Rapha Travel Backpack Reflective review - versatile for daily commuting and weekends away

A well thought-out easy-access design and excellent reflectivity

Image shows the Rapha Travel Backpack Reflective
(Image credit: Andy Turner)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

The Rapha Travel Backpack is a great bag for commuting or for carrying your cycling gear to events. For an extra $20 / £20, the reflective coating is well worth it both for safety. It’s an expensive bag, but in line with the pricing of similar rigid structured backpacks with a ~25 litre capacity. It lacks some of the outside pockets or attachment points that other bags have, but does offer better security with the zip pockets that it does have. Comfort is brilliant and it is very easy to live with

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Plenty of zip pockets

  • +

    Reflectivity is brilliant

  • +

    Comfortable straps

  • +

    Good overall capacity

  • +

    Clamshell opening for main body

  • +

    Decent waterproofing

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Not fully waterproof at seams

  • -

    Can feel a bit bulky when full

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Rapha's Travel Backpack Reflective sits in an increasingly crowded market. Both well-established cycling brands and more generalist luggage labels are targeting the commuter segment for a slice of that utility cycling spend.  

With so many options abounding, finding the best cycle commuting backpack for you can be a bit more of a difficult task. On the other hand, it does mean that there are many great options to chose from! Can Rapha's Travel Backpack justify its position amongst the rest? We take a look at how it stacks up...

Rapha Travel Backpack: construction

Image shows the Rapha Travel Backpack Reflective

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

The main body fabric of Rapha's Travel Backpack is made of a waterproof nylon with a leather stripe running down the centre, which also has a small fob at the bottom to attach a light. 

The waterproof reflective material extends to the straps which helps prevent soggy shoulder straps when riding in the rain. For seriously bad weather the bag does come with a fully waterproof high vis cover, but this means that the pockets are no longer accessible. 

The outer is also reflective, making it ideal for being spotted in busy commuter traffic. To ensure better stability and weight distribution when travelling with a heavier load, the straps are easily adjustable and are paired with a magnetic sternum strap At the back, the panel is one piece with strategic ventilation shaping to allow airflow.

Image shows the Rapha Travel Backpack Reflective

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

The top of the bag had a grab handle to make pickup very easy.

Now, let's discuss pockets. There are four external openings. The smallest of which is a zip compartment for easy storage and access of keys, wallet or travel info. The second is a padded laptop sleeve which can easily store a 13 inch laptop or tablet. You'll also find a small easy-access top pocket to get any items that you require quickly. This also has a small fabric internal pocket and zip pocket for separating items and storing valuables. 

Image shows the Rapha Travel Backpack Reflective

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

Finally, there is the large main body pocket. This opens up clamshell-style allowing easier packing, like a suitcase. It also has a zip compartment for separating luggage, or for storing the waterproof cover. The total capacity of the Rapha Travel Backpack is 25 litres. 

Rapha Travel Backpack: the ride

I’ve been using the Rapha Travel Backpack as my go to travel, weekend, or commuting bag most days of the week. The first thing that you notice is the reflective coating, which is very eye-catching and perfect for the weather currently where I am often out walking or cycling in fairly dull conditions. When light isn’t shone at the bag, it looks a smart light matte grey, and it's only when light hits it that the bag lights up like a Christmas tree  - the reflectivity means that any traffic coming from behind or in front can easily see me, and then once I've reached my destination the backpack blends into the city scape.

I did find the bag to be waterproof enough without the additional cover when it came to dealing with showers. That said, there wasn't an opportunity in the testing period to use during heavy rainfall. 

Packing the bag was easy. I've previously been using a bag that lacks the separate laptop pocket or the clamshell opening ability, and I've now come to the conclusion that both of these qualities are things I couldn’t do without anymore. 

Image shows the Rapha Travel Backpack Reflective

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

Using the clamshell opening you can easily open up the bag fully and lay out all your clothing or equipment that isn’t needed for easy access. This makes packing more efficient and you can get more into the space rather than cramming things in from a standard top-only opening. For items that you may need to get to in a hurry you can use the laptop pocket or the smaller top pocket. 

Another thing I loved about the bag was the zips. The laptop pocket and small pocket on the side have regular zips that are very easy to use. However the two other big pockets have zips with a finger hole in them which means that opening them with gloves is very easy, or alternatively you can use a padlock on those pockets to make the bag a bit more secure.

So what does 25 litres of capacity really give you? Well, I was able to pack away a washbag, change of clean clothes including jeans, long sleeve top, socks, underwear, scarf, gloves and bomber jacket into the main compartment. Laptop and tablet in the laptop pocket. Glasses, wallet, chargers, earbuds, keys and other bits and bobs in the smaller zip pocket. 

Even fully loaded and doing some longer walks (6+ miles) and hour long cycles I found the bag to be comfy. I did need the sternum strap at times to distribute the weight a bit better when the bag was fully loaded, but overall the Rapha Travel Backpack was very comfortable for even long periods of use. 

In the summer I can imagine that even with the airflow channels it would be a bit warm. But I’ve found even lightweight backpacks to be too warm in the summer, it's simply an issue with carrying a large quantity of belongings on your back, and why some riders may prefer to invest in one of the best pannier bags and racks.

Rapha Travel Backpack: value and conclusion

Image shows the Rapha Travel Backpack Reflective

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

The Rapha Travel Backpack comes in at $215.00 / £160.00 for the reflective version . When comparing against other 25 litre options there are the Patagonia Black Hole Pack 25L Backpack ($149.00 / £119.99) and the Osprey Archeon 25L ($159.90 / £140.00). The Patagonia offers full waterproofing while the Osprey does not. Rapha's offering is more expensive but is reflective, is arguably more stylish, and also boasts the clam shell opening. 

The Altura Thunderstorm City 30 ($96.84 / £90.00) is a budget option available however this lacks structure, so you have pack it more like a drybag. Finally you get the high end options like the Brooks England Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 26l ($260.00 / £214.99). You pay a premium for the brand and quality, but the Rapha bag has equally quality materials and arguably better functionality.

Personally, I think the casual style of the Rapha backpack paired with the reflective coating and decent waterproofing makes it a fairly decent value option. I’ve had cheaper bags that haven’t lasted as well with heavy use, are more difficult to pack and arrange contents, and just don’t sit as comfortably. The price is still high though, so its value will be dependent on you. Personally I think the bag is incredibly functional, and the reflective coating is worth the additional cost over the standard one. 

Overall, the Rapha Travel Backpack with reflective coating is a brilliantly functional backpack that looks stylish enough to be used for every day, office, or travel use, while being weather-tight and visible enough to be one of the best cycling backpacks for commuters.

The clamshell opening is ideal for packing efficiently, while the variety of other pockets all prove to have a useful function. Zips that can be pod locked and also opened easily while wearing gloves makes life a lot easier too.

The capacity of the bag is more than enough for a long weekend away with a single pair of shoes, while also being compact enough to meet most travel restrictions on bag size for carry-on luggage/small bags. The reflective coating looks brilliant and is genuinely functional. Although cost is high, it is not the most premium priced option, while using quality materials and being very easy to live with. 

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Andy Turner

Andy is a Sport & Exercise Scientist, fully qualified and experienced cycling coach, personal trainer and gym instructor. He spent 3 years on the road riding for a UCI cycling team and 7 years as a BC Elite rider. 

 

After graduating in 2020 with first-class honours in his Sport & Exercise Sciences BSc, he continued to pursue his interest in research in the field of sport science alongside setting up his coaching business, ATP Performance, and working for USA-based firm, Wahoo Sports Science. He balanced this with racing at international level, competing in prestigious events such as the Tour of Britain and the Volta a Portugal.