Tiny Black Biking Backpack
March 10, 2014 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I would like a black backpack, smaller than your average backpack, that's just large enough to fit my iPad, u-lock, and a few essentials while riding my bike. Something like this would work, except I would really prefer something with a squared off rolltop or flap top to the traditional rounded zipper backpack opening. To be even more picky, I would prefer it to be water-resistant, and ideally from a small messenger bag company that manufactures in the USA. If I could just buy something like this and shoot it with a shrink ray, I'd be happy.

-This might actually be what I'm looking for, but it almost looks like it's too much bag for what I want. I love Seagull's quality, and it's totally worth that price, but if I can find something a little smaller and simpler I'd like to explore that option before pulling the trigger on what looks like it will be barely smaller than the small Seagull messenger bag I'm trying to find an alternative to.

-If it says it holds a laptop, it's way too big. I don't want to be cramming my iPad into it, but that's the largest thing I need to carry.

-I am really not a fan of the ubiquitous mass-produced messenger bag companies. I am 100% opposed to buying anything Chrome. I would consider a kind of dorkier major brand like Dakine or Timbuk2 if the item was right and it wasn't covered in their branding. On a completely different tack, I would be open to buying something from a "fashion" rather than an "outdoors" brand (maybe something like a smaller version of this?), but I'm too much of a tomboy to know my options there and I'm loathe to sacrifice practicality.

-I've definitely considered ordering this custom, but since it would require someone to make an entirely new pattern I'm not sure what brands would be willing to do it. I have a moderately-popular bike blog that does product reviews and brand partnerships, and trying to design a new product in tandem with a small company in exchange for our promotion/etc is possibly feasible, but not something that would be worth it for either side if this is already a product that exists.

-Padding to protect my back from pokey objects and pockets would be great.

-Simplicity in aesthetics is pretty important; the nylon-strappy laptop bag look is a huge turn off.
posted by Juliet Banana to Shopping (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Goruck makes a 15 liter $60 backpack.
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:10 AM on March 10, 2014

Ortleib has a backpack called the Velocity that was a smaller version of their messenger bags. They come in a couple different colors. It fits almost all of your criteria, but it still might be a bit large for what you're looking to do.

Expensive, but very well made. I have the larger format messenger that I used for a couple years every day, and since then only when it's raining. Look into their branded inserts and pouches for the inside. The biggest downside for this line of packs is that they're just caverns inside, which is a blessing and a curse. You'll need some way to segregate things inside it based on what you may or may not be carrying.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:10 AM on March 10, 2014

Road Runner Bags do a small roll-top backpack.

You might want to touch base with Alite Designs and see if they're willing to do a daypack-sied version of their Pine to the Pacific rucksack.
posted by evoque at 10:20 AM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rickshaw Bags from right here in San Francisco has a custom shop in addition to their ready-made things, so that might be something to investigate.
posted by rtha at 10:34 AM on March 10, 2014

+1 to the Road Runner bags above.

The Moop backpack says it'd hold a laptop, but it looks too small/flimsy for that purpose. It definitely has a smaller profile.

I bet he'd make this smaller: ROLLTOP Backpack Black by RedElkShop
posted by barnone at 10:36 AM on March 10, 2014

Best answer: You want a Fjallraven Kanken. Sorry no link, but easy to search. Best ever.
posted by nkknkk at 10:48 AM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you are looking for Seagull Bags in Columbus. They just launched backpacks this year, and I'll bet they'd make a smaller one if they don't have one the proper size for you.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 10:54 AM on March 10, 2014

I know this isn’t what you’re asking for, so I apologize, but I find it sooo much more comfortable/ less sweaty to bike without a backpack that I can’t shut up about it. I have this handlebar bag and love it. Only a small clip remains on the bike when it’s not in use. If you’re a wind-resistance geek, consider finding something that will fit in the triangle under the seat? (Assuming you don’t want a rear rack.)
posted by metasarah at 11:11 AM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have the discontinued bag from Nau's recycled bag line and it has held up really well. Would the backpack (LENGTH: 9.5 in. x HEIGHT: 18 in. x WIDTH AT BASE: 5 in.) work for you? It's all recycled, but it is all sourced out of country.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:09 PM on March 10, 2014

This bag looks good on size, but is unfortunately messenger-style instead of backpack-style. But since they also make backpacks, maybe they would custom-fit backpack straps on it instead?
posted by mikepop at 12:23 PM on March 10, 2014

Not as small as the Nau Motil, but I've owned the Arc'teryx Blade 15 for a decade and it is super sturdy and has held up really well. Not sure I'd want it to be any smaller when packing electronics, a bike lock, and other essentials. While technically it can fit a 15" laptop, it feels like it is bursting at the seems with anything larger than 13". It has excellent padding so nothing will poke your back.
posted by 6ATR at 12:43 PM on March 10, 2014

I have the Ortlieb Velocity - it's definitely too large to fit OP's criteria.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2014

I have a tiny black backpack (fits exactly the size requirements you mention) but it's Canadian-made from MEC and is sold as a rockclimbing bag. Maybe REI has similar things.
posted by bquarters at 1:44 PM on March 10, 2014

Best answer: Oh, poise makes an 11.5x11.5 waxed canvas backpack (not black but Chicago-made). I also read about Defy Bags in a small business promotional thing a short while ago, but I know nothing at all about them, other than they are local and make backpacks.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:03 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

But for the size requirements, North Street Bags is a shoo-in.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:05 PM on March 10, 2014

Best answer: I wonder if you've browsed Etsy at all? Many different sellers have simple, waterproof backpacks, and most of them indicate they can customize. Here are a few that might work, especially if you work with the seller:

Wanderlust canvas backpack
Padded laptop backpack
Waterproof black backpack by Sirenbags
Waxed canvas rucksacks
posted by bluedaisy at 9:58 PM on March 10, 2014

Response by poster: I really should have specified dimensions in my question; the standard "backpack" length seems to be 16" which is more room than I need and also means a very sweaty small-of-the-back on my short body.

However, nkknkk's answer made me remember seeing a Fjällräven Kånken Mini in a boutique in Portland and thinking it was the perfect size but way too expensive. Lo and behold, they're only $44 on Zappos, and given how much thought I'm putting into this search, totally worth it. Also that little fox dude is adorable. I'll just wear my messenger bag or throw my iPad in a freezer bag if it's gonna rain.

bluedaisy and crush-onastick get honorary best answers, because they suggested bags that not only fit my size requirements, but also the "made by a small independent seller" and "water resistant" requirements: this and this bag would have both totally worked.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:59 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

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