Without even counting the spine-protecting enduro options, Deuter does 14 different mountain biking backpacks from the minimalist Race Lite to the monster Trans Alpine 30. The 19l max capacity Compact Exp sits in the center as a super versatile on/off bike all-rounder that'll still sneak into an in-flight luggage checker. It’s loaded with smart features and practical pocketing and backed up by a great warranty too, but comfort depends on how you get on with the distinctive stiff back fit.
Check out our full guide to the best MTB backpacks.
Design and specifications
The Compact is obviously a functional bag but Deuter has taken care to round off the corners for a smooth rear profile. You still get plastic helmet strap clips, reflective stripes at the base, stretch mesh bottle pockets on each flank, and side straps to cinch the bag down if it’s lightly loaded. There are pads, straps, and a neon yellow rain cover that pulls out of a zipped stowaway pocket at the base too.
Flip it round the front and the pre-formed straps are loaded with a slider for the adjustable chest strap, Velcro holds tabs for a hydration bladder hose, and the adjuster buckle for the very slim lower strap. The padded waist belt has zipped stretch mesh pockets for fast access to snacks/tools or whatever you want close at hand. The fact you can't get a smartphone in them is frustrating, but if you're not using the stretch mesh bottle pockets on the bag side for actual bottles you can stick your phone in there. The waist belt has elastic loops to keep spare length from flapping about – but will stretch round a 50in/163cm waist if necessary. The belt and shoulder yoke is fixed onto the bag but not articulated in any way though. The real standout feature in terms of fit is the two deep, gently S-curved Airstripe ventilated pads mounted on the relatively stiff back panel.
The back panel also helps stop objects inside poking you in the back, but the closest compartment to your spine is side-zipped and looped for a full-size bladder (not included). The bladder pocket also works really well for a laptop if you’re using the bag for business/studying. The main space has a single divider sleeve, a full-zip, and bellows pleat all the way round to expand the capacity from 14L to 19L. It also has handy bilingual emergency incident instructions printed inside. The outer section has a mix of mesh and solid fabric pockets including a pump sleeve with an elastic strap. There’s a zipped security pocket at the back with a key clip in too.
Build quality is great throughout (although the joining embroidery on the webbing zip pull tabs looks slightly random) and you get a lifetime repair or replace warranty for the bag however it ends up damaged.
It’s not the storage or the warranty that matters most though but the relatively stiff back and raised pads of the Compact EXT. While the Airstripes have mold-able alloy spars inside them so you can gently curve the profile to suit your spine it’s still got a stiff and prescriptive feel overall. If that works for you then the ventilation gains as air flows down your back are genuinely noticeable. As long as you got the ride height right using the shoulder straps and broad waist belt there were no pressure points even when heavily loaded. The stiff back does make it more prone to shift about on steeper descents or when braking heavily so it’s better suited to XC/trail/touring use rather than full-on enduro jiving and diving. The padding and inserts – plus other features and generally sturdy build mean it’s relatively heavy too, so check out the Deuter Race bags if saved grams matter to you.
If it does fit you and your riding though then the storage and features all work really well for all sorts of loading and usage. That sturdy build and awesome warranty make the price an absolute bargain too, so it’s no surprise Deuter has some very loyal long-term customers.
A super-versatile, well-thought-out, all-round biking backpack that’ll work for business/school use too. Build quality is excellent and you get an excellent warranty. You’ll need to get on with the relatively stiff twin-stripe back to benefit from all these bonuses though.
Tech Specs: Deuter Compact Exp 14
- Price: £90 / €110
- Capacity: 14 + 5 liter
- Weight: 1,010g
- Colors: Black/Graphite, Cream/Steel blue