By Yasmeen Schuller
Most of us seem to be on the look out for the “perfect” bag to fit nearly every need. Sure, on days when I'm going to the grocery store, or carrying larger items, it's nice to have a pair of full-sized panniers on the rack of my touring bike. But I don’t always want to ride one bike and most of the time I don’t have that much to carry. So I’ve gotten in the habit of using a small backpack or messenger bag when the panniers are too much. Both options work well, but sometimes I need a tiny bit more cargo capacity than a messenger bag gives me, but I don’t want to carry around a set of panniers once I reach my destination.
So without realizing it, I’ve always been on the lookout for a midsize backpack but one that won’t make me sweaty and isn’t too heavy to carry. When I was asked if The Chainlink would like to review the North St. Belmont bag, I planned to pass it on for someone else to review. When the backpack arrived, I knew right away I wanted to be the one to try it out.
Why? Well, first off, this bag is pretty. They offer a lot of color options and the bag looks clean. It’s also very light (27.3 ounces / 773 grams).
Once I took a closer look, I realized they really thought this bag out – waterproof “ripstop” nylon liner makes it perfect for any weather. Just make sure to tighten the drawstring at the top before securing the buckles. There’s also a reflective stripe on the top of the bag and the one I am testing is a colorful, red and teal combination. This is perfect for me because I tend to dress like a “ninja” in all black and the bag makes me more visible to cars and other cyclists on the road. Yes, I still use my lights but it’s nice to be extra visible since many roads don’t have street lights.
The bag’s contents are secured by a drawstring and two sturdy buckles. There’s also a third buckle for a strap across the chest so the bag stays put as you pedal. For items you need to access quickly e.g. keys, there’s a front zipper pocket. Side pockets can store a small u-lock and/or a water bottle. I tend to put my water bottle on my bike, but if I use it as a day pack on a hike, this will be a nice-to-have addition.
A few extras include an internal laptop sleeve at the back of the bag and Velcro strips to attach additional internal pockets.
And what about getting sweaty? The pack has mesh back so it breathes better, and sits evenly on my back when I ride. I forget it’s there which is ideal for a bag – you don’t want to continue to adjust it every few blocks.
If pressed, the only downside? Even though it’s called a “Belmont” bag, the backpack is made in Portland. Ok, not really a downside but always nice to give a local business a shout-out. On the positive side, the bag is made in the U.S. so relatively speaking, it is a “local” bag.
I love the Belmont backpack. This bag has become my favorite go-to for quick rides across town, packing for a cx race, riding to the gym, and going out at night. Sure, it’s a bigger bag than a little purse would be but my little purses don’t store my u-lock very easily. I like the look of the bag well enough that I do use it most of the time. I’ve been testing it for two months and can highly recommend it. If you prefer to have the option of attaching it to a rack, they do have a pannier/backpack available including the Woodward Convertible (from $249). They also have a bigger, roll-top backpack, the Clinton (from $169) if you have more to carry.
North St Belmont Bag (MSRP $139). Pocket upgrades and add-ons are available at an additional cost.