My kingdom for water bottle pockets!
June 2, 2015 9:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the perfect bike commuting backpack. (Yes, I know, panniers rule and I have them, but trust me that a backpack is what I want right now.) It's astonishingly hard to find something that meets my two hard requirements: looks stylish (not like a school bookbag or a hiking pack) and has at least 1 external water bottle pocket. Any suggestions? Here's what I've already looked at:

In my perfect world, I'd have the Mission Workshop Sanction with an external bottle pocket. But that doesn't exist and they're not willing to add one for me, I asked at the shop. They have a modular field pack I could add a side pouch to, but it's a closed pouch which defeats the purpose of an easy-access bottle pocket.

I was recently gifted the Timbuk2 Especial Medio and thought it would be perfect. It would be, if I were taller than 5'5", but at my current height it's super uncomfortable to wear--no matter how I adjust it, it rests uncomfortably on my butt or hurts the back of my neck when I'm walking, and I can't see over it when I'm riding. The Prospect looks interesting, but the reviews say it's also too tall for short folks. The Swig is my current best option--I've worn it before and know it's the right size--but I don't love the look of it, even when I customize it. I don't like the look or configuration or any of Timbuk2's other packs.

Chrome's offerings are lovely, particularly the Welded Rucksack, but: no bottle pockets. And the rest of their bags are very heavy.

I like the way Rickshaw's Sutro backpack backpack looks, but again, no bottle pockets.

You at least get an idea of the kind of look I'm going for. What am I missing in this realm?
posted by rhiannonstone to Shopping (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Do the Osprey Radial 26 or Momentum 22 in black look stylish enough for you? They both have external water bottle pockets. And I'm not sure about those models, but many Osprey packs are available in different sizes depending on torso length. If those models don't suit you, you might glance over the rest of their website for other possibilities.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:26 AM on June 2, 2015

Response by poster: I should have mentioned, I don't like the look of any of the Ospreys. They're very sport-y/hike-y, and I'm really turned off by the model name in huge letters of almost all of them.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:29 AM on June 2, 2015

Another idea: the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 has a zippered water bottle pocket in the middle; I'm pretty sure it could be left open as long as you don't turn the pack upside down. I like Bihn's bags: they are carefully designed, and they're made in the USA by workers who earn a decent wage and benefits.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:30 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

One last word: at your height the Synapse 19 might be a better fit.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:31 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have one of the last Synapses made before they redesigned for the 19/25 models. It's a great bag--I am a huge Tom Bihn fangirl!--but the internal water bottle pocket doesn't really work for me. (OK done threadsitting.)
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:36 AM on June 2, 2015

I've loved my Patagonia backpack. and in my experience, the Patagonia lettering on the front rubbed off after a month of use. So if that bothers you, you could probably scrape it off immediately.
posted by geryon at 9:44 AM on June 2, 2015

Best answer: Bailey Works has a couple packs that might fit the bill, and they've always been really accommodating of custom requests, but you might have to specifically call them, ask them, or draw them a picture of what you want added. Don't let the colors on their site fool you; I have an all black messenger style one that looks quite nice and pretty low profile. They area also pretty much bombproof.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:49 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is a slightly different look, but throwing it out - the Everlane Snap Backpack. Side pockets fit a full-size Nalgene. And I think it would fit comfortably on someone of your size.
posted by amaire at 9:52 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was coming in here to suggest that Everlane backpack. I bought it for biking to work and have ended up using it all the time. My office is on the formal side of business casual and no one's ever given me side eye about it.
posted by Missense Mutation at 9:58 AM on June 2, 2015

Burton Prism has a water bottle pocket and has an all black option that makes it look more refined

Focuse Space's Commuter looks nice with external pockets that look like it might take a water bottle

Arc'teryx's Pender and Cordova backpacks are techy but streamlined enough to look none too outdoorsy
posted by mlo at 9:59 AM on June 2, 2015

Take a look at a backpack from the Banjo Brothers. They're affordable but not cheap. The Commuter backpack is quite minimal (mostly a big main pocket with a removeable water proof liner; and a few small pockets under the flap), and the Metro backpack is a bit more built up inside with a few different pouches.

I'm also 5'5" and the large commuter backpack is mostly fine, never really too big unless I'm trying to stuff stuff under the flap.
posted by entropone at 10:00 AM on June 2, 2015

From Brooklyn Industries - The Conduit Tilt, The Rota, The Toma (probably way too hike-y).
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2015

This one from Green Guru has a water bottle pocket, but they're not everyone's style to be sure.
posted by mikepop at 10:28 AM on June 2, 2015

Could you (or a tailor) just sew on a mesh pocket to whatever bag you like the most? Or use something like this, that attaches to shoulder straps?
posted by three_red_balloons at 10:29 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe Freight? Their rolltops have side pockets. They did I custom bag for me, which I really like. You should ask.
posted by kendrak at 10:39 AM on June 2, 2015

I have the Topo design Daypack (recommended by Wirecutter). You should definitely check out the rest of their products - I don't know if you need a laptop-sized bag or not.
posted by O9scar at 11:31 AM on June 2, 2015

I have the Timbuk2 El Rio and I love it, although I am not a cycle commuter. It's stylish and has an external water bottle pocket, and it's designed for women so you're likely to find it a better fit.

(edit: sorry, I missed the part where you said you didn't like other timbuk2 bags)
posted by escapepod at 3:28 PM on June 2, 2015

Best answer: If you like how Chrome bags look, a R.E.Load Flight Pack (small, probably) ticks both of your boxes (and, like most messenger-type bags from smaller companies, is very customizable).

I have a couple R.E.Load bags, and am a thoroughly satisfied customer.
posted by box at 3:52 PM on June 2, 2015

I have had a VauDe biking pack and love it.
posted by nickggully at 4:48 PM on June 2, 2015

« Older How can I not cry - wedding officiant edition   |   Exercise spread out over the day - studies? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.