The Deuter Attack 16 is possibly the best cycling backpack for its size that I have used. It has the right amount of space and the pocket organisation is really useful without not overloading you with more kit than you need. It’s fantastically comfortable on your back regardless of how much kit you stuff it with and it offers the added protection of a full-size SAStech back protector should anything go wrong.
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The Deuter Attack 16 is designed for the more adventurous all-day aggressive trail riders who are pushing the limit of what they and their bike can handle and are prepared for the inevitable crash. The Attack is designed to be worn tight against your back and carry your riding kit comfortably and without movement, whether you are descending at speed or winching your way back up.
I'm going to come straight out away and say that although I have crashed wearing the Attack 16 none of them have been serious. For the purposes of this review, I'm not going to go out of my way to test the full protection level offered but focus on what it's like to live with on a day-to-day basis.
Deuter Attack 16 back pack - Technical details
The Attack 16 has excellent hip pockets that I can actually reach and use for mini tools and car keyfobs or energy bars and gels. Plus it has a natty sunglasses holder on the shoulder strap at chest height on both side – good for right or left-handers. Okay, that one – I’m not sure about it as I think on my face or inside the bag is the safest place for my glasses but I get that a long section of woods and dark glasses might be a bad idea. Whichever side you don’t use for your glasses you can use to route a hydration drink tube if you’re using one. The bag works easily with left or right routing and storage.
As for other pockets and dividers, it has plenty for long all-day rides with clothes changes and large first aid kits if you’re leading a ride. It has the usual knee/elbow protector stowage area under the bottom of the bag where the waterproof cover is stowed in a very discrete pocket. It has two outer stretchy bottle holder side pockets with just fit a standard 750ml bottle. It certainly won’t be falling out.
The Attack 16 back pack can carry both an open face or full face helmet. The full-face option eluded me for ages until the strap actually dropped out from a pocket I hadn’t even noticed until then.
The top of the pack offers the usual padded glasses or phone pocket but with a divider so it’s useful for both at once. And for those that want more protection for their £1XXX phone, Deuter has got you covered with a stealthy slim full width pocket sandwiched between the padded back protector and your hydration pocket. You could also use this for a slim wallet or your Passport if you’re traveling across borders. The only issue is I’ve forgotten I’ve put stuff in there and grumbled about forgetting it on days out only to find it later. Maybe you only do that once but it’s that out of the way it’s easy to forget.
At the base of the Attack 16, Deuter has specced a very heavy-duty and slightly waxy feeling water-resistant base to cope with everyday life on the trail. In which is housed a waterproof cover in fluoro yellow for safety. The cover is clipped in and fits under the top of the shoulder straps in use with an elastic strap so it won't blow off. It is easily detached for cleaning and features a light attachment point for late-night safety.
Deuter Attack 16 - Interior details
Inside the Attack 16, there is the usual main compartment for the large items, a sleeve, and hanger for a bladder (up to 3L) should you use one, and the TUV back protector sleeve.
The Attack 16 comes with a TUV/GS-approved SAS-Tec performance level 1 back protector to help keep your back in one piece should the worst happen on your ride. It’s not a narrow skinny protector, it’s a full-width version that moulds to your back as you ride with it. It does mean that when you’re using the protector in the pack (it is removable) it does add quite a bit of weight (355g). But really, if you riding hard technical mountain trails, leave it in. I’ve not tested this, but should you want a higher level of protection a level 2 SAS-TEC 500-2 protector is available.
Usefully if you don’t have the pack protector fitted, the inside of the sleeve is bright lime green and shows through the mesh sleeve with a skull and crossbones logo. This acts as a strong reminder it’s missing when you’re packing it and is a neat piece of safety design and hard to miss.
Inside the main pocket is a mini emergency guide of what to do should you have an accident and need help. Who to call, how to stand and wave for helicopter assistance, and immediate ABC first aid mini guide with breaths to compressions which is bang up to date. It might be just enough to make a difference.
The lower organiser pocket has multiple dividers and sleeves, one zip section, and a key fob clip, but oddly, there is no pump sleeve in this bag. Perhaps everybody uses CO2 these days. Although for such a brilliantly specced pack it does seem like an oversight.
Deuter Attack 16 - Performance
Spending time adjusting the bag so that the straps are in the right place for you will pay off on the bike. Once you have this pack correctly fitted it doesn’t move at all. You can ride your heart out and the pack stays put and remains supremely comfortable with Deuter’s raised back channel cushions leaving enough space to get air to your back while carrying the weight of the pack as unobtrusively as possible.
On top of the shoulder straps are adjusters to pull the bag in tight or release it to allow it to hang back depending on your riding position, or comfort. The sternum strap slides up and down and is adjustable to pull the straps away from your armpits and, of course, it also houses the now ubiquitous emergency whistle which hopefully you’ll never use.
The side hip pockets offer adjustment straps to help pull the pack closer to your back to make sure you are getting full contact with the pack and therefore the protector. It doesn’t really take that long as once you have it on your back, the straps are all in easy-to-reach positions and you can feel the difference that adjusting them offers, especially when fully loaded.
Ergonomically it’s the finest backpack I’ve used although it can take some time to fettle with all the adjustments in front of a mirror but, believe me, it is worth it. The pack I have is in a ghastly turmeric colour that I absolutely love, but you can get a more subtle version in grey and grey if it's too much for you.
The only fly in the ointment of this pack is the price - £180 so it’s a serious investment. But if you ride big mountains, push yourself and your bike to the limits, have a habit of crashing or carry a chunk of kit with you (or all four) that back protector is going to be worth its weight. The whole pack is beautifully made with tight neat stitching, reflective details, excellent straps and multiple levels of adjustment at the waist, sternum, and tops of shoulders. If you have ever had a decent hiking pack, many of these features will look familiar to you, it’s all top-grade stuff.
Liam was not so fond of the waist belt adjusters on his Flyt 14-pack but I love them. I like the pull-forward design and find it much simpler than the pull left or right to tighten. Plus I think it’s easier to loosen quickly for a little more air if you need that. Once you have found your waist fit you can wind up the loose ends and secure them with the elastic strap keeper whilst still offering a little bit of play at the waist.
It doesn’t come with a bladder which is fine for me as I have plenty but it might be an issue if you don’t have one. At least this way you can buy whichever system you prefer.
Deuter Attack 16 - Verdict
Other Backpacks well worth a look are Deuter's own Flyt 14 which Liam reviewed in June. It's lighter than the Attack 16 1,230g vs 1,490g but has less storage and fewer pockets, with no external padded sunglasses pocket at the top. It does have a pump sleeve though.
Jim reviewed the £200 Evoc Trail Pro 16 which matches the Attack 16 spec for spec although is lighter again than the Flyt 14, it misses the external carry straps that both Deuter's offer. The Camelbak offers backpacks and protectors separately, so the £140 14L Mule plus a protector works out at £186, but if you just want the bag initially, you can add the protector later, plus it comes with a bladder for that price.
For me, only the lack of strap keepers on the shoulder straps, the lack of a specific pump sleeve, and the price blot the almost-perfect score for this bag. It’s expensive and that’s that. But in the same way, people often buy the best helmet they afford, buying a super comfortable multi-adjustable back protector specced backpack is a sensible solid investment and should certainly last you a long time. Longer than your helmet for starters.