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Ortlieb is a revered German brand well known for its cycling panniers, bags and backpacks. It sets a standard that rival brands aspire to with its functional designs and a superb standard of manufacturing.
The lightweight Ortlieb Commuter City cycling pack aims to meet the needs of the commuting office worker. It promises waterproof protection for a laptop, documents and other sundry items.
But how good is it?
Things To Consider Before Buying A Backpack
Before we dig into the pros and cons of the Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City, we’ll look at some of the features you want in a product like this.
Why do you need a backpack in the first place?
Many commuters carry stuff into work, and there are only a couple of ways to do that on a bike. You can fit a cargo rack and attach a bag to that, or you can carry a backpack.
Cargo Rack Benefits
A cargo rack has the benefit of taking the weight of your bag, so it removes any risk of back problems. It also avoids your back getting sweaty, which happens when the backpack doesn’t allow enough airflow to your back.
Conversely, a good backpack also has its benefits. For a start, it keeps things simple, so you don’t have to fix a rack to your bike.
With a backpack, you can easily stop off somewhere on your commute and carry the bag with you. This is less convenient if you have bags or panniers strapped or clipped to the bike. A good commuter backpack will often be comfier to carry, too.
What To Look For In A Commuter Backpack
There are a few things to consider when buying a bike-commuting backpack:
- Lightweight – the backpack shouldn’t add much to the weight on your back.
- Waterproof – water should not seep into the bag during a downpour.
- Ventilation – rear ventilation channels help to prevent your back getting sweaty.
- Padding – cushions your back and makes the bag easier to carry.
- Exterior Pockets – fast-access pockets are useful on the outside of the bag.
- Organization – pockets and sleeves on the inside help you to quickly find stuff.
- Laptop Compartment – a padded laptop sleeve is common in commuting bags.
- Reinforcement – padding at the base of the bag or laptop sleeve is useful.
- Loops – many bags include loops for lights or locks.
- Reflective elements – a backpack covers any reflective clothing you might wear, so it helps to have reflective accents or elements.
Ortlieb Commuter Daypack: Urban vs City Versions
This review focuses on the Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City backpack. You should note a similar product exists in the Ortlieb Commuter Daypack Urban backpack.
The main difference between these two products is the Cordura fabric used in the Urban bag. This looks and feels more like a woven fabric without sacrificing durability or waterproofness. Back padding and ventilation also differ.
Top Features Of An Ortlieb Commuter City Backpack
The Ortlieb Commuter City Backpack has a lot of features to commend it without many downsides. We’ll go over some of its standout features now.
A great feature of this and many other Ortlieb products is the rolltop closure. This ensures no water can get into the bag. It also means you can make the bag as compact as the contents allow.
Once you’ve rolled the top of the Commuter City Backpack down and buckled it, it’s completely rainproof. The IP64 rating quoted by the manufacturer also makes it dust-tight, so any high-tech devices are entirely safe within.
The only part of this bag that isn’t technically waterproof is the exterior pocket, but this is the result of using a non-sealed zip. In reality, it’s not going to allow much water to enter. In any case, most modern smartphones are as waterproof as this bag.
Video: Ortlieb Rolltop Closure vs Flap Closure
Unlike some backpacks, the Ortlieb Commuter City helps you get your belongings in order with a padded notebook compartment and an interior organizer with pockets. The aforementioned front exterior pocket is ideal for items you need to access quickly.
This bag is spacious enough to carry A4 documents (210 × 297 mm), should you need to do so.
Ortlieb products are nothing if not well-constructed and durable. This one is no different. It’s made with a tough PU-coated nylon fabric. That means it has a polyurethane coating to achieve its impermeability.
Nylon is commonly used in bags for its elastic properties, strength and abrasion resistance. This is not an easy bag to damage.
Despite its durability, this is a comfortable bag to both touch and carry. It has ergonomic shoulder straps and removable breast and waist straps to help your body evenly support its weight. The waist strap is functional, but not ideal if you carry REALLY heavy weigh often. In some ways this is a good thing, because your back and shoulders won’t end up hating you for regular overloading 🙂
The rear of the bag is padded, which protects your back from any hard edges inside and protects your clothes from the hardwearing surface of the bag. Channels in the padding allow air to reach the surface of your back.
The Ortlieb Commuter City bag features a reflective logo and reflective strap detailing for safer riding at night. You also get a light loop so you can attach illumination (you can fix a U-Lock to these loops, too).
If you want the ultimate in reflectivity, Ortlieb also sells the Commuter Daypack High Visibility at a markedly higher price. This latter product is made with reflective yarn.
A backpack that doesn’t add materially to your load is desirable. You’ll find the Ortlieb Commuter City bag is lighter than most bags of similar capacity. It weighs 26.5oz (750g). For a 21-liter bag with a laptop compartment, that’s pretty good.
Backpacks usually protect their contents well when they’re safely on your back. It’s only if you fall off your bike or place it down heavily that things inside get damaged. Luckily, the Ortlieb Commuter City cycling pack mitigates against such events.
The bottom of this Ortlieb bag is reinforced with tougher material, which rises up 3cm around the base for extra security. Inside the bag, you have that padded laptop/notebook compartment to protect your technology.
A common problem among backpacks is a laptop sleeve that inadequately protects the vulnerable edges of the computer. Ortlieb have addressed this well with their cushioned interior sleeve.
Ortleib Commuter Daypack City Alternatives
If the Ortlieb Commuter City backpack doesn’t appeal, what other bags might suit your bike commuting requirements? We’ll look at three alternatives.
1. Ortlieb Daypack Urban
As mentioned, the Ortlieb Daypack Urban is identical to the Daypack City in many respects, but you pay a bit more for it. Why?
A significant difference is the material used in the Ortlieb Daypack Urban, which gives the bag a softer, more woven feel. This pleasant tactility doesn’t come at the expense of durability, as the PU-laminated Cordura delivers huge strength and abrasion resistance.
You’ll also notice alternative padding at the back of the Daypack Urban. This backpack features TPU pads, which are effective in allowing air to reach your back. You might still sweat a little in the height of summer, but ventilation is very effective.
Like Cordura, TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) offers high resistance to abrasion. It is waterproof and lightweight, which probably contributes to this Urban bag being marginally lighter than its City counterpart.
2. Osprey Radial Bike Commuter Backpack
A formidable rival of Ortlieb Daypack commuter bags is the Osprey Radial backpack. This is a bigger bag, with a 26-liter capacity that expands to 34 liters if required. It’s made from durable 210D “dobby” nylon.
One trademark attraction of the Osprey Radial backpack is its AirSpeed ventilated trampoline suspended mesh back. This allows cushioning and airflow simultaneously: two qualities that many other backpacks struggle to marry.
There are other features in this Osprey bag you won’t find in the Ortlieb Daypack. For instance, LidLock helmet attachment lets you tie your crash helmet to the backpack when you’re moving on foot. You also get a special compartment for shoes and clothes.
Read more: Full Osprey Radial review
3. Thule EnRoute 23L Backpack
Thule is a major contender in the backpack market, as evidenced by the Thule EnRoute 23L Backpack. This is a bag you can buy with four different capacities, 23 liters being the largest of them. There’s also a wider choice of colors than you normally get.
This backpack may be the best among our selection for carrying valuable technology or optical gear. There’s room for a 15.6” laptop and a 10” tablet, as well as a discreet hard-shell SafeZone compartment to keep your phone or sunglasses shielded from knocks.
A useful feature of this backpack is its L-Shaped opening, which gives you deep access into the main compartment so you can easily see and find contents. This is not something you’ll find on roll-top backpacks like the Ortlieb.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some FAQs on the Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City.
Can I Attach This Bag To A Rear Bike Rack?
While it’s theoretically possible to fix almost any bag to a cargo rack with bungee cords, the product is intended for use as a backpack only. It doesn’t include any mount for attachment to a rack.
How Can I Clean The Ortlieb Backpack?
The Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City is easy to clean using warm water and mild soap. You shouldn’t use solvents, alcohol or acidic cleaners.
Is The External Pocket Waterproof?
Zippered pockets can only be classed as waterproof if the zipper itself is sealed, coated or covered to prevent water ingress. Hence, Ortlieb does not claim the exterior pocket to be waterproof, even though it will usually keep things dry.
How Can I Repair The Bag If It Sustains A Small Rip Or Puncture Hole?
You can send the bag into Ortlieb for a long-lasting repair. Alternatively, Ortlieb endorses products like the REMA TIP TOP Camplast Mini Repair Kit (or similar) for carrying out your own repairs.
What Does The IP64 Number Mean That Is Given As A Feature Of This Backpack?
IP ratings describe how well the product is sealed against ingress of dust and water. In the case of IP64, the first figure means the product is dust-tight when closed and the second means it is rainproof.
What we like
- Comfort – Very comfortable and lightweight. Perfect for all commutes
- Internal storage – Lots of it with so many handy compartments
- Waterproof and very durable – You gear is covered; rain or shine
What we don’t like
- Waist Straps – They are a little flimsy for constant heavy loading
One way of carrying your work stuff on a bike commute is to install a cargo rack and attach a pannier to it. The other way is more straightforward: carry a backpack.
The Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City backpack will delight anyone who loves exemplary manufacturing and functional, uncluttered design.
You needn’t worry about the weather with this rainproof backpack, and you’re unlikely to doubt its durability. These two factors alone place it above many rival products.
This is a bag you’ll love using, and which should serve you well over thousands of commutes.
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