Preparing for a mountain bike ride follows a fairly standard routine: after you put on a jersey and shorts (but before the sunscreen, gloves, and helmet) you fill a water bottle, grab your repair kit, a hand pump, a windbreaker, some snacks, and maybe even a beer to crack open post-ride. And where do all of those items go? That’s where mountain bike backpacks come in handy.
If you ride, you likely have one. It’s multi-pocketed yet lightweight, and it has seen you through countless hours of trail time. These days, it might be looking a little tattered, sun-bleached, and worn out; maybe it smells a little funny, or it’s so sweat-stained you could probably use it as a salt lick. You’ve definitely bonded with your mountain bike backpack, but it might be time for an upgrade.
Whether you need to replace your existing pack or you’re shopping for your first, you’re in luck. Many rad new biking-specific packs hit the market this year. Thule, Dakine, CamelBak, Evoc, Osprey, and others all came out of the gate strong with fresh new mountain bike backpacks and lumbar packs. Here’s your guide on what to look for, along with our top picks for 2022.
Types of Mountain Biking Backpacks
What makes a good mountain biking backpack? The answer depends on the rider and the kind of riding they’re doing. Some packs are minimalist—designed to cut weight at every possible stitch, crafted for speed and enduro-style performance. Others are made to withstand abuse or offer maximum storage capacity. And still others are engineered for hydration first and foremost. To help you sort through it all, here’s a general breakdown of the types of packs available (just keep in mind that these styles and features aren’t mutually exclusive):
Hydration packs: Most mountain biking packs are built to accommodate hydration reservoirs, and many others come with them already installed. Hydration packs include a passage for a hose (the part you drink from), a hanger or hook to attach the water reservoir, and a compartment or sleeve to hold it. Some hydration packs also include magnetic or snap-on clips to keep the hose attached to the shoulder strap and easily accessible. Generally, hydration packs put water first and storage second. Even so, most models will include a functional amount of space for other necessary supplies.
Minimalist packs: For some riders, low weight and high speed is the name of the game. They prefer minimalist packs made with lightweight, single-layer materials and just enough pocket space to carry essentials.
Lumbar packs: Lumbar (or fanny) packs are designed to keep the weight of the pack low and centered on your back, which helps keep your overall center of gravity low and over the rear tire (which is better for traction). They’re also easily accessible, and some even come with built-in hydration systems. Most don’t have the capacity for longer rides, where you need to carry more food and supplies, but for quick singletrack attacks, they’re a convenient and comfortable option.
How to Shop and Compare Mountain Biking Backpacks
When comparing mountain biking backpacks, always note the packs’ weights and their storage capacities (usually listed in liters). If you’re looking at options with hydration reservoirs, look for packs that have a clip to hold the hose in place for easy access. Hip and sternum straps are also important, as they hold the pack snug to your back and prevent it from jostling around on your ride. Finally, dedicated pockets for electronics and bike tools are also helpful—they’ll offer some protection for your gadgets and keep your tools within easy reach.
Ready to shop? Read on for the best mountain bike backpacks of 2022.
The Best Mountain Bike Backpacks of 2022
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