What Is the Best Backpack for Mountain Biking? 

 February 4, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

Mountain bike rides usually take several hours to complete, sometimes even days depending on the kind of adventure you’re going on. Because of this, it’s important to always be prepared by bringing supplies, which is why backpacks are the ideal bag to bring on your journey. But with all the backpacks out there, it can get overwhelming to choose the right one for mountain biking.

The best backpack for mountain biking has ample capacity, a hydration system, pocket for organization, is lightweight, and comfortable. These features help mountain bikers efficiently bring what they need while improving performance.  

mountain biker with backpack

When shopping around for a mountain biking backpack, there are some necessary features to look out as well as other features that would be nice to have. Keep reading to learn everything you need about choosing the right backpack for your needs.

Mountain biking is one of the most thrilling outdoor sports and it also gives you a full body workout. But with that in mind, mountain bikers have unique needs that require a specific backpack.

For this reason, there are backpacks designed specifically for this sport. Choosing the right model is crucial to a safe yet enjoyable trip on the road. You need to be prepared for the unexpected, whether you are cycling for a few hours or days. Here are features that a mountain biking backpack must have:


Mountain biking backpacks come in a range of sizes that can cater to trips of varying lengths. As a general rule of thumb, the list below can help you narrow down the appropriate size pack based on how long you’ll be biking:
  • 10L-15L: compact backpack, ideal for cycling trips that last a few hours
  • 16L-20L: medium backpack, ideal for 1-2 day trips
  • 20L-30L: large backpack, ideal for 2-4 day trips
  • 30L above: too large

Hydration System

A hydration system helps mountain bikers stay hydrated on the trail. It is, after all, a very strenuous activity and you need water to prevent heat stroke, heat exhaustion, fatigue, and muscle cramps. Hydration packs and water bottles are two popular ways of taking water on your ride, each of them has their own advantages though the choice is entirely up to you.

Hydration packs, also referred to as bladders, are backpacks designed to make it easy to sip water without even stopping your bike. Simply sip water from the mouthpiece or bite valve that is connected to a compartment designed to hold water. Just be sure to pick a bite valve that lets water travel freely and a lock-off valve to stop leaks. However, hydration packs tend to be more expensive and difficult to clean. Some hydration packs also don’t have much space for anything else other than water. They usually come in 1.5L, 2L, or 3L sizes.

On the other hand, a water bottle compartment on a backpack is a good alternative. Experienced and well-coordinated bikers can manage to drink water from a bottle without stopping, though there really is no problem stopping to drink from one. They’re more affordable and easier to clean, and there are many water bottles or cage designs to choose from.


Riders usually need to carry some tools such as a tube, tire levers, pump, quick link, multi-tool, and snacks. Some riders may also want to carry rain gear, pads, layers, or other protective gear. Stay organized on the road by choosing a hydration pack that is equipped with several internal pockets because the last thing you need is to have to unpack the entire back while on the trail just to look for a pump.


Riders should have as little weight on the back as possible, so be sure to choose a lightweight backpack. Carry only what you need for your trip. A low center of gravity is ideal for balance on your bike, so if you have to take heavy items with you, pack it towards the bottom of the backpack.


A mountain biking backpack that fits poorly is not just uncomfortable to wear, but it can also be a dangerous distraction. Here are features you should consider to ensure you choose a comfortable backpack:

Ventilation: Adequate back ventilation is helpful in preventing heat and sweat accumulation during your ride, ensuring you stay cool and comfortable even in hot weather.

Straps: Mountain biking backpacks have varying numbers of straps, though it’s always good to have at least 2 anchor points on the lower abdomen and chest to keep the pack in its place. Some models are equipped with external straps to help keep your protective gear in place such as the helmet, elbow pad, and knee pad. Female riders are recommended to choose a backpack that is designed to fit their body shape and size, as it differs from the morphology of men.

Mobility: Your back and arms should be completely free, and the pack shouldn’t move around while you bike. It simply isn’t safe to ride your mountain bike on a technical or rugged trail while your backpack flops around and gets in the way.

Though not necessary, these are features that could be nice to have:

Waterproof: If you tend to bike in wet conditions, you should be getting a backpack that is waterproof or at least has a hidden rain cover that you can pull out in the event of a downpour. This is also recommended if you are carrying delicate equipment such as a camera.

Helmet attachment: Though you’ll already be wearing the helmet during your ride, some people prefer to have a helmet attachment on their backpack. It can be a convenient way to store the helmet when you’re stopping for a break. Helmet attachments are usually made with an elastic mesh pouch.

Reflective details: If you usually ride before dawn, after sunset, or in unexpected weather, reflective details as well as a bike light attachment are crucial safety features. The reflective details help you shine in the absence of daylight whenever a vehicle is approaching you to ensure that the driver sees you.

Laptop compartment: For mountain bikers that commute to work, a laptop compartment keeps your gear protected. Standard compartments can fit laptops up to 15 inches in size.

Tool roll: Some cycling-specific backpacks are equipped with a tool roll to easily keep your tools in place. You can also purchase a tool roll separately and use it in your chosen pack.

Purchasing a bike backpack requires careful thought and consideration because you want it to meet all your needs while optimizing your performance. If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to narrow down exactly what you need from a bag.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a backpack better than other bags for mountain biking?

There are many other styles of bag that are suitable for mountain biking. However, most riders prefer backpacks because it allows you to carry more belongings while traveling at greater distances.

What other backpack styles can be used for mountain biking?

A hiking backpack is a suitable alternative. After all, there aren’t any major differences between the two sports. Many high-quality hiking backpacks are already built with the same features you would look for in a mountain biking backpack, except that the former wouldn’t have any hydration systems. This can easily be remedied by going for a model that is built with water bottle pockets.

Our Recommendations

Finding a good bag for your needs is easy with all the models out there. Here are some great examples that you can compare on this website:

-   Camelbak Fourteener 24L
-   Teton Sports Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack
-   Osprey Raptor 14L

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}