A Buyer's Guide To Backrest Bags - You Can Take It With You

There are few things in motorcycling as enjoyable as hitting the road for a multiday tour. At the very least, the ever-changing scenery provides a great way to unwind and refresh your spirit. While the biggest difficulty is often finding the time for such an undertaking, the second largest problem is figuring out how to carry all your gear. Saddlebags are fine for a day or two, but beyond that-especially if you're carrying camping equipment or a passenger-even the largest ones won't hold enough. Enter the backrest (aka sissy bar) bags. They range in capacity from small backpacks to walk-in closets. And you can always pair them with saddlebags if you need even more room.

Aside from added capacity, backrest bags have a few advantages over other pieces of moto luggage. The first is their mounting systems. Unlike saddlebags, which usually require specific mounting brackets, sissy bar bags will work with almost any backrest. All the bags in this guide have adjustable mounting systems to fit different sizes of backrests. And if you're traveling solo, you won't need a rack, as you can mount the bag in front of the backrest on the passenger seat. In that position the rider can use the bag as a back support, and with a rack, a solo rider can add even more gear (but if you need to carry that much, we hope you're at least crossing the continent). Finally, unlike permanently mounted bags, backrest bags mount and remove quickly, making that end-of-the-day haul to your hotel or tent a thing of ease.

There are a number of things to consider when shopping for a backrest bag. The most obvious is size: Be realistic in considering the length and type of trips you take rather than just choosing the largest bag. Many of these bags have detachable roll bags or top cases that make them more versatile. When comparing the volume of one bag with the next, remember that the sizes given occasionally include the side pockets in the width of the bag. Similarly, sometimes pocket volumes have not been calculated, and the total may be a little low. Also, if you have a particularly bulky item, pay attention to dimensions to ensure it will fit inside.

Next, make sure the mounting system actually will fit your backrest-first by checking the specs before buying, and then by test-fitting it to your bike before your actual departure date. Style and materials may be factors for you as well: Nowadays you can choose from traditional rectangular bags made of leather or vinyl, as well as more modern-designed bags made with heavy-duty nylon fabrics. Finally, buy a bag that has the features you want. If you're concerned about storage capacity, choose one with a big main compartment. If you like to have your gear organized, get a bag with lots of pockets. Ride at night? Then look for reflective material on the back and sides.

Just be sure to follow the instructions for mounting the bag to your motorcycle. There's nothing worse than arriving at your destination and realizing the bag fell off somewhere in the previous 150 miles...

Auburn Leather Company Pac-Mate Luggage Rack Bag $644
Leather. Classic and classy. The Pac-Mate Luggage Rack Bag is all that and more. Start with large panels of thick, durable top-grain leather and back them with strategically placed plastic reinforcement panels and a hard plastic frame around the inside top of the main bag. Treat the leather to be UV- and water-repellent, lock-stitch the seams for strength, and then beef it up with rivets on all the straps and stress points. This is a bag that can stand up to hard riding. Both bags and the pockets open with quick-release buckles (hidden under the traditional leather straps and chrome buckles) and lids that flip up. There's even decorative piping around the edge of the lids. The attachment system consists of one adjustable wide strap and two leather-cord security straps. The top bag can be mounted by itself to the backrest. On each side of the main bag is a very large pocket. But the coolest feature is that those pockets can be unzipped from the bag and have backpack/carry straps on the back-neat! On top of all that, the Pac-Mate is made in the USA.
Size (main bag): 11.5"H x 20.5"W x 10"D
Size (top bag): 8.5"H x 12.25"W x 10"D
Volume: 2358ci (main bag)/1041ci (top bag)
Warranty: Lifetime
Fieldsheer Micro Maxi Back Rest Bag $60
If you think backrest bags are all the same, the Fieldsheer Micro Maxi Back Rest Bag may give you pause. With a three-side zippered top and a dust flap the MMBRB swallows a lot of gear, but when you're done with your trip (or on your way to the grocery store) it compacts down a bit smaller than a notebook-computer bag, still attached to the motorcycle's backrest and providing a small but useful pocket on the back. The main compartment holds a heap o' gear, and there are five external pockets of different sizes-two on each side of the bag and one large pocket on the back. The zippers are heavy-duty and have large, easy-to-grab pulls. An included rain cover stores in one of the outside pockets. For off-the-bike convenience there's a carry handle on the top as well as two side handles. Reflective logos adorn the back of the bag and the rain cover for nighttime visbility. The bag is constructed of heavy-duty ballistics nylon material.
Size (expanded): 18.5"H x 14.75"W x 10.5"D
Size (collapsed): 9.5"H x 11"W x 6.25"D
Volume: 2865ci
Warranty: 1 year
Fox Creek Leather Classic Leather Travel Bag/Carroll Leather Road Pack 306 $99
One of two all-leather packs in this guide, the Classic Leather Travel bag doesn't use any bag stiffeners except around the perimeter of the expansion section (which opens via zipper). Though it's sewn from smaller, remnant pieces of leather rather than large panels, the Classic offers solid construction and a full nylon lining. The main compartment opens with a zipper going around three sides of the top. The four side pockets are large enough for carrying all your gadgets: cell phone, wallet, etc. There is a carry handle on each side of the bag as well as additional padded straps to convert it into a backpack. The roll bag has a large zippered opening and is held on top of the bag by three straps with quick-release buckles-a bit of overkill. The straps are also too long for the job (though they can be shortened). Conversely, the mounting system is simple, relying on a sleeve and three sturdy straps for security. Since the weather can't be controlled, a rain cover is included that fits over both the main and roll bags.
Size (expanded): 19.5"H x 16"W x 11"D
Size (collapsed): 19.5"H x 16"W x 6"D
Size (roll bag): 14"W x 9" diameter
Volume: 3432ci (expanded)/1872ci (collapsed)/891ci (roll bag)Warranty: 30 days
Iron Rider Luggage Motorcycle Luggage System Bags Start At $40
The Motorcycle Luggage System consists of six different bags that can be mixed and matched for more than 30 combinations, stacked up to three high. They fasten together with adjustable straps that clip onto D-rings on each bag. Attachment is made simple, with one or two hook-and-loop straps (depending on bag size) that go around the backrest plus safety straps. The bags feature heavy-duty nylon exteriors with stiffener panels to maintain shape. The bottom of each bag is made of a tough-looking "diamond-plate"-design rubber. We sampled the main bag, large roll bag and roll bag. The MB has a zippered expansion section, a very large zippered pocket and a mesh pocket on each side. Inside are two mesh pockets and a rain cover, while a shoulder strap and detachable carry handle are featured outside. The LRB zips open on each side as well as the front. It includes a rain cover, shoulder strap and detachable carry handle. Finally, the RB has a zippered top opening like the other bags, as well as mesh pockets inside and its own rain cover.
Size (main bag): 11.5"H x 23"W x 11.5"D
Size (large roll bag): 10"H x 18"W x 10.5"D
Size (roll bag): 6.5"H x 14"W x 10.5"D
Volume: 3042ci (main bag)/1890ci (large roll bag)/956ci (roll bag)
Warranty: 2 years
Kuryakyn Ultra Tour Bag $140
The Ultra Tour Bag is best described as a small steamer trunk, with its large and nearly square main compartment deeper than any other in this group. Kryakyn claims this depth makes the bag very comfortable when used as a backrest by a solo rider. The heavy-duty nylon exterior is backed by plastic stiffeners to increase rigidity. It's large enough to fit a full-face helmet and a week's worth of clothes. If you pick up a few souvenirs, each side of the bag has a 2-inch zippered expansion panel, and there are 16 D-rings for lashing on more kit. And if that isn't enough space, each side also has two large, zippered pockets, each with a 2-inch zippered expansion panel. The bag opens via either side or a large, zippered top flap with a zippered mesh pocket inside as well as on each side of the interior. Bike attachment is via a wide hook-and-loop belt plus two sewn-in security straps. When things get wet, don't worry: The zippers are all waterproof, and there is a rain cover for added protection.
Size (expanded): 15"H x 20"W x 15"D
Size (collapsed): 15"H x 16"W x 15"D
Volume: 4500ci (open)/3600ci (closed)
Warranty: 1 year
Nelson-Rigg RiggPaks CTB-950 King Tourer $195
A modern-style backrest bag, the RiggPaks King Tourer has a heavy-duty nylon outer material backed by a combination of foam and plastic that helps protect your gear as well as maintain the shape of the bag when it's less than full. When combined with the included roll bag, there's enough storage capacity to make it across the country-and stow a few souvenirs on the way by using the King Tourer's zippered expansion section. The main compartment zips open around three sides like a suitcase. On the back are a large organizer pocket and a smaller envelope-size pocket. Each side has two large pockets, the bottom one expandable for even more gear. The roll bag has a large, zippered opening and a small pocket on each side; it can be mounted to the main bag as well as mounted by itself to the bike. Other nice features include hidden backpack straps, loops on the bottom of the main bag to securely cable-lock it to your bike, and reflective material on the back of both bags.
Size (expanded): 18"H x 14"W x 12"D
Size (collapsed): 18"H x 14"W x 8"D
Size (roll bag): 13"W x 9" diameter
Volume: 3024ci (expanded)/2016ci (collapsed)/827ci (roll bag)
Warranty: Lifetime
Rapid Transit Division Tail Frame Bag $170
The Division Tail Frame Bag and the Nelson-Rigg King Tourer appear to share the same basic design and architecture. That's actually a good thing, because the DTF Bag has the same high-quality construction and most of the features of the King Tourer. And if there's a feature this bag doesn't have, you don't need it. Made of heavy-duty wind- and water-resistant nylon, with other nylon fabrics giving it a high-tech look, the DTF has foam and plastic stiffeners throughout. The main bag zips open like a suitcase and has a 3-inch zippered expansion section, two pockets on each side (the bottom ones expandable), a large organizer pocket on the front plus a pocketbook-size pocket. There are backpack straps, two shoulder straps, a carry handle on top and a bewildering array of straps for fastening to the backrest. This bag managed to make the attachment system complicated, and we had to go on the Internet to find instructions. Nevertheless, attachment to the bike is very secure, and there is even a detachable pad included with the mounting system so the passenger isn't reclining against straps.
Size (expanded): 18"H x 23"W x 13"D
Size (collapsed): 18"H x 23"W x 10"D
Size (roll bag): 15"W x 11" diameter
Volume: 5382ci (expanded)/4140ci (collapsed)/1425ci (roll bag)
Warranty: 1 year
River Road Sissy Bar Tall Trunk $125
When you don't need to bring the kitchen sink, this bag may be just the ticket. About the overall size of a small suitcase, the Tall Trunk has a zippered, three-sided opening. The interior of the bag even looks the part, having plastic stiffeners around the sides and attached clothing hold-down straps with quick-release fasteners. The exterior is made of heavy-duty nylon with a water- and UV-repellent coating and has foam and plastic stiffeners throughout. The interior fabric is lighter-weight but still-sturdy nylon cloth. The front of the bag features a zippered organizer pocket and second pocket. Inside the main cover are two organizer pockets, one zippered and one mesh. Each side of the bag has a tall zippered pocket plus a shallower zippered pocket that is perfect for maps and airline tickets. If you need to carry more gear, the top has detachable, quick-release buckled straps and six metal D-rings. Attachment to the bike is via two large hook-and-loop straps plus additional safety straps. A rain cover hides in its own pocket, and there are three carry handles. Reflective material is on the back and sides, too.
Size: 18"H x 16"W x 6.5"D
Volume: 1872ci
Warranty: 1 year
Saddlemen S3500 Deluxe Sissy Bar Bag $200
This bag is a nice mix of modern materials with classic features like leather-look pocket flaps and chrome buckles and straps. Made of UV-, water- and rain-resistant heavy-duty nylon, the bag's rigid construction comes by way of plastic reinforcements, which makes the bag quite durable but also adds a fair amount of weight. This is a big bag, too, capable of holding two full-face helmets. Each side opens by zipper, and each "door" has three mesh organizer pockets inside. The front of the bag features a large organizer pocket and a second cargo pocket. Each side has two pockets, one with a traditional buckle and the other a smaller mesh pocket with a retention strap. On top is a carry handle and a small, zippered pocket containing the rain cover for the main and roll bags. The Saddlemen also includes removable, padded backpack straps and a shoulder strap. The roll bag (not pictured) attaches to the main bag with four quick-release buckles and can also be attached by itself to the backrest. Straps on top of the main bag can be used to fasten on other gear.
Size: 22"H x 16"W x 11"D
Size (roll bag): 14"W x 9.25" diameter
Volume: 3872ci/941ci (roll bag)
Warranty: 1 year
T-Bags TBU450 LoneStar with Top Roll & Net $289
The LoneStar is another well-constructed backrest bag made of heavy-duty nylon. The bag is insulated with closed-cell foam and has a plastic bottom stiffener for support. Bike attachment is simple, with an adjustable over-the-backrest sleeve and two nylon straps for security. While it looks similar to some of the other bags, its innovative feature is the main bag's opening-when mounted on the bike, the top flap unzips and opens about halfway. Then, rather than just unzipping the rest of the way (and spilling all the contents onto the ground), the front leans out 45 degrees, held in place by gussets. When the bag is lying down, the gussets can be separated to fully open it. There's a rain cover in a zippered pocket on the main bag, a top-mounted carry handle and padded backpack straps in another zippered pocket. The main bag also has a large organizer pocket on the front and two zippered pockets on each side. The roll bag contains a foam stiffener and a small pocket on each side and can be mounted on the bike independently of the main bag.
Size: 19"H x 16"W x 9"D
Size (roll bag): 16.5"W x 9" diameter
Volume: 2736ci/1050ci (roll bag)
Warranty: Lifetime
Tour Master Cruiser II Sissybar Bag XL $260
The style of the Cruiser II Sissybar Bag XL is pure old-school, but the materials and construction are modern-day. The bag is made of a leatherlike synthetic material claimed to be more durable than older vinyl materials, is stain-, mildew- and rust-resistant, and is nearly maintenance-free. The three outside pockets have a Velcro-fastening lid for dust and moisture protection, and each pocket's big enough for a pair of average-sized binoculars. The front straps have hidden, quick-release fasteners that make accessing the main opening easier. However, to mount or remove the roll bag, the chromed buckle needs to be undone in order to thread the straps through the mounting points. The roll bag also has two chromed slide clips for added mounting security. There is a small pocket on each side, and the roll bag's opening is somewhat small. A neoprene pad on the bottom of the main bag keeps your motorcycle shiny. And if the skies open up, there is a full rain cover for the main and roll bags.
Size: 15.5"H x 25"W x 11"D
Size (roll bag): 8.5"H x 16"W x 7"D
Volume: 4263ci (per manufacturer)/952ci (roll bag)
Warranty: 1 year