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Hard and soft luggage options such as panniers and saddlebags are great for those of us who ride cruisers and big sports tourers, capable of lugging half of the contents of your house with you as you travel cross country.
But what about those of us who ride motocross, supersport, or even naked motorbikes that just don’t have the same integrated luggage options?
Some riders will opt for a snazzy little tank bag, capable of holding your wallet and a mobile phone if you’re lucky, but again not really an ideal solution for those who commute.
This is why we have the motorcycle backpack or rucksack, specifically designed for carrying your essentials when out and about on your motorbike.
In fact, some of these backpacks are even large enough to carry an adult-sized motorcycle helmet.
There is a motorcycle backpack out there for all occasions so we’ve taken the time to review the best on the market, leaving you to just pick the one most suitable for your needs.
What to Consider When Choosing From Best Motorcycle Backpacks
Before we dive into the must-have features for your motorcycle backpack, let’s get one thing out of the way.
You don’t have to buy a dedicated motorcycle backpack.
Nobody will require it from you, and it won’t improve your safety unlike, say, a motorcycle jacket.
However, getting a special rucksack is good because it’s sturdier, better made and more comfortable for riding than your regular backpack or even a tactical backpack.
So here’s a list of things you need to pay attention to.
Motorcycle backpacks can be beautiful or bad-ass looking or even intimidating, but we’re not talking about the looks here.
There’s more to design than just being likeable. An ideal backpack should be convenient enough not to get in the way. And that often means LOTS of straps that will let you adjust and secure everything.
Also, windproof and waterproof backpack (or at least the vital parts of it, where you keep your electronics or your underwear) should be resistant to the elements. If you want 100% waterproof, go for welded seams.
This is not your “get-as-many-compartments-as-possible” section.
The ideal option is to opt for as many – or as little – as will suit your needs.
Some backpacks will even have a helmet holder or a special compartment where you can shove your helmet.
(These WON’T be able to replace a helmet lock, though.)
Whatever kind of motorcycle bag you choose, make sure it has a hydration compartment.
“Pads, pads, pads” is the name of the game here.
Padded straps, padded back panel, padded everything.
And not because we’re special little snowflakes that can’t take some soreness, but because comfort translates to safety when you’re driving 80 mph for five hours straight.
So, make sure nothing sticks out or gets in the way (or pokes you in the loin).
You can get a super cheap backpack for under $20, but you can’t exactly hope it to last for years.
That’s why it’s usually wiser to splurge some more so you don’t have to do it AGAIN in six months.
And frankly, there are more (and more important) reasons you need a rugged backpack. Even the tamest motorcycle ride can be a rough business if you were to crash. And even if the crash isn’t serious, your laptop or smartphone are likely to suffer through the zippered pocket.
Pads can save your electronics, not just your back.
Another thing to look out for – durable and lockable zippers. You don’t want your smartphone to fall out just because you got a dud of a zipper that turned out to be an unzipper.
If you’ve ever tried riding for 5 hours with as little as 10 pounds on your back, you’ll know how your back can hurt afterwards.
Laptops are heavy, water is heavy, not to mention other basics such as first-aid kits and repair kits.
So, make sure the backpack itself is lightweight at least.
Best Motorcycle Backpacks Reviews
Best Overall – Alpinestars City Hunter
You probably thought that Alpinestars only made jackets and boots but you would be wrong in that assumption. They also make a mean motorcycle rucksack with the City Hunter being one of their best.
Just looking at it, there are no features that really set it apart from any other typical backpack but as always, the devil is in the detail.
The outer shell is constructed from a strong 420D nylon which is going to go a long way in keeping your valuables protected. The bottom of the bag has been reinforced further to prevent anything from falling out before you’ve arrived at your destination.
Capacity on offer is 25L which should be enough for most people with plenty of space for a laptop and some textbooks for those students out there. Electronics even get their own special fleece-lined compartment to add an extra layer of protection.
Premium Pick – OGIO Mach 5
You’ve probably heard of them – OGIO is a giant in the backpack game. Providing great luggage options for other pursuits has allowed them to really dial down what works and what doesn’t, which is why their motorcycle backpacks are the best on the market.
The Mach 5 is their top of the line model that’s a killer option for ANY motorcyclist. What you’ll notice first is the design ethos which has gone into its construction – aerodynamics is the name of the game here with the Mach 5 looking like an extension of your body when in the tuck position on a sports bike. Reflective piping will improve your visibility, which is a small but important detail.
The construction of this model is water-resistant rather than 100% waterproof which should be enough for all but the worst of weather conditions
If you are carrying electronics, we would suggest a waterproof liner or small zip bag to put them in. On the subject of electronics, you’ll find enough space inside to fit a 15″ laptop as well as its power supply AND every other item you could find yourself needing at the office.
Motorcycling related design features include specific pockets for visors and purpose-made motorcycle gloves as well as a waist belt and a quick release strap to help you take it off when you’re fully geared up.
The section which sits against your back is also padded, which in conjunction with Mach 5’s lightweight makes for a comfortable ride.
Best of all, OGIO stands by their products and will happily replace your backpack if it is damaged through no fault of your own during the warranty period.
Best Budget Backpack – Axo Commuter
How cheap does cheap get?
Certainly not cheaper than this backpack. But that doesn’t mean it won’t stand up to the challenge.
We realize that some of the models on test here aren’t cheap, which is why we’ve included a budget option that still qualifies as one of the best backpacks for motorcycle commuting. Despite its low price point, the Commuter actually surprised us with a great feature set that rivals some of the higher end offers available.
Available in several design colors, the Commuter takes a slightly different approach to design. What you have here is the presence of a large main compartment which is where the bulk of your stuff is going to go.
There is so much space on offer that the carrying of a full size helmet is perfectly possible with room to spare.
There is minimal padding throughout and the quality of construction and shoulder strap isn’t quite up to the OGIO or SHOEI but we wouldn’t expect that.
What you do get is a backpack that is more than big enough for most people and will likely last a good couple of years with the likely usage profile.
We did have a few issues with the zips on our bag where they wouldn’t open or close properly which was annoying but with some perseverance, it can be worked around.
Best Big Capacity Backpack – Seibertron 37L
If you want a cheap yet decent bike backpack (and don’t mind it being a bit ugly), this might just be your best pick.
Seibertron is a great producer of no-frills motorcycle backpacks which may not look like much but make great value for money.
The design isn’t particularly streamlined or pretty but it is functional. The materials include a 900D polyester outer shell which is going to provide great abrasion resistance if you crash as well as a decent level of water resistance.
(The zippers won’t be as water resistant, mind you. But that’s to be expected at this price.)
Do bear in mind that electronics should be in a separate waterproof bag that you can place inside this backpack, just in case.
If you need as much capacity as possible then look no further than this Seibertron. There’s A BUNCH of adjustable straps – possibly more than you’ll ever need! Chest strap, waist strap, hip belt, adjustable shoulder gasket… While they can take some time to deal with, you can use them to tie the backpack to your motorcycle or adjust the thing on your person.
(They even sell MORE straps, in case these are not enough.)
Also, if you need a hydration bladder, you can buy it separately from this manufacturer (and get a discount if you buy the two together).
Best Laptop Motorcycle Backpack – OGIO Renegade RSS
OGIO have done it again, the Renegade is THE backpack to have if you regularly need to carry a laptop when on your motorcycle.
What you’re getting here is a dedicated laptop sleeve that is capable of securely holding a 17″ laptop. Which, in case you didn’t know, is about the biggest you are likely to have. (Okay, there are bigger laptops, but they aren’t very popular, for obvious reasons.)
What separates this motorbike backpack from the rest is the fact that the compartment itself is reinforced with what is referred to as a crush-proof tech vault.
Anything electronic that is important or valuable to you should be in this compartment as it is here that it will be the most protected. Foam panels line the compartment and you even get a small padded compartment pocket for your tablet or smartphone.
Laptops add a lot of weight so you also get a specially designed back panel that is designed to be flexible and to allow the fully loaded backpack to sit against you properly when riding.
We love it. If you’re a commuter or student then this might just be the one for you.
Best Branded Backpack – SHOEI 2.0
We’ve all heard of SHOEI. That high quality manufacturer of helmets who go above and beyond in the quality stakes – well they make backpacks too.
And the 2.0 is a good one.
The number of pockets this thing has is amazing. Just take a good look at the photo and you’ll see what we mean.
Shoei knows their motorcycles, so everything you see is designed to be fully functional, from the type and position of the straps to specific pockets for visors and face shields.
There are padded shoulder straps, side pockets for a water bottle, and if you don’t need all of the straps, you can hide them so they don’t dangle about.
SHOEI 2.0 will even take a motorcycle helmet if you need somewhere to store it during the day as well as your standard laptop. We have heard reports of poor durability with some of the straps and zippers but our test unit has been fine for the period we’ve used it.
This backpack is priced very similarly to the City Hunter, so the choice is left up to you as to which one you prefer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a motorcycle backpack at all?
The most honest answer is: it depends.
It depends on whether you have other ways to store your motorcycle luggage, such as saddlebags.
It also depends on your personal preference. Some riders don’t like to have anything on their back, while others will find it convenient to keep essentials there.
What should I keep in my motorcycle backpack?
Apart from a huge, greasy sammich (pardon my French) and some water to wash it down, you should always carry essentials such as your phone, tire gauge and other basic tools, first aid kit, and of course, a pair of ear plugs.
Now, this is NOT to say you should bring all of these in your backpack. If you have other luggage options, you can allocate these items as you please.
And, frankly, it’s best to not carry a TON on your back.
Are motorcycle backpacks dangerous?
They can be if they are not adequate or you don’t wear them properly.
To make sure your backpack doesn’t turn into a death trap for your back, it’s best to attach it to a sissy bar using either its straps (if it has enough) or bungee cord.
Or just get a tank bag if you’re entirely uncomfortable wearing a backpack.
Choosing A Motorcycle Backpack
And there you go, a purpose-built motorcycle backpack to suit all tastes and budgets. Versatility, practicality, or style, the choice is yours. For more information, head over to Cycle World to see just how flexible these backpacks are.
What is nice to see is that more and more motorcycling related products and gear is being released where before we had to make do with something designed for an entirely different purpose. The future is bright!
Last update on 2021-04-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API