03 November 2011

Waterproof Cycling Backpack Recommendation?

Dear Readers,

Take pity on my poor husband who has not been on a bike in over a month(!) as he recovers from a big shoulder re-construction surgery.

His armchair cycling has got him shopping for a waterproof laptop-carrying backpack. I am particularly concerned with sight lines as he looks back, and he with it being a backpack because he really does need to keep his shoulders aligned for some time to come. He doesn't need a big bag, as he's actually carrying a very small netbook. It is too bad it doesn't have a solid-state drive.

He's considering this Chrome and this Ortleib, but we're somewhat overwhelmed with all the options out there. A few friends have weighed in with suggestions, PAC Designs looks actually really cool but I understand the messenger-style is a deal breaker in the context of his surgery. Readers, are there any others we should consider? Any comments for or against the two backpacks in contention?

Thank you ever so much!
-Charlotte

33 comments:

Calvin Todd said...

Check out Banjo Brothers. They make great waterproof backpacks

ethan said...

I'll second Banjo Brothers. And mention Mission Workshop.

rinjin said...

Plus one for Banjo Brothers. I have their large backpack and it's really well thought out. Removable liner, roll-top, good padding, sturdy fasteners, reflective accents, and lots of pockets. Clearly designed by real cyclists for hard use! And they come in black, white, or RED.

Chris Skogen said...

I'd second the Banjo Brothers; great stuff, great price!

grant said...

I have owned many waterproof backpacks. I currently use the Chrome Pawn and really enjoy it. If he is looking for small, I would look elsewhere though. Unless your husband is 6' +, it is a kind of big bag. I'm 5' 10" and it fits me well, but is big enough to pack a full weekend if need be. I love that. I can carry: my laptop, a textbook smallish tool kit, rain jacket, and more with plenty of room to stop at the grocery store and pick up a half gallon of milk and a few other small things. the exterior back pockets fit my Masterlock standard shackle perfectly. I would recommend some sort of ditty bag or the Chrome tool pouch for a degree of organization within the main pocket.

Unknown said...

Banjo Brothers all the way. I use mine every day up here in Seattle. Completely waterproof. Very comfortable when loaded. Plus they sell replacement parts/liners and they are priced better than the competition.

Dana said...

I'll second the Banjo Brothers backpacks. I have been using one for the last 3 years. Switched from a messenger bag which was causing problems with my shoulder. I have used the backpack everyday for the last 4 months, rain or shine. It keeps everything dry, even in a downpour. I carry a 15" laptop, clothes, and a lunch everyday and even with all that it is still comfortable to wear. After all this use the backpack still looks like new. I was kind of hoping it would wear out so I would have an excuse to get one of the new red ones they have now.

Bitebart - Louisville, KY said...

I love my Chrome messenger bag. I am a daily medium distance commuter (13 miles one way). Had it for abuot 6 months and its taking my beating. Keeping things dry too. My two cents.

Anonymous said...

North St. Bags in Portland makes some great, cyclist-friendly products, including this waterproof backpack that can convert into a pannier:
http://northstbags.com/products/woodward/

Plus you can choose your own colors.

Bicycle Kitty said...

Yay Banjo Brothers. Super waterproof. Commuter backpack comes in sizes, is black and has giant reflective stripes down the back. Metro comes in red, white or black and also waterproof with reflective.

Both distribute weight nicely - I have a bad back and rode in with one this morning.

Step-Through said...

Deuter makes a rather ugly technical daypack that comes with a detachable waterproof cover that can be stored in a special pocket when not in use. It's very effective. That said, though, he could improve visibility and reduce pressure on the shoulder by simply using a pannier or basket instead. You can find big waterproof panniers for cheap on Dutch websites, even after exchange rates and shipping.

dr2chase said...

Could he use a messenger bag that was reversed? I think some of them are configurably ambidextrous.

So the good shoulder (whichever one) gets the strap, the other gets nothing at all. And when his shoulder heals, he can switch it back.

No bag recommendations from your list; I have no experience. I know that my oldest son eventually cashed in a Timbuk2 gift card to get something backpack-like that looked nice to me. I am exceedingly happy with my Baileyworks bag, but it is only so-so waterproof after much use, and has no roll-shut top.

However, I am not especially worried about the laptop (which is always in the bag, which in turn is never left behind), since it is in a hard-ish case inside the messenger bag, and between them, it has never been wet.

Ryan D said...

I second the Banjo Brothers. I carried laptop extra clothes etc. in pouring rain and it was dry as can be inside the bag. I saw many other Banjo Bros. bags out that day. You don't need to drop the money on a chrome when Banjo Brothers make an amazing bag for cheaper.

Sally aka Fixpert said...

I love my Reload Minipack. I ride with it everyday, in all kinds of weather. I easily fit a MacBook Pro 15", plus notebooks, extra layers, headphones, etc. I like that it's lightweight and it's small when it's empty, but it can expand a LOT to hold groceries and bigger hauls.

Carissa said...

I hate cycling with a backpack, but I always thought that if I had to bike with one it would be the Osprey pack: http://www.rei.com/product/813370/osprey-momentum-34-commuter-backpack

Charlotte said...

Thank you all! Banjo Brothers is popular in this group!

Step-Through, the reason I mention the lack of a solid-state drive is that laptops that have spinning drives tend to fail sooner when carried on the bike - the vibration is hard on the delicate moving parts.

dr2chase said...

"laptops that have spinning drives tend to fail sooner when carried on the bike - the vibration is hard on the delicate moving parts"

Are you sure of this? I just (today) retired a backpack that has traveled thousands of miles (6000, I think) in its hard case, in my pack, in the right-hand-side freeloader of a cargo bike. Not on my back. Admittedly, the game here was to soften the sharpest blows (given the Russian-doll packing), and the monster tires help, but beyond that it gets no special treatment.

What died (or what is showing signs of dying) is something related to the screen. I'm on my third battery, several my keys have had their letters worn off, the backspace key split in half and fell off (I make lots of mistakes, I guess).

Disks are pretty sturdy. And modern Mac laptops have an easy-to-replace disk anyhow, and you're crazy if you don't backup frequently anyhow (I use SuperDuper, it is awesome, I used it today to backup my old laptop, then boot the backup, and restore onto the new laptop).

Charlotte said...

Dr. Chase -
Am I sure? No! I certainly have not tested this with my own machine. Our IT department personally thanked me for NOT putting my Mac on the bike, they say that they see a lot of problems with people who do that, and the people who have rolling briefcases.

In my husband's case he's got some cheap netbook running Linux. We backup like crazy people, and most of our work lives on a server anyway, but also we just don't want to deal with the headache of an urgent replacement. We've got a lot of balls in the air these days, we want to ensure reliable computing.

Danno said...

be careful a lot of waterproof laptop backpacks the laptopsection isnt waterproof due to zipper access for that section wuch as all the timbuk2 backpacks.

check non cycling specific like sealline or ems and rei roll top is the only way to get waterproof guarenteed

woodenmonkey said...

Have you thought about using a panniers instead of a backpack? Solves the vision problem, and take all the weight off the shoulder.

I feel for your husband - I broke both my feet and haven't been on my bike since June. I taunt myself by reading bike blogs (and looking at shoes online...)

Daniel said...

The Ortlieb Velocity, with the optional snap-in laptop pouch, might be worth a look. Very simple, durable, and waterproof.

http://www.rei.com/product/768101/ortlieb-velocity-messenger-pack

I really like the design of the Banjo Brothers, but have heard some rumors about the long-term durability [that's why my LBS doesn't stock them].

ekr said...

Mission Workshop, their fabric is very good.

Anonymous said...

I use an Ortlieb pannier. The weight on your back gets old quickly. I carry a macbook pro in a messenger bag (for padding) inside the pannier. Never had a problem yet. Very water resistant too.

Charlotte said...

Thank you all for the comments!
Yes, we're big fans of getting the weight off one's back and onto the bike. To that end we have:
Her bag: Carradice Bike Bureau

His bag: Carradice City Folder Bag
(better link)

But there are two problems with this:
1) I do believe that these little vibrations do add up to problems for the hardware of a laptop and
2) they only work if you have your own rack on your own bike. If you're relying on say, a bike share, these bags are not helpful.

Reuben Collins said...

I've been using a Chrome backpack daily for the past 6 years - sometimes carrying substantial loads on my back. I've been caught in some extremely heavy rainstorms, and have never had a single drop of water in the bag (except for the time when the fruit cup in my lunch exploded)... I don't often stump for corporate products, but I have been extremely thrilled and impressed with the Chrome bag. After 6 years of daily use, it still shows very little wear-and-tear. I'll bet it's got another 10 years in it.

lexica510 said...

My husband and I both have Chrome backpacks (not the roll-top; closer to the Romer in construction) that we love. We're car-free and bike-mobile, and these packs make it possible to get through the wet Bay Area winter with relative ease and comfort.

Plus there's the whole "will withstand damage from almost anything short of a blowtorch" aspect, which I like. After almost a year, my white backpack is grungy as whoa, but undamaged.

Based on my own experience with years of back and shoulder pain, I'd highly (HIGHLY) encourage your husband to stick with a 2-strap pack or some other style that distributes the weight bilaterally instead of putting it unevenly on one shoulder or the other. I think switching away from single-strap bags is one of the things that helped clear up my back pain. (The other is Egoscue method postural alignment therapy, which I'd be happy to rave about -- "changed my life! eliminated my back pain!" -- just say the word if you or he are interested.)

Rowan said...

I just noticed this review of a pack on Practical Travel Gear

http://practicaltravelgear.com/eagle-creek-conor-flashpoint-waterproof-daypack/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+practicaltravelgear%2FzUFW+%28Practical+Travel+Gear+Blog%29

She Rides a Bike said...

Recommend Ortleib, although Chrome is certainly stylish.

Ground Round Jim said...

Chrome backpacks (I have a large one) ride high on the back and suffer from very large shoulder check blind spots in my opinion. I resorted to using binder clips to tamp down the corners. If he's riding the Brompton it may not be a problem, but I don't think Chromes are well designed even though I also have a messenger bag.
Have also a Freight Baggage - much better on and off the bike.
Anyway, don't get a Chrome.
Oh, the bigger they are the hotter they go.

antbikemike said...

I think he needs an ANT Basket Bike, with a suspension fork and have the basket also suspended with rubber bumpers :)

Adam Biel said...

I abandoned waterproof backpacks 2 years ago in favor of sea-to-summit dry sacks which I place in my current backpack. They're great for turning any backpack waterproof.

Stephen said...

I was writing about just this sort of thing on my blog last week. Check out The North Face bag:
http://project4cycling.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-i-fell-in-love-with-north-face-bag.html

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