Backpack, briefcase or messenger bag? That’s the question for many of us who carry our workstations with us as we bounce from hot desk to coworking lounge and back. We take a look at some of the sweetest laptop bags and backpacks out there.
After ditching the stodgy briefcase of the Mad Men era, Gen Xers ignited a craze for messenger bags in the 1990s as they entered the workforce and wanted a grown-up alternative to their college-era JanSports. These days, though, the pendulum has swung back toward sensibility, and everyone from students to execs can be seen toting backpacks that are both stylish and ergonomic, distributing weight evenly across the body and keeping spine health in check.
Choosing the right bag depends on factors ranging from your personal style to how you commute to the climate where you live. At minimum, a great bag should be comfortable to carry and big enough to tote your laptop and required accessories, without being bulky. Look for bags with functional pockets, padded linings and durable materials that will protect your gear from bumps and scratches. If high-tech amenities are important, you can choose a smart bag with USB charging ports and anti-theft features like RFID blocking technology. Here are a few of our faves.
Best for Rainy Climates: Monty AP by Mission Workshop
San Francisco-based Mission Workshop knows how to build a bag to weather the elements. This American-made messenger is cut from weather-resistant waxed canvas that repels moisture, and it also has a waterproof liner designed to protect your gear even in heavy rain. Stash a 13-inch laptop in the front zip pocket or a 15-inch in the main compartment, and choose between roll-top and flap-down closure configurations.
Best Alternative to That Fjällräven Everyone Has: Osprey Arcane Large Daypack
As much as we love the iconic Kånken for its cheerful colors, smart compartments and compact size, it’s just a little too ubiquitous for our taste. This Osprey daypack is a sweet alternative. Crafted with a durable fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, it features a J-zip front panel, 16-inch padded laptop sleeve and low-profile water bottle pocket. It even includes a self-locking hook so you can secure your pack while you wander off to get coffee and not worry about it being snatched.
The Timbuk2 Tandem Pannier is all about versatility: Load your 15-inch laptop into the padded pocket and use the Velcro straps to secure the bag to your cargo rack for a stress-free ride to work; once parked, clever magnets and a clip-on strap transform the pannier into a one-shoulder bag as if by magic. Or opt for a handlebar-mounted compact bag from the legendary Brooks England. It fits a 13-inch laptop and comes with a shoulder strap for off-bike wear.
Best to Get the Office Talking: Baggu Laptop Sleeves
Sold in an array of fun prints, including puffy clouds, happy faces and juicy strawberries, these Baggu laptop sleeves will keep your laptop safe and cozy while also drawing compliments at the coworking space.
If you can’t pick between a backpack and a messenger, split the difference and go for a totepack. These two options are chic and functional, giving you the sleek look of a tote with the option to be worn like a backpack. With a weatherproof exterior and expandable storage compartments, the Peak Design pack also has a shoulder strap that can be adjusted for either left or right-handed use. The minimalist Bellroy is made of sustainably sourced materials and has a handy front pocket.
Best for Digital Nomads: Troubadour Apex Backpack
Wirecutter loves this one for being “smart enough for the boardroom” but stylish enough for after-hours. With memory-foam straps and ventilated back panels, it’s comfortable to wear while racing across the terminal to catch that flight to Chiang Mai or Medellín, though there’s also a luggage-handle slot so you can sling it easily over your roll-aboard. In addition to its 16-inch laptop sleeve, there are smart interior compartments of various sizes that make it easy to keep all your in-flight accoutrements within reach. Bonus: there’s even a 24-ounce water-bottle holder.