Oxford Aqua Evo Waterproof Backpacks – for wet commutes?

by and 7

Are the Oxford Aqua Evo backpacks the waterproof luggage solution you’ve been looking for?

The Oxford Aqua Evo bags both have a waterproof rating of IPX-6, which means they should be waterproof against all but total submersion. They come in both a 12 litre and 22 litre volume, in black only – though there are some reflective trims lurking in the blackness. Both are a fairly simple construction, with a main space inside the main section with just a small zipped pouch, a roll top closure, and a small zipped pocket on the front. Hannah and Amanda have been testing them out.

Oxford Aqua Evo

Hannah – the 12 litre bag

I found that the 12 litre bag was only just big enough to fit a small laptop in a soft case – though the 22 litre bag comes with a padded sleeve and would be better suited to carrying a larger laptop. With my laptop slotted against the back, I found there was barely room for a light change of clothes – but not shoes, or jeans and a jumper. If you ride to work and only need to carry a lunchbox and spare underwear, there’s probably just enough space in the 12 litre bag.

oxford aqua waterproof backpack

There isn’t quite as much space as you might at first think – the roll top closure means you need to leave enough fabric to roll and close the top of the bag. Especially if you have an inflexible wide object like a book or laptop in there, you can struggle to get the fasteners to meet, and scrimping on the rolling undermines the waterproof rating. In addition, it is quite narrow at the bottom of the pack, so you need to think about what goes in first to se the space efficiently.

oxford aqua waterproof backpack

The front pocket is very slim, not large enough for an iPhone 7+ in a case, and barely big enough for a bunch of keys, especially if you’ve already stuffed the main part of the bag. Instead, for keys I’d use the small zipper pocket on the inside of the pack. I did however find the external pocket to be mostly waterproof, only letting in water after a sustained assault from sky and rear wheel spray. That said, it is the weakest point in the bag’s waterproofing (it’s only ‘water resistant’), and even if my phone did fit in there I wouldn’t want to put it in there for a wet commute. It’s not totally clear to me whether the bottom of the pack has on occasion leaked, or whether it’s that water has got in through the pocket and wicked into the contents in the main bag, but in the very worst weather I have had occasion to get to work and find my clean socks (or worse, pants) are damp.

Oxford Aqua Evo

The bag’s straps are a simple affair – there’s no significant support or weight distribution to the pack. The padded back is comfortable, though the pads are quite narrow. Particularly if I stuffed the bag full or on a descent, it could feel a little unstable, especially off road. It’s not a pack I would choose for off road rides, despite its waterproofing and chest strap, as I’d want something with a waist strap for increased stability.

For regular commuters with a light load the 12 litre bag is a good waterproof solution, though I would like to see a brighter colour and larger reflective details for such road-centric use.

Amanda – the 22 litre pack

I find the shape, or at least the way the pack fits when it’s got stuff in, to be really quite awkward. It’s like a round-bottom sack with poor weight distribution. That said, on the occasions when I have used the laptop sleeve that came with this larger 22L size, I have found the structure a bit more backpack-like, as the sleeve flattens out the load. The internal stash pockets for small items take this from being a vast space to a more organised pack. This one has a waist strap that does hold the pack closer to your back, but it doesn’t do much for the weight shifting side to side.

That’s my negatives out the way. What I like about this pack is how absolutely waterproof it is. I’ve had my favourite camera in there through torrential rain and sloppy rides, and I’ll confidently hose the pack down before emptying it. Hannah doesn’t seem to have had the same experience, and all I can think of is that I’ve never filled the pack (due to the terrible weight distribution), which means I have the roll top rolled up the most it can. But as for seams failing or the material itself, I haven’t had problems.

I haven’t seen a benefit in the back paddings, as it simply doesn’t fit my torso well enough. The pack doesn’t seem to sit against my back, it’s got good contact with my upper back and then flops around lower down. I do wonder if I’ve asked too much of what is possibly supposed to be a commuter pack. I’ve done steep technical descents with this pack, on days I’ve needed my camera to stay dry.

Overall

Oxford Aqua Evo

We’ve found both packs are best used when lightly loaded. Unless you’re really never going to carry much more than your keys, wallet and phone, then you may do well to take advantage of the waist strap, laptop sleeve and slightly wider shape of the 22 litre version. If you just want a simple pack that doesn’t weigh a tonne but will get your laptop to work in a rainstorm, then this could be worth a look.

Review Info

Brand: Oxford
Product: Aqua Evo Backpack
From: oxfordproducts.com
Price: £79.99 (22L), £64.99 (12L)
Tested: by Hannah and Amanda for
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