I have been commuting to work by bike for quite some time and I have to say it is a fantastic experience, combining both a great exercise regimen and a nice financial savings angle. I once had a job that had me commuting two hours a day back and forth by car (on a good day). The job was great, but thinking about losing ten hours a week to the commute drove me crazy. I once asked my boss if I could work from home and he laughed in my face and called me a hippie. To this day I have no idea why he called me a hippie, but whatever.
I soon left that company and took a job closer to home. With that came the opportunity to start commuting by bike. I was a little intimidated at first, but some coworkers gave me some great tips on making the trip. One of their best pieces of advice was making sure to get myself a great backpack for the commute. I’m no stranger to backpacks since I love to hike and camp, but slapping on a large internal frame backpack was probably not going to help during my commute. I have an older Oakley waterproof backpack that I thought about using, but I figured this was perfect opportunity to treat myself to something new.
After looking around a bit, I purchased Velo Transit’s Men’s Quintessential 30 Waterproof Bicycle Commuter Backpack.
As with any new purchase of gear or backpacks, I will always take some time to inspect the item so that I can get a better idea of how I’m going to use it efficiently. Too many of my friends will just slap on any piece of gear without taking the time to break it in or properly adjust it.
• Capacity: The manufacturer states the Quintessential 30 has a volume of 2,000 cubic inches. I’m used to capacities in liters, so I’ll say it holds everything I need it for when commuting to work.
• Material: The backpack is made from 420 D Nylon Packcloth, which to me means it feels pretty solidly constructed. All the number and letters mean nothing if the pack can’t hold up to regular usage. The bottom is made of tougher material, which is nice because constant laying and shifting on the ground will test a material’s strength in the long run.
• Rolltop: The Quintessential 30 features a rolltop opening on the main compartment. I like rolltops because they provide a better closure than plain zippers. I have a friend who hates rolltops. He tells me just carry a garbage bag in that case since you can roll that up. He’s an idiot.
• Organizers: The pack comes with several smaller pockets and compartments which are great for slipping a smartphone and other smaller items in. Velo sells an optional phone pack that straps to the shoulder strap for easy access. Not for me, thanks. I am not answering my phone while riding my bike.
• Storm shield: This great feature is built into the front pocket. When rain hits, you can unfold the built in storm shield to give the front a little extra protection from the rain and inevitable splatter from riding in wet weather.
• Reflective stripes and blinker mounts: I love this simple feature. Having reflective stripes makes for a nice and safer commute when coming home from work late. I really appreciate these when the clocks change and I find myself going to and from work in the dark. Haven’t used the blinker mounts yet, but I will.
• A nice optional feature is a laptop pouch that slips in the pack. I’m not usually big on “additional options,” but in this case I sprung for this option. The pouch secures inside the main pack and is padded to protect your laptop. So far it was worked perfectly. (click here for more backpacks like this)
The Quintessential 30 is a nice looking and solidly built backpack. Unlike other rolltop packs, the Quintessential hides that feature well and appears like a regular backpack. Mine came in black and grey. There is nothing ultra flashy about the pack. This backpack is all business. Which I like. A lot.
My favorite part of any new purchase is taking it out on “the road.” And since I commute by bike, this could not be any truer. First off, this has to be one of the most comfortable packs I have ever used. When I purchased the Quintessential, I took the time to look at the sizing advice on the manufacturer’s website and got a unit that would fit my frame. This is one of the best ergonomic backpacks I have owned because the straps fit me just right. Again, this is probably because I take the time to adjust everything before setting out. The shoulder straps are comfortably padded so I have no complaints in that department.
As to the backpack’s claims of being waterproof, let’s just say we have truth in advertising here. Even though I love commuting by bike, I will not ride if the weather is bad. However, even the best weather people get it wrong sometimes and I am the one stuck in the rain because of it. Well, for those few times where I got caught in a shower, the Quintessential has protected my stashed clothes, laptop and business materials. Even when getting splashed by some jerk driver, my stuff still came out dry.
As for long term construction and durability, the pack is holding up well. I have not taken any serious spills that would put the material to the ultimate test, and I hope I never do, but from regular use the Quintessential is performing admirably. And for full disclosure, I did fall off my bike pulling up to the bike rack at work once. The pack showed no signs of wear and tear.
If you are looking for a good commuter backpack for work or school, I highly recommend the Quintessential 30. This pack is solid and will serve you well. It is not cheap, but you will get what you pay for.