If you spent more time picking out your last laptop backpack than your actual laptop, consider this roundup a shortcut to discovering some great bag makers and learning about all the features you might want in your ultimate choice.
Whether you're after something for a daily commute, a backpack to lug around campus or a bag that works for getting you through the work week and then through a weekend away, you'll find it here. I've spent hours and hours walking city streets, commuting and traveling with these backpacks to see how they hold up and how useful their individual designs and features are.
And if you don't find the perfect bag in this list, hit the gallery at the end for more options. I will continue to test out new bags, so if you've got a favorite that belongs on this list, let me know in the comments. And note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of some of the products in this guide.
Incase Icon Backpack with Woolenex
Best laptop backpack for the highly organizedSarah Tew/CNET
The Icon backpack is a favorite for its understated style and huge carry capacity (and well-padded shoulder straps to carry it all comfortably). Incase updated the bag with a weather- and abrasion-resistant fabric called Woolenex. It feels somewhat like cotton, but it's lightweight and has the high-tensile strength of ballistic nylon.
The bag is otherwise the same as the original. Four separate sections give you space for up to a 15.6-inch laptop and a tablet, plus one for flat files and another loaded with pockets for all your accessories. While water bottle/umbrella storage is absent on the outside, there is certainly room inside.
One of my favorite features are the zippered pockets at the base of each strap. The right side has a cable pass-through so you can keep a power bank in there to charge your phone while you're wearing the bag.
Timbuk2 Scope Expandable Pack
Best backpack for commutersSarah Tew/CNET
As a commuter going between New York and New Jersey, my carry needs can change daily. There are also essentials that rarely change -- keys, transit tickets, headphones, etc. -- that I need fast access to as well as being able to get to my laptop in the cramped confines of a train seat. The Scope nails these needs.
The water-resistant backpack is broken into three main compartments: A small organizational section in front, a side-loading waterproof 15-inch laptop compartment in the back and a spacious storage space in between. But that center section can be expanded by releasing magnetic side compression straps and opening a zippered gusset on top. The extra space gives you enough room for a change of clothes and a pair of shoes or even a bike helmet. Don't need the space? Zip up the gusset and fasten down the compression straps and you're done.
Dual stretch side pockets give you room for an umbrella and a water bottle, and Timbuk2 even put a bottle opener on the shoulder strap for when you're extra thirsty. A front zippered compartment with an internal mesh pocket and key leash rounds things out.
Solo NY Region Backpack
Best basic laptop backpackSarah Tew/CNET
The Region is a slim, stylish and lightweight backpack for people who maybe don't need to carry their life on their back everyday. Like the Timbuk2 Scope, this bag is broken into three main compartments plus zippered front pocket for things like your keys, earbuds and wallet. However, it doesn't have room to expand and it's unlikely you'll want to load this down with too much weight on the regular.
Two stretch side pockets give you a place for a water bottle and umbrella and there's a luggage handle pass-through on the padded back panel. The rear compartment has a padded sleeve to hold up to a 15.6-inch laptop and another padded pocket in the front compartment can hold a tablet. The center compartment is perfect for a lunch, books and a jacket.
Priced at $65, there are cheaper, simple backpacks with laptop sleeves, but they typically don't look nearly as nice as the Region and don't come with a 5-year warranty.
Solgaard The Hustle Backpack
Best backpack for staying charged on the goSarah Tew/CNET
The $145 Hustle might look like a simple backpack, but its filled with surprises. The metal hook that secures the top lid, for example, is also a bottle opener. And the little loop at the end of the hook is the attachment point for the integrated retractable combination cable lock that's tucked inside of the bag. Hidden magnets help keep the lid closed when it's not hooked and locked.
There are hidden pockets on the fronts of the shoulder straps as well as in the bottom of the back padding. Also hiding on the inside of the strap where it attaches to the bottom of the bag is a USB port. A cable runs from it to a pocket inside that can hold a removable power bank such as the company's Solarbank Boombox, a solar-powered battery paired with a Bluetooth speaker.
The inside is deep with plenty of storage, organizational pockets and a lined padded sleeve for up to a 15-inch laptop. Padding at the bottom protects your stuff inside while adding support to the base so the bag stands on its own when you put it down.
Waterfield Designs Bolt Backpack
Best backpack for professionalsSarah Tew/CNET
No matter how nice-looking a backpack is, it can still make you look like a 12-year-old at the office. With a clean design and a combination of 1050 denier ballistic nylon and leather accents, the Bolt is an office-friendly adult backpack.
Two drop pockets in front -- each with magnetic closures -- give you somewhere to stash your keys and sunglasses, while a protected zipper just above them gets you into a deep pocket that runs nearly the entire width of the bag. There are umbrella/water bottle pockets on each side, too.
The golden interior works like a light to help you find what you're looking for fast. There are a few organizational pockets in the main compartment, a key leash and padded sleeves for a tablet and 15-inch laptop. And although there is only one spacious compartment, Westfield put a secondary zipper directly over the laptop compartment to make it easier to access when the bag is packed full or for a TSA checkpoint.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack
Best laptop backpack for photographersSarah Tew/CNET
If you like clean, streamlined designs and bags that can shrink or grow depending on your needs on any given day, you'll appreciate the Everyday Backpack. Peak Design got its start making camera accessories, which shows in the bags design and features like its origami-inspired removable dividers, but the backpack is great even if you're not a photographer.
Large zippered side panels give you easy access to everything inside regardless of where it is in the bag. Each side panel has separate zippered storage areas for accessories and a slim padded laptop compartment is accessible through a zipper at the top. It will snugly hold up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro.
All the zippers are weather-sealed and the fabric is water-resistant, and a magnetic latch system lets you expand or shrink the top of the bag, so you can fill it to the top and still secure everything inside. External side pockets and hidden straps give you more storage on the outside.
All of those features and the quality construction will cost you, though: The smaller 20L-size bag I tested costs $260, while a larger 30L version is $290.
Tortuga Setout Laptop Backpack
Best underseater carry-on backpackSarah Tew/CNET
Part suitcase, part daypack, the Setout Laptop Backpack holds all the tech you travel with plus a day or two of clothes. It fits under most airplane seats, so if you like to take advantage of cheap basic economy flights where you don't get overhead space, this is a solid pick.
It's a lightweight, but durable bag, too. Once you get where you're going, you can unpack your clothes and easily use it as a daypack. The shoulder straps are comfortable enough for all-day use and if you'd rather carry it like a suitcase, the straps unclip from the bottom of the bag and tuck behind the padding on back (the clips are a pain to use though, especially one-handed). Thick padded handles on top and the side make it comfortable to carry.
Plenty of pockets and dividers in the front and rear compartments help keep your cables and accessories organized and in reach. It's a lot of bag for $125.
eBags Professional Weekender
Best carry-on travel backpackSarah Tew/CNET
Deceivingly large when it comes to storage, the Weekender's top front compartment has a bunch of organizational pockets while a bottom front compartment holds an included 3-1-1 pouch to make getting through security easier. The bag opens wide, splitting in half, with the front section made to hold your clothes and the back section for your laptop. Packed correctly, you can open it and leave your laptop in the bag when put through a scanner.
Hidden in the lower back, underneath the lumbar padding, is a crush-proof garage for accessories or an AC adapter. And although it's designed as a backpack, the shoulder straps can be stashed in a pocket under the back panel padding so you can carry it like a suitcase.
Priced at $150, the Weekender can regularly be found for less direct from eBags or on Amazon.
Mobile Edge Core Gaming Backpack
Best gaming backpackSarah Tew/CNET
Mobile Edge makes gaming backpacks for Alienware and Razer, but the $104 Core bag is all its own. It can hold up to 17.3-inch laptops (though superthick ones are snug) and it's TSA checkpoint-friendly, so you don't have to unload your system into a bin. Extra padding on the straps and back keep things as comfortable as possible.
There are places for all your cables, headphones and a keyboard. There's a dedicated pocket for a large battery pack, too, with a quick-charge USB 3.0 cable that runs to the outside of the bag to charge a phone or tablet without cracking the bag open.
Pockets on the sides let you stash anything from a mouse and cables to a water bottle and umbrella. The bag is also available in two styles: One with a molded front and another with a Velcro panel to display your team badges or other patches. And, they're both covered with a lifetime warranty.
North St. Weekender Backpack
Best customizable backpackSarah Tew/CNET
Can't decide what your storage and travel needs are? Here's your bag. Made to order in Portland, Oregon from tear- and abrasion-resistant Cordura with weatherproof zippers, the bag can be everything from a slim laptop backpack to a 28-liter carry-on.
Velcro rails inside the bag let you customize the internal storage with removable organizer pockets. North St. also makes packing cubes to fit the bag and compression straps inside and out keep everything as slim and secure as possible.
Plus, while the backpack has a suspended 15-inch laptop sleeve built in, you can also get the company's Meeting Bag -- a simple briefcase that converts into a backpack -- which can be attached to the front of the backpack.
Quality and customization isn't cheap, though. The Backpack is $290 and it's another $100 for the Meeting Bag.