backpacks cactus zero osprey zealot 16

Cycling Backpacks Faceoff

Whether I’m snowboarding or mountain biking I prefer to ride with a back pack. There’s no arguing that you’re more likely to end up with a sweat stripe for doing so, but I’m personally a fan of the convenience and faux protective feeling that comes with wearing one. I’m currently looking for a new cycle friendly pack so I took two for a whirl and put them through their paces.


First up was the Cactus Zero. Now as a disclaimer, I’m a massive Cactus fan and half my wardrobe seems to be made of canvas. New Zealand made is always a winner in my book and given their construction methods and choice of materials, you know that it will join cockroaches and Keith Richards as nuclear holocaust survivors.


While it’s a small capacity pack, it’s easily big enough to carry a few spares, tools and a jersey, so it’s ideally suited for one or part day rides. The Zero has been crafted with cycling in mind with a padded and anti-sweat back panel as well as a reflective strip for those after dark road bashes. I first thought the straps were a little light but given what you’re likely, and able, to carry they’re more than adequate. My favourite features were an elastic pocket inside to keep your wallet, keys and cellphone separate from your riding gear and a mesh pocket on the outside, perfect for stashing wet gear if you’ve stopped for an impromptu swim. Carrying a pump and patches, the Zero saved me a long walk home on an after work ride but if size is an issue it’s worthwhile checking out its bigger brother named Henry.


Next up, Osprey Zealot 16. While the Cactus was simple and functional the Osprey is a feature loaded hydration pack. While the rear suspension technical drawing graphic was a little too flashy for my taste it goes to show that there was only one intended user when they designed it, pedal pushers. The Zealot has features for just about every tool or accessory a cyclist needs. First up there’s the removable bladder for carrying water and a ventilated back panel to keep your shirt dry. There are also helmet clips for conventional and full faced helmets, stash pockets galore and compression pockets for shins guards and the like. There’s even a removable tool roll and clip-on bike light attachment.


I took this pack out for an overnight trip and while best suited as an everyday pack I found it can hold a small sleeping bag, limited supplies and some hut clothes at a push. If you combine it with a rear carrier for your sleeping bag it becomes a great (sized) overnight pack and the helmet clips are an awesome feature for ditching your lid on those long backcountry climbs. If you’re looking for a technical pack then check out the full range at