What Features Do I Need in a Cycling Backpack for Commuting?

woman cycling on the road

If you cycle to work, keeping your belongings safe and dry is a top priority. Whether you carry your laptop, a notebook with important notes for your meeting that day or a change of clothes, arriving at work to find your belongings are wet or damaged will set you up for a bad day.

Top features to look out for on the best backpacks for commuting

  • Waterproof – not just water-resistant
  • Compartmentalisation – stay organised and keep your belongings safe
  • Comfort – avoid a sweaty back and aching shoulders
  • Visibility – stay safe, be seen

Waterproof vs Water-Resistant

When commuting by bicycle, you need to be prepared for all weather conditions. Especially here in the UK, you can guarantee that it will rain on your way to or from work, no matter what the season. Do not let the fear of your stuff getting wet put you off cycling to work, invest in a waterproof rolltop backpack.

Do not fall into the trap of buying a cheap, low-quality backpack advertised as being water-resistant. Water-resistant bags will not keep your belongings safe and dry, even if your commute is only short. Water-resistant is a play on words that some retailers use to make you think that they will keep your belongings safe when the clouds decide to empty.

When looking for a waterproof backpack for cycling, keep an eye out for an IP waterproof rating. Ideally, this should be a minimum of IPX5. IP stands for “ingress protection” and the higher the number, the better product is at preventing the ingress of water. IPX5 materials and products are perfect for withstanding heavy rainfall, but will not keep your contents safe if entirely submerged in water. However, assuming you are not taking part in a triathlon on your way to work, this will not be a problem!

A waterproof rolltop backpack will keep your belongings dry if you are caught in a downpour. The rolltop feature on the most popular waterproof cycling backpacks is far better than zips at keeping the water out. Before setting off, make sure that you have double rolled the top and securely fastened it to make use of this innovative and practical design.


The best backpacks for commuting will include more than one compartment, such as a dedicated slot for your laptop, designed to ensure that laptop is kept safe and not damaged by the other items in your bag.

As a cyclist, you have come to accept that you will get a puncture on your commute soon enough. Carrying your puncture repair kit and pump with you at all times is a necessity. However, you do not want to make your day worse, by inadvertently getting your clean white shirt dirty with your mucky hands, while rummaging in the main compartment looking for all the tools to repair your inner tube. An essential feature for your waterproof backpack for cycling is a separate easy to access pocket, to store all you need to get back on the road.

You will also want to keep your phone, wallet and keys within easy reach. A backpack with a convenient pocket at the top of the main compartment is perfect. Not only will it keep your prized possessions dry, but they are easy to access, and it removes the risk of you “losing” your keys at the bottom of the main compartment.


There is enough for you to have to worry about, without being distracted by an uncomfortable bag digging into your collar bones or a heavy backpack causing a build-up of sweat on your back.

If you choose to cycle in your work clothes, getting a good quality backpack with some kind of airflow system at the back is very important. Even if you only intend to take it easy, your body will naturally produce sweat, especially if it has a solid heavy object pushing your clothes to your skin. To help avoid that awkward, sweaty back when you turn up to work, invest in a backpack that has an airflow system. An airflow system essentially means that the pack is not one solid surface area touching your back. By using padding, it elevates the backpack from your back, allowing air to flow freely through and help to keep you cool.

As a cycling commuter, you will spend a lot of time carrying everything you need for the day back and forward. A backpack with padded shoulder straps and a hip belt will help reduce the load on your back and ensure that the straps do not chafe your shoulders while riding.

High Visibility

While cycling on the roads, it is essential to be seen by all road users and pedestrians. On your way to or from work, you will be cycling in low visibility conditions (especially in the winter). Naturally, you will have bike lights and a bright reflective jacket. However, bear in mind with a backpack on, you are covering a large proportion of the surface area that you want motorists to see. Often waterproof cycling backpacks come in bright high visibility colour such as yellow or orange. At the very least you need your backpack to have reflective strips so that in the dark you will catch the attention of passing motorists before it is too late.

Best Backpacks for Commuting

With so many backpacks to choose from, it can be challenging to decide which one is best for you.

A backpack for commuting is not just a carrier bag to dump everything in. It is an accessory that you will be using every day. So invest in a high-quality, stylish backpack for your commute so that you do not leave for work in the mornings in fear that your belongings will be ruined if a sudden shower catches you out.

The best waterproof backpack for cycling will keep your belongings dry, well organised and easily accessible, while also being comfortable to wear and help you to be seen while riding on the road.

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