Motorcycle backpacks, by their very nature, have to be Swiss Army knives. The best motorcycle backpack needs to be comfy for the ride ahead, no matter how short or long it is. Ideally, that backpack will be waterproof, carry your helmet and hold more than a Clif Bar and a multi-tool. It also needs to transition well to off-the-bike use.
In our experience, the best motorcycle backpack actually may be two separate packs: a big gun that can do double duty as a tail bag and a smaller model that will work for cross-town sprints. Still, everyone has their own wants and needs, so feel free to peruse these options and see what's available.
Here's a guide to the best motorcycle backpacks you can buy in 2021, whatever your style and budget. (Note: some items may be temporarily out of stock.)
Best All-Around Motorcycle Backpack
A motorcycle helmet can easily run you $1,000, and carrying it outside of a backpack can be an invitation to have it stolen. So we appreciate that the Kriega Max 28 expands enough to fit a full-face helmet on the interior. And the rest of the time, it’s just very well designed, with an expanding waterproof roll-top, a laptop slot big enough for a 15-inch model, four internal organization pockets — more than most brands provide — and a hydration reservoir sleeve.
The Kriega Max 28 is also ultra-stable as you ride, with both a removable waist strap and a Quadloc harness that snaps at the chest and works better with gloved hands than conventional buckles.
The Premium Choice
Think of the straps like arms, and its chest-crossing design like the completion of a hug. In this way, Velomacchi’s Speedway Backpack spreads the weight across your skeleton, causing less fatigue — despite having a large 40-liter capacity. Plus, that chest closure snaps magnetically, so it works easily, even with a gloved hand.
The Speedway has a waterproof design with a magnetic, roll-top closure. It features an external helmet carrying system, and the body of the pack is constructed of extra-rugged, 500-denier nylon. Multiple pockets keep gear, glasses, and tools handy. Plus, the Speedway was built with multiple tie-down anchors, so it morphs into a tail bag on the fly.
The Best Motorcycle Backpack on a Budget
Basic does not have to mean stripped down. Despite its affordable price point, the Knox Studio Rucksack offers a 25-liter capacity and a waterproof design. It’s made from tear-resistant 600-denier nylon and a leather reinforced base. Taped interior seams prevent even road spray from penetrating. The bag’s chest strap ensures the load stays put, and Knox adds a helmet carrying strap to anchor your lid to your pack when you’re not riding.
The Best Backpack for Touring
When does a touring bag get unwieldy? When it’s off your motorcycle, and you have to hump it around town. When is a backpack not ideal for riding? When it’s huge. The Nelson Rigg 40 Liter is a clever hack that accounts for both scenarios. Its backpack straps unclip and swing around to the rear, snapping in place to leave that side “naked” and easier to lash to the tail of your bike.
The Rigg is also chock-full of webbing, so it’s easy to find tie-down points. Its waterproof design has a bleeder valve, like a dry bag you would use for padding, letting you squeeze excess air out of the roll-top for a snugger fit and a less turbulent ride. If you’re just jetting across town with it on your back, sternum and waist straps secure the load. The Rigg also has an internal laptop pocket and an external clear pouch for a map.
A Great Option for Bigger Loads
The Kriega R30 is a larger pack, and is clever in two ways. First, it has dual external zippered pockets, so you don’t have to dig into the main compartment to access tools or a snack. Second, it has dual-chest Quadloc closures, which secure the load while keeping your gut free from constriction as you ride.
The straps were engineered specifically for riding (extended arms) and are cut away from the chest to prevent pinching. Kriega made certain the R30 is waterproof and extra-rugged with 420 D Cordura nylon ripstop, internally tapered seams and extra beefy YKK water-resistant zippers. The R30’s laptop sleeve can even accommodate a 17-inch computer.
Best Backpack for ADV Riders
The Klim Tek Pak incorporates a lot of functionality into a stealth-looking daypack design. The 21-liter volume accommodates a laptop and a change of clothes. It comes with internal and external water bottle storage slots. Klim includes an internal spine protector slot for their D30 armor (sold separately). The straps themselves act as a chest protector and are designed to cinch closer, so the pack stays put as you ride.
Off the bike, a web system attaches the helmet to the rear. You can also use the cable system to lock both pack and helmet directly to your moto if you pop into a coffee shop. The Klim Tek Pak also includes a high-viz panel to help drivers spot you sooner in traffic.
The More Stylish Rider’s Backpack
You don’t always want to look like a motorcyclist. Carrying a waxed canvas backpack rather than some utile-looking piece of armor is a great way to take your street style to your two-wheeler. But the Burly Voyager is more than good-looking: its roll-top lid has multiple snap-down anchoring points so that it can’t flop around once closed; plus, it features a padded interior laptop sleeve and a wire slot-through to charge it while parked at a coffee shop. Flannel straps and metal zippers add a bit of flair, and a chest strap further secures the load while riding.
A Great Backpack for MX Riders
If you’re carrying a pack to stay hydrated, the Sedici Acqua Hydration Backpack should be your go-to. This pack is super tough, with 420-denier nylon and 600-denier polyurethane reinforcing it. Its three-liter reservoir provides more than a day’s supply of fluid. And you still have another five liters of storage capacity free for carrying another layer of clothing and some food.
The Acqua is also built to grip MX armor, with silicone grip on the padded, reinforced shoulder straps to keep the pack stable as your ride. An elastic sternum strap helps anchor the load in place as well. We appreciate that the drink tube features a quick release, so you can refill the bladder while keeping the tube threaded through the pack's body.
The Best Hydration Pack for Sport Bike Riders
The USWE Ranger 9 is optimized for riding in a forward position with a shoulder and chest harness that works more like parachute straps, joining at a central buckle point high on the chest to keep the pack higher on your back. It’s also roomy, with space for tools, grub and a dedicated three-liter hydration bladder slot. We like that the drink tube slotting can be routed to either side of the pack, depending on rider preference.
A Hiking Backpack That Also Works for Motorcycling
Deuter makes rugged, quality packs that are especially comfortable for wearing on foot. Their EXP12 model can be a logical pack for motorcycle use as well. It has an integrated helmet holder that works when you lock your machine and head out into the streets. We like that the 2.2-pound weight is lighter than many so-called dedicated moto packs, despite having overbuilt waist and shoulder straps and sturdy ripstop construction.
The EXP 12 comes with a brightly covered rain cover for greater visibility, and its cushy mesh shoulder straps help spread pressure. It also offers a hydration sleeve, two mesh zippered pockets and internal slots for tools, other gear, and your glasses.
When the temperature starts to climb, it’s tempting to shed layers. Don't let your gloves be one of them.