Ortlieb Commuter-Daypack Urban Review
The Ortlieb Commuter-Daypack Urban is a fully waterproof, technical backpack with a ton of clever features, all packed into a casual, understated design. Lucas has been using one almost daily over the past year for this comprehensive review. Find his thoughts below…
At the top of this review, I want to mention that—as its name implies—the Ortlieb Commuter-Daypack Urban was designed with the needs of commuters in mind, not bikepackers. As such, this review won’t focus on how it holds up to the rigors of bikepacking.
Even as someone who tries to get out bikepacking as often as possible, probably nine out of ten trips I make by bike are actually commutes, so having a quality bag for daily life is important to me. Although commuter gear isn’t a subject we often delve into on the site, I suspect I’m not alone in my quest to find the perfect bag for those countless coffee shop, office, and grocery store trips, and I hope you’ll get some value out of this decidedly non-bikepacking review.
Heilsbronn, Germany-based Ortlieb has been making bags for bikes since the early 1980s. If you ride a bike, odds are you know or have used their products. They’ve built a strong reputation as manufacturers of bags that are exceptionally well made, practical, hardwearing… and perhaps a bit dorky. Their urban line, however, represents a departure from the ultra-technical aesthetic the company is known for. In fact, my initial impression upon first seeing the Commuter-Daypack Urban was that it didn’t really look like an Ortlieb bag, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Since black wasn’t an option, I went with Pine (a dark green) instead, which I think is quite a nice looking color. Note that it looks more like an olive green in the photos on Ortlieb’s site, but the colors in my shots are truer to life. I’m happy I went with Pine, though I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three neutral colors in which Ortlieb currently offers the Commuter-Daypack Urban (but c’mon, the people want black!). It doesn’t scream “cyclist” and its 21-liter size makes it a sensible bag for a variety of uses, even if you’ve left the bike at home.
Ortlieb Commuter-Daypack Urban Overview
Though it looks like it’s constructed from ordinary Cordura fabric, the Commuter-Daypack Urban is fully waterproof. We’re talkin’ Ortlieb here, after all. Just roll the upper closure a few times and fasten it with the hook to meet its IP64 rating (6=No ingress of dust; 4=Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effect). The roll-top closes securely by way of a simple metal hook that nestles into one of three positions on a daisy chain of fabric loops. Since I almost always have my laptop with me, and often a camera as well, knowing they’re totally protected from rain provides some welcome peace of mind. I’ve been caught out in several showers while wearing the Commuter-Daypack Urban and never once had to stress about whether or not my computer was going to survive the journey. This alone is a huge selling point of this bag for me.
On the subject of hauling my computer everywhere, another notable feature of this bag is its built-in laptop sleeve and organizer. I don’t need (or want) a dozen little pockets, as many of the bags on the market today seem to have, and I think Ortlieb did organization just right here. There’s one 15.4” x 10.6” x 1.0” (39 cm x 27cm x 2.5 cm) laptop sleeve, a large zippered pocket of roughly the same dimensions, and two smaller elasticated pockets inside that. I use these smaller pockets for things like my GPS, lights, glasses, and flat repair kit. Best of all, the whole organizer attaches with velcro and is easily removable for those occasions when you’d prefer one big compartment.
I was initially somewhat skeptical about the Commuter-Daypack Urban’s unpadded shoulder straps, especially coming from the relatively burly straps on the Oveja Negra Portero this bag replaced. There was a short break-in period, to be sure, but one year in I’m converted to Ortlieb’s minimalist strap design. They’re wide, razor thin, and almost feel form fitting. A handful of folks have tried my pack on, and nearly all of them commented on how comfortable they found shoulder straps, which by now are fully broken in and feel incredibly soft. As an added bonus, because they’re so thin and have air channels throughout, they don’t seem to trap nearly as much moisture and heat as more bulky straps. And both shoulder straps feature full-length reflective stitching for a dash of added visibility.
Despite their crude, industrial look, the TPU pads on the backside of the Commuter-Daypack Urban work surprisingly well to create air channels that help keep your back cool. That said, your back is still going to get somewhat warm if you’re wearing this bag on a hot day, but the TPU system works better than pretty much anything else I’ve tried in the commuter bag space. The pads are also really comfortable, especially when combined with the extra cushion from the laptop sleeve. I’ve never needed to give much thought to how or where items are packed inside the bag; it feels comfortable no matter what.
There are three sets of external mounting points where you can attach rear blinkies, or even your U-lock, as Ortlieb suggests (I can’t imagine ever doing this, personally). They’re smartly placed low enough to mount a rear light where drivers can see it as you’re riding.
One less obvious feature of the Commuter-Daypack Urban is that it’s freestanding—something I didn’t even know I wanted until now. Thanks to its flat bottom, I can set it anywhere without having to worry about leaning it up against the leg of a table or another hard edge when I’m packing it or need easy access to its contents. Turns out this is really useful.
One Year In
Despite a year of near-daily use, my Commuter-Daypack Urban looks almost exactly like it did the day I took it out of the box. It’s been all over Europe and the US, on countless commutes, some hikes, an overnighter or two, and there’s only the tiniest bit of fraying happening around some of the stitching. Overall, it has held up exceptionally well. I can’t find a single hole or tear anywhere, the zippers run smoothly, and I’m confident it will be years until anything needs to be repaired or replaced. Looking at it, you’d never guess I’ve worn it hundreds of times.
A Few Critiques
As much as I like the Commuter-Daypack Urban, there’s some room for improvement. After using it day in and day out, I’ve discovered a handful of small annoyances that add up to a backpack that falls short of perfect.
While walking around with the bag on, I’ve noticed that the rubberized texture of the reinforced base (or maybe it’s the lowest set of TPU pads?) tends to grip the bottom of my shirts, causing them to ride up over time. This means I find myself having to reach back and pull my shirt down every so often. Thankfully, it’s not as much of an issue while riding, but it’s not something I can recall experiencing with other backpacks.
The external zippered pocket at the bottom corner of the bag—behind the reflective Ortlieb logo—is a nice addition, but I think it could have been implemented better. It’s quite a small pocket, and I find that items tend to fall right back out when I put them inside because of the vertical zipper and shallow opening. I’d think a larger lip at the bottom of the zippered area, or even a horizontal zipper, would make it a lot more user friendly. Also, I’ve flown with the Commuter-Daypack Urban as my carry-on bag several times, and have always found it pretty tricky to access items inside the external pocket when the bag is packed full. Note that this pocket has a weatherproof zipper, but isn’t waterproof, and there are two small drainage holes at its bottom.
A handful of other small gripes, if I may: It’d be nice if the roll-top closure and corresponding strap were a tad longer for those timnes when you need to really fill the pack up. I also wish the sternum strap had a side-pull design instead of two straps that meet in the middle. Buckling it creates two slightly obtrusive loops of fabric that tend to catch my headphone cable, though there are two small loops of elastic to help compress them, assuming you can get them to stay in place. The super simple, removable waist strap also feels more like an afterthought than something that’s actually going to help secure a load comfortably. I’m fine with that, however, as I try not to pack my backpacks with enough heavy stuff to merit a waist strap. In fact, I removed mine as soon as I received it (full disclosure: I have no idea where it is at this point, so it’s not pictured here—sorry!). You’ll find a number of better waist strap designs out there if that’s an important feature to you.
Lastly, if I could add a feature to the Commuter-Daypack Urban, it’d be an elastic pocket on the side opposite the zippered pocket. Presumably they didn’t include one because it would be difficult to incorporate into the waterproof design, but I’d love to have a stretchy pocket where I could throw a water bottle or lock (or even tent poles for bikepacking…) for quick access without having to unroll the pack.
What’s in a Name?
It’s worth pointing out that Ortlieb offers a few different backpacks with nearly identical names, and they’re all fairly easy to mix up. In fact, I admit that I ordered the wrong one on my first try. The bag reviewed here is the Commuter-Daypack Urban, not to be confused with the Daypack Urban (a basic day bag) or the Commuter-Daypack City (a slightly stripped-down version of this bag). Oh, and there’s also the new Commuter-Daypack High Visibility, (which looks to be a super reflective version of this pack). Whew. You’ve been warned!
- Reinforced bottom
- Air-permeable shoulder straps
- Removable chest and waist straps
- Zippered front pocket
- Loops for rear light or U-lock
- Reflective stitching and reflective logo
- Built-in laptop sleeve/organizer
- Fully waterproof construction keeps your precious cargo dry.
- Removable laptop sleeve with pockets helps you stay organized.
- Size is perfect for day-to-day commuting needs.
- Super comfortable shoulder straps.
- Outer pocket isn’t particularly user-friendly.
- On the expensive side at $225.
- Roll-top closure could be longer to increase capacity.
Price and Availability
The Ortlieb Commuter-Daypack Urban retails for $225 and is offered in Pepper (grey), Ink (navy blue), and Pine (green, as pictured). At the time of publishing, only Ink is in stock online at Ortlieb USA, but your local dealer might have more options. Note that the $225 price tag also includes Ortlieb’s five-year warranty, excellent customer service, and access to inexpensive replacement parts.
- Construction Soft-touch PU-laminated Cordura blend
- Volume 21 liters
- Weight 740g (26.1oz)
- Place of Manufacture Germany
- Price $225
- Manufacturer’s Details OrtliebUSA.com
I didn’t expect to find myself saying this when I first started using it, but the Ortlieb Commuter-Daypack Urban is the best backpack I’ve ever owned. I’ve really grown to appreciate it, which is no surprise as it packs in all the features a serious commuter could want. Namely: it’s waterproof, has a built-in laptop compartment, and is remarkably comfortable. With a 21L volume, it’s just the right size to fit almost everything you could possibly need for your daily bike trips around town. And with a relatively light weight of just 740g (26.1oz), it won’t weigh you down when it’s empty.
Ortlieb’s Commuter-Daypack Urban is a really good looking bag that blends in equally well whether or not you’re on the bike, and hiding underneath that stylish exterior is a fully featured, technical backpack. Ortlieb has been creating top-notch bags from their factory in Germany for nearly 40 years now, so you can be sure your money is going toward a product that was meticulously built for the long haul. If you’re in the market for a new pack for your daily commute, be sure to give this one a closer look.