment your body structure and bike. Some packs even offer male and female versions that feature unique ergonomics.
Safety. Will you be commuting before dawn or after dusk? You may consider a brighter color, or a pack with reflective strips.
Style. With the exception of just a couple packs on this list, you’ll notice most of them are roll top. If you’re biking in Seattle or Tampa or Portland, where rain may be an issue, this style pack is usually a bit more waterproof.
Top 10 Commuter Packs
|Rank||Picture||Pack Name||Where to Buy|
|1||Osprey 32 Escapist||Check Price|
|2||Harvey Reflective Backpack||Check Price|
|3||Timbuk2 Robin Pack||Check Price|
|4||MiiR Commuter||Check Price|
|5||DHB Waterproof Rucksack||Check Price|
|6||Chrome Night Barrage Cargo Backpack||Check Price|
|7||Timbuk2 Especial Medio Cycling Laptop Backpack||Check Price|
|8||Arcteryx Blade Backpack||Check Price|
|9||The Mission Workshop Sanction||Check Price|
|10||Brooks England Pickwick Backpack||Check Price|
Commuter Pack Reviews
Get a more in depth look at each of the packs from the table below.
#1 Osprey 32 Escapist
The Osprey 32 Escapist is a spacious 32 liter backpack designed specifically for biking. It was chosen to be placed on this list for its size and comfort. If you have plenty to carry on your commute, such as a large laptop and books, then this could be the pack for you.
It features an adjustable torso length to help ensure proper fit. Along with that, Osprey’s trademark AirScape back panel will help keep the users back cool and dry despite the load in the pack.
Multiple pockets will help keep everything organized. Some are even lined with a scratch free fabric for placement of your cell phone or glasses.
The 32 Escapist comes with a handy high visibility rain cover for when the weather is not on your side or when riding in low light conditions. It even features a LED bike light attachment point to ensure drivers see you.
This backpack is available in red, blue and black with typical backpack styling.
#2 Harvey Reflective Backpack
The Ucon Acrobatics Harvey Reflective Backpack is simplistic in design, and gets the job done. Looking at the backpack makes you realize the modern styling and clean look that Ucon Acrobatics was aiming for. A roll-closed top system is secured via Velcro for easy opening.
The large compartment has an interior pocket that will fit a 15” (or smaller) laptop. There are also three front pockets that are great for storing slimmer items. Adjustable padded straps help keep the bag secured when riding. This bag however, is not specifically designed for biking which is important to keep in mind if your commute is quite long. It is comfortable to ride with, just a little less secure than others on the list.
Most importantly the bag is highly reflective. Changing from grey during the day, to white when light is directed at it. This makes the bag a great choice if you often find yourself peddling before daybreak or after dusk. Furthermore, the polyester fabric is waterproof, meaning the contents will stay dry despite what Mother Nature throws at you.
#3 Timbuk2 Robin Pack
The Robin Pack by Timbuk2 is a specially designed bicycle commuter pack. It is midsized at 20L and weighs in around 889 grams. Extremely durable 940-denier Cordura nylon is used to make this one of the most rugged and durable commuter backpacks on the market. There are also panels of phosphate free vinyl to help give the Robin Pack some water resistance. However, in case the sky opens up and rain starts to fall, there is an included rain cover with reflective accents that is stored in a dedicated pocket.
This pack includes multiple pockets to help keep everything organized. The interior of the main compartment features a laptop slip that is big enough for about a 15” one. This would also work well for a tablet. People with larger screens would have to forget about the slip pocket and use the main space of the compartment. The top closes in a flip over fashion. Adjustable shoulder straps along with a chest buckle help keep the backpack secure when riding.
Timbuk2 offers this backpack in a subtle jet black, surplus grey, or more vibrant flame red.
#4 MiiR 20L Commuter
The MiiR 20L Commuter backpack is a staple in the bicycle commuter world. Its 25 liters is plenty for the average commuter. Even when stuffed to the limit, this bag feels light when walking or riding a bike.
The pack is made up of hard-wearing nylon and covered in a water repellent finish. Even the zippers are coated to make sure no water gets into your bag during rainfalls. The MiiR Commuter has been given an adjustable roll-top to cover the main compartment. This can be extended or shortened quickly to help keep your load secure no matter how full the bag is. Inside you will find a padded laptop pocket for up to a 15” laptop, similar to most other commuter bags. Zipped side pockets make for great storage of essentials that you use often such as your wallet or phone. A bike light loop has also been included for visibility when riding in the darker hours.
Colour choices for the MiiR 20L Commuter include grey and black.
#5 DHB Waterproof Rucksack
The DHP waterproof rucksack is about as close to a dry bag as you can get. It features a roll-top closing system with a buckle for secure storage. Inside you will find one massive 25 liter compartment. The compartment lacks extra clips, and internal pockets, but is perfect to put just about anything in. Groceries, books, your laptop, and pretty much any other goods you’ll be regularly riding with should fit in no problem.
This pack is fully waterproof without the use of another layer, meaning you will not have to pull over and struggle with a rain cover when the water begins to fall. The straps are easy to adjust and comfortable on the shoulders. DHB has also included reflective elements and a bike light loop to keep the wearer visible at all times. Foam ridging along the back provides room for plenty of airflow, and helps keep your back free from sweat. There is also a fully waterproof front zipped pocket that is perfect for your phone or wallet.
The DHB Waterproof Rucksack is only available in grey.
#6 Chrome Night Barrage Cargo Backpack
The Night Barrage Cargo Backpack by Chrome is a water resistant bag designed for the busy city life. Made in Chico US, this bag has plenty of features along with a classic messenger bag look. Like all Chrome bags, it is durable and long lasting. The backpack is also carries a lifetime guarantee for extra assurance.
Similar to other bags in this list, the Night Cargo Barrage features a roll top as the packs closing system. Inside is another simple yet spacious design that will allow the user to commute with their daily essentials using little effort. There is a unique net compression system on the front that will easily hold a helmet. To keep everything tight Chrome added adjustable seat belt buckles around the bag. The back panel is made up of Ergonomic EVA foam for a better fit and breathability. Water bottle pockets can be easily accessed from the side. 3M reflective detailing is also included for safety.
The Night Barrage Cargo Backpack is available in a huge range of colors including Black, Brick, Cinelli Chrome, Indigo, Ranger, Night / Black, Indigo / Lime, Royal Blue / Pink, and Woodland Camo / Black
#7 Timbuk2 Especial Medio Cycling Laptop Backpack
Just as the name suggests, the Timbuk2 Medio Cycling Laptop Backpack is a true winner when it comes to cycling specific commuter bags. Like most other bags it is a top load with a flip over cover. It also is designed to fit the standard 15” laptop.
This pack features an internal drop liner to keep the bag contents safe in the rain. Timbuk2 was very specific with designing this bag so that it would be seriously comfortable when cycling. It features a back bender flexible cooling panel for superior breathability and fit. There is routing that will easily fit headphone wires or even your hydration system hose. The straps are padded with foam and cooling mesh to help the whole bag breathe.
On the outside straps are used to tighten or loosen the load. The front panel unzips to offer more carrying room. When looking at the back you will see the tapered top. This was designed so the cyclist users can easily check over their shoulders for traffic etc. This is another quality bag with a lifetime warranty.
This bag comes in black, which is perfect for the classic office look, or rally (blue with red accents).
#8 Arcteryx Blade 20 Backpack
The Arcteryx Blade 20 is much different than most backpacks on this list but it had to be included. This bag is side loading with a specific padded back panel for your 15” laptop to fit against. There is also an additional tablet sleeve.
There is a second zippered compartment that is roomy enough to throw extra books etc. into. The front pocket has a few different compartments to keep your stuff organized, including a small zip pocket that is handy for loose change. There is a discreet back pocket that is great for hiding valuables such as your wallet in. Arcteryx included a unique grab strap that wraps around most of the pack length ways. Water bottle pockets are also included in this unique design. This backpack is especially great if you will be doing a large mix of both cycling and walking. The sternum strap will help hold the bag in place no matter how rough the commute.
This bag comes in black, nightshade, legion blue, and aramon.
#9 The Mission Workshop Sanction
The Sanction by The Mission Workshop is a modern backpack that checks all of the boxes for most commuters. It isn’t huge at 20 liters but will surprise you with how much can actually fit in.
The lid folds over similar to the Timbuk2 Medio Cycling Laptop. It is secured in place by both Velcro and plastic buckles. While riding this pack stays in place well, especially when using the optional waist strap. The sanction is built to military grade specifications, and in the unlikely event that the bag is damaged, it is covered under a lifetime warranty. Features such as 4 waterproof internal pockets, and coated zippers make this bag great for people who live in wet climates.
There is storage for your 15” laptop, with plenty of room left over for other essentials. The front pocket is especially handy for items you need to quickly access. All of these features come together to create a backpack with some of the best organizational qualities of this article.
Color choices for the sanction include black, charcoal, olive, grey, light blue, Kelly green, and orange.
#10 Brooks England Pickwick Backpack 26LT
If you are in the market for a classy, luxurious commuter backpack and have some spare coin, then the Pickwick is perfect for you. The Pickwick 26LT is a London designed backpack made my Brooks England, a company whose history is bicycle saddles. In the hills of Tuscany, Italian artisans manufacture these backpacks to the highest standards. The bag is made from quality water resistant cotton and genuine leather. It features 26 liters of storage space. If this is too much, the Pickwick is also available as the “Pickwick Small”.
The Pickwick features a roll-top system to keep items secure while keeping true to its sophisticated appearance. There is an internal sleeve for your laptop or tablet, and a hidden pocket is located on the back of the bag. There is not much else to this minimalist bag. However, it is important to mention that Brooks England has been around since the mid-1800s so they know a thing or two about cyclist comfort. Adjustable shoulder straps along with a chest strap helps keep the bag in place when cycling.
The Pickwick Backpack comes in grey, total black, dark blue, goose beak, and Chianti/maroon.
11 Things All Bike Commuters Should Keep In Their Pack
Bike commuters face a huge array of different challenges throughout their commuting life. This article is designed to make commuting safer, and more enjoyable. Underneath you will find a top ten list of things a commuter should keep in their pack as well as short descriptions of where they should be kept.
1. Sunglasses. Whether it is rain or shine, sunglasses should always be found in a commuters backpack. Sunglasses help protect the eyes from harmful UV rays, as well as dust, rain and anything else that can obscure vision. For the most part, a commuter will only need to use sunglasses when it is bright out. However sometimes, such as when riding near a construction zone, the glasses can help keep your eyes free of debris.
Sunglasses should be stored in a specific glasses compartment in your backpack if you have one. This is because the pockets are usually lined with a scratch free fabric that will keep your lenses safe. If you do not have a sunglasses pocket, place your glasses in a case or specific glasses bag and then a front pocket of your backpack where they will not be crushed.
2. Bike tools. Tools can save you from mechanical failure when out on your bicycle commute. Choosing the appropriate tools will assure a safe arrival while still keeping your pack light. Most importantly, carry a tube, tire irons, and a mini pump. This will safeguard you against the most common commuter issue, a flat tire. We would also recommend to carry a small multi-tool in the instance that something on your bicycle comes loose. For example, sometimes consistent riding can cause your headset to come loose, making your front end wobble, and eventually the fork could even fall off. A bike specific mulit-tool would include the hex head needed to tighten it.
Storing tools is quite an easy choice for commuters as they are not need for every ride. Keep them close to the bottom of your pack or in a pocket where they will not interfere with items that you use daily. Remember tools are there in case of emergency so do not skimp out on them.
3. Water. Cycling as is a physical activity. As you cycle on your commute, your body rapidly cycles through water. Keeping hydrated is the most important thing a human can do. It will allow you to focus better at work, school, or wherever you are commuting to. You will also find that your energy levels are higher when you drink lots of water.
Storing water is usually a simple task. Water bottles can be packed into specific holders on many commuter backpacks. These holders are usually made of mesh or feature some sort of restraint to stop your bottle from falling out. For the most part, the holders are located on the sides of the pack. If water bottles are not your thing or you have a long intense commute, consider a hydration pack. Many commuter packs are designed to work with hydration systems. Plenty of different options are available so pick the one that you like the most.
4. Bike Lights (rear and front). Commutes often take place during the early morning or evening when the sun is partly absent. Some commuters even find themselves riding in almost pitch blackness. Perhaps you planned on leaving while it was still light outside but your boss asked you to stay late. Or maybe you had to stay after class to study with friends. Whatever your reason for riding in the dark is, you should always be prepared with lights. A rear blinkly light will ensure drivers and other people will see you from behind. A front light can light your way so that you can safely follow your path.
Most quality commuter packs will have an attachment point for a rear light. If the pack does not have one, there is usually some area that you will be able to clip one to. We recommend to always leave the light attached to your backpack, but only have it on in dim light. A front light can be mounted to your pack shoulder straps, helmet or bike. Only leave this attached when it is dark out in order to keep it safe. When it is light out, keep it stored with your tools.
5. Lock. The destination of your commute does not really matter. A lock is a necessity for all cyclists that plan a trip that has stops included. If you are going from the place where you store your bike, out on a ride, and then back to that place without any stops, then a lock is not needed. However, as a commuter, you will be stopping at work or school, and perhaps somewhere for food, drinks or other shopping. A bike lock is the number one deterrent for bike thieves so invest in a quality one to keep your transport safe.
We recommend getting a U-lock as many backpacks have specific holders for them. Locks can easily be clipped to just about anywhere on a pack. If you find your commuter pack is very full, then attach it to the outside. If there is lots of room left inside, place it on top as you will likely need it whenever you arrive at your destination.
6. First Aid Kit. Accidents happen. You never know if something will happen to you, or whether it will happen to other people so it is important to always be prepared. Crashes, falls, and other incidents can occur when on a bike commute. A small first aid kit can offer help in many different scenarios. From a band aid protecting a cut cause by a fraying cable, to a tensor bandage supporting a damaged appendage. A first aid kit is always a valuable commodity.
A first aid kit is not something that will be used every day, so it does not need to be easily accessible. The important thing is to make sure it is there.
7. Money. Money is the universal item that can get you practically anything you need. If your bike gets stolen, money will help you get home. If your bike breaks down, money will be used to pay for parts and labor. If you need a drink or food (even though you should have some packed), money will buy that for you as well. Bring money no matter what. We recommend bringing at least fifty dollars as that will help you in most situations.
Storing money is a relatively simple process. Firstly, we recommend keeping it inside a wallet of some sort. Whether it is a card holder, or a full wallet, it does not matter. Inside the backpack the wallet should be placed in a valuables pocket, or another small pocket where items will not get mixed up.
8. Calories. Cycling takes energy. Calories are the universal measurement for energy. So it only makes sense that bike commuter should have some calories packed in their bags somewhere. Food is the obvious choice for calories. If you choose the pack food, make sure it is something that lasts awhile in case you leave it in the pack uneaten by accident. Granola bars and energy bars are a great option to keep your energy stores full. Another great option is energy gels that are packed with calories. They last a long time and take up very little space.
Forms of calories should be packed somewhere where they will not be squished. It is important to pack small items for calories. Remember, you are not packing a dinner, it is just something to keep your energy levels up when commuting.
9. Cell Phone. A cell phone is necessary for obvious reasons and does not need much of an explanation. It can be used to call for help, directions or to show off the beautiful sites on your commute.
Your cell phone should be stored in a phone specific pocket or in a case where it is then placed in a valuables pocket. Remember that is good to have quick access to your phone.
10. Rain Layer. A layer to protect you from the elements should always be included in your commuter pack. Weather is always changing and proves to be very unpredictable. A protectant layer will keep you dry for times when you did not expect the rain.
Make sure your layer is light and packs down very small. Since you probably will not be using it often, store it at the bottom of your pack as it will pad your other items and not break under the weight.
11. Bell. Cyclists ride quiet machines in comparison to car drivers and motorcycle riders. It is important as a bike commuter that you too can be heard when it is needed. Bells offer a respectable noise that is easy for people to distinguish.
Always have a bell on your bike when commuting as it can prevent accidents by making sure other people know you are there.
As a quick recap we’ve talked about the three features to consider: size, safety, style.
We gave you a look at the 10 best packs for commuting, along with a short review of each.
And last, but not least, we talked about the 11 things you should pack for each commute.
Let us know in the comments below which pack you end up going with!