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Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack Review

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If you’re in the market for a bike commuting backpack, you may have already encountered the bewildering choice of products available.

One product that stands out is the Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack. This is designed to solve common commuting problems like turning up to work with a sweat-soaked back.

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What we like:

  • Airflow – proprietary AirSpeed system keeps the back cool.
  • Shape – designed to conform to a cyclist’s back.
  • Stand – integrated kickstand lets you stand the bag on the ground.

What we don’t like:

  • Not the cheapest – you pay for the high quality.

Who Is The Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack Is Suitable for?

If you’re a bike commuter in reasonably good health who needs to carry a lot of stuff to work, the Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack could be for you. It’s a durable, large-capacity backpack that caters for any luggage from computers to clothes.

One common reason for wanting to carry a backpack is to avoid having to attach a cargo rack to your commuter bike. For instance, you might have a lightweight road bike that you’d rather not load up with more hardware.

The fact that some bikes don’t come with eyelets or mounts for racks makes it a bit more of a faff to install a rack and carry panniers. Panniers are the main alternative to carrying a commuter backpack, but sportier bikes aren’t primarily designed to carry them.

Anyone who likes simple solutions and well-thought-out design is likely to enjoy the Osprey Radial Backpack. It’s full of thoughtful features that make bike commutes less of a hassle and more viable.

The Main Features Of The Osprey Commuter Daypack

So, what exactly does the Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack have to offer? Let’s take a look at its chief selling points.

Capacity

Lots of bags carry lots of stuff, but the Osprey Radial excels at it. This backpack has a 26-liter capacity in its unexpanded state, but undoing a zipper buys you another 8 liters. A capacious 34 liters of total space means you can carry plenty in this bag.

Importantly, this backpack is designed to be carried by bike, so you don’t get that oversized, awkward weight distribution that other bags might present. This bag is shaped with your curved spine in mind.

Airspeed Technology

The Osprey Radial robustly tackles one of the great backpack downsides: the sweaty back. Many backpacks do not let enough air reach your back, so perspiration cannot evaporate. It drenches your shirt, instead.

If there’s one thing that puts people off of bike commuting, it’s turning up to work looking and feeling like a sweaty mess. How does Airspeed technology help avoid this?

Airspeed uses a suspended mesh “trampoline” system that prevents the backpack from covering your back. This system allows ventilation to reach your back and gives your sweat a chance to naturally evaporate.

Of course, this springy 3D system also enhances comfort, not just by reducing sweat but also by cushioning the load that you are carrying. A removable hip belt helps to stabilize the load.

Video: Osprey Airscape, Airspeed & Anti-Gravity Systems

Organization

The way a backpack helps you to organize belongings is always important in a buying decision. For some commuters who only want space, lack of organization might be a good thing, but most people want pockets and compartments so they can find stuff.

The Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack offers plenty of organizational capability. Like many commuter backpacks, it includes a padded sleeve for a laptop or tablet.

There’s an internal zippered shoe or clothing pocket, so you can carry a change of clothes or footwear to work. Stretch-mesh side pockets (open and zippered) hold a water bottle or fast-access sundries.

At the front of the Radial, there’s a further mesh pocket, an organization pocket for small objects and a protective scratch-free pocket for optical items like glasses or electronics.

Something that many backpacks lack is a means of carrying your bike helmet. The Osprey features a concealed LidLock attachment point so you can secure your helmet to the bag when you’re off the bike.

A useful kickstand stands the bag upright when you set it down on the floor, which helps you to find things and helps to keep it clean.

Weatherproofing & Safety

To protect the Osprey Radial Backpack from rain, a hi-viz rain cover is integrated. This is a useful addition for downpours, though you should find the bag sufficiently water-resistant in its bare state for a few minutes of normal drizzle.

Helping to keep you visible are the reflective print and zippers. There’s also a light loop so you can attach your own blinking light to the backpack (not included).

Durability

Constructed mostly from lightweight 210D nylon, the Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack is tear-resistant and durable. Heavier nylon would be more durable still, but then it would be less suited to cycling. This is a bag that will last if looked after properly.

Osprey Radial Alternatives To Consider

As good as the Osprey Radial is, of course, there are competing backpacks out there worthy of your consideration. Below are three such products.

1. Thule Paramount Commuter Backpack

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An exceptional backpack in terms of durability and design is the Thule Paramount Commuter Backpack. It’s a little less spacious than the Radial with a maximum capacity of 27 liters, but it’s made with a heavier 420D nylon.

The floating laptop compartment in this bag helps you to keep sharp edges off your back for optimum comfort. Like the Osprey, it features an integrated rain cover, but this one is designed for reflectivity at night rather than daytime visibility.

An expansion pocket at the front of this backpack is excellent for carrying your helmet or a spare pair of shoes. This bag is ergonomically designed, easy to carry, and includes handy fast-access exterior storage.

Comparison

  • Capacity – the Osprey Radial has a 34-liter capacity against the 27 liters of the Thule Paramount Commuter Backpack.
  • Material – the Thule Paramount Commuter Backpack is made with 420D dernier nylon, which is more heavy-duty than the 210D nylon of the Osprey Radial.
  • Laptop – the Thule Paramount has a reflective rain cover for night-time visibility, whereas the Osprey has a high-vis cover for daytime visibility.

Check out the Thule Paramount Commuter Backpack if you want extra durability and enhanced low-light visibility!

2. Timbuk2 Robin Commuter Backpack

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A bag with a little less capacity and exceptional durability is the Timbuk2 Robin Commuter Backpack. This backpack is made with strong, tear-resistant, water-repellent 940D Cordura nylon. Cordura is a fabric widely used by the military.

The Timbuk2 Robin Commuter Backpack offers 20 liters of space for your work gear, but whatever it lacks in capacity it makes up for in construction quality. Magnetic closures give you exceptionally fast access to the contents.

Weather resistance is another strength of the Timbuk2 Robin Backpack. It includes a concealed rain cover as well as a water-resistant drop liner for added rain protection. A woven reflective panel provides built-in visibility among night-time traffic.

Comparison

  • Material – the Timbuk2 Robin Commuter Backpack is made from tough 940D Cordura nylon versus the lighter 210D nylon of the Osprey Radial.
  • Capacity – the Timbuk2 Robin Backpack has 41% less capacity than the Osprey Radial Backpack (20 liters against 34).
  • Night Riding – the Timbuk2 Robin Backpack has a large built-in reflective panel to make low-light commutes safer. The Osprey has less reflectivity but offers a hi-viz daytime cover instead.

3. REI Co-op Commuter Backpack

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A bag that offers great value for money is the REI Co-op Commuter Backpack, which offers a generous 25 liters of capacity. It’s made with a lightweight and durable Oxford nylon and has a durable water repellent (DWR) finish to fend off rain.

Handy features of this stylish backpack include a 13” laptop sleeve in the main compartment, one fast-access side pocket, a mesh side pocket for water bottles, and an external front flap pocket where you can store a lock and find the included rain cover.

The REI Co-op Commuter Backpack is comfy to carry, too, thanks to its padded shoulder straps, adjustable sternum strap and removable waist strap. A breathable foam back panel provides a cushion between you and the bag.

Comparison

  • Cost – the REI Co-op Commuter Backpack is significantly cheaper than the Osprey Radial whilst offering 73.52% of the capacity.
  • Material – both bags predominantly use a lightweight yet durable fabric.
  • Laptop – the Osprey Radial can accommodate a 15” laptop, whereas the REI Co-op Commuter Backpack only allows for a 13” device (e.g., a MacBook).

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about the Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack.

Can The Osprey Radial Backpack Be Used For Hiking?

The Osprey Radial is great for one-day hikes as well as bike commuting.

How Does This Version Of The Osprey Radial Backpack Differ From Previous Versions?

The 26L to 34L expansion pocket is a recent addition to the backpack, as is the dedicated shoe and clothing pocket. Another upgrade is the built-in kickstand, which lets you stand the bag up on the ground while you retrieve items from it.

How Effective Is The AirSpeed System At Eliminating Sweat?

It’s one of the most efficient ventilation designs you’ll find on a backpack, to the extent that you’ll often feel a breeze on your back whilst riding. That’s uncommon among backpacks.

How Durable Is The Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack?

The 210D nylon material used in this bag is lighter and nominally less durable than some other bags mentioned in this review. However, it is entirely fit for purpose and a heavier 500D nylon is used on the more vulnerable base.

Given Its Size, Is The Osprey Radial Backpack Practical To Carry On A Bike?

Thanks to its adjustable harness system, the Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack is surprisingly easy to transport on a bike commute.

Final Thoughts

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The Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack is as large a bag as you’d want to carry on a bike commute. But it makes light work of hauling all your gear.

A radical part of its design is the Airspeed ventilation system, which cushions the weight of the bag with air.

With the relatively recent shoe compartment of the Osprey Radial Pack, you can wear cycling-specific shoes to work and switch to your work shoes on arrival.

Why not check out the Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack for yourself?

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Bike Push - Mark W
Mark W
I’m a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

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