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Common Tread

Best motorcycle backpacks

Apr 28, 2020

What’s the difference between the JanSport pack of your hooligan youth and the best motorcycle backpacks of your hooligan adulthood? It’s a heck of a lot more than what they carry inside.

You’ve likely used a backpack since the first day you went to elementary school. It’s simple enough. Two straps, a bag, some internal pouches and zippers. Maybe yours featured a favorite superhero. Perhaps a bulked-up, high-octane wrestler, or an intergalactic purveyor of an unseen, yet highly compelling “force.” Either way, if you are reading this right now, chances are high that you have more than a little experience with the standard backpack. However, chances are much lower that you’ve had as much experience with backpacks that have been specifically crafted for motorcyclists.

Essential motorcycle backpack features

There are a lot of “nice to have” features for motorcycle backpacks that are, more or less, the same nice to have features of the pack you carried off the bus on that first day of school. You’ll obviously want to focus on things like adjustability, various pockets, cinch straps to reduce the size of the pack when not filled to capacity, etc. That being said, when it comes to essential features, there are a few that make a world of difference when judging motorcycle backpacks to normal backpacks.

Sternum straps

This, maybe more than any other feature, is the key differentiator between any ol’ backpack, and a backpack that will work really well for riding a motorcycle. Finding a pack with a solid sternum strap works to help distribute the weight and drag forces across a broader area, thus reducing the amount of strain on your shoulders at high speeds. While you may not notice a difference on short, around-town rides, if you are planning on spending hours in the saddle, and going fast while you do, sternum straps will help immensely to limit fatigue. You can see some of the best weight distribution in the game when looking at the Kriega R30 Backpack.

Motorcycle backpack with sternum straps.
Sternum straps work to reduce shoulder fatigue on long or high-speed rides. RevZilla photo.

Helmet carrier

Motorcycle helmets are cool and necessary when riding. They become a lot less cool when you're walking around town once you get to your destination. Nobody wants to lug their lid around awkwardly when the kickstand is down, and some of the best motorcycle backpacks have taken this into account. Options like the OGIO No Drag Mach LH Backpack come with the ability to strap your full-face helmet to the back of the pack, thus freeing up your hands for exploring your destination.

Motorcycle backpack with helmet carrier
Helmet-specific carrying straps allow you to pack away your lid when you arrive at your destination. RevZilla photo.

Waterproof cover (or waterproofing)

If we had our druthers, all motorcycle rides would be under sunny skies and pleasant temperatures. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t seem to care in the slightest what we desire, and for those who ride often, it’s highly likely that inclement weather will enter the mix from time to time. With that being the case, it’s important that a top motorcycle backpack has the ability to keep your valuables valuable through a downpour. To achieve this, you can go one of two ways, either find a pack that provides 100 percent waterproofing at all times (like the Velomacchi 28L Roll-Top Backpack), or one that comes with a waterproof cover you can deploy when needed (like the Alpinestars City Hunter).

Roll-top waterproof motorcycle backpack
Roll-top waterproof compartments are among the best ways to ensure your valuables don't get wet if you get caught in the rain. RevZilla photo.


General rule of thumb on a motorcycle, being seen is a good thing. Many motorcycle jackets come with reflective panels, piping, etc. on the back that give following drivers a good outline of a rider in low-light conditions. As any backpack will obviously cover these reflective panels, it’s important that you look for a pack that provides some reflectivity of its own. Whether it’s through the reflective piping seen on something like the OGIO No Drag Mach 5, or smaller blips of reflectivity seen on an option like the Kriega R15, anything to help you stand out against a dark and dreary background is going to be a bonus.

Motorcycle backpack reflectivity
Reflective piping helps riders stand out in low-light conditions. RevZilla photo.

Common motorcycle backpack questions

As with any purchase, there are always going to be a list of pertinent questions to ask before selecting the right option for you. Backpacks are no different. While individual questions will undoubtedly be as unique as the individuals asking them, there are a handful of relatively frequent inquiries that can be answered right off the bat.

Motorcycle backpacks and aerodynamics

“Does my motorcycle backpack need to be aerodynamic?” It’s a question that we get all the time. As with any of this, “need” needs to be defined. Honestly, you don’t need any motorcycle backpack. You can use a variety of luggage options from tank bags, to tail bags, and everything in between. You can even use that old JanSport pack from your youth, if it still fits and isn’t tattered to smithereens at this point.

But we’re here to talk about the “best,” and the simple answer to the question of whether or not your motorcycle backpack needs to be aerodynamic is most likely, “no.” While there are a few top motorcycle packs that tout sleek lines and cut-through-the-air designs (like the OGIO No Drag Mach 5 backpack), you’re not likely to notice much of a difference unless you are a super-discerning rider traveling at relatively high speeds.

How do I attach a helmet to my backpack?

This varies by brand. Some are built to house a helmet and will come with the appropriate attachments. For helmets that don’t have a specific helmet carrier, a simple rider hack is to loop a carabiner through the DD rings and buckle it to one of the straps.

What size motorcycle backpack do I need?

It honestly all comes down to what you are comfortable with, and what you need to carry. Sizes can range from sub-10-liter packs to relatively large 40-liter packs and beyond.

How should a motorcycle backpack fit?

Snug, but not restrictive. When trying on a motorcycle backpack, you should do so while wearing your full motorcycle gear and in the riding position. One common issue riders run into is that an improperly fitting backpack can ride up, pushing on the back of your helmet and generally driving you insane.

Will a motorcycle backpack affect my riding?

Yes, inasmuch as you will likely notice it. The extent of how it will impact your riding all depends on how you pack it, how comfortable you are in it, and how accustomed you are to riding with it.

Are motorcycle backpacks safe?

Great question. On one hand, many will argue against them as safety features, as they could theoretically catch onto obstacles in the event of a slide. However, some options will come with the ability to add a back protector insert, or act as a back protector in their own right, as with the Boblbee GTX 25L Backpack, which offers a 94 percent reduction in impact force.

Top motorcycle backpack brands

While there is a plethora of motorcycle backpacks on the market, made and branded with some of the biggest names in the game, there are a handful of companies that specialize in backpacks for riders that have become favorites around the RevZilla offices.


Without doing a scientific poll, there are probably more Kriega packs on RevZilla employees than any other brand. As a pioneer in fit and functionality for riders, Kriega packs are about as rock-solid as it gets in the world of moto-specific backpacks. Their lineup offers a wide range of sizes and styles, from the most rugged of long-range riders to the around-town business casual commuters.


Having made their name with the no-drag Mach series of backpacks, OGIO backpacks are great for everyday riders who want reliable, streamlined options that are hassle-free and built specifically for those who make their way on two wheels.


Created in 1989, the Timbuk2 brand was initially built for bicyclists who wanted a sleek, reliable pack for everyday use. Quality is at the center of every Timbuk2 piece, and each bag comes with a lifetime guarantee on the manufacturing of the product. The Timbuk2 lineup consists of traditional packs, clam-shell packs, roll-top packs, and messenger-bag style options.


Founded by a group of MX/Enduro riders out of Sweden who were looking for a better backpack/hydration pack option, the big advancement from USWE comes by the way of the harness system that attaches the pack to your person. Designed specifically to keep the pack from riding up against the back of your neck while going hard on the pegs, the brand has developed packs that are put to use by ardent enthusiasts and daily commuters alike.

Best motorcycle backpacks for you

OK, so all of that being said, what’s the best motorcycle backpack for you? Well, the long and short of it is that it depends. There are a myriad of reasons why you might choose one option over another. Price, capacity, style, pockets, straps, etc., all play a role. What kind of riding are you doing? Will you want a hydration pack? How long will you be on the bike? How fast will your average speed be?

These are all questions that will help you narrow down your selection to the motorcycle backpack that is right for you. There are many great brands making backpacks, across a wide range of styles and price points, each with their own set of pros and cons. In the end, you’ll most likely choose a pack for the same reason your formative self did all those years ago. You like the look, you like the feel, you like the price, and it carries the stuff you want it to carry.

That being said, the key differentiators between the best motorcycle backpacks and any regular old backpack do matter, and they will absolutely make a difference in the quality of your ride. So keep them in your mind as you make your selection, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of riders, many of whom wear a motorcycle backpack every day, both on and off of the bike.