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The 11 Very Best Laptop Backpacks

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Backpacks have been my go-to way of lugging my laptops from place to place since college, when I needed something tough enough to protect my precious cargo on my daily treks across campus. My needs have changed a bit since then, but the fundamentals of a good laptop backpack haven’t: You want something that’s comfortable, durable, protective, stylish, and functional, all without draining your wallet.

To help you find the best one for you, I tested several backpacks on commutes across town via bike as well as on flights to other states, looking for the bags with the best balance of features, style, comfort, and price. I also spoke to frequent travelers, designers, and packing experts.

What We’re Looking for

Storage

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 will properly house your laptop so it won’t shift. 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 consideration is internal organization. If you need a bag that can double as a carry-on or you intend to bring your laptop bag to the gym, you’ll want additional compartments and pockets. 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.

Comfort

Padding on the shoulders and back can help relieve some of the weight.

Material

A bag’s material does more than just dictate its look. Waterproof and water-resistant materials help keep your computer safe and dry during a downpour, so many of the bags on our list are made of heavy-duty canvas, nylon, neoprene, or synthetic materials like Fjällräven’s Vinylon F, which is weather and dust resistant. We made sure to look for bags that are durable, stylish, and don’t look or feel flimsy so they can handle any daily commute or travel.

Best overall laptop backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 17 inches; main compartment with seven pockets, separate laptop compartment with one pouch | Comfort: Breathable back panel and padded shoulder straps | Material: Waterproof, recycled polyester fabric, recycled polyester lining, vegan leather trim

Of the bags I’ve tested, Troubadour Goods’ Apex backpack offers the best balance of style, comfort, and function. It can hold laptops up to 17 inches, has a comfortable back panel that’s built to avoid making you sweat too much, and 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 for longer walks, thanks to that padded back, and its abundance of pockets makes it easy to pack for a weekend getaway. 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. Both sides of the bag have a pouch for holding a water bottle, so you can double up on your beverage of choice before taking off.

To test how much this bag can reasonably hold, I recently took it with me on a trip to Idaho stuffed with an iPad Pro, Kindle Scribe, ReMarkable 2 tablet, iPad Mini, and Kindle Paperwhite. Even with all those gadgets onboard, the bag didn’t feel heavy, lose its shape, or cause any discomfort, and I still could’ve dropped a laptop in there without any trouble. Its compartments also made it easy to grab each gadget and take it out for TSA check, which cut down on some of the frustration that line can elicit. Although this spacious bag makes for a great carry-on when you’re checking a bag for your clothes, I’d recommend Gregory’s Rhune if you want a laptop bag that’ll carry a week’s worth of clothes.

Best less expensive backpack

Storage: Three options that fit laptops from 13 to 17 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and zippered pocket | Comfort: Padded shoulder strap | Material: Vinylon F, a synthetic fiber that’s weather and dust resistant

Fjällräven’s backpacks have been the darlings of theme-park regulars and coffee shop–goers for years. They’re stylish, durable, and come in plenty of fun colors. The Kånken, which comes in classic and upgraded laptop models, has three sizes to accommodate laptops from 13 inches up to 17 inches, and you can choose from over 20 colors. It doesn’t have as many compartments as the Ekster or Troubadour, but its simple, eye-catching styling makes up for the lack of pockets, and it has more storage space than the Rains.

“I first fell in love with the Fjällräven Kånken while studying abroad in Copenhagen in 2013,” says Strategist newsletter editor Ashley Wolfgang. Eleven years later, she says her mustard-yellow classic model still holds up. “The care instructions do recommend against using the (classic) Kånken for your laptop, but I haven’t had a problem carrying my Macbook Air and (many) books in it over the years.” If you do want to be extra careful, though, get the model with a padded laptop sleeve.

Best daily-commute laptop backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 13 or 16 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and five pockets | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back| Material: Neoprene

If you’d prefer a less conventional material than that of the Troubadour or Kånken, I recommend the Dagne Dover Dakota backpack, which is made from a squishy neoprene material that comes in 12 stylish colors. The Dakota 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, and it still has some padding on the bottom portion of the sleeve. I haven’t used the Dakota, but I’ve been using Dagne Dover’s Ace fanny pack, which is made of the same material, since 2018. I’ve used it to carry my Kindle to a coffee shop, and even on rainy days, water has never leaked through into the bag.

Former Strategist writer Chloe Anello says that the backpack was her “favorite for lugging stuff back and forth” when she commuted 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 splurge-worthy travel laptop backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 13 and 16 inches; main compartment with pouch and adjustable straps; separate laptop compartment | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Nylon

If you tend to squeeze your bag into tight spots and need multiple ways to access your essentials, Tom Bihn’s Synik has a unique design that allows you to reach the bag’s laptop compartment from either within the main compartment or through an external zipper. That’s especially useful if you fly frequently since you can easily get to your laptop for TSA checks and make use of its plentiful internal organization. (The heavy-duty nylon and padded straps and bottom don’t hurt, either.) It also has five additional pockets for storage.

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. 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. It has a dedicated water-bottle pocket in the center of the bag’s front, but you’ll have to unzip it every time you need a drink.

Best less expensive travel laptop backpack

I recently decided to cut back on my travel footprint and wanted to find a backpack that could hold my work gear plus a week’s worth of clothes, all without making me check a bag. After reading Strategist contributor Maggie Slepian’s review of the Gregory Rhune 25, I ordered one for myself and got it ready for a trip to Boise. In addition to all the clothes and toiletries I needed for my extended stay, I managed to stuff the Rhune with a MacBook Air, iPad Mini, Kobo Sage e-reader, Fujifilm camera, Backbone One mobile controller, and a dozen tamales to surprise my family with.

Even with all that stuffed inside, the bag never felt overpacked or unwieldy thanks to the Rhune’s bucketlike design. Unlike every other bag on this list, the Rhune opens up by zipping the top portion of the bag open, then pulling it back sort of like a bottle cap. It’s a bit weird to get used to, but the top’s hollow interior allows you to pack more items than you could into a standard zipper backpack. There’s even a zippered pocket on the outside of that top portion that’s big enough to hold an e-reader plus a set of AirPods (or other wireless earbuds) and a wallet and keys.

Its straps aren’t quite as wide as the Troubadour’s, but they’re still padded enough to remain comfortable even for long walks across a terminal; it’s meant for backpacking, so it should be comfortable for even longer stretches, too. There’s also a small pocket on the front of the backpack, which I used to hold a fanny pack plus two beanies. The bottom corners of the bag also have straps for carabiners so you can attach even more items to the bag. I used one to hook my water bottle to the bag and haven’t noticed any signs of tearing despite my bottle being fairly heavy.

Best laptop gym/work backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 16 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and several pockets | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Polyester

The Aer Fit Pack 3 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 zipper on the front makes it easy to access your gym kit. The compartment houses gym clothes and shoes completely separate from the other compartments, meaning you can store them without worrying about sweat or grime getting on everything else in your backpack. The materials are super-durable, the padded back and shoulder straps add comfort for commuters, and the bag features plenty of internal organization to keep small gear safe. There’s even a sizable pouch on the side to hold a large water bottle.

Best high-capacity laptop backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 16 inches; main compartment with four pockets and tablet sleeve, separate laptop compartment | Comfort: Adjustable straps with loops for attaching accessories | Material: 600D rPet + tarpaulin

Since I started riding my bike again, I’ve had to think more about what I carry in my backpack and how to make space for everything I need. Ekster’s GRID backpack is the most comfortable bag I’ve tested, thanks to a thoroughly padded back with enough ventilation to keep me from feeling sweaty and gross on a commute. It also makes packing feel frictionless. Unlike with most bags, including all the other bags on this list, its main compartment unzips all the way to the base, which makes it easier to organize everything so it doesn’t all shuffle around. It also has a sleeve that can hold an iPad or A5 document, with two pockets outside the sleeve, and two zipping pockets on the inside flap of the compartment.

In addition to the main part of the bag, there’s a dedicated laptop compartment with a separate zipper that can hold a laptop of up to 16 inches, with more padding than bags like the Rains offer. Even stuffed with a large Hydro Flask, my MacBook Air, an iPad Mini, Kindle Paperwhite, notebook, and bike lock, the Esker still had room for some workout clothes or a lunch.

If you’re the type to clip carabiners to everything, this bag is for you: The outside of the bag is covered in loops and straps you can use for additional storage. The straps on the front are expandable and have enough room to hold a yoga mat or jacket. There’s a water-bottle pouch on one side of the bag, but it’s a bit tight with water bottles like a Hydro Flask. Along the middle of the padded back, there’s a strap you can use to hold the bag like a suitcase. I tried this on a quick walk to my neighborhood cafe and it felt a little goofy, but sturdy enough to use if your back needs a break.

The company also sells a tech case you can use to better organize all your accessories and a camera cube to keep your photo gear safe from damage between destinations.

Although this bag packs a ton of functionality into a minimalistic design, its utilitarian approach may not be for everyone. Its spacious interior doesn’t collapse, like Gregory’s Rhune, so even when it isn’t packed with stuff, the Ekster will still take up the same amount of space.

Best waterproof laptop backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 13 and 15 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and one pocket | Comfort: No shoulder or back padding | Material: Polyester

I’ve been using the Rains backpack for four years to protect my laptop from inclement weather when I walk to coffee shops. The interior laptop section has a dedicated strap that can easily store my 13-inch MacBook Air, though you can get a larger version that holds laptops up to 15 inches. There’s also a hidden phone zipper pocket on the back that you can use to store your mobile device or quickly access an I.D. It’s one of the sleeker, 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, and a book. But if all you need your bag to do is look good and protect your computer, then look no further.

My only complaint with this bag is that its straps are quite thin and don’t provide the same amount of padding as those on bags like the Troubadour or even the Patagonia. Since the backpack isn’t meant to carry much stuff, those straps don’t cause much discomfort, but it’s worth noting if you plan on wearing your bag for long stretches of time.

Best backpack that doubles as a diaper bag

Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and two pockets, insulated bottle holder | 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 gear you need for your baby while also keeping your work gear in tow. It has pouches for diapers, wipes, toys, and snacks. It also has straps to attach directly to a stroller so you don’t have to carry it on your back all the time, and comes in a few different sizes depending on your needs. It’s made of the same neoprene material as the Dakota, making it more spill-friendly than the other backpack we recommend for parents, Mina Baie’s Harper. 

Former Strategist writer Latifah Miles says, “Although my child is older than the diaper bag age threshold, he still likes to bring his precious iPad, PopIt, a few snacks, and a water bottle when we head out so I like to carry a bag that can hold everything.”

Best convertible tote

Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and multiple pockets | 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 easily from a backpack to tote and back again, all without having to do any last minute shuffling. Its laptop sleeve will hold devices up to 15”, and it’s made of 100-percent recycled nylon and polyester.

Its straps are thinner than the Troubadour’s or the Gregory’s but wider than the Rains’ straps.

Best backpack for iPads

Storage: Fits tablets up to 11”; main compartment with one divider | Comfort: Adjustable shoulder strap with padding | Material: Recycled polyester

For those who work from an iPad and prefer to keep a light bag, Patagonia’s Atom Sling has enough room to hold a tablet and its lightweight materials make for a light carry. It has significantly less room than every other bag on this list, but for days when you need to carry only one thing, this bag’s lightness can’t be beat.

It’s made of recycled polyester, and feels durable enough to withstand a little bit of jostling; and if you get too rough with it and damage the bag, Patagonia has a repair program that, in most cases, will assess and fix your bag free of charge. Plus, as we’ve heard from other Patagonia bag owners, they may even replace the bag if it can’t be repaired.

There’s room for an 11-inch iPad Pro (sorry, 12.9-inch iPad Pro workers), but to fit it,  you have to maneuver it a little bit. That hasn’t caused too much trouble for me, though, and I’ve even been able to stuff my iPad and my Kindle Scribe into the bag — and keep them separate thanks to the bag’s internal divider. You could also use this to keep your notebook or book away from your tablet.

It also has convenient features that other small sling bags lack, like a handy zipper pocket right on the strap for things you need quick access to (your keys or a pair of wireless earbuds). It also  has a couple adjustable straps on the front to hold things like a yoga mat or an extra layer.

If you prefer a bag with a minimalist aesthetic, however, Patagonia’s signature outdoorsy design, packed with straps and extra pockets that make it look more technical than a regular backpack, might not be for you. That said, it works better for holding a tablet than any other sling I’ve used.

Other Strategist-approved laptop accessories

Our experts

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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The 11 Very Best Laptop Backpacks