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Choosing a rucksack for commuting

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Article posted: 27/08/2013

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While many cyclists favour panniers, a good rucksack is nonetheless a good option for commuting size loads. There’s lots of choice about, with bike specific models and designs for general outdoor use. No matter what you choose, it's capacity and features that count. Here’s what to look for.

Capacity

Before you go out and buy a rucksack for your bike commute consider what you need to carry. You may regularly need to carry a laptop or A4 files to and from work. You may incorporate a daily grocery run with your commute and need room for a few extras. Even the most minimalist commuter will need enough space to carry roadside repair tools, keys, wallet, phone, pump and a spare tube, plus waterproofs. This kind of stuff will fit comfortably into a 20-30 litre ‘daysack’. Check the dimensions if you want to carry a laptop or A4 files and try before you buy. If you need to carry more than this, you’re probably better off looking at panniers and a rack, which will take the weight off your back.

Back system

A system which allows air to flow between you and pack will keep your back from getting too sweaty. More basic packs will have padded mesh with air channels while more sophisticated models will feature lightweight flexible mesh covered frame that lifts the pack completely clear of the back, giving the best possible protection against sweaty back syndrome.

Waterproofing

Before you go out and buy a rucksack for your bike commute, consider what you need to carry.

There are a number of approaches to waterproofing. Some rucksacks, such as Ortleib will be made of a 100% waterproof polyurethane material, similar to that used for canoe bags, which can be completely submerged in water. They feature welded seams and waterproof seams and a perfect if you live in a rain-prone area. Other designs use a separate, pull-out rain cover, usually concealed within a zipped compartment, which you can deploy when the heavens open. Separate waterproof rucksack covers are also available if your bag doesn’t have either feature

Sternum and waist straps

These are great for keeping the load on your back stable. For casual pootlers they’re probably overkill but if you’re a spirited rider and like to get in and out of the saddle a lot, some kind of load stabilisation helps.

Hydration bladder compatibility

Only really an issue if your commute is long or you intend to use the same bag for your longer weekend rides. Many bike specific bags will have a pouch between the back system and the bag itself to allow the fitment of a hydration bladder, with clips on the straps to keep the hydration hose tidy.

Visibility

Bike-specific bags will often feature Scotchlite reflective trim to aid night-time visibility. Look out for rucksack covers made from hi-vis materials, which help with visibility during the day too.

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