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 with you in a backpack. But with all the backpacks out there, it can get overwhelming to choose the right one for mountain biking.
There are several features to consider before selecting a backpack for mountain biking. The most important aspect is its capacity, which should be influenced by the duration of your trip. In addition, it should have a hydration bladder, be comfortable, and have compartments for organization.
Aside from these, there are other details to look out for when shopping for the best backpack for mountain biking. Read on below to find out more.
Table of Contents
- Features Of The Best Mountain Biking Backpack
- Optional Features
- Our Recommendations For The Best Backpacks For Mountain Biking
- Frequently Asked Questions
Features Of The Best Mountain Biking Backpack
Mountain biking is one of the most thrilling outdoor sports and a fantastic full-body workout.
That said, a good mountain biking backpack is the most important accessory for riders. It’s essential for storing everything you need to safely bike, such as a hydration bladder, first-aid kit, extra clothes, bike repair tools, food, and much more.
There are backpacks made specifically for mountain biking because these can enhance your performance, comfort, and mobility while providing the necessary storage for your belongings. Mountain biking backpacks come in an array of styles, designs, and sizes.
The list below covers several important features you should look out for in the best backpack for mountain biking:
Mountain biking backpacks are available in a variety of sizes that can cater to both short and long trips. When considering the right capacity for your needs, it helps to factor in the trip’s duration and how you intend to use the backpack. Mountain biking backpacks usually fall into one of three categories: day packs, vests, and larger backpacks.
Day Pack vs. Vest vs. Large Pack
Day packs or smaller backpacks range from 8 to 15 liters, designed for short days or a few hours on the trail. These will have enough space for a light jacket, snacks, and repair kit, and snacks. Some models also include features to attach and store helmets or knee pads.
Vests have a much smaller capacity, usually between 2-3L. These are ideal for minimalists who need to keep weight at a minimum and don’t require much protection.
Then there are the larger packs, which can be anywhere from 30 to 40 liters in capacity – sometimes even more. Larger packs are the least popular of the three categories because of their size, since carrying a heavy backpack while mountain biking can affect your balance. Despite that, a big pack with a good fit may still be essential for bikers going on long journeys.
Take note that if you decide to go with a larger pack, compression straps are a critical feature. This helps minimize the pack’s overall volume and keep the bag close to your back.
Weather & Terrain
It’s also vital to consider the weather conditions and terrain during your ride when determining the right capacity for your backpack.
That’s because the weather will impact how much you’ll need to bring along. For example, if you are riding in cold weather, you will need to pack extra layers. On the other hand, biking in warmer weather requires less clothing but more space for water.
Additionally, biking adventures on established trails means you won’t need to bring that many things. But if you are cycling in the backcountry and in remote locations, bringing more supplies is critical for your safety.
Keep these in mind when deciding on a backpack’s capacity. The best backpack for mountain biking will have room for everything you need, plus a little more room to spare.
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 that contain water reservoirs are the most convenient way to stay hydrated on your ride.
Hydration packs are a style of backpack 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.
Hydration packs usually come with their own reservoir, but in some cases, you have to buy your own separately. Just be sure that the bladder you purchase is compatible with the backpack.
However, hydration packs tend to be more expensive and difficult to clean. Most hydration packs are also very compact and come with very little space for other items, such as a small pouch where you can keep your mobile phone and keys. They usually come in 1.5 to 3L sizes.
A water bottle compartment on a backpack is a good alternative though they tend to be heavier because of the bottle weight. 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.
At the end of the day, the type of hydration system you choose will be a matter of personal preference. As long as you have space for enough water to drink, then it all works out.
Riders usually need to carry some tools such as a tube, tire levers, a pump, a quick link, and a multi-tool. Some mountain biking backpacks are already equipped with a tool pouch specifically for these items, but in other cases, a separate compartment will work just fine.
A mountain bike backpack should also have adequate compartments, so you can easily organize your belongings and access them whenever you need to.
Riders should have as little weight on the back as possible, so be sure to choose a lightweight backpack. Biking with a heavy backpack will affect your stability and agility.
There are both light and heavier mountain bike backpacks on the market, though their real weight will be determined by what you pack. That said, bring only what you need. If your priority is to bring enough hydration, choose a slimmer pack to balance out the center of gravity while keeping the rest of your cargo minimal.
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 for mountain biking:
Adequate back ventilation is necessary in preventing heat and sweat accumulation during your ride, ensuring you stay cool and comfortable even in hot weather. The ideal mountain biking backpack promotes airflow, especially between the back panel and your shirt.
Mountain biking backpacks usually have thinner straps than other types of hiking backpacks, due to the fact that padding will increase its weight. The shoulder straps should at least be wide to increase comfort while reducing pressure on your shoulders.
In addition to shoulder straps, an adjustable sternum strap, and a hip belt are ideal because they help distribute the weight and reduce pressure on your back. Even without a waist belt, adjustable chest straps are crucial to securing the backpack to your body. Hydration packs should comfortably sit around an inch above your hips when you’re on your bike.
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.
Mountain biking backpacks also differ from regular backpacks because they have features designed to give extra protection. Some of these special features include a back or spine protector, and advanced adjustability for the best fit possible.
Cyclists all have their own sports style and personal preferences. There are many features found in mountain biking backpacks that may be useful for you, such as these below:
If you tend to bike in wet conditions, you should get a backpack that is waterproof, water-resistant, 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.
Though you’ll already be wearing the helmet during your ride, some people prefer to have a helmet attachment on their backpacks. 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.
If you usually ride before dawn, after sunset, or in unexpected weather, reflective details are a crucial safety feature for your backpack. This is especially important for commuting. The reflective details help you shine in the absence of daylight whenever a vehicle is approaching you to ensure that the driver sees you.
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.
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 mountain biking 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.
Our Recommendations For The Best Backpacks For Mountain Biking
It can be time-consuming to browse through the hundreds of mountain biking backpacks on the market.
To save you time, we’ve compiled a guide featuring the best backpacks for mountain biking below. Each of them has its pros and cons, so be sure to take these into consideration during your research (note: these products contain affiliate links and we earn a small commission if you decide to purchase any of these mountain biking backpacks):
Best Backpacks For Mountain Biking
Dakine Session 8L: Dakine is a popular American outdoor gear brand. They are renowned for durable and quality bags and apparel for all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. They have been around since 1979, and their expertise is clear with the Dakine Session 8L.
This lightweight hydration pack weighs a mere 450 grams, but it’s filled with practical features for mountain bikers. The 8L total capacity makes it perfect for packing everything you need for a full-day ride. It includes a 2L vertical hydration reservoir, located in a sleeve within the main compartment of the backpack.
The Dakine Session 8L’s Hydrapack is equipped with a bite valve, providing bikers with voluminous sips of water each time. Other hydration bladders require you to take plenty of sips just to get ample hydration. It’s unfortunate that the bite valve isn’t lockable, which is a glaring design flaw that Dakine will hopefully address with later models.
Even then, there are many reasons to appreciate this backpack. The breathable back panel is a joy to wear even on hot and humid days. When you ride, the foam pad is raised, which doesn’t just help relieve pressure from your back but also encourages the flow of fresh air.
The shoulder straps were rather thin but proved to be comfortable even if the pack was full. While there are cyclists who prefer a backpack filled with several cargo pockets, the Dakine Session 8L is ideal for the minimalist rider because it only has a few yet strategic and practical pockets. It’s also helpful that all the buckles and zippers are large and easy to grab, plus they all have double zippers except the smallest pocket.
The chest strap is not the most stable when riding uphill, downhill, or on technical trails, but it does stay in place when riding on flat roads. Other than that, this backpack does an excellent job of staying close to your back. Given all the features of this bag, it’s a reasonable price for a high-performance mountain biking backpack.
Evoc Trail Builder Pack: Evoc is a renowned brand known for its high-quality sports bags and backpacks, with a focus on cycling products. Since 2008, they have produced a wide range of bags that have been a hit among cyclist circles.
However, the Evoc Trail Builder Pack is different from other bags on this list. This unique, rugged bag is so versatile and spacious; it’s widely used by outdoor enthusiasts to transport heavy gear to and from camping and fishing adventures. It’s constructed from super tough 1000D Cordura, while some parts of the pack have been reinforced with 600D material.
Additionally, the Cordura is coated with polyurethane which makes it water-resistant, ideal for those summer getaways when you take your gear with you on your bike. The 30L storage space provides adequate room for you to pack stuff for yourself and your kids. Of course, all these heavy-duty features and strong materials will translate to a heavier weight: it weighs around 4.4 lbs, heavier than most other backpacks, but that’s because it’s meant to help you carry heavy equipment.
After all, the Evoc Trail Builder Pack was originally intended for trail builders, as its name says. That’s why it’s built with a state-of-the-art carrying system that can help you transport a hammer, axe, chain saw, hedge clipper, and many other tools while distributing the load uniformly. It also comes with a separate nail wrap and tool compartment.
At the bottom of the backpack, there’s another zippered compartment that uses a tarpaulin-like fabric. All the materials used in this pack offer excellent protection and water resistance for your tools and gear. Meanwhile, the back panel uses a plastic type of skeleton together with foam ribs, all of which ensure the pack retains its shape despite being empty.
Aside from tool carrying, the Evoc Trail Builder contains a hydration bladder sleeve within the main compartment. It is rather odd that the bag lacks a hole for the hose, so you’ll need to pass it through the zipper. There is also a fleece-lined pocket for sunglasses or goggles, two hip belt pockets, and a side water bottle pocket that doubles as a compartment for your fuel can.
The Evoc Trail Builder Pack is a solid choice for anyone who needs to bring large tools. However, it can also be used to bring lots of outdoor gear for your adventures. This pack is on the pricier end, but given the quality and durability of the materials used, it’s well worth the price.
Best Men’s Backpack For Mountain Biking
Osprey Raptor 14: Osprey is a world leader in outdoor gear. It’s no surprise that they have travel gear and backpacks that have a cult following, including the Osprey Raptor 14. The Raptor range has 10 and 14-liter options, but in any case, the Raptor series is one of the best hydration and mountain biking backpacks out there.
According to Osprey, Raptor hydration packs are designed to help cyclists ride faster and longer. That is evident throughout their design philosophy for this backpack, visible in the AirScape ventilated back panel as well as its harness, which are incredibly lightweight and comfortable. The ventilated foam even includes ribbing, which promotes ventilation while improving overall stability and mobility.
The Osprey Raptor 14 also offers spacious gear storage. A ‘shove-it’ pocket can be found in the outer panel, which is an expandable compartment that is perfect for keeping a bunch of your gear, whether it’s a map, compass, or windbreaker. Basically, anything you need easy access to on your ride can be kept here.
There are a lot of other useful pockets, including the zippered pocket on each side of the hip belt. These are ideal for keeping smaller items such as your lip balm or protein bars. The LidLock system comes in handy for attaching your helmet to the backpack so that you can keep everything neatly in place.
The backpack utilizes a 2.5L reservoir, which is fairly easy to load and unload. Whereas other hydration packs make it difficult to detach or load the reservoir, it’s so much easier in this product.
The Osprey Raptor 14’s ventilation system is superior to many other backpacks on this list. Osprey took comfort and breathability seriously in designing this backpack, and cyclists can truly feel the difference. However, the hydration hose would be more convenient if it were longer.
Those are minor inconveniences, given all the fantastic features and details of the Osprey Raptor 14. This is a great all-around mountain biking backpack choice for men.
Inoxto Hydration Vest Backpack: Inoxto is one of the most affordable and reliable manufacturers of quality bags. If you’re a minimalist athlete on a budget and need a long-lasting hydration pack, this vest backpack is highly recommended.
Because of this vest’s design, it’s a comfortable option for long-distance running, hiking, and mountain biking. Weighing just 0.2 lbs., it can fit up to 1.5L of water for a well-balanced fit and carry. The vest is constructed with a breathable, ventilated mesh cover that encourages air circulation while preventing heat accumulation.
The Inoxto Hydration Vest Backpack fits snugly, with adjustable buckles on each side and the front for a custom fit. The front pockets are perfect for keeping your energy gel, though there are several compartments that can also be used to keep your smartphone, a knife, and a compass. Exercise safely even in the evenings; the reflective strips will ensure your visibility.
The vest is soft and easy to wear despite the many buckles. It can be used by several different body types. That said, in order to keep the product lightweight and soft, Inoxto had to cut corners in terms of support.
There is no cushioning used on any of the shoulder straps though they do have a handful of small pockets. Because of that, users are advised to avoid packing this backpack with a full load or else it could end up drooping even if the straps are tightened. If a cushioned vest is something you prefer, you can check out other models such as the CamelBak Circuit Vest or the Nathan VaporKrar 2.0.
The Inoxto Hydration Vest Backpack is a good choice for minimalists who need nothing else other than hydration and nutrition. It doesn’t have too many bells and whistles, just the essentials for the trail.
Best Women’s Backpack For Mountain Biking
Hydro Flask Down Shift Hydration Pack: Hydro Flask has made a name for itself in the insulated stainless steel water bottle market. Millions of people around the world already rely on their durable water bottles for all kinds of adventures. They started releasing hydration packs in 2019, and their designs will continue to get better over time.
It’s expected that Hydro Flask will come out with even more hydration packs, especially after acquiring Osprey Packs in 2021. Besides, it would help them capture the hiking and biking market with well-designed hydration backpacks. It can be a bit too cumbersome to carry a large and heavy insulated water bottle during these outdoor excursions.
The Down Shift Hydration Backpack is proof of the brand’s hydration expertise. The 14L backpack includes a 2L insulated reservoir designed with the brand’s Cold Flow System, which keeps water cool for at least four hours. The HydraPak high-flow Blaster Bite valve does an impressive job of self-sealing after each sip.
Additionally, they have integrated the Plug-N-Play connect system which makes it exceptionally convenient to refill. Aside from hydration, this bag has several outstanding features. These include helmet attachment loops, a soft-lined pocket for electronics or sunglasses, and a bike light attachment point.
It weighs just 2.20 lbs., which is a good amount given all the features of this bag. Women appreciate that the adjustable shoulder and chest straps are extra-long since it can accommodate females of a bigger build too. According to reviews, Hydro Flask stands up to its brand’s promise of keeping drinks cool; it’s good to know that even its hydration packs have this ability.
The Hydro Flask Down Shift Hydration Pack is pricey, but it’s a good investment for kids and women.
CamelBak Women’s M.U.L.E. Pro 14: CamelBak is a brand that specializes in world-class hydration packs. No other company in the world knows hydration systems better than they do. They are particularly famous for their line of M.U.L.E. (Medium to Ultralong Endeavors) hydration packs, which have been favorites of mountain bikers since their release in the 90s.
The CamelBak Women’s M.U.L.E. Pro 14 is a newer version, and one with several improvements compared to its predecessor. This 14-liter bag is the biggest in the Mule line, and it’s also built to be tailor-fit to women’s bodies, though a men’s version is available too. This version is constructed with a new Air Support Back Panel, which was made with high-end body mapping technology that identifies which parts of the body are the hottest.
There are two main compartments in the Mule Pro 14. One of these is designed to hold the hydration reservoir, while the other is for your other gear. Keep all your gear well-organized: there are two separate pouches that are designed to keep your bike tools, plus a zippered pocket. On top of that, the bag is also equipped with a tool roll for added organization.
Meanwhile, the hydration compartment can hold a 3-liter water bladder with enough extra space for a back protector. It’s good to know that the hydration hose uses a magnetic clip, integrating seamlessly with a sternum strap buckle for more convenience when you need to sip while running or biking. An internal antimicrobial lining is used in both the hydration and reservoir hose, to minimize the risk of any bacterial growth.
It’s also handy that the CamelBak M.U.L.E. comes with a hip belt, which makes it easy to reach for any essentials while adding stability to your ride. All that for a backpack that weighs an impressive 300 grams!!
However, there’s still room for improvement. Some users have mentioned in reviews that the bladder has a tendency to spill, though many others experienced no issues with it. The backpack tends to bend outward when it’s stuffed with gear too.
All CamelBak products have a lifetime warranty though, so you can shop for their products with peace of mind.
Water Buffalo Road Runner Hydration Backpack: Water Buffalo specializes in durable and affordable hydration bags and outdoor products. This Road Runner pack is ideal for adventurous women and kids who want to ensure they stay hydrated while biking, cycling, or hiking.
This pack is built with a 2L water bladder that’s also BPA-free, which is a thoughtful safety feature. The on and off nozzle plus the bite valve all make for convenient and hassle-free sipping while reducing leakages. The dimensions are 9 x 15 x 2 inches, and it can fit women and kids well, though it will not fit most men.
It’s extremely lightweight, weighing just 7 ounces thanks to the water-resistant ripstop nylon construction. The Water Buffalo Road Runner Hydration Backpack comes with a built-in whistle so that you can call out to people in case of emergencies or if you get lost on the trail. If you need to bring more things with you, make use of the exterior bungee straps.
The wide, foam-filled shoulder straps are exceptionally comfortable to wear too. The visible reflector strips are convenient for commuting as well. This hydration pack is recommended for young students who bike to and from school.
Some customers find that the bladder opening is far too small, especially if you want to add ice, though the alternative would be to add crushed ice instead. For those that are fine filling it up with just water, then it works well. Several reviews also point out that it’s common for the Water Buffalo Road Runner Hydration Backpack to leak, but a majority have been able to use it without any problems.
The Water Buffalo Road Runner Hydration Backpack is a terrific option for women’s hydration packs, especially when it comes to value for money and practicality.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is a backpack better than other bags for mountain biking?
There are many other styles of bags that are suitable for mountain biking, such as panniers or saddle packs. However, most riders prefer backpacks because it allows you to carry more gear comfortably while biking.
What other backpack styles can be used for mountain biking?
A hiking backpack with a built-in hydration system is a good alternative. Many quality hiking backpacks already include several features that are important for mountain biking. However, just be sure to look for a hiking backpack with a hydration system or at least one with enough space for water.
Whether you’re going on a leisurely bike ride or a technical one, it’s vital to always have enough water with you. This article has covered all the important information you need to help you find the best backpack for mountain biking, so you can make an informed purchase.