Rainy Days and Mondays
April 11, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a messenger bag or backpack that will be good for bus/bike commuting in the rain, i.e. will keep my lunch, reading material, and spare clothing dry whilst I am getting soaked. I would also prefer it to be durable and green.
posted by Celsius1414 to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Freitag bags? Recycled from vinyl truck covers.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:01 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I love my Timbuk2. I carry it with me every day, have taken it on business trips every week for years and vacationing in a lot of climates, and it still looks brand new. It's my #1 recommendation for anyone looking for a bag, and the company is pretty spiffy on top of making a good product.
posted by Lifeson at 2:06 PM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

My Timbuk2 has served me for a decade now, surviving many a hard rain. As long as you're careful about sealing it up, your stuff will stay dry. And they come with a lifetime guarantee.
posted by Levi Stahl at 2:08 PM on April 11, 2012

Rickshaw bag works? You can get waterproof fabrics or waterproof liners. They have some zero waste bags made from recycled stuff. Certain models are very customizable.
posted by oneear at 2:14 PM on April 11, 2012

I have been using bucket panniers for years. My personal favorite buckets are the pickled ginger ones that we get from the deli (they smell nice for a while) and the brightly-colored cat litter buckets (for high visibility when biking). Bucket panniers are made primarily out of reused materials, and they're durable and waterproof.
posted by aniola at 2:15 PM on April 11, 2012

You need a mission workshop rambler. It is the best backpack I have ever owned, and refuses to show signs of wear despite being used daily (13 mile commute each way, bike or bus) for six months. Not cheap, but made in the USA, and simply bulletproof. And waterproof, and expandable, yada yada. I will post links when I get home on a real computer.
posted by rockindata at 2:16 PM on April 11, 2012

Oh, and it is green.
posted by rockindata at 2:17 PM on April 11, 2012

I can personally vouch for Chrome- both their messenger bags and their rolltop backpacks are excellent, waterproof, and comfortable. A bit on the pricy side, but you get what you pay for.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

have you considered a backpack rain cover? You can get one in whatever color you want, and it leaves other bag-specific options open.
posted by cmchap at 2:26 PM on April 11, 2012

Chrome's bags are now mostly made in China, which I don't think was always the case. Review averages have gone down. Just a word of warning.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:27 PM on April 11, 2012

Both Chrome and Ortlieb make nice backpacks and messenger bags that will keep your stuff totally dry. I own and use both. Ortlieb also makes excellent panniers that are waterproof.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:27 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by ridogi at 2:28 PM on April 11, 2012

I was coming in to suggest Ortleib, and also say that they make backpacks in addition to the panniers.
posted by bibliogrrl at 2:41 PM on April 11, 2012

My husband uses his Timbuk2 to commute via bicycle rain or shine - he specifically bought it b/c he commutes in bike clothes and brings his work clothes, lunch, a book, and whatever else he needs. I think he got the medium sized one and it is a good size (bigger than you would think for a size medium). Oh, he also likes all of the straps - about two weeks in he discovered a hidden strap that keeps it tight to his body instead of moving around all the time.
posted by echo0720 at 3:01 PM on April 11, 2012

I have a bag from Alchemy Goods that I like a lot. They're made from bicycle inner tubes, are funky, waterproof and durable. They (at least the bigger ones) come with a strap to make things easier when riding.
posted by Morrigan at 3:40 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, by green, I think you mean green as in environmentally friendly, while I was thinking green as in Kermit. The mission workshop bags are definitely made out of mostly virgin materials, but I am also confident that their products will last pretty much forever, which helps. I haven't seen a satisfactory answer for how Alchemy (the inner tube bags) protects their tubes from UV and from ozone, both of which are not the friends of rubber.

I used a tumbuk2 medium messenger bag every day for 5 years- 2006-2011, and it is still in amazingly good shape, despite pretty terrible abuse being heaped on it regularly. The thing was that I moved from having a less than five mile commute to one over 10 miles, and suddenly the single strap didn't feel so good any more. I've never liked how a messenger bag feels except when I am carrying it ON the bike, and most of the weight is on the small of my back and off the strap. The worst is when you have to stand on the bus, and you are totally vertical, and the bag is just weighing you down... If you get a timbuk2, get one that has a stabilizer strap.

I guess it just depends on what you want out of the bag, and what you need it for. Pretty much everything mentioned here is a solid bag.

Oh, I said I liked The Rambler, because it is a great bag, flexible, very well designed bag. It is.
posted by rockindata at 4:26 PM on April 11, 2012

I love Banjo Brothers backpacks. They have a great waterproof roll top and the inner liner pops out for easy cleaning on case your lunch explodes or something.
posted by advicepig at 5:07 PM on April 11, 2012

I've owned both Timbuk2 and Chrome messenger bags, their original made-in-USA styles, and used for several years. Both are super durable and waterproof. However, the Chrome feels much better on the back - the strap is connected at an angle so that the contents of the bag don't poke you in the back. However, it costs twice as much as the Timbuk2 bags, which seem to be massively overproduced and continually on sale.

But I wouldn't buy either. If you're not an actual bike messenger, the quick access of the single strap bag is no benefit. Carrying anything heavy will strain your neck and back. When I switched to a cheap backpack, suddenly the heavy bag I carried everyday became featherweight, even with more stuff.

Get something with two straps. I'd look into Chrome's backpacks or a roll-top from Ortlieb.
posted by meowzilla at 6:54 PM on April 11, 2012

I absolutely love my Freitag bag.
posted by naturalog at 8:23 PM on April 11, 2012

I've had a CourierWare bag since 1999 that I've washed a million times and it's still retained its waterproofyness. In fact, if a bottle spills in an inside pocket, all the liquid stays in the pocket. It's like magic.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:17 AM on April 12, 2012

Response by poster: The thing was that I moved from having a less than five mile commute to one over 10 miles, and suddenly the single strap didn't feel so good any more. I've never liked how a messenger bag feels except when I am carrying it ON the bike, and most of the weight is on the small of my back and off the strap. The worst is when you have to stand on the bus, and you are totally vertical, and the bag is just weighing you down.

I originally got into using messenger bags a few years ago because of the way backpacks wouldn't let my back radiate while riding -- this during summer inland Southern California heat waves 90-100°F+ (30-40°C+).

I have a non-waterproof bag now, but I'm trying to push myself into riding in rain, and of course waterproof would be good even for walking in the rain on bus-only commutes. And if my nascent notions of exploring the Pacific Northwest or the British Isles come to fruition, that feature will become a necessity.

Thanks everybody for all the starting places, great information all around.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:21 PM on April 12, 2012

Ortlieb makes a backpack (Velocity) that is pretty well ventilated for your back.

Once I got a rack for my bike (my bike doesn't have eyelets drilled for a rack, so I had to go with this one by Axiom) and put Ortlieb panniers on it, I'm pretty sure I'm done with bags from now on. Being able to arrive at work without a sweaty back is fabulous.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:14 PM on April 12, 2012

Seagull bags. They are awesome people, awesome bags, and they have a variety of messenger bags and backpacks. And you can do a full custom bag too to get all the features you want. I highly recommend calling them and telling them what you need and want and they can make good recommendations.

Plus their embroiderer is pretty much a genius. She can do fantastic things with just a little bit of direction.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 2:16 PM on April 12, 2012

Mr. Lexica and I are both toting 2-year-old Chrome backpacks which we love. Waterproof. Very, very waterproof. We'd been sitting in a coffee shop for about 20 minutes after one very long ride in heavy rain, drinking our coffee and dripping steadily, when I looked down to realize our chairs were now in the middle of a 10-foot puddle. ("Uh… can we get a mop over here? Sorry…") But the stuff in our packs was dry as a bone.
posted by Lexica at 7:00 PM on April 12, 2012

Take a look at North St Bags, made by a small shop here in Portland. The Woodward backpack is a convertible pannier, or you can get it as a backpack only, in custom colors. They look great, and folks here in rainy Portland love them. They're definitely made for bike commuting.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:03 AM on April 13, 2012

I have two bags from Reload. In ten-ish years of biking through all kinds of Michigan weather, I have not once had anything inside get wet. (Except the time I had a growler full of brown ale burst open - waterproof also means liquids do not get out.)

I just bought the second, because my first is e-nor-mous, and I wanted a "civilian" size bag. The first looks like it will easily last another decade.
posted by silentbicycle at 12:43 PM on April 15, 2012

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