When it comes to laptop bags and backpacks there are seemingly thousands of options. Honestly, I spent more time picking out my last bag than I did my laptop.
If you're in the same spot, consider this gallery 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 get you around campus or a simple shoulder bag that works for business meetings and getting you through the weekend, you'll find it here.
And if you don't find the perfect bag, fear not: This list is far from definitive and you can expect this gallery to grow throughout 2018 as I test out new bags.
For anyone who's ever cursed losing legroom on a flight to a carry-on bag (which is everyone ever), the Air Porter is the answer. Its small, boxy design lets you stand it upright under an airplane seat without constantly falling over.
Made in San Francisco from waxed canvas (or ballistic nylon) and leather, it's ready for whatever weather with waterproof exterior zippers and a water-resistant lining. A front flap covers a zippered pocket perfect for your phone and wallet and a larger slip pocket for a book or magazine.
Magnets secure the flap to the bag at two different positions giving you a bit more space for bulky stuff. On back is a luggage pass-through so you can drop it on your rolling bag instead of using the shoulder strap or carry handles.
The separate TSA checkpoint-friendly laptop compartment holds up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro and also has two large drop pockets that can hold power adapter and a power bank to charge up your devices on the go.
The main compartment is deceptively large and has five more drop pockets as well as three elasticized pockets that will snugly hold cables or other small items.
However, if you hate having to constantly go in and out of your carry-on for things, make sure you pair the Air Porter with the Air Caddy. It has a slip pocket for a tablet for in-flight entertainment -- up to a 10.5-inch iPad Pro fits -- as well as storage for other essentials, but it's still small enough to fit in the seatback pocket.
Tyvek fabric is used for a variety of things from envelopes and festival wristbands to industrial coveralls and Timbuk2's $130 Launch Pack. The fabric is durable and lightweight, and helps keep water out, all without being thick and bulky.
Slip pockets on each side are perfect for a water bottle or sunglasses. There's a small zippered pocket in front with a key leash as well as a somewhat hidden pocket in the top of the bag, perfect for a wallet or other small items you might want to keep a bit more secure.
The bag comes in five colors with bright interiors so if something falls to the bottom of the bag it's easy to spot. There's file folder/laptop/tablet sleeve and a couple of slip pockets, but that's it inside. A zipper down the left side at the back opens up a separate compartment for a 13- or 14-inch laptop.
If you have a bunch of little items that you like to keep organized, you'll want to check out Timbuk2's Uptown, Division or Authority packs. It's probably best you don't put anything too small in the bag anyway since it it has a drawstring closure at the top, leaving a chance for something to fall out. Then again, it's really nice just to pull it closed, clip the top down and go. Plus, the lack of structure to the bag makes it easy to stash in a suitcase so you can have a light daypack when you're on vacation.
The $90 Mobile Edge Graphite Corporate Briefcase is well laid out for business road warriors. Made from ballistic nylon, the bag has room for every last bit of tech and travel essentials starting with a trio of three padded pockets on front that gives you somewhere to stash a battery pack, power adapter and anything else you need to have fast access to.
Just below the lay-flat handles on top is a zippered lined pocket for your phone or sunglasses. A padded shoulder strap is included, too, and there's a luggage handle pass-through on back.
Inside in the middle there's room for up to a 15.6-inch laptop and another sleeve for a large tablet. At back is another compartment with an accordian file for folders, paper pads or a magazine or two. Then there's a front organizational section that totally unzips and lays flat, so you can basically set up to work anywhere.
You can get it directly from Mobile Edge or from Amazon. Either way it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Sumo loaded this $80 messenger bag with pockets, including two large ones on the outside -- one in front, one in back -- which you typically don't find. It also skipped the Velcro and instead has two hidden buckles under the flap.
While it doesn't come with a stabilizer strap to keep the bag from flipping around while you're biking, the shoulder strap has a cam at each end so you can adjust the length easily from the left or right.
Open it up and you'll find more pockets inside and out as well as a key leash and a compartment that'll fit up to a thin 17-inch laptop or a slightly thicker 15.6-inch model. There's also a lined pocket for a tablet (seen here with a pair of over-the-ear headphones in it).
It's available in four color patterns -- blue, pink, red and silver -- from Sumo or on Amazon.
Mobile Edge makes gaming backpacks for Alienware and Razer, but the $110 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 even 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 so you can charge your 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.
Pad & Quill has a knack for creating bags with classic design for modern needs and its new roll-top satchel is no different. The water-resistant leather messenger bag has the look of an old mailbag made from tough American full-grain leather that's covered with a 25-year warranty.
The rolltop's design makes it easy to expand the main pocket and get to stuff inside including its padded laptop pocket that fits up a 15.6-inch 2017 Apple MacBook Pro. There's also one zippered pocket inside that runs the length of the laptop compartment, but that's all on the inside.
On back is a newspaper pocket and there are side slip pockets to quickly stash your phone or sunglasses. The bag is finished with strong brass hardware and parachute-grade UV-resistant stitching, and a there's a strap that closes the top down with a single rivet.
Between the thick leather and brass hardware, this bag is not light coming in at 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg) and it's pricey too at $395. But if you want a tough, but beautiful bag to last you years, it's worth checking out. And if you decide you don't like it, the company offers a 30-day money-back promise.
Tylt is best known for its device charging products with everything from cables and wireless phone chargers to power packs and Bluetooth speakers. The Energi Pro is its backpack that has room for all your tech gear and the power to keep you charged up.
The bag sells for $150, but that includes an $80 20,100mAh battery pack as well as Micro-USB and USB-C cables and a separate accessory holder to keep all your cables, dongles and adapters in one removable pouch. A side pocket holds the battery and has pass-throughs to the other bag compartments for simultaneously charging up to three devices.
There is a laptop pocket at the back as well as a separate zippered tablet pocket, another for a phone and/or sunglasses and entire front storage area with more pockets and enough room for large headphones, books or even a pair of sneakers. The pockets also block RFID signals.
There are routing loops, too, to keep cables out of the way as much as possible. The laptop compartment is TSA compliant, meaning it can be unzipped completely on the left and right to let your laptop lay flat and separate from the rest of the bag.
Though the Energi Pro is big and at about 4.5 pounds (2 kg) with the battery pack it's not light, but it's well balanced and has a nicely cushioned back panel. The straps are wide and comfortable with a sternum strap to help keep the bag in place. There are also two pads at the top of each strap to relieve pressure on the back of your shoulders. There's a padded grab handle at the top, too.
About the only thing missing is an external pocket for a water bottle or umbrella, but Tylt got so much right with this bag, we'll let it slide.
Peak Design got its start making camera accessories, and this bag is definitely a good choice for photographers thanks to its origami-inspired removable dividers that let you break up the main compartment however you want.
Both sides of the bag offer the same large zippered panels, so you can get to anything you need regardless of where it is in the bag. Each side panel has a separate zippered storage area with pockets.
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, by the way, are all weather-sealed and the fabric is water-resistant.
To get in and out of the main compartment, Peak Design developed a magnetic latch system. A set of bars under the front flap let you close the bag at different heights so you can fill the bag right up to the top and still secure everything inside. Or tighten it all the way down to make the bag more compact.
Each side has a pouch for a water bottle or umbrella. However, there are also hidden straps behind the front panel letting you attach more to the outside, whether it's a coat or a drone or tripod.
Lastly, the straps are well padded without being bulky and pivot at axial connection points, so they fit perfectly. They tighten with a simple pull and loosen just as easily. A sternum strap fastens with one hand and, when you need additional support and security, there's a hidden waist strap in the back. It's overall a really comfortable and thoughtful design. All of those features and the quality construction will cost you, though: The smaller 20L-size bag we tested costs $260, while a larger 30L version is $290.
The Trilogy is a solid pick if you're just looking for a lightweight bag to carry around essentials and don't need a ton of little pockets and extra features. It has three compartments and three external storage pockets. (Trilogy, get it?)
The large main compartment has a suspended padded laptop sleeve at the back that will fit a 15.6-inch laptop, though you'll want to stick to models under an inch thick. The suspension means your laptop is less likely to get dinged up when you put the bag down.
The middle compartment has a handful of pockets along with enough space to hold your lunch and headphones. A front compartment is perfect for cables or anything you want to keep in easy reach. Speaking of, just above it is the opening for a drop pocket that is deep enough for a magazine or umbrella. There are also mesh pockets on each side big enough to hold a water bottle.
Even with the laptop sleeve being in the main compartment, it's still deep and wide enough for gym clothes and a pair of sneakers, assuming they're not too large or bulky.
The $80 bag is finished in water-repellent fabric and has reverse coil zippers that also help keep water and dirt out of the bag. If you're headed back to school or already there and need a lightweight backpack, the Trilogy is a solid pick.
Part of Solo's Roadster collection, the $215 Shorewood is made from soft pebbled black leather with brown accents and metal hardware. Two drop pockets in front give you somewhere to stash your sunglasses and phone, but the zippered pocket just above them gives you some security for smaller items.
The compartments are lined with a heavy twill with a camouflage pattern that is... interesting. There is a padded laptop compartment at the back that'll hold up to a 15-inch laptop. In front of that is another reasonably large section, big enough to hold headphones and there's a slip pocket for a tablet or e-reader. Basically, despite its slim profile, it actually expands to hold quite a lot.
As the name implies, this backpack has just enough space to carry your needs for the day. It's available in several color combos and sells for $80 or less and terrific for fans of simple, but functional designs.
Outside you'll find drop pockets on each side that'll work for holding your phone or keys, though they can be expanded to fit an umbrella or water bottle by undoing a snap.
The Daypack opens wide for easy access to the 15.6-inch laptop compartment and everything else. It has enough room for a couple books, headphones and a few essentials. A mesh pocket opposite the laptop sleeve works well for cables or other accessories.
The straps are contoured for a more comfortable fit, especially if you typically use only one strap at a time. Padding is decent, but I wouldn't go loading this down too much regardless.
The Icon backpack has been a favorite for years now for its understated style while still having the capacity for a ton of gear (and shoulder straps to carry it all comfortably). Incase updated the bag recently with a new 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 divided into four compartments including one for up to a 15.6-inch laptop and another side-loading one for a tablet. There are also sections for flat files and one loaded with pockets for all your accessories. Too bad the interior is so dark it's impossible to find something if it falls to the bottom of the bag.
While water bottle/umbrella storage is absent on the outside there, there is certainly room inside. One of my favorite features are the zippered pockets at the base of each strap. The right side even has a cable pass-through so you can keep a battery pack in there and charge your phone while you use it.
Lowepro primarily makes camera bags, but the Urbex line blurs the line between photography and everyday use, much like Peak Design bags.
It'll hold up to a 15.6-inch MacBook Pro in zippered pocket at the back. There's also a large separate center storage section with a tablet pocket as well as a handful of other organizational pockets including one zippered pocket. There's one external zippered pocket on top, too, that's good for sunglasses, earbuds or other small items. An elasticized pocket on the side gives you water bottle storage.
What makes it a camera bag then? There's a side entry that gives you access to a padded gear box that's big enough to hold a compact mirrorless camera or a GoPro and some accessories. Or you can use it to hold your power adapter, cables or whatever.
There's a padded divider separating the gear box from the rest of center section, but it's attached inside with Velcro and can be folded flat to give you more interior storage. You can then attach the gear box outside of the bag with its integrated strap.
Also pictured here is the awesome little hidden phone pocket in the shoulder strap.
It's a briefcase. It's a shoulder bag. It's a backpack.
The Alastair ($150) is made from rugged waxed canvas with a leather bottom, so you can put it down on wet ground without freaking out about stuff in your bag. There's a large zippered organizational pocket in front along with two smaller zippered pockets for sunglasses, earbuds, your phone and other small items.
In the main compartment you'll find a vertical holder for your laptop (up to a 15.6-inch size) and a tablet pocket. There is a set of small pockets opposite the laptop/tablet sleeves, but I found them too small or shallow to be of much use (stuff either didn't fit or fell out easily). The external pockets offer enough extra storage for accessories.
Although there is no discrete pocket for a water bottle or umbrella, there is pocket that runs the width of the back you can use. This pocket also unzips at the bottom so it can be slid over your luggage handle. It also hides a set of backpack straps that simply clip to the bottom of the bag. It's surprisingly balanced carried over one shoulder. All in all, it's an excellent briefcase that's professional and casual.
If you'd rather have a traditional backpack that's dressed up for business, there's the $230 Kilbourn. It's essentially the backpack version of the Solo NY Shorewood briefcase from earlier. It has the same soft pebbled leather on the outside and the same camo print on the inside. There's a zippered pocket for small items you need to keep more secure than the front drop pocket, though the flap covering it is held down with magnets.
If a high-end messenger is more your style, this bag is a sweet combination of classic good looks and utility. Like the Satchel featured at the top of this gallery, the Attaché is made from tough American full-grain bridle leather. It weathers beautifully giving the bag some extra character.
There's a newspaper pocket on back and two pleated pockets on front. Inside you'll find a couple more pockets for cables and accessories as well as a large zippered pocket. The padded laptop section will hold up to a 15.6-inch MacBook Pro.
However, tucked inside it is a full lightweight backpack. The laptop sleeve fits inside the bag and there's plenty of room for a jacket, lunch, files, a book or two or whatever you need for the day.
No, it's not the most comfortable bag to wear, so don't consider this for everyday use. But if you're looking for something to protect your laptop in your luggage and wouldn't mind having a simple backpack handy for when you reach your destination, this is the solution.