The 4 Best Mountain Biking Backpacks In 2018 [Reviews + Guide]

Confused about MTB backpacks? Check out our 2-minute guide to the best small, medium and large mountain biking backpacks that money can buy.

Welcome to our 5-minute guide to the best mountain biking backpacks.

Whatever kit you take on your ride, you need somewhere to stash it.

And, if you’ve used regular backpacks, you’ll know they:

  • Are incredibly uncomfortable
  • Don’t have a chest strap for support
  • Induce sweat

That’s why brands develop backpacks that are specifically designed for MTB.

Ready to ride?

At A Glance: 2018’s Best Mountain Biking Backpacks

 BackpackCategoryPrice
Camelback M.U.L.E.Camelbak M.U.L.EBest Hydration BackpackCheck  
Camelback M.U.L.E.Dueter EXP Race Air (12L)Best Small BackpackCheck  
Camelback M.U.L.E.Dakine Nomad (18L)Best Medium BackpackCheck  
Camelback M.U.L.E.Vaude Splash (20L+5L)Best Large BackpackCheck  

In-Depth: The Best MTB Backpacks This Year

1. Camelbak M.U.L.E

The Best Hydration Backpack For Mountain Biking

Camelback Mule
The Camelback Mule is the best hydration pack for mountain biking in 2018.

If you’re an enduro rider or ride trails like me, the last thing you want to do is stop every time you need a drink.

And, we both know a drinks bottle won’t stay in its housing on rough trails.

There are some small hydration packs for MTB.

By small, I mean you can fit maybe your phone, keys, and a couple of small tools; not fit for purpose!

Personally, I prefer something bigger.

Usually, I’d offer a couple of recommendations, but in this case, I’m just going to recommend the M.U.L.E.

Suitable For

Not only would I recommend this for MTB trails, but for enduro riding too (MTB and motorcycle). I use it for both, have done for many years, and love it.

If you plan to go anywhere where you need more than your phone and keys, and want more fluid than your average can of soda, this is the backpack for you.

Pack Features

The back panel on the M.U.L.E will help to keep your back ventilated. And, that means you won’t sweat anywhere near as much as with a standard pack.

It’s a fairly large pack, so it’s easy to “overpack” and generally, just take stuff you don’t need. But, there’s a tool organiser that helps to compartmentalise essentials, from the non-essentials.

If you manage to completely fill the pack (doubtful), there’s plenty of cargo hooks on the exterior.

Comfort

Don’t be under any illusion, this is not a small pack. It’s a reasonably sized MTB backpack, with a reasonably sized hydration pack incorporated for good measure; so it’s quite bulky.

But, you’ll hardly notice the weight. The four points of compression help to spread the weight, as do the chest and waist straps (a lot of smaller packs, only have a chest strap).

Should You Buy It?

Personally, I love it. But, if you think it might be just that little too big, you can check out our guide to the best hydration packs for MTB here.

I’d always pick a hydration pack for MTB over a straight-up backpack. You’ll end up wanting to fit a reservoir in the future, and most haven’t been designed with that in mind. So, the reservoir will be jumping all over the place.

Go and check out some online reviews. You’ll quickly see the M.U.L.E is one of the most popular MTB backpacks on the market.

Check Price on Amazon  

2. Dueter EXP Race Air (12L)

The Best Small Backpack For MTB Riding

Dueter EXP Race Air
The Dueter EXP Race Air is the best small backpack for MTB riding in 2018.

Looking for something compact? One of the best small MTB packs on the market right now, is the Dueter EXP Race Air.

You’ll get 12L total capacity. But better still, it weighs less than 1000g. So, if a lightweight pack is what you’re after, this is the one for you.

Suitable For

Short rides. If you’re out on the trail, this is the type of pack you’d be taking for a 1-2 hour ride.

You’ll be able to carry all the bare essentials including:

  • Tools
  • Spare Tube
  • Fluids

Pack Features

Although the pack is only 12L, it offers more storage space than you might think. It’s expandable, so if you have a set of spare clothes that are thin, you’ll just be about be able to stuff these into the EXP Air too.

The hip area is mesh plated to offer extra breathability, and there’s a foldaway helmet strap, for when you are forced to walk up the trail.

For the hardcore enduro riders, there’s even a rain cover that can be attached, protecting the contents of the pack on days where the weather isn’t at its best.

It’s hydration system compatible, but if that’s what you’re after, we’d head right for a MTB pack that has been designed with that in mind.

Comfort

In terms of contacts points and straps, it’s nowhere near that of the calibre of the M.U.L.E.

But, it doesn’t have to be.

This is a tiny lightweight pack, so you could strap it to yourself with a tie wrap and still not even notice it’s there.

Check Price on Amazon  

3. Dakine Nomad (18L)

The Best Medium Backpack For MTB Riding

Dakine Nomad
The Dakine Nomad is the best medium backpack for MTB riding in 2018.

For me, I don’t find a 10L-12L pack is enough. If I didn’t have the M.U.L.E, I’d be looking for something in the 18L+ range. Mainly as I know I could use it for day hikes, as well as on MTB trails.

Suitable For

You’ll be able to get away for a ½-full day ride with the Dakine Nomad 18L, assuming you’re frugal with packing.

Pack Features

The most important feature for me, is that it has a 3L bladder, and that means you’re good to go for at least a few hours.

Comfort

Dakine have made the waist strap removable. I’m not entirely sure why, as that’s a good feature to help distribute weight across your body.

Ventilation on the Dakine packs is known for being pretty-exceptional, and the Nomad is no different.

The back panel focuses on clearing a path for air, so it vents, and you don’t sweat.

If you’re looking for the best medium sized mountain biking rucksack, I’d definitely be heading straight for the Nomad.

Check Price on Amazon  

4. Vaude Splash (20L+5L)

The Best Large Backpack For MTB Riding

Vaude Splash
The Vaude Splash is the best large backpack for MTB riding in 2018.

If you’re an all-day rider that focuses on enduro, AM or hard trails, you’ll need a large MTB backpack. And, the Vaude Splash could be the perfect pack for you.

Suitable For

All-day rides, and those wanting to cram in a lot gear (clothes, tools, spares etc).

Pack Features

You’ll notice the Vaude Splash has a +5. Any pack that has a + next to it, represents one that has expandable compartments.

And, that’s a cool feature.

If you’re riding light, you don’t need the bulk of the total 25L pack, it compresses to 20L. But, when you switch to full-day rides and need all the space you can get, you can expand it to its full 25L.

Comfort

Vaude have focused on ventilation and strap ergonomics for this pack. And rightly so, as it’s going to be carrying a lot more weight than the 12L & 18L MTB packs we’ve mentioned above.

Their Aeroflex ventilation system is one of the best in class. So, you’ll keep cool throughout your ride.

If you’re looking for the best large MTB rucksack, we’d be heading straight for the Vaude.

Check Price on Amazon  

What’s Next?

Thanks for reading our 5-minute guide to the best backpacks for mountain biking.

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Written by
Grant Draper

Grant's a motorcycle geek, outdoor enthusiast & confirmed racing nut. He road tests all the gear he buys, and then gives his feedback here on NoobNorm.

He also details any quick fixes he stumbles upon, whether that's to stop brakes on motorcycles sticking, or unusual noises coming from gaming wheels.

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Written by Grant Draper