Motorcycles are one of the preferred methods of transportation in most of the world. In the US, people drive them to work or on long road trips. That is even more valid in the southern states. Traveling with your motorcycle on a constant basis, however, raises the need for certain storage options. And while most bikers are fine with having a tail bag or a saddlebag, others prefer the portability of backpacks. This is why I created this guide on some of the best motorcycle backpacks for 2021!
Below, we will take a look at 8 of my most favorite models for this year and put them side to side. Hopefully, this will help you choose the model that fits your needs and budget the best!
Motorcycle Backpacks Comparison Chart
JFG Racing Waterproof Motorcycle Backpack
The JFG Racing Backpack is one of the most diverse yet motorcycle-oriented backpacks on the market. It features a large 30 Liter capacity combined with slick aerodynamics. In addition to that, it is one of the cheaper options out there, making it easily affordable for nearly everyone looking for a new backpack.
The exterior of the backpack is made out of a carbon fiber shell mixed with PVC and 1680D oxford fabric. That carbon fiber body and nylon combination create a reinforced performance in all weather, especially in water and damp conditions. Apart from being water-resistant, the nylon fibers also help with tear resistance. One thing that I personally love about any carbon fiber shell backpack is that the carbon lid keeps the shape of the backpack the same no matter if you have it loaded or not.
Both straps are nicely padded and have reflective bands on them. There is also a chest strap which also has padding and no-slip properties. On both shoulder straps, you have quick-release buttons. In terms of additional features, there is also a concealed handle for carrying ease as well as a helmet hang buckle. The interior is separated into multiple pockets and compartments via mesh and nylon barriers.
As I already mentioned, the price is an absolutely great feature of this particular model. Typically, carbon fiber backpacks stay in the 100-200$ range but this one is much cheaper. However, there are no size or color options that go with it, so you will just have to stick with what is being offered.
- Carbon fiber shell
- Decent capacity
- Retains its shape
- 3 adjustable straps
- Divided internal volume
- The straps aren’t very durable
- Not very comfortable on your shoulders
- The rain fly comes off easily
Ogio Adult No Drag Mach 3 Backpack
Ogio is a brand that is known for its top-shelf motorcycling products. Their backpacks are among the best, if not The best on the market. The Mach 3 backpack is a perfect example of a well-rounded backpack that will check all boxes and leave you satisfied. The huge downside to all that, however, is that it will cost you a small fortune compared to other models on the market. This is also the reason why other brands copy this particular design and the reason you’ll find tons of knock-off products for far less money.
The exterior of the Mach 3 is made out of a sturdy, yet soft-to-the-touch polymer which is single-shot molded. It doesn’t deform a lot under pressure and always returns to its original form. That will not only help with the aero but also protects your back in case of a crash. The combined internal capacity is 1350 cubic inches or nearly 1500 in its expanded form. On the back, there is a thick foam profile that keeps you comfortable during your ride. The padding also extends to the shoulder straps which are proportional and very comfortable in the long run. The neck portion of the shoulder straps is also very soft, unlike most other cheaper models on the market that make it almost impossible to wear the backpack without putting something behind your neck.
On the inside, there are quite a lot of compartments you can store your belongings in. There are two special shoe storage compartments on both sides combined with an organizer panel. Additionally, you have a zippered pocket for valuable items.
In terms of additional features, there is also a removable off-center hip belt that won’t mar your bike’s gas tank. There is also an additional small fleece pocket that is perfect for personal belongings and electronics. All in all, if you’re looking for a backpack that can fit it all, boasts an insane build quality, and has little to no drag to it, this is the right model for you.
- Premium build quality
- Aerodynamic design
- Hardshell construction
- Has plenty of internal storage
- 2 special shoe storage areas
- External fleece-lined pocket
- Comfortable padding
- Very expensive
- No helmet hang buckle
- Shoulder straps are a weak spot
MotoCentric Motorcycle Leather Waterproof Backpack
MotoCentric has been long-known for making unique products that fit a certain place in the motorcycle market. Their waterproof backpack is decently priced and incredibly resistant to wear and tear in the long run. On top of all that, it is quite comfortable and has a number of features that make it very practical to live with.
The whole structure of the backpack is made out of mixed materials, including nylon, PVC, and leather. That gives the pack a decent amount of durability and tear-resistance, as well as waterproofing. On the not of waterproofing, the backpack is only water-resistant, in my opinion, so don’t count on it to handle heavy rainfall. On the backside, there are thick padding zones that lay comfortably on your back and allow air to flow freely through there. In turn, this will keep your back cool during long rides without compromising comfort.
The straps are quite wide, almost becoming less comfortable than they were actually intended to be. There is a thick waist strap as well as a chest strap. All of these straps are highly adjustable and have reflective strips all over them to improve safety on the road. The interior of the backpack can fit quite a lot of items and is nicely divided into various compartments. It opens from the top, where you also have a comfortable handle for when you’re off the bike. There is an external pocket that deploys when you need it. Inside it, you can carry your motorcycle helmet quite easily.
There are two color options to choose from – red and grey. That is pretty much where the additional features end with this backpack. In conclusion, if you’re looking for something affordable yet highly practical, this is a solid model to put on your shortlist.
- Comfortable padding all around
- Decent interior storage
- External helmet pocket
- Adjustable waist and shoulder straps
- Two color options
- Affordable price
- The aerodynamics aren’t stellar
- Build quality is mediocre
- Not fully water resistant
- Zippers tend to fail
ArcEnCiel Tactical Motorcycle Backpack
The ArcEnCiel motorcycle backpack offers a slightly different approach to riding backpacks. It is one of the few tactical models on the market that are worth your consideration. And even though it doesn’t have a huge internal capacity, it still is a slick, durable, aerodynamic, and cheap alternative to most other hard-shell options out there.
The construction of this particular model is entirely out of 1000D nylon. This makes the backpack durable, scratchproof, and waterproof. It also wears much slower than some other models that have cloth or leather mixed in them. Inside, you will find a 20-liter capacity that is good enough for personal belongings and electronics. The interior space is neatly divided into smaller compartments to keep your items steady inside no matter how much you’re moving around.
The straps are wide and fairly comfortable but are a known weak spot for tearing. Also, there is no neck padding similar to other motorcycle backpacks which is a shame as it brings comfort levels down. The waist and chest straps are quite simple and can also tear in the long run. The backside is made out of breathable mesh zones with additional layers for added breathability. All in all, if you’re looking for a medium-sized tactical motorcycle backpack, this one brings an excellent value for its price.
- Comfortable fit
- Small form-factor
- Water resistant
- Not a ton of internal space
- Not very durable in the long run
- Straps prone to tear
CUCYMA Motorcycle Backpack
The Cucyma motorcycle backpack is yet another model that copies Ogio’s form factor at a lower price. This single-mold carbon fiber pack offers plenty of space and has a familiar racing-style shape that helps reduce your drag and keep your belongings safe inside. However, it also copies some of the downsides of such backpacks – the price. While it is fairly priced for what it offers, it still sits at twice the price of other regular motorcycle packs.
The materials used here are carbon fiber, nylon lining, and 1680D oxford. That carbon fiber/PVC lid keeps its shape no matter how hard it’s being pressed which is good for both back protection and the items inside. Speaking of that, the pack has a capacity of 30 liters which is plenty of storage for your motorcycle shoes, laptop, and other items. On the shoulder straps, there are plenty of reflective bands. There is also a soft neck strap that sits below your helmet and helps bring comfort levels up.
The belt strap is highly adjustable and isn’t made out of nylon. Instead, it is made out of a durable weave. The same cannot be said about the chest strap, though, as it feels cheaply made and ready to tear. Still, the straps and backside are decently padded and won’t be uncomfortable over a long ride. In conclusion, this backpack does offer quite a lot of practicality combined with decent durability and build quality at half the price of most Ogio models. However, if you’re already in that price range, I suggest spending a little extra and getting the real deal.
- Cool form-factor
- Reflective bands
- Nice colors
- Aerodynamic shape
- Good internal volume
- Durable shell
- A bit expensive compared to other regular backpacks
- Chest strap is prone to breaking
- Copies the design of Ogio backpacks
Mardingtop Tactical Backpack for Motorcycling
Mardingtop backpacks are some of the most famous packs when it comes to going outdoors or riding your motorcycle across the country. Their models are rugged, very well-made, resistant to the elements, and don’t exactly cost an arm and a leg as other motorcycle backpacks. Their tactical line of packs offers a medium-sized 28-liter internal volume combined with plenty of cool and practical features.
This military-style backpack is made out of 600D polyester and nylon. That combination provides plenty of tear-proof and waterproofing for the pack. It also makes it lightweight and easy to wear. The material quality translates well into the other parts too by having YKK zippers and weave straps. There are compression straps on both sides and the mole design helps you keep larger items inside without having to struggle to put them in. The interior space is divided into smaller compartments which makes it easier to store various items at the same time.
At the top, there is a patch area that allows you to customize your backpack to your liking. On that note, there are also around 20 other colors available for this particular model besides black. All of the backpacks come with hip and sternum straps which are easy to adjust and are quite durable unlike some other backpacks on the market. The straps themselves aren’t very well padded but the backside features a thick layer of foaming which is soft and breathable. All in all, this is a perfect alternative for someone who wants an all-in-one practical backpack that can be used both while riding your motorcycle and while enjoying the outdoors.
- Decently priced
- Very practical
- Lots of color options
- Good internal volume
- Mole design
- A bit expensive
- Shoulder straps aren’t the most comfortable
- Isn’t specifically made for motorcycles
ArcEnCiel Tactical Motorcycle Backpack
The ArcEnCiel Tactical Motorcycle Backpack is yet another model from the brand that comes at a similar price as their racing model but offers a bit more practicality and usability. Thanks to its tactical design, this pack offers 25 liters of capacity and it also comes with side straps to keep your belongings safe and secured inside. The military-grade nylon fabric is nice and durable and is laminated with a waterproof coating for added weather protection.
Still, that doesn’t make the backpack fully sealed, as there is plenty of breathability to it, which in turn helps keep your back and shoulders dry and comfortable. The padding on the back and on the straps is decent and the traps are just wide enough to sit firmly on your shoulders. There is some neck padding to avoid the backpack rubbing against the back of your head.
At the front, you can also put a riding helmet in the front compartment when you’re off the bike. The inner bag is separated into 3 compartments with individual pockets, one of which is a drop-down one. On the inside, there is also space for a hydration system (2-2.5 liters). One thing that I don’t like, though, is that there aren’t any reflective bands around the backpack which isn’t ideal for motorcyclists. As a whole, this is an ideal alternative for people that want a backpack to wear on and off their bike with some decent practicality and cool looks.
- Good value for its price
- Large capacity
- Plenty of storage options
- Can be used for other activities
- Fairly durable
- Comes in two colors
- The build quality isn’t stealler
- Not very big for activities such as hiking or longer journeys
- The rain cover can be missing (check package)
ILM Motorcycle Helmet Backpack
Last but definitely not least is a rather different product from a well-known brand. The ILM Motorcycle Helmet backpack isn’t a pack that is designed to carry all of your personal belongings like the other models on this list are. Rather, it is meant for carrying an extra motorcycle helmet or even your own. Its goal is clear – have enough internal capacity for a full-sized motorcycle helmet and protect it from the elements while doing so.
The pack can also fit other items like motorcycle shoes, gloves, jackets, pants, and others. As a whole, it is the ideal solution for someone who wants to add another pack to their luggage which can be carried easily around in case you need your gear. The bag itself is made out of thin nylon which makes it water-resistant and very lightweight. It has an insulated zipper on top and a reflective brand logo for added protection. There are adjustable width straps as well as shoulder straps. As a whole, this truly falls into a very specific category of products but is unique nonetheless. If you’re looking for a small and lightweight backpack to carry your helmet in, this is surely one of your top choices!
- Very cheap
- Fairly durable
- Can fit full-sized motorcycle helmets
- Adjustable width straps
- Cannot fit many items
- Won’t protect other fragile items
- No waist and chest straps
- Not very comfortable
Motorcycle Backpacks Buyer’s Guide
When buying a backpack for your motorcycle trip, you will need to take quite a lot of things into consideration. From the type of backpack, through its capacity, all the way to its durability and comfort, in this section of the guide we will talk about all of those aspects of your buying process and learn how to select the right model for your needs!
Types of Backpacks
In general, backpacks can be divided into countless categories. However, inside the motorcycle world, most backpacks can fall into 4 simple categories. These are:
- Regular backpacks – These models are quite basic and can do lots of tasks. They aren’t specifically geared towards motorcyclists and are typically less expensive than the other types on this list. They are also the most universal when it comes to wearing them off your motorcycle to different events like work, university, or someplace else.
- Touring backpacks – As their name suggests, these backpacks are geared towards longer journeys. They are larger and have more pockets and capacity but create more drag and tend to be heavier. On top of all that, they are also usually a bit more expensive.
- Commuter backpacks – These are the smallest backpacks that can be used by motorcyclists. They are meant for general commuting and simply carrying your items in there. They are cheap and not always durable, nor do they provide any type of impact protection for your back.
- Reinforced/Rugged backpacks – Speaking of impact protection, perhaps the most durable backpack of them all is the reinforced one. It is built with bikers in mind and is used for people who drive race bikes and dirt bikes. These backpacks come with a special reinforced rugged layer that protects your back upon impact. They are very expensive and typically low on internal volume, hence their limited practicality for longer journeys.
Now that we’ve discussed the various types of backpacks you can choose from, let’s dwell deeper into the individual features that make a backpack truly good…
How To Choose A Motorcycle Backpack
The process of choosing a backpack is a rather difficult one. When it comes to motorcycle backpacks it’s even trickier, as these models will have a few features of their own. The most notable ones that we will go over now are:
- Size and Capacity
- Fit and Balance
- Materials and Build quality
- Motorcycle-specific features
- Additional features
One of the first things you will have to decide is what is going to be the use-case for that backpack. This gets to help you pick what type of backpack you’re going to go after. If you need something to just carry your personal items in, I suggest getting a commuter backpack with waterproof and skidproof ratings. Other than that, larger motorcycle backpacks will do a much better job at transporting more items. Moreover, they will protect your back better and will have better aero.
On the point of waterproofing, don’t let that feature be a deal-breaker for you, especially if you live in a region that gets little to no rainfall during the active season. A windproof backpack, on the other hand, will be handy if you want to keep your back warm and your items safe. Nowadays, most motorcycle backpacks are both waterproof and windproof and come with some sort of back protection, so it shouldn’t be too hard picking one without going above your budget.
Size and Capacity
The size of the backpack directly impacts its performance and carrying capacity. Larger backpacks are meant to be used for touring and long-distance traveling. It goes without saying that they aren’t the most aerodynamic out there. They aren’t very lightweight either, making them slightly harder to get used to. However, with the larger size, you get plenty of capacity that is quite useful on those long motorcycle trips.
How that internal volume is distributed is also important for the practicality of the backpack. The number of compartments and pockets (with or without zips) is directly proportional to how easy it will be for packing your luggage or carrying lots of items on shorter distances. Most large motorcycle backpacks come with 2 large compartments and one smaller one for personal items such as a phone, wallet, and documents. These models rarely have side pockets as putting anything there poses a risk of it falling out of the backpack during the ride.
If you plan on carrying a large tablet or a laptop, check if the backpack has enough volume to fit that device in its main pocket. Most models out there will have a 30-50 liter capacity which is more than good enough for commuting or traveling at short distances.
Fit and Balance
The fit of a backpack is essential to its performance on the road. To make sure a specific model will fit you nicely, make sure it has adjustable straps. A chest strap will further improve the fitment and will make sure the backpack doesn’t move while you corner on your motorcycle. Another type of strap that will help with the fitment and stability of the backpack is the waist strap. In total, you should be looking for regular straps, chest straps, and waist straps on your new backpack.
While not all backpacks are built with balance in mind, some motorcycling models are designed that way. What they offer is a well-calculated center of mass that keeps the backpack well in its place without shifting its weight too much or without having that center of mass too high or too low. This will help you predict its behavior better and adjust your handling.
Materials and Build quality
When it comes to any type of backpack, the materials from which it’s made along with the build quality are two essential characteristics. These will also impact other features such as the comfort, weather resistance, durability, and longevity of the backpack. When it comes to materials, there are plenty of options out there. Some of the most common materials used in motorcycling gear (including backpacks) are:
- PVC/nylon fibers
- Carbon fiber
- Hardened polymers
- Foam materials
- Oxford cloth
PVC and nylon are some of the most commonly used materials out there for a few very good reasons. First of all, they are cheap to produce and easy to work with. Additionally, nylon backpacks are super tough and are naturally tear-resistant. They are also easy to waterproof and also quite lightweight. However, they tend to wear out worse than other more expensive materials such as the 1680D Oxford cloth. You will see that Oxford cloth material in many of the more expensive backpacks. It is a type of polymer cloth that is comfortable but also tears and water-resistant.
Carbon fiber is used in the outer shells of most of the expensive backpacks out there. It is extremely durable and won’t get damaged even if you fall on it. However, it isn’t scratch-proof and it will cost you a small fortune. Another advantage of the material is that it is lightweight. One last thing to mention, even if people aren’t really talking about it is that carbon fiber backpacks protect your back more than any other type out there. This is why they are the preferred choice by many motorcyclists who like faster speeds.
Other hardened polymers and comfort foams are used as materials in specific spots of the backpack to improve its durability and comfort. Having a well-padded backside is essential if you’re looking for a backpack that will stay on your back for hours at a time. Hypothetically, this will also soften the fall in case of an emergency.
The comfort of your backpack is essential if you’re considering having it for longer trips or your daily commute. While racing drivers won’t benefit nor notice the thick padding too much, casual motorcyclists will not only notice it but feel it afters having the backpack on their back for hours. To help with comfort, most backpacks are padded in special places. These places typically include the shoulder straps, the backside of the backpack, and sometimes the waist strap. Memory foam or other types of comfort foam are the most common choice for these backpacks. One thing to consider is that the more padding it has, the more expensive the backpack will be.
The backpack’s handles can also improve comfort and practicality while you’re off the bike. Having top and side handles will allow you to easily carry the backpack in any configuration you prefer.
The durability of your backpack will mainly depend on the type of materials it is made out of. As I mentioned earlier, nylon is quite tough and shields the backpack well. However, it can tear and won’t protect your back well in a fall. PVC Oxford fibers are a notch tougher but will cost you quite a bit more. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a backpack that will protect you and won’t change over time, carbon fiber is the way to go. These carbon fiber shells are virtually indestructible and can take a hit. Pair that with some comfort padding and durable structural fibers and you have yourself the perfect formula!
When it comes to outfits and gear, having a waterproof rating is a must. Not only will that protect you against the elements, but it will also mean that the gear is well-insulated and will keep you warm. On that note, windproof backpacks are also good, especially if you carry items that don’t handle temperature fluctuations well. Typically, most carbon-fiber and nylon motorcycle backpacks will have some sort of waterproofing. However, it is worth the extra minutes to check if there actually is a waterproof rating for the model. Those backpacks will tend to cost a bit more but will be quite useful, especially if you don’t mind riding your bike in the wet also.
While this isn’t a major deciding factor, having certain amenities that are designed for motorcycle use, in particular, won’t hurt. Such things include helmet nets/carriers, back armor integrated into the backside of the backpack, a built-in rain cover, and others. One feature that I absolutely need to have on my backpacks is a hydration sleeve compartment. This keeps me hydrated on longer journies without having the need to constantly stop for a water break. Some backpacks even have action camera mounts on their top side, as well as tool rolls, harness systems, and more.
Just like with any other motorcycling accessory, there are quite a few additional features that you can keep your eyes open for. These are:
- Different mounting options
- Design choices (colors, shapes, sizes)
- Accessories to go with the backpack
Apart from these, you should also look for multiple (padded) handles and laptop pockets. These really make it easy to carry your backpack off your motorcycle and into work. Having a laptop pocket or sleeve can protect any type of device you want to carry around with you. All these things bump up the price, though, so make sure you don’t go overboard looking for a model with all the bells and whistles without actually needing most of them.
Lastly, let’s talk about the prices. Typically, a good motorcycling backpack will set you back around 100-150 dollars. Carbon-fiber backpacks with back armor tend to cost the most, sitting in the high 100s or low 200s. There are cheaper models, however, and they are typically made out of reinforced fibers or nylon. These are decent enough, have plenty of storage capacity, and are comfortable. My suggestion to you is to figure out your budget and then shortlist all the models that fall within your range. That way you won’t break the bank and will still have money left for other accessories!
If you want to learn some of my best tips on how to prevent accidents on your motorcycle, make sure you read this article! Now, let’s see some of the main benefits (and drawbacks) motorcycle backpacks have…
Benefits of Using Motorcycle Backpacks Over Regular Backpacks
There are numerous benefits of wearing a backpack in general, not to mention wearing a special type of backpack while riding your motorcycle. Some of the most important benefits are:
- It offers extra protection for your back. Motorcycle bags are designed in a way that offers comfort while riding with them but they are also quite durable and made specifically with impact and drag in mind.
- They add practicality to your motorcycle. If you have a small motorcycle that cannot accommodate a ton of extra luggage, having a practical backpack with you can help with the storage space and carrying items to or from work.
- Most motorcycle backpacks are aerodynamic. Thanks to their special design, most backpacks won’t make your drag worse and will rather smoothen the airflow behind you, making you more aerodynamic or in the worst case – not hindering your aero.
- They can be worn on other occasions. Almost all motorcycle backpacks look cool and have plenty of practicality to back their design up. This makes them useful on all sorts of occasions and not only when riding your motorcycle. They are also more durable than regular backpacks, further adding to their longevity.
So, you’ve made it this far but still haven’t chosen a model that checks all your boxes? Well, maybe it is best if you trust a brand that has been around for a while. Let’s discuss now which are some of the best brands for motorcycle backpacks out there currently…
Top Brands to Consider
When browsing for motorcycling accessories, there are usually a few brands that always stick out from the rest. These brands have tons of experience in the niche and often design their products with the sole purpose of being useful to riders. Some of the brands that make great backpacks for motorcyclists are:
- JFG Racing
Mardingtop is generally considered as an outdoor brand rather than one that specializes in motorcycling accessories. However, they do make some great backpacks that also boast a cheap price tag and decent overall quality. Their 28L model sells well, is very durable, and can withstand rain and wind.
If you’re a motorhead, you have got to know JFG Racing. They make all sorts of motorcycling parts and their reliability is second to none. Albeit a bit expensive, their flagship backpack (named JFG Racing Motorcycle Backpack) is one of its best-selling models thanks to the high quality and excellent protection it provides.
SHOEI is a brand everyone is familiar with. They are known worldwide for their impressive quality and high prices. Their 1.0 and 2.0 SHOEI Backpacks are some of the most selling models in the motorcycling world and are a decent way to invest your money if you aren’t on a tight budget.
Lastly, OGIO and Nelson-Rigg are two other companies that are worth mentioning. They are both based in the USA and make rugged motorcycle accessories such as covers, apparel, and luggage items.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can motorcycle backpacks be dangerous?
The short answer is yes, they can be. The long answer takes quite a lot of factors into consideration. One of the main reasons regular backpacks are dangerous for bikers is because it doesn’t distribute their weight evenly across your back. On top of that, it also doesn’t provide any type of protection in case you fall on it.
What can you use to carry luggage on your motorcycle?
There are plenty of things you can use to carry stuff with you on your motorcycle road trip. Some of the best methods are, of course, using a special backpack but also using things like a tank bag, saddlebags, top trunks, using the bike’s built-in storage, hard luggage, using straps, and more!
Can you ride your motorcycle with a large backpack?
Large backpacks, even when specialized for motorcyclists, aren’t recommended. This is especially true for beginners who aren’t still used to the bike’s weight. Heavy and tall backpacks will make it harder to maintain your center of weight in check. Tail bags, tank bags, and saddlebags are all better options for carrying your luggage when on a motorcycle, especially if you’re new to this.
How much can you carry on a motorcycle?
Every motorcycle model comes with its own weight limit. You can see that in the owner’s manual or online. If you can’t find the said limit, contact the manufacturer. Typically, this weight limit will be around 400 lbs. This means that you will be able to carry quite a lot with you, especially if you’re a lightweight yourself. Carrying two people makes it much harder to put more weight on the bike in the form of luggage.
Choosing one of the best motorcycle backpacks will not only improve your luggage capacity while traveling but will also help with impact protection. Moreover, these backpacks are specially designed to not mess up your aero and will keep you slick in the air stream even at high speeds. Hopefully, this guide has helped you narrow down your selection by browsing through some of the top models for this year and learning more about their features!