Stubble&Co’s Roll Top backpack review

A stylish, robust and environmentally conscious backpack with a host of clever features specific for cycling

Roll top
(Image credit: Future)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

Stubble&Co’s Roll Top backpack is waterproof, robust, and packed full of useful little features which make it well suited to use when on two wheels. It might be a little expensive, but its performance does justify its price – and it is still much cheaper than some backpacks designed for cycling. The only area in which I think it could be improved is the addition of a better system for securing a helmet when not in use.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Bright inner liner

  • +

    Robust fastening system

  • +

    Durable fabrics

  • +

    Good range of pockets

  • +

    Reflective detailing on underside

  • +

    Made from recycled materials

  • +

    Waterproof

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No good solution for carrying a helmet

The Roll Top is Stubble&Co’s take on a practical day-bag. Designed to be functional and robust enough for the commute, as well as looking smart for when just being used about town.

Packed full of useful little features, the British brand prides itself on its well-thought out designs. Sustainability is also a priority, with recycled materials used in the construction and all of the packaging being 100 per cent sustainable.

The construction: Stubble&Co’s Roll Top backpack 

Any cycling backpack worth its salt will utilise waterproof fabrics in its construction – and the Roll Top backpack lives up to this expectation. The closure system, as its name would suggest, is a roll top – which is a design we’re seeing all the more often these days.

There’s good reason for it too. A roll top is much more mechanically simple than a zip and therefore less prone to failures. The use of a metal G-hook as the fastening system for keeping the roll top rolled, further adds to its rugged credentials. Plastic clips can be broken all too easily by a simple misstep, particularly when wearing cycling shoes.

Roll top

(Image credit: Future)

Compression straps serve the dual purpose of lowering the profile of the bag when only partially filled and reducing the potential for your things inside to rattle about when cycling. On the front there is a chest-strap, which can come in useful for stopping the bag from slipping off your shoulders – although the mesh padding on the underside of the shoulder straps and on the back panel of the bag is grippy enough that this isn’t much of a problem.

Now, onto the pockets, of which there are quite a few. The first point to note is the use of a bright orange liner fabric in all of them. It’s a simple design element but has a disproportionate effect on the liveability of a bag – it is just so much easier to find your things when they’re contrasted against a bright background.

Roll top

(Image credit: Future)

The main section of the bag is essentially just a cavernous space for chucking your things, but there are two mesh pockets on the back panel and one zipped pocket on the other side to help organise and keep your smaller items safe. On the front of the outside of the bag, there is another zipped pocket for storing quick access items. It’s quite low profile, so not ideal for bulky items.

Roll top

(Image credit: Future)

You might be wondering at this point where a laptop is supposed to go and the answer is in a separate zip sleeve pocket accessed from the side of the bag. This is only rated as catering for up to 16” laptops – and sure enough, I found a 17” one wouldn’t fit but a 15” was more than comfortable.

Roll top

(Image credit: Future)

On each side, there is a water bottle holder. Excellently, these have the fabric folded over on itself and is then held in place by a piece of elasticated fabric. This provides the benefits of allowing for the pockets to be stuffed quite full, as well as providing a tight hold on your items even if only partially filled. It’s a much better solution than designs which don’t utilise elastic in any way.

The ride

Cycling places very different demands on a backpack than other activities. Bags can be perfectly fine when walking about but flop disconcertingly from side to side when used while riding – it’s annoying at best, dangerous at worst.

Fortunately, the Roll Top backpack passed this first test with flying colours. It stayed solidly in place through all the twists and turns of the backstreets and questionable cycling infrastructure. This is likely down to its quite low profile, being a lot less deep than many other designs of rucksack. But with a 20L capacity, it’s still a comparable volume to other day-bags, just the dimensions are arranged differently.

Roll top

(Image credit: Future)

I found the padded back panel and shoulder straps to live up to their claims of breathability and they did cushion the load nicely. I found the material quite grippy as well, so even with a slippery surfaced waterproof on, I rarely felt the need to do up the chest strap.

A particular highlight is the reflective detailing on the bottom of the bag. It’s something a non-cyclist wouldn’t consider, but when you’re riding a bike with a half aggressive position (such as an endurance bike or some gravel bikes) the front of the bag tends to point pretty directly up to the sky – it’s the bottom of the bag that is in the eyeline of those behind you. 

Roll top

(Image credit: Future)

I got on well with the pockets, finding their locations and sizes matching my needs pretty much spot on. I quite liked the fact the laptop/files sleeve is separate from the main compartment, as I find these otherwise tend to get bashed about when putting items in and pulling them out.

In terms of waterproofness, although I didn’t go for any four hour walks through the rain with this bag, I did end up using it in some pretty foul weather, albeit for only about 30 minutes at any particular time. But in that time, I didn’t experience any water ingress and am quite confident in its ability to keep out the wet stuff for a longer period of time.

The one feature I feel this bag is lacking is some kind of system for conveniently attaching a helmet to it. Although on some bags the compression straps can be used to secure a helmet onto, the arrangement on this bag doesn’t lend itself to a very secure solution.

Value

At £105, the Roll Top backpack is quite expensive. You can get much cheaper waterproof roll top bags, such as Alpkit’s Gourdon 20 for £31.99. However, the Roll Top does many useful little features and pockets as well as looking smart, all of which goes some way to justifying the price.

The Roll Top is a little smaller and doesn’t have the extra carrying capacity of backpacks such as the Chrome industries Barrage Freight backpack. But then the Roll Top is much lighter at just over a kilo and its more minimalist aesthetic is part of its charm. It's also significantly cheaper, with the Barrage Freight coming in at £200.

Verdict

In all, Stubble&Co’s Roll Top backpack represents a pretty excellent buy. Although it is more expensive than some other waterproof backpack, its functionality and looks do justify the price – and it’s still a lot cheaper than some cycling rucksacks out there. It could be improved by the addition of a good way to carry a helmet, but really, there aren’t many bags out there better than this.

Specs
Weight1,040g
Capacity20L
DimensionsW30 x H44 x D15cm