For lugging a laptop between home and the office or while traveling — and having the proper protection to do so — laptop backpacks these days are nothing like the padded tech briefcases they used to be. In fact, many of them could pass as standard backpacks or even high-end outdoor gear or stylish diaper bags. To help you find the best one for you, we spoke to frequent travelers, designers, and packing experts. Use the handy links below to skip ahead to what you’re shopping for or keep reading to find out how to choose a laptop backpack with ample space and an optimal amount of padding.
What We’re Looking For
As far as proportions are concerned, laptop bags vary greatly, but the main thing you should look for is the size of the laptop compartment. If you have a 13-inch Macbook Air, for example, you’ll want a laptop compartment that is at least the same size as and will properly house your laptop so it won’t shift around. A good bag will have an interior space (ideally padded) where your computer can be housed securely, safe from surface scratches and abrasions it might pick up if it rubs up against your keys or a zippered jacket.
Another important aspect to consider is the amount of things it can hold besides a laptop. If you need a bag that can double as a carry-on or you intend to bring your laptop bag to the gym, you should consider how many individual compartments it has and how much space it offers. You might also want to look for one with a front-zippered pocket for storing cables, keys, pens, or other small items you’d want quick access to.
Some bags can even have additional storage features, like luggage sleeves to attach your bag directly to a suitcase for easier travel or stroller clips to keep the backpack secure when you’re out with your kiddo.
When you first put a laptop backpack on, it might feel lightweight, but after a 30-minute commute, the extra weight can take a toll, which is where the padding comes in. Padding on the shoulder straps and back can do wonders for the body and help relieve some of the weight.
Waterproofing is a nice feature that can keep your computer safe and dry during a random torrential downpour, so many of the bags on our list are made of heavy-duty canvas, nylon, leather, or other synthetic materials, like Fjallraven’s Vinylon-F, which is weather and dust resistant. There’s also a neoprene option that is lightweight, soft, and water resistant. We made sure to look for bags that are durable, stylish, and don’t look or feel flimsy — that way they can handle any daily commute or travel.
Best overall laptop backpack
Storage: Fits laptops up to 17 inches | Comfort: Breathable back panel and padded shoulder straps | Material: Waterproof, recycled-polyester fabric, recycled-polyester lining, vegan-leather trim
If you’re looking for a bag that balances style, comfort, and function, Troubadour Goods’ Apex backpack fits the bill. It can hold laptops up to 17 inches, has a comfortable back panel that’s built to avoid making you sweat too much, and features plenty of pockets to keep things tidy. It’s made of recycled polyester with a vegan-leather lining for a classy, understated aesthetic that’ll look good in any setting.
The Apex is just as comfortable for short distances as it is on longer walks thanks to that padded back, and its abundance of pockets makes it easy to pack up for a weekend getaway with some family. Unlike Dagne Dover’s laptop bag, this backpack has a dedicated, padded laptop compartment on the back as well as slots inside the main compartment to hold smaller tablets and e-readers with extra pockets for chargers and other accessories. The Apex also has a pocket on the front that’s great for holding your phone or other often-reached-for items like a wallet, small notebook, or lip balm.
Best less expensive backpack
Storage: Fits laptops up to 17 inches | Comfort: Padded shoulder strap | Material: Vinylon-F, a synthetic fiber that’s weather and dust resistant
“My Fjällräven backpack is filthy,” Strategist staff writer Lauren Ro says. “But it should be. In the six years I’ve owned it, I’ve put this bag through everything.” It’s dirt and water resistant, and it has two handles on the top so you can carry it more like a grocery bag if you’re just moving the bag from one spot to another — or loading onto a TSA conveyer belt. As opposed to being inside the bag, the laptop compartment here is a separate, zippered pouch at the back, which Ro says allows for easy access. It’s also padded, so you don’t have to buy a bulky laptop sleeve. “Whether I’m heading to the office or to the airport, the Kanken fits exactly what I need — and helps me carry it comfortably,” Ro says. The Kanken has padded adjustable straps for added comfort and two side pockets for a water bottle or umbrella. It comes in three sizes and 12 colors.
Best daily-commute laptop backpack
Storage: Fits laptops up to 13 or 16 inches | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back| Material: Neoprene
The Dagne Dover doesn’t have a dedicated laptop compartment, but it does have a mesh sleeve that can be secured with a Velcro strap so you don’t have to worry about it jostling around. Former Strategist writer Chloe Anello says the backpack is her “favorite for lugging stuff back and forth” on her two-hour commute from Beacon to the Vox Media offices downtown, adding, “It holds everything imaginable.” That’s thanks to features such as two exterior mounted pockets, a detachable key leash, and the smaller zippered sections within the main interior pocket for storing your lunch, headphones, snacks, and wallet.
Best travel laptop backpack
Storage: Fits laptops up to 17 inches | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Polyester
Micki Kosman, a travel blogger at the Barefoot Nomad, says the eBags Pro Slim is her go-to for trips, with a separate laptop compartment that easily fits her 15-inch laptop, many pockets for chargers and other electronics, and a larger main compartment for clothes. But her favorite feature is its padded bottom, which she says is nonnegotiable after an incident in which her laptop was damaged when she set a cheap backpack down on the concrete floor in airport customs. Speaking of travel, the eBags Pro also has an easy-access compartment that lets you pull your laptop out without digging through your bag, a side zip pocket for your water bottle or umbrella, and a fleece-lined tablet sleeve for protecting more of your tech. Kosman has the Heathered Graphite color because it’s a neutral that hides dirt well, but you can choose from two other colors.
Best splurge-worthy travel laptop backpack
Storage: Fits laptops up to 13 or 16 inches | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Nylon
Tom Wahlin, an editor and writer at Pack Hacker, says that while the Tom Bihn “gives off some dad vibes,” there’s a reason this style is such a classic. “When it comes to laptop storage, you can choose how you want to get to your tech,” he says. “Grab your laptop by unzipping the main compartment like you would a regular backpack, or unzip the dedicated side zipper to get quick access from the outside.” It’s especially useful if you fly frequently since you can easily access your laptop (in a multitude of ways) for TSA checks and make use of its plentiful internal organization. (The heavy-duty nylon and padded straps and bottom don’t hurt, either.) The Synik comes in two sizes, 22 and 30: The 22 is smaller and better suited for 13-inch laptops, while the 30 can hold laptops up to 16 inches. While it isn’t the most stylish bag, it features many of the details you would want and expect from a laptop bag if you travel frequently.
Best laptop backpack for gym enthusiasts
Storage: Fits laptops up to 16 inches | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Polyester
The Aer Fit Pack is great for people who like to head directly to the gym after work as it’s meticulously designed to protect your tech while being spacious enough to carry your workout gear. It has two built-in sleeves — one for your laptop and one for a tablet or notebook — while the unique middle zip makes it easy to access your gym kit. The compartment meant to house gym clothes and shoes is completely separate, meaning you can store them without worrying about sweat or grime getting on everything else in your backpack, Wahlin says. The materials are super-durable with a padded back and shoulder straps that add comfort for commuters, and it features plenty of internal organization to keep small gear safe.
Best high-capacity laptop backpack
Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Polyester
If you’ve got more than a laptop that you need to protect, this high-capacity bag will come in handy, says Rick McGuire, who runs the Instagram account Subway Creatures. “It’s extremely useful for carrying my equipment,” he says. “It includes tons of padding and space for everything I need to haul.” It has a water-resistant design, two padded compartments for a laptop and tablet, and spaces for any wires, cables, or large accessories you might be hauling around. Considering everything that gets packed in the bag, McGuire says it’s actually pretty comfortable with its padded shoulder straps and back.
Best laptop backpack with tablet pocket
Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Polyester
Matthew Spade, a freelance writer and content creator at the Buckets and Spades blog, has owned the Eastpak Tecum L for a few years now, which he says “feels like a breeze to carry” with a dedicated compartment that comfortably fits his 13-inch MacBook Pro. A second, smaller compartment that’s also padded can hold a tablet, while the rest of the bag has loads of space and pockets for overnight essentials, Spade says. And since it’s made of nylon, the backpack can withstand getting rained on. Bonus: The shoulders and back are padded for extra comfort.
Best waterproof laptop backpack
Storage: Fits laptops up to 13 or 15 inches | Comfort: No shoulder or back padding | Material: Polyester
I’ve been using the Rains backpack to protect my laptop for four years from New York blizzards, torrential downpours, and the occasional drop on the floor. The interior laptop section has a dedicated strap that can easily store my 13-inch MacBook Pro, though you can get a larger version that holds laptops up to 15 inches. There’s also a hidden phone pocket zipper on the back that you can use to store your mobile device or quickly access an I.D. It’s one of the sleeker and more minimal laptop bags to carry on a daily commute, which means its one major drawback is the lack of space — don’t expect to pack much more than your laptop, your phone in the aforementioned pocket, a book, and a sweater. But if all you need your bag to do is look good and protect your computer, then look no further.
Best backpack that doubles as a diaper bag
Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Neoprene
If you’re a parent looking to cut down from two bags to one, Dagne Dover’s stylish Indi Diaper Backpack works great for carrying all the supplies you need for your baby while also keeping your work gear neatly stowed. It has pouches for diapers, wipes, toys, snacks, and more, plus it comes in three sizes if you have multiple kids or more stuff you need to carry. It also has straps to attach it directly to a stroller. The bag’s usefulness extends beyond the diaper years as well: Strategist writer Latifah Miles, who has had the Indi for about three years, says, “Although my child is older than the diaper-bag age threshold, he still likes to bring his precious iPad, Pop It, a few snacks, and a water bottle when we head out, so I like to carry a bag that can hold everything.” Unlike the Dagne Dover Dakota, the Indi does have a dedicated laptop sleeve, and it has way more pockets that’ll work just as well for holding your cables and dongles as they will for storing all your baby gear.
Best leather backpack for parents
Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches | Comfort: No shoulder or back padding | Material: Leather
If you’d like a leather backpack that’ll still hold all your baby’s necessities, get Mina Baie’s Harper Backpack. It has enough space to hold a 15-inch laptop in a protected sleeve, water-resistant lining, an insulated bottle pocket, and a luggage sleeve to attach to a carry-on, as well as straps to secure it to a stroller. Ambika Castle, a senior engineer at Vox Media, says, “I’ve used a lot of bags, but I always go back to that one because it looks nice, has lots of great pockets for organization, and stands upright really well.”
Best convertible tote
Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches | Comfort: Shoulder padding | Material: Recycled nylon and polyester
If you’re prone to switching bags at a moment’s notice, you know the pain of having to dump everything out of one bag just to drop it all into another before heading out the door. Timbuk2 makes a variety of customizable laptop bags, but this one, recommended by Strategist deals editor Sam Daly, can switch between a backpack and tote in a pinch, all without having to do any last minute shuffling. Its laptop sleeve will hold devices up to 15 inches, and it’s made of 100 percent recycled nylon and polyester.
• Chloe Anello, former Strategist staff writer
• Micki Kosman, a travel blogger at the Barefoot Nomad
• Rick McGuire, who runs the Instagram account Subway Creatures
• Lauren Ro, Strategist staff writer
• Matthew Spade, a freelance writer at Buckets and Spades
• Tom Wahlin, an editor and writer at Pack Hacker
• Ambika Castle, senior engineer at Vox Media
• Latifah Miles, Strategist staff writer
• Sam Daly, Strategist deals editor
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