The Bike List

SealLine Urban backpack - Large £85

Tested by Oliver Laverack, tester for The Bike List

As a cyclist you might not have come across SealLine products before. This Seattle-based company offers a range of dry bags, dry sacks, dry pack, dry duffle bags, waterproof document cases, so basically they're experts at keeping your stuff dry whilst you're out and about.

The backpack we've been testing is part of their urban range which includes a commuter style shoulder bag and a weather-proof computer sleeve. The backpack on test is available in two sizes, small with a capacity of 17 litres and weighing 818g and large with a significantly increased capacity of 37 litres for just 136 grams more at 954g. We've been testing the large version which is perhaps a little larger than the sort of bag you might use to carry your gym kit if 37 litres doesn't mean much to you.

For those that like to organise everything carefully inside their bag with compartments for each item then you'll be pleased to hear that SealLine make an organiser that slips into the internal plastic sheet that forms part of the back frame. Personally I find bags where I'm organising everything a little frustrating as I'll inevitably forget where I've put my camera, glasses or keys and end up having to search every pocket.

In space terms I've been able to fit in my gym kit… so shoes, socks, shorts, T-shirt and also smarter clothes for going out afterwards including a second pair of shoes, jeans, a shirt or jumper and some deodorant etc. Unlike most traditional bags the rectangular shape of the plain, uninterrupted space means you can pack a lot in this backpack. There's certainly enough room to fit everything in for your commute to work. I've even lugged my fairly chunky 17" laptop around in this bag along with diary and lunch when I've been nipping around London to different meetings on my bike, and there's room to spare.

Having tested many backpacks of the same size, when it comes to choosing a bag before heading out on the bike or I need to carry my laptop to a meeting, this bag has become the default choice. It's incredibly versatile (I also use it for walking and driving), and the uber simple, straight forward closing mechanism is perfect for getting in and out of the bag quickly. This is essentially an aluminium hook on a thick piece of elasticated fabric that pulls over the bag once you've rolled the material down and hooks into one of three slots on the front. This quickly creates a secure water-tight seal. I do have to confess that although the bag has stood up to a few downpours, I haven't needed to cross a river or swim from one island to another so haven't tested the waterproof capabilities of this bag to the full. Once securely closed I've felt confident bouncing around over pot holes and down kerbs as the secure fastener doesn't move at all once hooked in place.

Being such a solid shape gives the impression that this bag isn't going to be comfortable but I found that once it was on I could hardly tell it was there. Because the bag keeps its shape, once filled, the material doesn't sit against your back allowing plenty of air to circulate. The pad on the back again doesn't look like it will offer much comfort but I found it well placed and the holes in it allow for extra ventilation where you sweat the most. The straps also have well-placed padding on the inside and again, holes allow for more air to circulate. The straps are really easy to adjust on the fly should you want to hoik one shoulder up or down to make them match, and a strap in the middle lets you buckle everything in for a really secure fit. If you're carrying the bag by your side there's also a neoprene covered handle which is very comfortable to grip even when the bag is fully loaded.

My only gripe with this bag however is the zip pocket on the front. Once you have a full bag (which I typically do) then the zip, which is already stiff, becomes even more difficult to unzip. Once it's open you'll do well to fit anything other than a set of keys or a smart phone in there and you'll have even more fun getting whatever you've put in there out again. This isn't a major issue for me as I typically just use that pocket for keys and the tautness of the fabric actually stops them rattling around which is a plus. The front pocket is also weatherproof so it should be a safe for your smart phone if the bag isn't over full. There are also loop holes to the left of the pocket which are ideal for clipping rear lights to. They'd be better placed on the bottom of the bag instead as for UK roads that's the wrong side but some are better than none.

The fabric on this bag is similar to the fabric used by companies such as Ortlieb and Vaude on their pannier bags which gives you an idea as to how it looks and feels if you've seen bags from those companies. It'll also give you a hint as to how tough and weather proof this fabric is. The fabric is so tough that it took about three months of regular use to loose its rigidity.

Price-wise, £85 is a decent amount of money for what looks like a very simple bag but this backpack is very robust and despite having been used almost daily for well over six months it still looks almost like new. There is no wear on the super tough polyurethane-coated polyester body or the coated nylon bottom. The bonded seams are also apparently super tough and based on how well this bag has performed I suspect 5-10 years of use is entirely likely, which makes the price more than fair.

One thing that I did notice whilst wearing this backpack, apart from the fact that it makes the wearer look like a London courier, is the number of looks and comments I got carrying or wearing it. In particular I've had a couple of comments at airports from people that liked the bag. It also met hand luggage size requirements on the flights I was on which was another plus for me and shows how versatile this bag is.

Although the design might not be to everyone's tastes, personally I rather like the robust and almost utilitarian look of this backpack. Given the great experience I've had with it I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this SealLine backpack to anyone. In particular it is ideal for commuters and couriers who will love this rugged item that is also a great everyday bag regardless of whether you are cycling or not.

At a glance

Verdict Super tough, comfortable versatile and waterproof backpack that’s great on and off the bike.

SealLine says:

The freedom you feel after clicking into your pedals beats the hell out of waiting in traffic any day. Lightweight and rock-solid, our RF-welded Backpacks offer seamless all-weather commuter protection. A watertight roll-down closure with QuickClip™ attachment provides easy access, and an optional organizer slips onto the internal frame sheet, neutralizing even the fattest Monday-loads. On the outside, you get good looks, a weatherproof zip pocket and our Modular Accessory Pocket system for attaching add-ons like a Zip Pocket or Mobile Electronic Case. A light clip-loop helps keep you visible and a deluxe, waterproof and ventilated suspension with carry handle and stowable waist belt keep you rolling in any weather.

Watertight: Simple, effective roll-top closure protects from the elements.

Easy Access: QuickClip Closure allows for one-handed access to your stuff.

Burly fabrics: RF-welded, PVC-free 600D PU-coated polyester body and scrim-reinforced urethane detailing.

Add-on Accessories: Easily attach Mobile Electronic Cases or Zip Pockets to the external M.A.P. System or add the Backpack Organizer.

  • Size: L
  • Color Grey, Red, Orange, Blue, Green
  • Width 10 in / 25 cm
  • Weight 2 lbs 1 oz / 954 g
  • Length 14.5 in / 35.5 cm
  • Height 23 in / 58 cm
  • Volume 2270 cu. in / 37 liters
  • PVC-Free X X
  • Closure Roll-down Roll-down
  • Material(s) 600D polyurethane coated polyester body, 400D HD TPU coated nylon bottom

Country of Origin Made in Seattle, USA

Supplier: Cascade Designs, 001 206 353 8814,