The Oxford Aqua Evo 22L Backpack has been my daily driver for three months now, becoming my bag of choice for a steady (and sometimes wet) commute on my Honda CB650, or a leisurely ride to the MotoGP at Silverstone on something more sporty. It’s not only a versatile and comfortable motorcycle backpack, but great to carry around for general day-to-day use.
Due to the scorching summer we had earlier in the year (remember that?!), it took a while before I could test this rucksack in the conditions for which it was truly designed – wet weather. However, when the heavens finally opened, the Aqua Evo did not disappoint. With enough capacity to pack for work, or even an overnight trip, I found it to have everything I needed, and for a more affordable price than the others I was considering (at the time of writing, the Oxford Aqua Evo has a street price of £55.99).
If the IPX-6 waterproof rating didn’t already, the PVC tarpaulin material that this bag is made of fills me with confidence when riding in the wet. The seams are well covered and appear to be backed with an additional layer where straps connect, ensuring its waterproof claims. The only zip on the rucksack has a waterproof layer that’s well made and not likely to give way or catch any time soon.
The material is lightweight and feels strong, although it can easily crease, particularly if the bag isn’t all that full. The bag itself doesn’t have all that much in the way of supporting structure, so will fold easily if needed. This is almost a drawback, as if you were to lean it (when mostly empty) against something, it won’t hold its own and will fold over.
My only other gripe with the build is that the interior is black. Having seen other people using Kriega waterproof packs, for instance, the white liner makes it much easier to find bits and bobs that have dropped to the bottom.
Using the backpacks' only compartment (excluding the small zip pocket), I’ve been able to fully load this bag with everything I could possibly need before it became a little too heavy for general riding.
The material is well-shaped, allowing you to fill the Aqua Evo right the way from the bottom and has a removable laptop compartment complete with additional sections for pens, cables, etc although this does reduce the available space for general filling ever so slightly.
With the bag’s roll-top waterproof opening, you’re able to maximise the capacity by only folding over once if you’re confident the rain isn’t about to arrive! Otherwise, it’s two or three rolls to ensure a good seal.
In addition to the main compartment, the Oxford Aqua Evo 22L also has a zip section for easy-access items, although this does become a little restricted when the bag is fully loaded. Inside is a small clip that you could attach keys so, if you want. There’s even a couple of MOLLE loops on the side to strap other compatible items onto, or to attach a carabiner.
The bag fits comfortably on my back and has plenty of adjustment room for the straps – perhaps a little too much in places. This backpack offers fastening at the waist, chest, and, obviously, over the shoulders. I like that the chest straps in particular are fully-adjustable both in terms of width and positioning up/down, with a sturdy fastening mechanism.
Areas where there could be excess strap offer velcro wraps to keep them tidy, although I’ve found that this is of little use, particularly for the long shoulder straps; no matter how much you tighten down the excess, the wind soon catches and you’ll see them flapping about in your mirrors. Having said that, I understand that with their length comes new possibilities, such as mounting it over the tail of your motorcycle.
This rucksack comes in a variety of colours but I find the black to be subtle, sporting a nice orange/black combination and black reflective elements. These reflective sections are a nice touch as they’re not visible by day but reflect well during night conditions.
The section of the bag directly against your back has an ‘Airtech’ feature, effectively pushing the rucksack a centimetre or so off of your back with the use of semi-dense foam pads. This allows for additional airflow between your back and the product. If I had to criticise, I’d say this could be a little more comfortable, as after a three hour ride I could feel the push of the individual pads.
The waterproof opening, using the somewhat standardised roll-top, feels robust, is quick to use and has strong, well-stitched clips. I particularly like that the clips on this backpack are lightweight, using little plastic while feeling strong and durable.
The outside zip pocket allows quick and easy access to small items such as a wallet, and can even accommodate a modern, tablet-sized phone. While the zip does look like it’d resist more than a light shower, the inside of the pocket offers more waterproofing material, isolating any water that may get into the pocket from the inside of the bag itself.
The removable laptop compartment is a convenient addition for commuters, with room enough for a 15” laptop and associated accessories. I like that you’re able to remove this entirely for two main reasons: Firstly, if you wanted to fill the bag with clothes, etc for two or three nights away. And secondly, I use the laptop section as a bag itself when off the bike.
Besides riding in the rain, I’ve given this backpack a dressing down with hose, yet there was still no evidence of any water inside the backpack. I did however note a touch of water had made it into the zip pocket on the front of the pack; so perhaps keep your tablet-sized phone out of that section if you’re expecting a downpour! It’s worth reiterating, however, that this area is isolated from the bag contents itself, and no water made it into the physical main compartment.
The waterproof PVC tarpaulin outer means that it’s easy to clean even with lorry after lorry spraying you with road dirt and grime.
Oxford is well established as an affordable brand and at this price (I’ve found it for a fraction over £55 at the time of writing), I’ve had a hard time finding a worthy competitor. Depending on your price range, here are a few others that you might consider:
This is a well-made, fully waterproof backpack that’s lightweight, comfortable and durable. Whether it's for short trips, commuting or touring, the Aqua Evo 22L has a great amount of usable capacity. The fitment and padding provide a comfortable riding experience, with a vast range of adjustment and possibilities.
Overall, I’m impressed!