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Pack your tech and your clothes in one bag

Traveling light takes skill. Paring down your clothes for a weekend away to a single, small carry-on is difficult enough when you're trying to avoid a checked baggage fee. But if that one bag also has to fit your laptop, a tablet and all your technology essentials, you can't just use any ordinary luggage.

When you need to fly small, there's a whole world of bags that'll hold everything you need. Here are some favorites I've been testing, many of which qualify as a "personal item." That means they'll fit under an airplane seat -- perfect for those luggage-restricting basic economy fares -- though you should check their dimensions against your airline's requirements. You may just need to gently kick them a couple of times to get them to fit. 

First published Nov. 7, this was last updated Dec. 28.

Disclaimer: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of some of the products in this guide. 

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eBags Fortis Pro Traveler Hardside Spinner Carry-On

The Fortis Pro is a true carry-on spinner, so it will need to go in an overhead bin. However, you won't strain to get it up and in a bin because it is remarkably light, while its polycarbonate shell will protect whatever you have inside. 

Despite the hard shell, there is room to grow thanks to a wraparound zipper that lets it out an additional 1.5 inches. That's just enough to still meet carry-on regulations for most carriers, but gives you room to bring home more than you left with. 

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eBags Fortis Pro Traveler Hardside Spinner Carry-On

A TSA-approved lock on top helps keep your items secure in transit. Perhaps more important than that, though, is the USB port directly next to the lock. It runs to an internal pocket just underneath it inside the bag where you can put a power bank, so you can keep your mobile devices charged up before your flight. (Just remember to take out the battery if you have to check the bag at your gate.)

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eBags Fortis Pro Traveler Hardside Spinner Carry-On

The interior is definitely designed to keep you organized with a removable divider on one side and a zippered mesh cover on the other. Even the compression strap helps out with zippered wet and dry pouches attached to it. 

The Fortis Pro is currently available in five color options directly from eBags for $220 (approximately £175, AU$310). 

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Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack

Timbuk2 might be best known for its legendary messenger bags, but it has a pretty diverse selection of bags for all uses including a whole line of travel bags

Designed to keep you from having to check your bag whether you're coming or going, the $199 Expandable Backpack has a wrap-around zipper that increases your storage space. The price roughly converts to £150 and AU$275.

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Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack

The bright blue interior not only looks good, but makes it easy to find what you're looking for fast. A side-loading padded compartment at the back holds up to a 15-inch laptop. Another slip pocket holds up to a 9.7-inch iPad.

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Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack

While storage is big, it's missing a couple features others in the category have like a luggage handle pass-through, internal compression straps and a way to tuck the shoulder straps out of the way. Plus, if you stuff the main compartment full, it can be difficult to get into the organizational compartment on front. 

As a bag to take you from a daily commute to a weekend trip though, this hits the spot.  

Check it out on Timbuk2 or on Amazon

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Mobile Edge Professional Rolling Laptop Case

One part briefcase, one part carry-on luggage, Mobile Edge's $170 rolling laptop case has a back section that opens wide with room for a change of clothes and toiletries. That price roughly converts to £130 and AU$235.

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Mobile Edge Professional Rolling Laptop Case

Around front, three other sections hold all your business essentials including a 17-inch laptop and a tablet. It's perfect if you appreciate organization. 

Check it out on Mobile Edge's site or on Amazon.

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Moshi Vacanza

This $200 (roughly £155, AU$275) stylish expandable weekender has room for your clothes and a padded pocket for a 15-inch laptop. However, if you overpack this bag, it can be difficult to get a larger laptop in and out since it's just one big compartment. Something to keep in mind if this is for frequent air travel. 

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Moshi Vacanza

Moshi even includes a reusable wet and dry bag perfect for a soggy swimsuit or gym clothes. There's a large pocket on one side with snap closures that's crush-resistant and has a pocket to keep your phone or sunglasses safe. On the opposite side, there's a set of three drop pockets that are big enough to hold a small water bottle, umbrella or anything else you want to keep handy. 

Check it out on Moshi's site or on Amazon.

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North St. Weekender Backpack

Earlier this year, I tested out North St.'s $130 Meeting Bag (roughly £100, AU$180), a simple briefcase that converts into a backpack. Inside, along with a padded sleeve for a laptop as big as a 15-inch MacBook Pro are Velcro rails, letting you customize the internal storage with its removable organizer pockets

That little bag attaches to the front of the company's full-size backpack, making this a perfect one-two punch for a quick business trip. (But even if you opt for just the backpack, there's a suspended laptop sleeve built in.) 

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North St. Weekender Backpack

Constructed from tear- and abrasion-resistant Cordura with weatherproof zippers, the bag is durable and lightweight and features the same configurable organizational system as the Meeting Bag. North St. also makes packing cubes that are made to fit its bags. 

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North St. Weekender Backpack

At 28 liters, there's plenty of room for clothing, toiletries and other essentials. There are compression straps inside to help secure your clothes or packing cubes. 

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North St. Weekender Backpack

There are compression straps on the outside, too, so you can let them out for more room or tighten them down when you're traveling light. The bag's shoulder straps are well padded and comfortable, but can also be tucked away to keep from getting tangled up. 

It's a high-quality bag that's custom fit for your needs, however, that customization isn't cheap. Each bag is made to order in Portland, Oregon, and the bag alone is $290 (roughly £225, AU$400) without any of the organizational pockets or travel cubes. It's a tough bag, though, and can handle going from an everyday commute bag to one for weekend travel. 

Check it out on the North St. site.

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eBags Kalya Underseat Carry-on 2.0

As the name implies, this $130 (roughly £100, AU$180) little roller can fit underneath your airplane seat. There's quite a bit of storage for such a small bag, too. 

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eBags Kalya Underseat Carry-on 2.0

The Kalya has a padded compartment inside for a 15-inch laptop plus a separate zippered sleeve around front for a tablet. 

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eBags Kalya Underseat Carry-on 2.0

It also has a side-mounted USB port connecting to an exterior pocket that holds a battery pack (not included) to keep you all charged up. 

Check it out on eBags' site or on Amazon

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Waterfield Atlas Executive Athletic Holdall

Designed for going between the gym and work, but also good for a weekend away, the $429 (roughly £330, AU$595) Holdall has a large main compartment for clothes with a side opening for shoes. 

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Waterfield Atlas Executive Athletic Holdall

A separate briefcase compartment holds your laptop, tablet and accessories. That compartment also completely unzips so you can lay your laptop flat to go through airport security without removing it. 

Made in San Francisco from black ballistic nylon or waxed canvas and leather with waterproof zippers, it can easily slip between casual and business use. 

Check it out on Waterfield's site

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Incase Via Backpack

A laptop backpack that grows for travel, the $200 (roughly £155, AU$280) Incase Via expands up to an additional 3.5 inches thanks to an outside wrap-around zipper. 

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Incase Via Backpack

It butterflies open for easy packing, while external compression straps cinch it down tight. A separate 15-inch laptop compartment for your other work essentials makes getting through security a snap. I just wish Incase would use something other than black inside the bag to help with visibility. 

Also, it lacks a pass-through for sliding over a luggage handle and, while it has a cushy side grab handle to carry it like a suitcase, there's no way to stow the shoulder straps. But, if this is meant to be your only bag to get through a one- or two-day trip, this'll keep both your clothes and tech organized. 

Check it on Incase's site or on Amazon

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Samsonite Spinner Underseater

Hate hunting for outlets to charge your phone? A USB port on top of this Samsonite runs to an inside pocket that holds a power bank (not included).

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Samsonite Spinner Underseater

A drop-down organizer in front keeps boarding passes, pens and other necessities within easy reach and a larger compartment has a 14-inch laptop sleeve and space for a couple days' worth of clothes. 

True to its name, this fits under an airplane seat, so if you're flying basic economy and don't have use of the overhead bin, this is a good way to go. Not bad for $120 or less (roughly £90, AU$165). 

Check it out on Samsonite's site, on eBags or on Amazon

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Mission Workshop Radian Travel Pack

There is nothing small about the $585 Radian Travel Pack (roughly £450, AU$810). Made by hand in the US, it's a 42-liter suitcase in backpack form. There are dedicated laptop and tablet compartments, and you can buy additional pockets as well as cases that attach to rails on the outside for more storage. 

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Mission Workshop Radian Travel Pack

Though you can load it through its rolltop opening, you can also lay it down, unzip the entire front panel and open it like a sardine can. It's constructed of lightweight fabric that's weather-, abrasion- and tear-resistant. And, despite the size, it'll fit the carry-on dimensions for most airlines and commuter plane overhead bins.

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Mission Workshop Radian Travel Pack

Aluminum back supports and an optional waist belt help you bear the heaviest of loads. It was surprisingly comfortable fully loaded as I walked around New York with it for a day. And you can conceal its well-padded shoulder straps under a fabric panel to make it easier to put in an overhead bin or check. 

See it on Mission Workshop's site

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eBags Professional Weekender

This Weekender made by eBags is deceivingly large when it comes to storage. The top front compartment has a bunch of organizational pockets while the bottom front compartment is designed for your liquids and eBags, including a 3-1-1 pouch to use for them. 

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eBags Professional Weekender

The bag splits down the middle. The front section is made to hold your clothes, while the back section is made for your laptop. Packed correctly, you don't need to take your laptop out when you open this up and put it through a security scanner. 

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eBags Professional Weekender

Hidden in the lower back, underneath the lumbar padding, is a crush-proof garage for your AC adapter. The shoulder straps can be stashed in a pocket under the back panel padding. Not really a surprise, but eBags seems to have thought of everything when it comes to this travel bag and it's less than $160 to boot (roughly £125, AU$220). 

See it on eBags or on Amazon

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eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible

The $130 (roughly £100, AU$180) TLS Mother Lode packs like a suitcase, but looks like an average backpack. The large front center and top compartments give you quick access to your essentials, while a front slash pocket is good for smaller items like a set of earbuds or a boarding pass. 

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eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible

It butterflies open to give you full access to your clothes. What you can see in this shot, is that the right section has a divider in it basically creating two packing sections to keep everything from sliding to the bottom of the bag when it's on your back. Its interior compression straps help, too.

A separate top-loading laptop compartment with a sling inside supports the weight so it's centered and not in the bottom. 

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eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible

And whether you pack a little or a lot, the exterior compression straps let you cinch it down to make it just the right size. 

See it on eBags or on Amazon

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Peak Design Travel Backpack

The weatherproof backpack is similar to the company's Everyday Backpack, but the Travel Backpack can be compressed to 30 liters and expanded to 45 liters.

One of the things I appreciate most about Peak Design's bags is how well the straps are hidden, so the bags never look sloppy. You wouldn't know it, but there are straps in front to help secure stuff to the outside. Even the side carry handles are kept tight to the bag and out of the way.    

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Peak Design Travel Backpack

The main compartment zips open a little or a lot. The back panel has a padded laptop sleeve that'll hold a 15-inch MacBook Pro as well as a tablet. It's a snug fit, so the laptop stays put. 

Both sides zip open as well, so you don't necessarily need to open the back to get to what you need. 

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Peak Design Travel Backpack

Peak Design offers several organization cubes, too, for your clothes, your cables, toiletries and camera gear or drone. 

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Peak Design Travel Backpack

Despite the lack of bulky padding, the bag's shoulder straps are comfortable even when the bag is loaded down with gear. There's also a waist strap to help when you've really stuffed it full.

The Travel Backpack sells for $300 (about AU$425 or £235) is available direct from Peak Design or see it on Amazon

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Best laptop bags and backpacks for 2018

Looking for something smaller to be your everyday carry? Check out the best laptop bags and backpacks we've tested for 2018. 

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