These Are the Best Laptop Backpacks We’ve Tried and Tested

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The Best Backpack

Tom Bihn Synik 22

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Most Stylish

Rains Backpack Mini

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Best Budget Bag

Herschel Heritage Backpack

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Best for Travel

Tumi Velocity Backpack

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A backpack is the best, most efficient, and most comfortable way to carry your stuff—there’s a reason why you don’t see people hiking the Appalachian Trail with a tote. But finding the right one that works for you and your lifestyle isn’t easy. Whether you’re commuting to an office or school, running to your local coffee shop, or going on a weekend trip, a good backpack will look good and keep your stuff organized. It’s easier on your neck and shoulders than an overstuffed purse or briefcase (and miles better than trying to hold everything in your hands).

Whatever your needs, we have a fit and functional backpack for you. We inspect backpacks for a suspended, padded laptop sleeve; durable fabrics and high-quality components; and versatile storage options. I carried them around on planes and on bikes, while hiking and walking around conferences. If I didn’t have anything that I needed to carry, I put loose weights in them and swung and dragged them around.

Don’t see anything you like here? Check out our other guides, including the Best Recycled Bags, Best Laptop Totes and Purses, Best Messenger Bags, Best Camera Bags, and the Best Travel Bags.

Updated June 2024: We added the Tumi Velocity Backpack, the Calpak Mini Convertible Diaper Backpack, the Evergoods Civic Panel Loader, and the Po Campo Bedford Backpack Pannier, and removed some older picks. We also updated links and prices.

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  • Photograph: Adrienne So

    The Best Backpack

    Tom Bihn Synik 22

    When I travel for work, I usually carry a Tom Bihn bag. The compact clamshell Synik 22 is my favorite. It’s a small, low-profile bag that nonetheless fits a ton of stuff, thoughtfully placed and designed. For example, the zippered water bottle pocket is located in the middle of the backpack instead of on the side, so it won’t tip you off balance. The pen pockets are located in flaps on the side rather than in the middle top, for convenient access when you’re walking. The exterior is made from Bluesign-certified 400-denier ballistic nylon with top-of-the-line YKK water-repellent coiled zippers that are three times the size of normal daypack toothed zippers. You stand a better chance of lopping a finger off than you do getting this zipper stuck. Each bag has a lifetime guarantee.

    Because the bag is so small, the pass-through on the back is only 7 inches wide—too narrow to slip over the handle of a carry-on. And the dense fabric and plentiful hardware—the zippers, O-rings, and buckles—make it a little heavy. But in the 22-liter size, I didn’t notice the extra weight. It’s the perfect, organized conference companion, but it’s on the highest end of what we think is worth spending on a bag.

    A roll-top Tom Bihn: The Tom Bihn Addax ($310) has become one of my go-to bags. Roll-top bags are more versatile than zippered ones. Don’t have enough room? Unroll it and stick your bike helmet in. Too much? Roll it down to compress the space. If you live in a rainy area, roll-tops keep water from seeping through the top zippers. Like all Tom Bihn bags, the pockets are metaphysical perfection, with a huge laptop pocket with two-way access that also has a tablet pocket for my Kindle, and front pockets with O-rings to hook keys and other sundries. It has a huge luggage pass-through and hefty padded shoulder straps. It’s also hand-sewn in the US from PFC-free material and has a lifetime warranty that’s as bombproof as the ballistic nylon fabric. It’s a good thing because, at this price, you only want to buy it once.

  • Photograph: Rains

    Most Stylish

    Rains Backpack Mini

    Many people prefer a more grown-up aesthetic, and to not look like a high schooler headed to algebra or a hiker traversing the Alps. The 8.5-liter Rains Backpack Mini holds just enough stuff and looks stylish while doing so. Product reviewer Medea Giordano notes that it holds a 13-inch MacBook and all her accessories that she needs for work. She has even packed this little bag with an extra outfit and toiletries for a night away. Plus, it looks so pretty.

    You can upgrade to the 13-liter version for $125, but both sizes have the same-size laptop sleeve. They’re waterproof and come in fun colors, and the Mini has held up well over the past few years. There’s a small phone zip pocket on the back panel, but it also works to hold a wallet. Look at Rains’ other backpacks if you like its understated, Scandinavian style.

  • Photograph: Herschel

    Best Budget Bag

    Herschel Heritage Backpack

    Despite being more affordable than most of the bags on this list, this Herschel looks just as nice and is just as capable. Giordano used the Heritage as a school bag and filled it with a day’s worth of textbooks and a laptop in its dedicated 15-inch sleeve. It also works as an overnight bag stuffed with clothes and a pair of shoes, and as a carry-on with essentials. It’s made from 600-denier polyester with a faux leather bottom and handle.

    After years of heavy use, Giordano notes that it has only recently started to show signs of wear, especially on the top handle. The bag itself hasn’t ripped, and the straps are holding strong. The downside? There’s no water bottle pocket. If the Heritage isn’t what you’re looking for, take a look at the rest of Herschel’s backpacks.

    Alternative: Cariuma makes some of our favorite recycled shoes, and the company also makes a simple laptop backpack ($89) out of recycled materials. It has an extremely basic design, without too many pockets, and it can fit laptops up to 17 inches deep. I like the bright green interior, which makes it easy to see all your stuff.

  • Photograph: Adrienne So

    Best for Travel

    Tumi Velocity Backpack

    Tumi makes iconic, instantly recognizable, and very expensive backpacks that are ideal for airplane travel. The latest one is the Velocity, which is a collaboration with McLaren Automotive, and the sleek design is meant to evoke the aerodynamic lines of McLaren’s racing cars. The shell is made from CX6, a type of woven carbon fiber that is engineered to be both super strong and incredibly light. This means that the bag has a firm structure, just like a piece of carry-on luggage. It doesn’t look saggy when it’s empty or stuffed like a turkey when it’s full, and it can fit a surprising amount of stuff—just unzip the front panel and it swings open like a glove compartment.

    Setting aside how ironic it is to have a car-inspired backpack when your primary mode of transportation is biking, the Velocity has survived a week of being kicked around without a scratch. The padded laptop compartment fits laptops up to 15 inches (although surprisingly, the compartment is not suspended, so be careful putting it down). It also has travel-related extras, like a luggage tag, an add-a-bag sleeve, and a luggage-inspired leather grip handle. In keeping with the bag’s slim profile, however, the water bottle pockets are extremely tight, and it’s very expensive. Tumi has a wide array of equally attractive and useful laptop backpacks for less than half the price.

  • Photograph: The North Face

    Best for School

    The North Face Jester

    I live next to a small private college, and the backpack I see the most often on students is a North Face backpack with an exterior bungee. The North Face offers several options in both men’s and women’s versions, but the Jester is the most affordable. It’s versatile enough to take to school on weekdays and use for day hikes or traveling on the weekends. It comes in several different prints, but the solid version I tried is made from 600D recycled polyester with recycled plastic trims and a 28-liter capacity—more than big enough for my 13-inch laptop, jacket, snacks, and water bottle.

    I like that the bag is affordable, recycled, and incredibly light (about a pound). I tried the women’s version, which fits my narrow shoulders well, and has a FlexVent suspension system for maintaining airflow between your back and the bag. The top front pocket is incredibly spacious and well organized, with pen and lip balm pockets, and enough room for my giant sunglasses case, phone, and wallet. The bag is also balanced so that the weight lands between your shoulders instead of on your hips, which is more comfortable. Everyone says they like this distinctive giant bungee, and I understand that it helps pin wet jackets to your pack. However, it flops all over the place and gets caught on things if I’m not careful, and I do not like it.

    Alternative: JanSport also makes affordable school backpacks. If you’d like to spend a bit more than the standard Superbreak ($38), the Pro Pack system ($150) has a detachable front pack. When unhooked, the front pack is a fully functioning cross-body bag, and the backpack works with or without it. The strap unclips so it can be safely tucked away inside.

  • Photograph: Harber London

    Best for Work

    Harber London City Backpack

    Backpacks are by far the most comfortable carrying option, but they don’t always look professional enough for the workplace. If you’re prepared to spend almost $600, this all-leather bag doesn’t compromise on function. WIRED reviews editor Julian Chokkattu made it through CES 2023 with this on his back. He stowed a 13-inch MacBook Air (it can fit up to 16-inch laptops), an iPad in the second laptop sleeve, chargers, cables, his camera, and a separate flash. There’s decent organization in there, with a spare zippered pouch and padding at the base to protect your goods.

    The front pocket can store a few other slim items, and he likes the tiny pocket near the handles for keys or sunglasses. But the side pockets are too tight to fit a water bottle.

    ★ Alternatives: We love Cuyana’s leather tote, and its Leather Backpack ($478) is just as beautiful. The laptop sleeve fits my 13-inch MacBook, and a second pocket fits a tablet or Kindle. Two front magnetic-close pockets held my Owala water bottle. A more moderately priced option is the Bostanten backpack purse ($130). As you might expect from the much cheaper price, the leather is shiny and stiff, and you have to treat the toothed zippers with some care or they catch. However, if your budget does not fit a $500 work bag, this will work well.

  • Photograph: Nena Farrell

    Best Backpack for Parents

    Calpak Convertible Mini Diaper Backpack

    As product reviewer Nena Farrell notes, many diaper bags retail for around $200, and you can only use them for a short time in your child’s life. Why not get a stylish diaper backpack that you can continue carrying as a work or everyday bag long after your child is potty-trained? We love Calpak’s Mini Diaper Backpack, which Farrell takes on outings with and without her kid. It fits an 11-inch MacBook, along with plenty of snacks and accessories. If you find you need a little more room for a big water bottle, it also comes in a standard size ($198) that has stroller straps.

  • Photograph: United By Blue

    The Best Backpack-Tote

    United by Blue Convertible Carryall

    United By Blue’s Carryall tops our list of the Best Recycled Bags. It goes from tote to backpack easily; just unzip the back pocket, pull out the comfy backpack straps, and clip them onto the sturdy D-rings at the base. The material is water-resistant, and it’s padded, so your 15-inch laptop is safe. The Carryall has two bottle pockets and enough organizational pouches to keep organized.

    Everything is made of recycled materials, too—the interior, exterior, and straps are 100 percent recycled nylon, the padding is a combo of 60 percent recycled nylon and 40 percent recycled polyester, and even the zipper pulls are 100 percent recycled nylon paracord.

    Another Convertible Tote: The Cotopaxi Del Día Todo Convertible Tote ($75) is made of repurposed nylon and polyester (as are all of the Del Día bags) and has wide, comfortable straps. There aren’t many organizational pockets, but WIRED reviewer Louryn Strampe says she likes the cavernous main compartment.

  • Photograph: Scott Gilbertson

    Best Backpack for Rucking

    Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L Backpack

    One of the latest fitness crazes is rucking, a sport where you carry heavy things around in nature, for exercise. You need a solidly constructed, and preferably military-inspired, backpack. The classic choice is the GoRuck GR1 (7/10, WIRED Review), but reviewer Scott Gilbertson prefers the slightly less tactical style of the Evergoods CPL 24L, which was designed by a former head of product at GoRuck and a former Patagonia designer.

    Our full review is forthcoming, but the GPL 24L is American-made and has a ton of organizational details, some of which Gilbertson is still discovering. The fabric is heavy-duty 840-denier that is water-repellent and can be carried both as a backpack and sideways, as a briefcase, which is convenient for airports. The main compartment unzips completely, like a suitcase, which allows you to see and organize everything, as well as the dedicated laptop compartment, which easily fit a 16-inch Lenovo 9i. It has a curved yoke design to sit on your shoulders comfortably, and as a bonus, Gilbertson also notes that Evergoods’ Civic Access pouches are the best pouches he’s ever tried.

  • Photograph: STEPHANIE MEYERS/Out Of The Woods

    The Cheapest Backpack

    Out of the Woods Paper Backpack

    Out of the Woods makes its bags from what it calls “supernatural paper”—responsibly sourced tree cellulose—and it says 93 percent of the water used for manufacturing is returned to the source. It looks a little like leather but does feel like a piece of paper. And it’s just $38. The main compartment has a snap-closure laptop sleeve, and the front pocket fits a 9.5-inch tablet (barely, but it zipped). Giordano found that the straps were comfier than she thought they’d be, considering they’re not padded. However, the square of fabric where the straps are sewn to the actual bag needs to be worn in.

  • Photograph: Po Campo

    Best Backpack for Biking

    Po Campo Backpack Pannier

    My favorite backpack for biking right now is from Po Campo, which is a small, woman-owned business that makes biking bags that aren’t hideous. (I also like the wink and the nod that I get from other women cyclists when they see I also have a Po Campo bag.) I like the Fidlock magnetic buckles, which clip easily on and off my bike rack, and the compression buckle across the top that lets the bag expand to its full capacity or compress for a lower profile when it’s empty. The padded laptop compartment easily fits my 13-inch Macbook and is big enough for a 16-inch laptop, and there are a plethora of interior and exterior pockets for all my doodads.

    As a side note, everything from this company is delightful. In the past few months, I have also acquired the grocery pannier ($75), which is useful for the farmer’s market or taking the kids to the park. My next acquisition will be the add-on helmet harness ($15), which is a useful accessory that I can’t believe I don’t own yet. Let this be the last time I let my helmet clank loose around the table at a bar. Stay safe, everyone!

  • Photograph: Fjällräven

    A Small, Customizable Bag

    Fjällräven Kånken 13-inch Laptop Backpack

    You’ve probably seen a Fjallraven bag on any plane, train, or bus. The 13-inch Kanken pack is especially small and good for everyday use, and it manages to fit a MacBook Pro in its laptop pocket. Plus the large main compartment and smaller front pocket can fit a Kindle, a thick planner, and a notebook, with room for lunch or a change of clothes. The fabric is rigid and repels water, and the company offers lifetime repairs (with a focus on sustainability). The best part is that you can customize the Kanken to have any colors you want.

    The side pockets are tight, so they won’t fit every type of bottle. (It held a 20-ounce Starbucks bottle, but anything wider won’t do.) The Kanken comes with a foam pad that adds an extra layer of cushioning while you wear it, and you can take it out to use as a cushion when you need to sit on a hard surface. (It’s not super cushy, but it’s better than the cold, hard ground.) The Kanken also comes in a 17-inch version if you need the extra space.

    A convertible Kanken: We also like Fjallraven’s Kanken Totepack ($100), which is essentially the same as the backpack but can switch from shoulder bag to backpack. It’s smaller and not as padded as the United By Blue bag, but it’s cute and compact, and it repels water. You don’t have to unzip and clip the straps either, so if you’re in a rush, just pull the straps over your shoulders.

  • Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

    The Best Camera Bag

    Wandrd Prvke Camera Bag V3

    Reviews editor Julian Chokkattu loves Wandrd’s Prvke series bags to hold all his gear, from his mirrorless camera and extra lenses to a 16-inch MacBook Pro and various other accessories. Despite months of regular use, it’s in fantastic condition, thanks to the 1,680-denier ballistic nylon exterior and the weather-resistant zippers. Lots of little pockets adorn the bag to store cables, card readers, microfiber cloths, and the like—even one underneath that houses a rain fly to keep the bag dry when it’s raining.

    Julian opted for the Photography Bundle, which adds a camera cube filled with foldable Velcro dividers you can use to organize camera gear and keep them secure. It’s also easy to access a camera from the side pocket without needing to take off the entire backpack. Wandrd is currently on Version 3 of the Prvke. Read our Best Camera Bags guide for more options.

  • Photograph: STM Goods

    For Organizers

    STM Goods Dux Backpack

    The Dux’s design takes some getting used to, but its organizational options might make you forget about its looks. This bag is very structured and surrounded by foam padding, so it can take a few bumps without breaking everything inside. Unzip the front pocket to unfurl two mesh zipper pouches and an additional fuzzy zipper pocket that fits fragile gear like sunglasses. Plus, there’s a clip for keys, and if you need more room, you can unzip the bottom of this top pocket to directly access the main compartment of the bag.

    This main section has three separate compartments you can access via either side of the bag, and it comes with a small pouch. You can fit cameras and lenses, or shoes and an outfit—whatever the day requires. (You can also remove the dividers.) The side entry flaps have their own pockets too, so every little thing you need to keep track of is accounted for. The two bottle pockets can unzip to expand—handy if you’re carrying a tripod. The back is plushly lined with suspended pockets for a 16-inch Macbook Pro and tablet. There’s yet another deep pocket on the very back of the bag near the handle, and slots on the shoulder straps to hold your phone, though it was tough to fit an iPhone with a Popsocket on the back.

  • Photograph: Laflore Paris

    A Vegan Work Bag

    LaFlore Paris Bobobark Convertible Backpack

    This bag is beautiful. Unlike a lot of the backpacks we like, the Bobobark looks great if you’re dressed up, and it converts from a backpack to a purse—you can use the handle like a tote, sling it from one shoulder, or wear it cross-body. The straps could stand to be more comfortable though, and I opted to use it as a tote more than a backpack because of that.

    The Bobobark is made from cork, which gives it a leather look without using animal products. It’s water-resistant and durable, and the company sells cork conditioner and coloring cream to keep it looking its best—for the price, you will want to make sure it lasts a long time. While this size will hold your laptop and a few books, there’s also a beautiful mini backpack/purse.

  • Photograph: Targus

    More Bags We Like

    Honorable Mentions

    We’ve tried tons of bags. Below are some other good backpacks, but we also have roundups of recycled bags, totes and purses, messenger bags, camera bags, and travel bags.

    • Targus Zero Waste EcoSmart Backpack for $60: Targus’ Zero Waste Backpack is a solid backpack for under $100, and it’s made from 20 recycled water bottles. It ships rolled up in a recycled plastic package that unfolds and slips into the laptop pocket to give the bag structure.
    • Troubadour Explorer Ridge Backpack for $325: Troubadour bags are functional, sleek, and extremely expensive. This backpack’s interior is nicely organized with pen holders, a mesh pocket, and a few other slots for your knickknacks, plus a padded section for a 16-inch laptop.
    • Aer Designs Slim Pack for $115: For quick trips, this 8.5-liter bag still fits a laptop, charger, wallet, water bottle, and phone, plus a snack. Its durable polyurethane coating can be easily wiped clean.
    • STM Goods Myth 18-Liter Backpack for $120: Reviews editor Julian Chokkattu liked carrying this bag. A suspended laptop pocket keeps it safe from accidental drops, and the thick padding helps it sit comfortably on your back.
    • Lo & Sons Hanover 2 for $158: The Hanover 2 has a clever, padded, and detachable insert with four pockets in it. Use it for work to store a day planner, notebooks, coffee mug, and water bottle, or take it out and replace it with a diaper changing station, tiny rain jackets, and seemingly thousands of stuffed animals for the little ones.
    • Able Carry Daily Backpack for $139: This pack is thin, so you can stuff it to the brim before it starts to get bulky. And stuff it full you can, because it has a pocket for everything. The Thirteen Daybag for $149 is similar but slightly smaller.
    • Mission Workshop Rhake for $545: This roll-top bag has a ton of pockets, and its two-layer weatherproof construction and Velcro closures keep the contents dry. But those pockets aren’t easy or fast to access, it’s heavy, and it’s even pricier than when we first tried it (and rising).
    • Solo’s Re:fresh Machine Washable Backpack for $50: Solo’s affordable lightweight bag is made from 15 recycled plastic bottles, and it’s meant to be machine-washed up to 12 times. We’ve occasionally washed bags not meant for this, and without issue, but if you (or your kid) is prone to messes, it’s nice that this one is made to endure the rigors of the washer.
  • Photograph: STM Goods

    Our Favorite Accessories

    Pack Your Sack

    Oh, you have a backpack and you just … put things in it? And carry them around? That’s great if it works for you, but don’t worry if it doesn’t. Most of us use an additional organization system. (This also lets us switch bags quickly and easily while we’re testing.)

    • VentaPak for $46: The VentaPak clips onto the back of your bag, pushing your pack 2 or so inches off you, increasing airflow and hopefully curbing sweating. Surprisingly, it didn’t look super obvious, and at only 12 ounces, it doesn’t add much weight. There are standard and small sizes, so check the website measurements if you’re not sure if it’ll fit your bag.
    • STM Dapper Wrapper for $30: This is my favorite tech organizer for cables. It rolls up everything I need—my laptop charging block, a couple of USB-C cables, a portable battery or two—and unfolds it neatly so that everything is visible. No cable rat nests here!
    • Eagle Creek Pack-It XS for $15: My husband packs a tiny toothbrush and toothpaste in here so he can brush his teeth after lunch or after getting off a plane. It’s a good habit, and no one has ever offered him gum in a hinting manner. You should also do this.
    • Delfonics Pouch for $25: Almost every bag manufacturer makes organizational pouches too. I like Delfonics and Baggu because they’re affordable and come in a wide variety of sizes and bright colors. Bright colors are easy to see in the bottom of a bag!
    • Herschel Pencil Case for $22: Yes, every backpack usually has a pen pocket or two. Even in this digital age, that’s not nearly enough writing utensils, especially if you use a paper planner. Get a pencil case and corral them from dropping to the bottom of your bag and exploding.

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