For the past month or so, I’ve been using the Deuter Dry Shield Bike 18 backpack on my daily rides to work.
For years, I’ve been searching for a good waterproof backpack that will keep my stuff dry during the nasty wet Calgary winters. While a good drybag, or even a garbage bag, can usually keep things dry inside a regular pack, the pack itself will still end up soggy and smelly, and it’s a pain to dump everything into a drybag.
The Dry Shield line from Deuter is a waterproof line, which includes a cycling-specific pack — the DS Bike 18.
The simple yet functional approach Deuter took with this pack helps keep the weight down by eliminating unnecessary bells and whistles. It also helps keep the pack waterproof by minimizing zippers and seams.
The size of the pack (18 L) is at the smaller end, so you might have a tough time fitting in a lot of gear. However, the small size also means it’s a good comfortable pack for cycling.
Because I’m a bit of gear-nut, I tend to carry quite a bit with me. Each morning, I cram the following into my pack:
- A thermos of chai
- A thermos of oatmeal
- Office clothes
- Glasses case
- Various USB cables
- First aid kit
- Bike tools
- Spare tube
- Bike pump
- Other misc bits and pieces (multi tool, Gerber knife, mini flashlight, etc, etc.)
- I also often carry my laptop with me.
All this fit into the DS Bike 18, but only just. On really cold days, I also like to carry a down vest, extra thick mittens and fleece pants in case I break down. Unfortunately, there’s no way these will also fit in the pack. However, if you’re not as much as a gear-pig as I am, you shouldn’t have any problem fitting the essentials into the pack.
This pack excelled in the areas I expected it to perform well in — comfort and waterproofness.
One of the biggest problems with using most backpacks for cycling are the thick, pre-curved hip belts that have sprung up over the past few years. They’re great for hiking, but are extremely uncomfortable if you’re on a bike as they dig into your ribs because of the hunched over position.
The DS Bike 18 has a small soft hip belt, with easily accessible mesh pockets on each side. The pockets on the hip belt zip shut. I have a building passkey in one side and a small digital camera in the other side. There’s still room in either pocket for some munchies, Kleenex or other small items.
I have a few other backpacks that have rain covers — probably one of the most useless features on a pack. They might keep some light rain or a brief dusting of snow off the pack, but they certainly don’t keep the pack, or its contents, dry.
The DS Bike 18 easily held up to snow, road-spray and the “shower test”. During a heavy snowfall, snow can accumulate on the top of a pack, quickly soaking into the material. Rain and snow can also fall down between your back and the pack. And last, but not least, a bike tire kicks up a lot of road-spray, soaking the bottom of the pack. Everything inside this pack stayed nice and dry, not only in the snow, but also during two of three shower tests. For these tests, I stuffed the pack full of newspaper, and gave it a five minute shower.
With the first test, even directly under the heavy shower, not a drop of water made it inside the pack.
For the second test, I removed some of the newspaper, and formed a bit of a dent in the top of the pack by pushing it in. The pack still kept things dry after five minutes under the shower.
When I tried a third time, I let the water sit pooled in the dent I’d made, and some water did seep in through the zipper after about 15 minutes. However, unless you leave your pack out in the rain or the snow, the odds of water pooling and staying on the pack are relatively low.
When I first got the pack, one of my initial thoughts was, “What? No helmet holder! What kind of a cycling pack is this?!” Then, as I was exploring the pack, I noticed the words “helmet holder” on one of the hip belt pockets. I wasn’t quite sure how I was expected to put my helmet into a hip pocket, but it quickly became clear that that’s where the helmet holder was stored. The holder quickly clips to the pack and securely holds your helmet in place.
There were a couple of things I didn’t like about the pack.
While the two mesh bottle pockets on each side are quite large, and easy to access while on the bike, the downside to this easy access is that it’s also easy for things to bounce out of the pockets if you’re riding over rough terrain. I lost a couple of granola bars this way — minor, but I’m glad it wasn’t my camera. I stuffed a bandana in over the granola bars after losing them the first time, and that seemed to fix the problem.
The zippered top access seems really small to me. I still put all my clothes into a drybag, as it’s the easiest way to keep them separate from everything else. The small top access makes it tough to stuff the bag of clothes in and take it out – it’s not quite large enough.
The inside accessory pocket gets in the way when trying to pull something out of a full pack. It should have been fixed in place, rather than being a “pocket flap”.
The outside pocket is surprisingly big. At first glance, I thought it was just a small pocket, but I was easily able to put a bike pump, first aid kit, tools, spare tube, Kleenex pack and other bits and pieces in and still have a bit of room left over. Unfortunately, this eats into the inside space of the pack, as the outside pocket is more of an inside pocket with external access.
The last problem I noted was a lack of loops for attaching a blinkie. This certainly isn’t a problem that’s specific to this pack, however, as I’ve yet to find a pack that has a loop that will properly secure a blinkie in place. I did, however, use the helmet cover loops to attach some reflective ribbon, which is a technique I’ve used successfully on a number of packs.
Overall, I was really pleased with the performance of the pack and its simplicity is what helps keep it waterproof. It’s what I’ve been looking for for years. In addition to that it’s always a treat to find a pack that’s comfortable on a bike, let alone designed specifically for that purpose.
Deuter website: http://www.deuter.com