Complex in name if not in nature, the Ortelieb Commuter Daypack Urban Line is a high quality rucksack that is comfortable to wear and easily swallows your kit. Importantly, you can be safe in the knowledge that everything inside will stay clean and dry. It’s a pretty simple design without many bells and whistles - so it won’t suit those who like a bag with lots of compartments, pockets and structure. And given it retails at $230 / £175, it won’t suit those who like a bargain, either.
High quality materials and construction
Lack of hi-visibility features
Only one external pocket
Straps can drag when carrying off back
Can obscure view and foul helmet
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Ortlieb knows a thing or two about how to carry kit on a bike - the company has been doing it for the last 40 years. But does the pannier wizardry translate into rucksacks? We packed our sarnies, pants and laptop into the Commuter Daypack Urban Line and headed off work to find out.
For lots of other ways to put your stuff on your back, head over to see some of our other best cycling backpacks.
Ortlieb Commuter Daypack: construction
The Daypack has a casual woven fabric look (think city hipster style) but is made from fully waterproof Cordura fabric. To help keep the water out, the bag closes via a roll top and a metal hook across the strap. The muted colours help with the chic commuter look with just a little reflective detail on the stitching and logo for visibility (there's a grey, navy or rose version).
There’s a toughened non-fabric base on which the bag stands. Other features include loops for lights and a lock; a padded internal compartment for electronic devices; and an outside zipped pocket which is plenty big enough for a phone.
The Urban Line version of the Commuter Daypack comes in two sizes, 21 or 27 litres,. We tested the 27 litre version. There are a couple of other versions of the bag if grey tones aren't your thing: "High Visibility" (black with reflective weave, 21 litres only) and "City" in a range of colours from black to vibrant yellow in 21 or 27 litres.
Ortlieb Commuter Daypack: packing up
Inside the Daypack, there is a removable padded sleeve with several pockets for a laptop / tablet / other gubbins. This easily accommodated my laptop, phone, snacks and bike spares without getting ridiculously bulky. The rest of the bag is one big space, so it’s easy to pack in clothes and everything else you need for the day. On a general day in the office, the 27 litres gave more than plenty of volume but it didn’t feel stupidly big.
As the Daypack doesn’t have much structure of its own, it benefits from being packed up neatly. In fact, having a laptop in the padded sleeve actually seems to make it fit better, rather than feel cumbersome.
Whilst you do need to pack sensibly, a benefit of the unstructured design is there’s a lot of flexibility to carry different loads. Volume-wise the 27 litre Daypack can accommodate a very full supermarket basket’s worth of food including cereal boxes and milk containers of varying dimensions. Very useful for grabbing your dinner on the way home from work.
Ortlieb Commuter Daypack: the ride
The Commuter Daypack is much more comfortable and vented than it initially appears. It’s quite a flat shape so sits onto your back rather than wraps around as some others do. This means it suits a more forward posture on the bike rather than a sit-up-and-beg position when there’s more weight through the shoulder straps.
Despite their lack of padding, the shoulder straps are also very comfortable. Their contoured shape sits nicely around your shoulders and chest and easily holds the bag in position. The waist and chest straps help keep the bag secure, but you can easily not bother clipping them up.
The TPU back padding does a great job of cushioning the load on your back, but I was pretty sceptical how it would fare on the ventilation front, given its rather basic shape. Surprisingly, it does a good job. Granted, we tested in the British winter so we didn’t get a feel for how well it would vent in hotter weather. However, lots of layers can actually be a good test as they can hold lots of moisture, so we could still get a good feel for its performance.
The small outside pocket was useful, as were the various light loops, but the addition of a key clip in the pocket and a second pocket would add a bit more convenience and security.
The major downside of the bag is that the roll top sits quite high, which can catch on your helmet when you’re on the drops. We also found the top corners are quite pronounced, which obscures your vision when you’re looking behind and can make negotiating city traffic more difficult. The smaller 21 litre bag is actually the same height as our larger 27 litre version, so we’d expect it to have the same problem.
A less important disadvantage is that the tails of the shoulder and waist straps are very long, and so flap around and drag on the floor when you use the top carry handle. These are removable if you don’t want them at all, but nonetheless could do with being a bit tidier.
Ortlieb Commuter Daypack: value and conclusion
At $230 / £175 the Ortlieb Daypack is not a casual purchase. It’s not out on its own though, Chrome Industries Barrage Cargo backpack ($200 / £165) and Camelbak HAWG Commute ($185 / £150) are similarly priced, although there are many very good backpacks that are a good deal cheaper like the Altura Thunderstorm City ($100 / £80).
The Ortlieb Commuter Daypack Urban Line is a high quality commuter style backpack. It's simple in structure and comfortable to use and is an excellent option if you want a fully waterproof bag. In keeping it waterproof there are a few downsides, like a lack of pockets, and it comes with a pretty hefty price tag too.
Ortlieb Commuter Daypack: specs
- Colours - grey, navy, rose
- Weight - 790 g | 27.9 oz
- Height - 50 cm | 19.7 inch
- Width - 32 cm | 12.6 inch
- Depth - 21 cm | 8.3 inch
- Volume - 27 L | 1648 cu inch
- Waterproof rating - IP64
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