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Riding a motorcycle presents numerous challenges, but one of the biggest conundrums a motorcyclist can face is storage. How can a rider on a motorcycle without storage transport their essentials? Where do they put their laptops if they're commuting to work? How can they tote their gear and clothes for road trips? The answer is a motorcycle backpack.
Not just any backpack will do. Motorcycle backpacks are specially designed for riders, with extra straps for stability, articulated back panels, and more. They're made to rest on the rider's back while in the riding position, while providing easy access to essentials and offering resistance to rain. Many are (or claim to be) large enough to stow a helmet when you're off the bike. Naturally, there are dozens on the market to choose from. So which motorcycle backpack is the best for you?
Things to Consider When Shopping for a Motorcycle Backpack
The aftermarket provides plenty of storage options for those who want to mount luggage on their bikes. But what about the rest of us? How are riders of sport bikes, ADV bikes, cruisers and choppers, standards, naked bikes, and the rest supposed to carry our stuff?
A motorcycle backpack will allow you to tote almost anything you want on your back while you're in the saddle. It really depends on exactly what you plan to carry, where and when you ride, the style of bike you're on, and how much stuff you have. There are all kinds of motorcycle backpacks on the market; here are some things to think about while you're shopping for yours.
Make Sure It's Made for Motorcycling
All backpacks are not created equal. The typical canvas student bookbag could work for some riders tooling around town. But what about on the freeway, with semis and other traffic swirling around you? Is it secure on your back or is it blowing and bouncing around back there, barely hanging on by its shoulder straps? What about on long trips? Is it comfortable for hours in all kinds of weather while you're focused on the road with your hands on the grips? Is it aerodynamic? What if it rains?
Much like hiking backpacks have waist straps for stability on the trails, a motorcycle backpack should have harnesses and connectors that go across your chest to keep the bag stable at high speeds. Some provide weather resistance in case of downpours. Many are articulated (curved) so that the back panel sits flat on a bent-over back. Most have extra padding on the shoulder straps and in the back to keep you comfortable. And any motorcycle backpack worth its salt should provide outside pockets that close for quick and easy access to items like cell phones and sunglasses without taking the pack off.
Size & Storage
Consider what it is you plan to tote while you're riding. Are you commuting to work? Going away for the weekend? Headed off-road? Do you want a place to stow your helmet, gloves, and other riding gear while you're off the bike? All of these things and more will determine the right motorcycle backpack for you.
If you'll need to carry a laptop, look for a backpack with a padded interior sleeve. If you want to be able to quench your thirst while you're riding, opt for a hydration backpack that features an interior bladder for liquids. Hunched over a sport bike? You might consider a hardshell backpack that reduces wind drag.
Motorcycle backpacks range in size from 15 up to 40 liters (or perhaps even more, but after 40 they tend to get too bulky to be truly comfortable). For around town and commuting, a backpack on the smaller end of that spectrum should be fine. If you're planning to be on the road all day or perhaps for days on a road trip, you'll need to go bigger.
Because stuff happens and you might find yourself sliding on the pavement, motorcycle backpacks are generally made of tougher textiles than your typical canvas or nylon backpack. They'll often feature hard polycarbonate shells for both abrasion resistance and aerodynamics. Some provide back protection or sleeves for back inserts such as D30. Most are weather-resistant if not completely weatherproof and watertight. And any proper motorcycle backpack will use high-quality zippers or other closures to keep your stuff from flying out while riding.
As with your motorcycle and riding gear, the style of backpack you choose is purely up to you. Some riders prefer the sleek streamlined look, while others opt for comfort, features, or tech. The market provides plenty of options to suit all kinds of motorcyclists and their riding styles.
That's why we decided not to choose a Best Overall motorcycle backpack here. Instead, we chose backpacks for various rides and riders. After all, the best motorcycle gear for you is the one that does what you need it to do. We have used a bunch of these backpacks and can vouch for the quality of all the brands and products listed here.
Ready to ride? Here are the best motorcycle backpacks.
Alpinestars Tech Aero
The aggressive riding position that sport bikes put motorcyclists in is great for aerodynamics. It's also lousy for backpacks. Even the slimmest of regular backpacks can get buffeted by the wind and flop around back there, not only jostling and yanking and distracting the rider but also putting extra stress on slim fabric shoulder straps that aren't designed for such punishment. You really want to trust your laptop to stressed and fraying canvas straps?
The Tech Aero is aerodynamically profiled and comes with a host of rider comfort and performance features, such as anatomical shoulder straps, a padded and articulated back panel, and a quick-release strap system. It's not a hard and heavy turtle shell; rather, it's made of lightweight and tough 600-denier poly-fabric on the main body and 1200-denier at the base. Best of all, it expands from 16 to 26 liters, somehow making room for a full-face helmet for when the ride is over.
Adventure and off-road riding require gear that's heavy-duty, functional, and relatively lightweight. The Trail18 Adventure fits the bill on all counts. Made of tough 420-denier Cordura, it's got an integrated chest harness and a removable waist strap. The Trail18 also features an air mesh back panel and a roll-top closure to keep the main compartment dry.
A second compartment can be used for toting more stuff or for an optional hydration reservoir. It also has a waterproof smartphone storage pocket and an external Hypalon net that can hold gear externally under tension—the perfect place to air out that wet beach towel.
If you're into the rugged look of waxed canvas, the 15-liter Dark Oak Voyager from Burly Brand is the backpack for you. It comes with comfortable flannel-lined straps, a roll-top variable-height snap closure, and leather reinforcement panels that will develop a lustrous patina over time. The interior features a padded sleeve for a 15-inch laptop, and large front zipper pockets provide storage for loose items and valuables.
The square-ish shape is different, making the Voyager a bit wider than rectangular backpacks, but the size is ideal for commuting, overnights, and casual runs.
OGIO No Drag Mach 5
OGIO makes fantastic luggage, and the Mach 5 motorcycle backpack is no exception. A streamlined, single-shot molded exterior provides a water-resistant shell that pierces the air around the rider's body and will not get bent from wind shear. The shoulder gasket conforms to the upper back, while a bolstered foam back panel increases air ventilation and comfort. The soft shoulder straps are comfortable and will not scratch your helmet if you're worried about that kind of thing.
It has a large main compartment with an adjustable load divider, plus multiple interior storage compartments including an organizer panel with a zippered pocket and stretch mesh dividers. Of course, it has a sternum harness but it also includes a removable waist belt with an off-center buckle that won't scratch your fuel tank if you're worried about that sort of thing. Best of all, the waist belt features a removable fleece-lined fanny pack that's ideal for EDC items like your phone, wallet, and keys.
The Max28 is ideal for city and suburban commuters because it can accommodate whatever you need to carry to the office. Once emptied of your laptop and whatnot, it expands from 22 to 28 liters of capacity—large enough to stow your helmet in. Fact is, 28 liters of storage is plenty big enough for all your gear on overnight runs and weekend road trips.
Kriega's Quadloc-Lite harness keeps the weight off your shoulders and onto your chest and body. The roll-top main compartment keeps contents dry, while the last compartment folds open to reveal storage and organizational pockets so you know where your EDC and valuables are.
Kriega Urban WP Messenger
Messenger bags are ideal for the urban commuter, so leave it to industry leader Kriega to design a waterproof messenger bag just for motorcyclists. Beneath the business-casual exterior is a rugged carryall with a 16-liter waterproof main compartment that's perfect for laptop duty (17-inch max).
A quick-access side pocket has a YKK water-resistant zipper. It also features a padded interchangeable shoulder strap with a CNC alloy adjustment buckle. It also has a removable waist strap for security.
Klim Nac Pak
This backpack from industry leader Klim is a medium-size bag that's designed specifically for motorcyclists. It features enhanced ergonomics for comfort and a host of rider-friendly goodies, such as a molded and vented back panel, a removable tool bag, and glove-friendly zipper pulls. Made of heavy-duty nylon, it's big enough for a medium laptop or a 3-liter Hydrapak (sold separately).
It's not big and heavy, but it is large enough to carry what you need and gets great ratings and reviews—as you'd expect from a Klim product. At this price, it might be the best bargain on this list.
USWE Raw 12
Many so-called hydration backpacks require you to purchase the internal reservoir separately. Not the Raw 12 from USWE. A highly touted Revzilla "Staff Pick," it's designed for ADV riders but features a balanced fit suitable for any rider and any ride. The elastic bounce-free harness system ensures the pack stays on your back through the most rugged terrain at any speed.
The 12-liter main storage compartment holds the 3-liter hydration bladder as well as your gear and boasts two zippered internal organizer pockets for extras. The dual-zippered external pocket provides easy access to tools, keys, phones, and more. External attachment straps let you strap on your jacket or any other extra equipment you carry.
Biltwell EXFIL 48
From one of the top names in custom cycle parts and gear comes the EXFIL 48, a multi-compartmented 34-liter backpack designed by riders for riders to be comfortable on the long haul. It's ideal for cruiser riders and road-trippers. Two large external pockets provide dedicated tool and hardware storage, while two large zippered internal pockets are for securely stashing valuables. It has a padded laptop sleeve and is made of sturdy UV-treated 1680 ballistic polyester.
While it's not waterproof, the EXFIL 48 is PVC-reinforced for water resistance. Rows of MOLLE webbing allow for modular attachments, and the hi-vis orange interior liner makes it easy to dig for your stuff when you reach your destination.
Kriega Sling WP
The waterproof Kriega Sling is a lightweight, convenient sling pack that is as easy to carry while riding as it is walking around town. It's ideal for EDC items like your wallet, phone, and keys. It's even big enough for a small tablet or Kindle. It has a roll-top main compartment with a taped-seam liner, so it's great for short hops around town.
Much like the waterproof messenger bag above, it has an exterior pocket with a water-resistant zipper and Kriega's interchangeable shoulder strap with its CNC alloy adjustment buckle, plus the optional waist strap. If you've been looking for a small tote for around-town errands, this is your solution.
Velomacchi Roll-Top Speedway 28
Velomacchi's Speedway backpack is hot and cool, and the rotating magnetic sternum harness is miles ahead of the competition. (The Speedway Collection also features a 40-liter version of this backpack and various duffels and bags.) We wanted to include this backpack because of its quality and popularity; if you've got one, you know what we're talking about. You couldn't ride around NYC or L.A. without seeing riders toting the Speedway a few years back. Unfortunately, it appears to be out of stock just about everywhere these days.
According to a post on the company's LinkedIn page, the Hood River, Oregon, company ran into supply-chain issues during the Covid-19 pandemic, has been unable to secure the materials required to stay in business, and is actively seeking investors for a restart. Here's hoping Velomacchi comes back soon because we loved this backpack—and all the company's gear.
What size backpack is good for motorcycling?
The one that allows you to fit all the stuff you need is the ideal size backpack for you. Motorcycle backpacks can range from around 18 liters to 40 liters or more; of course, the larger the backpack the heavier it will be. Anything over about 40 liters is going to be a strain for most riders to carry for any significant amount of time.
Can't I ride my motorcycle wearing a regular backpack?
Of course you can—but you shouldn't. Regular canvas backpacks generally aren't designed to withstand the rigors of the road or being exposed to the elements at dozens of miles an hour for long periods of time. They're also not made for long-term comfort while in the riding position, especially if you're carving canyons on a sport bike or bouncing around the trails on an ADV bike. They generally don't have articulated back panels or hip belts to keep them from flopping around in the wind, which can prove dangerous to both you and your stuff.
Motorcycle backpacks generally utilize rider-specific reinforced shoulder straps and sternum harnesses designed to handle the constant pressure caused by wind shear and to keep your backpack firmly on your back so it doesn't throw off your balance while riding. Moreover, motorcycle backpacks often feature materials like Cordura and other blends that have been engineered for abrasion resistance, water resistance, or both. Face it: That old Jansport you carried around for four years of college won't cut it out on the road.
Should I use a hardshell backpack for riding?
A lot of riders, particularly those who spend a lot of time hunched over on sport bikes, prefer hardshell backpacks. They're more aerodynamic, but they do have their limitations.
Hardshell backpacks generally don't have the versatility or expansion characteristics of textile packs. What fits is what fits; you really can't stuff anything beyond that into them. More concerning, some riders consider hardshell backpacks protection in the event of a crash—that's a myth. Hardshell backpacks are not designed for that kind of impact and should never be worn in lieu of back or spine armor.
What’s the deal with YKK zippers?
Zippers are small parts that get used all the time, often with a hurried yank. That said, their fastening system is rather intricate and exacting; the teeth all need to fit together perfectly for them to close properly, right? That's why they fail a lot; one bent tooth or one snapped zipper pull and the whole system falls apart. A Japanese company that's been specializing in zippers since 1934, the YKK Corporation is widely renowned as the best zipper manufacturer in the world. Look for the brand when you're shopping for any kind of gear and apparel; you'll rarely be disappointed.
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