Motorcycles have an almost spiritual allure. When you’re in the saddle hammering down the tarmac, the world and all its worries disappear in the rear vision mirror. But this freedom comes at a price, and one of the largest inconveniences is the lack of a trunk—or boot, if you speak proper English. If you need to carry stuff while riding, you have four primary options:
1 Get panniers.
2 Get a sidecar.
3 Hold stuff in your hands. (Note from the legal department: not condoned.)
4 Get a motorcycle backpack.
Some bikes can’t be fitted with panniers, most bikes can’t take sidecars easily, and option 3 is likely to send you straight to your local emergency healthcare facility.
Unless you ride a Ural, this leaves option 4 as the best for most riders, myself included. So with this in mind, Chris and I put together a list of our current favorite motorcycle backpacks.
Kriega R20 A staggeringly versatile piece of kit, the 20-liter R20 includes space for a hydration reservoir and a pocket for an optional CE-approved back protector. Constructed from tough 420 D nylon RipStop, it’s fitted with 3M reflective areas on the front and back. A ‘QUADLOC-lite’ harness keeps the straps away from your underarms for a more relaxed fit. Costing $130, the R20 is guaranteed for ten years. [Buy]
Icon Squad 3 Compact and sharply-styled, this $100 backpack is offered in three colors: black, hi-viz orange and hi-viz yellow. Like the Kriega, it’s made from nylon RipStop. You also get mesh panelling to increase airflow next to your back, and a compartment designed to hold a laptop of up to 17 inches. The Squad 3 is fitted with 360-degree reflective materials and uses the rugged Icon Tri-Fit Closure System, making it a great choice as a daily rider bag. [Buy]
Dainese Backpack-R An exceptionally clean, minimalist motorcycle bag. It’s designed to be a low-profile, aerodynamic choice for sport bike riders but wouldn’t look at all out of place on an enduro, cruiser or supermoto rider. The $110 bag has an internal waterproof polyurethane coating, reflective inserts, and a padded laptop pocket. It’s also an expandable design, allowing it to hold a full-face helmet. [Buy]
Alpinestars Slipstream The most weatherproof of the backpacks listed here, so if you live in London, Seattle or Mordor, you might want to take a closer look at it. The $160 Slipstream Backpack is made from 840D polyester with a weatherproof coating. It has sonic-welded seams, water-resistent zippers with rubber pulls, and a simple, streamlined design. If the hi-viz yellow is too bright for you, choose black or a subdued gray. [Buy]
OGIO No Drag Mach 5 A $170 bag that wouldn’t look out of place on the back of a Stormtrooper piloting an Imperial Speeder Bike through the forests of Endor. The streamlined ‘single shot molded’ exterior is nearly waterproof and resists wind shear. Inside, you’ll find an adjustable load divider and multiple interior storage compartments, a padded sleeve for laptops up to 15″ and an iPad/tablet sleeve. There’s even a fleece-lined pocket for your smartphone and personal electronics. [Buy]
Hammarhead Industries Day Pack The most classic of all the bags listed here, it’s made from waxed cotton and leather, and uses parachute hardware for the hard fittings. With a roll-top closure it’s designed to be water-resistant and can hold a 15 inch laptop and an iPad or Kindle, as well as your other day-to-day supplies. The $290 HHI Day Pack is made by hand (and to order) by d’Emploi in Brooklyn, and has a 22-liter capacity. [Buy]
As always, space limits the number of items we can feature in one post. If you own a motorcycle backpack that you love and think should be listed here, jump into the comments and tell us about it.—James.