So, I need to be able to carry 3-4 days worth of groceries for one person, about a mile from the store to home. I'm not too keen on the idea of panniers or anything else that mounts to the frame. I don't want any extra junk burdening me during the 99% of rides that aren't grocery runs. So, I've been wearing a backpack but its a little small and not well suited to carrying groceries. Does anybody have a suggestion that will work in my use case?

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    A Bigger one.... – mattnz Oct 10 '12 at 22:42
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    +1 because someone had marked it down. Don't see why this was an unreasonable question. – PeteH Oct 11 '12 at 9:55
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    I am curious why you don't want a rack. There are some suspension frames that can't handle one certainly, and carbon frames are a problem, but if neither of those issues are involved then a rack and panniers is your best solution. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 11 '12 at 11:57
  • AFAIK my frame (2009 Specialized Roubaix Comp) doesn't have the necessary mounts to add a rack. Part of my just doesn't want to have a rack on there that I know isn't going to get used most of the time, but that's probably unreasonable. – Mike Ruhlin Oct 11 '12 at 15:28
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    I fail to see the value of this question. You are actually asking "I want a big backpack, which one do you like?", which is a shopping question – Vorac Sep 23 '13 at 15:58

10 Answers 10


Get an ortleib messenger backpack classic. It will hold a ton of stuff and it's waterproof in case something bursts inside (it will stay inside).

If you want to go real fancy get a mission workshops vandal. It is a great multi-purpose bag and it expands to fit a lot of stuff. Watch the video demo: Grocery Run - Vandal Roll-Top Backpack

You may also want to consider a quick release handlebar basket, depending on whether you have drop bars or not.

  • The Vandal looks to be exactly what I was asking for, though a little bit pricey. – Mike Ruhlin Oct 11 '12 at 15:29
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    Yeah, for the price of a backpack that's actually able to carry that much weight and not break after a few uses, you're up into the realm of just getting a bike trailer. At $279 + $34 for the waistbelt, you're looking at $313. For $359 you can get a Yak Plus which comes with the drysack. It will be much nicer to not have the weight on your back, and a trailer is easy to remove so it doesn't slow you down when you don't need it. Only big consideration is whether or not you have storage space for the trailer. – Kibbee Oct 11 '12 at 15:47

I don't want any extra junk burdening me during the 99% of rides that aren't grocery runs.

I use a Bontrager pannier (or two) like this one: http://bontrager.com/model/08102

The rack on my bike is permanent, but you can clip the bag onto onto the rack, or detach it again, in a second or two: so put it on the bike only when you're going to the store. I also take the bag into the store so I can fill it there, then bring it out already full and attach it to the bike and cycle off.

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    Agreed. I put a lightweight rack on my Audax bike. 99% of the time when I ride this its just for a couple of hours pleasure ride. 1% of the time I stick a pannier on it, and this allows me to carry enough gear for multi-day trips. Pannier just clips onto the rack, takes seconds to attach and detach. Only thing really to add to Chris's response is that you need to be careful when matching rack and panniers. Mostly the fits are universal, but sometimes they're not. – PeteH Oct 11 '12 at 9:39
  • But the rack is the really heavy part. – Vorac Sep 23 '13 at 15:54

If you are carrying much weight panniers are much easier. The bike balances better and they don't put strain on your back like a heavy rucksack does.

I don't think that there is a proper rack that you can fit if you have rear suspension on your bike. I wouldn't trust the ones that just bolt round the seat tube with very much weight.

  • IMHO a backpack would be better in very rough terrain, as panniers shake quite violently, but a backpack is dampened by the human body. But it can hurt your spine. – Vorac Sep 23 '13 at 15:56

I would suggest looking into Mission Workshop. I have two of their bags, and they are great quality, made in America and lifetime warrantied.


I agree with the other answers suggesting a pannier - panniers are more suitable for transporting stuff than a backpack.

However, if you do not transport anything except for short shopping trips, you can just use any half-decent backpack. Groceries for 3-4 days is not really that much, and it's only for a mile, so ergonomics should not be such a big problem.

There are many special bike backpacks, but they are usually designed for bicycle tours, to hold a helmet, a bottle etc.. For transporting groceries I'd just use a regular backpack.


I would go with pannier and a quick release rack. Something like http://www.topeak.com/products/Racks/MTXBeamRackE-Type


A quick release handlebar bag and a large backpack sound like the best answers but I wanted to throw out one more option-- a trailer. Easy to hitch and unhitch, and it has much larger cargo capacity.

  • Yep, I don't know why it didn't occur to me to suggest a trailer. Some styles can be fitted to just about any bike, and when removed there's very little additional weight (if any) from the hitch. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 16 '12 at 14:56

I fully understand your point about buying a rack and panniers set, possibly involving a new frame/bicycle, so the following is just a suggestion for the long run.

In the long run, it's no good for your back to carry heavy weights, especially when cycling as your back position is not optimal for carrying weights (depending also on how much do you lean on the handlebars).

Also (touch wood) a fall with a heavy backpack is in principle (more cyclist mass=less acceleration) better, but in practice much worse than a fall with panniers, when the extra weight rests on the bicycle. Also, a backpack won't allow you to roll on the ground, happily dissipating excessive momentum during a fall (this is solely based on my own experience though, somebody might want to ask a dedicated question on this topic :) ).


I use those sackpacks:


In practice, they work very well. And when not in use, you can fold it up and tie it to your top bar or something.

They are also very washable. I sweat a lot when biking and I just simply throw it in with my laundry and comes out clean and dries very easily.


Here's a genetic answer for you: One that neither comes up too high nor is too wide at the top. My camera rucksack is reasonably large, but because it narrows significantly at the top I can look over my shoulder with no problem. The backpack I'm more likely to use for riding to the shops is not much bigger, but makes it much harder to look behind me (though it is a better shape for carrying (e.g.) bread at the top).

I suggest that you might like chest and waist straps to keep the bag tightly attached to you, and possibly compression straps to shrink the bag to the load. These should all stop the bag swinging around.

Proper loading is important as I mentioned in my comment - keep the heavy stuff low for stability, with the benefit of not squashing other shopping.

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