The Ortlieb Velocity backpack is sold as a messenger bag by Ortlieb, a company that makes outdoor gear and products for serious bikers as well as bike commuters, and it's a popular choice for the latter. It's waterproof and sports a unusual roll-top design that seals with a hook-and-loop closure instead of a zipper. Some reviewers wish for more pockets, but others say the single, large storage compartment gives easy access to everything.
Most can get by with one big pocket. Although some reviewers say they wish the 1,221-cubic-inch Ortlieb Velocity had more, smaller pockets, others say they are surprised by how much they like the single storage chamber. The anonymous author of the The Lazy Rando blog notes that the Ortlieb's roll-top closure makes it easy to carry odd-shaped items (just leave the top open), and users like how it provides easy access to everything in the pack. Reviewers say that the roll-top closes easily and securely -- a slender plastic bar helps keep it straight -- but several cyclists report that the corners of the roll-top stick out far enough to make checking behind them more difficult.
Although the Velocity doesn't have a laptop sleeve, some users still pack a computer using a protective sleeve they purchased elsewhere. The Velocity does have a removable inner pocket -- more like a tiny organizer -- for storing small items like a cell phone, wallet and keys; it is supposed to turn it into a small waist pack, but the move stumps a reviewer with Wired.
Well-ventilated, but has a strap issue. Reviewers like that the Ortlieb Velocity's padded back panel is ventilated to keep them cool on the road; they say it sits comfortably on their backs, and it feels lighter -- once it's on -- than other packs with a similar load. However, a couple of reviewers -- Charlie Sorrel with Wired and the anonymous author of the The Lazy Rando blog, who publishes periodic reviews of the Ortlieb over a couple of years -- are less than thrilled with the Velocity's straps.
Sorrel says the waist belt (which they both agree you don't always need) can be annoying even when tucked away, and it dangles low enough to reach the spokes of a bike tire. The blogger says the clips meant to secure extra length on the Velocity's straps broke early on, so tape is an improvised solution.
Many of the reviewers we found who comment on this bag use it for biking, but we found comments from walkers who find the pack equally comfortable and useful.
Completely waterproof. The Ortlieb Velocity is one of the few bags we've evaluated that's waterproof. Charlie Sorrel with Wired notes that "a few rolls [of the top closure] is enough to keep out the worst rainstorm." Other reviewers, posting on Wiggle.co.uk, confirm that this rucksack keeps the water out very well and say that it holds up well after years of use.
The Lazy Rando blogger posts an image showing what he describes as "wear and tear" after 2.5 years of use; it appears to be mostly scuff marks. Other reviewers agree that the Velocity holds up well to regular abuse: "Material & straps are robust & it's pretty well put together," says one posting on Wiggle.co.uk. The Velocity is only covered with a five-year warranty, falling short of the lifetime warranty offered on many less-expensive packs.
The Ortlieb Velocity isn't the cheapest backpack on the market, but, barring a few strap issues, owners say it's optimal for bike commuting. Opinions are split among walkers; some find they like having access to everything at once in the Velocity's single, large storage compartment, while others wish for more pockets to help with organizing. If your primary concern is a waterproof bag, this may be one of the best choices you can make.
Very good Charlie Sorrel recommends the Ortlieb Velocity, saying this waterproof pack keeps backs cool and gear dry. He says the shoulder straps are comfortable, but he finds the dangling adjustment straps annoying.
Review: Hands-On With the Ortlieb Velocity Backpack, Charlie Sorrel, April 7, 2009
2. The Early Show
Very good Paul Hochman, a contributing writer at Fast Company magazine, discusses backpacks with anchor Harry Smith. Hochman recommends the Ortlieb Velocity as one of the best packs for students. He especially likes the waterproof design, which keeps books and papers dry on the way to school.
Review: Best Back-to-School Backpacks, Editors of The Early Show, Aug. 19, 2008
Very good More than 100 contributors to Wiggle.co.uk give the Ortlieb Velocity a high average rating, and 94 percent of them would recommend it to a friend. They say it's well-made, but "the usual Ortlieb fixings" -- literal nuts and bolts -- protrude into the carrying compartment and can snag belongings.
Review: Ortlieb Velocity Rucksack, Contributors to Wiggle.co.uk, As of Sept. 2012
4. The Lazy Rando
Good The author, a self-professed enthusiast for all things outdoor, posts an update about how well an Ortlieb Velocity bag has fared after 2.5 years of regular use. He posts an image of the "wear and tear" it's showing (mostly scuffs) and says it's his go-to bag, but he wishes it had a better solution for containing extra length on the straps.
Review: Ortlieb Velocity Backpack 2.5 Year Review, Anonymous author, May 26, 2010
Good The author offers a short buying guide to help parents choose the right backpack for their kids (or themselves). He recommends the Ortlieb Velocity for high school, college and grad school students, especially if they live in a rainy climate, but he points out that if they aren't good at organizing, this might not be the best pack.
Review: Heavy Load? Best Backpacks for Kids (of All Ages), Paul Hochman, July 13, 2009