Tested and reviewed by CNET, here are the best backpacks to hold your precious computer.
Updated March 25, 2023 9:41 a.m. PT
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Joshua GoldmanManaging Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
ExpertiseLaptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and dronesCredentials
More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
If you're a remote worker, student or designer on the go, you know how important it is to safely carry your laptop with you. We'll always need a good way to carry our stuff -- including our tech -- from place to place.
With so many laptop backpacks on the market, we've sifted through to find the best ones, whether you need something weatherproof, adjustable, slim, or business-attire approved. We've spent countless hours walking city streets, commuting and traveling with these backpacks to see how they hold up and how useful their individual features are for everyday backpack use. We'll keep testing new bags and regularly update this list with the best we find.
If you want one backpack that'll work for your daily commute, a day trip or weekend away or as an airplane carry-on, this is it. I continue to be amazed at how well designed this bag is every time I use it and it truly feels like the company thought of everything. Take, for example, the key leash. Most bags have a short one stitched inside a pocket -- some more accessible than others -- and can't be removed. Nomatic includes a retractable clip-on key leash that can be moved to another pocket or just removed entirely. Another good example is the internal design. The main compartment gives you enough room for your lunch, a jacket, books and whatever else you might carry with you on a daily commute including a hard case for sunglasses. Like many travel bags, though, there's a zipper around the outside (all the zippers are weather-sealed, by the way) that expands the size to give you space for shoes and clothes for a day or two. What is unique is that when you expand the bag, it reveals another zipper that opens the backpack like a clamshell for easy packing.
A compartment at the front of the bag has all the organization you'll need for cables, a mouse, power adapters and other accessories. It also has an RFID pocket to keep your credit cards, ID and other things safe. A separate zippered lined pocket above the front compartment is perfect for your phone and there are cable pass-throughs from the pocket to the front compartment so you can put a power bank in the latter and charge your phone on the go.
Then there are things like external pockets on each side that stretch to fit a water bottle or umbrella but close flat to the bag with magnets when empty. The backpack stands on its own and has grab handles on the top and sides so you can easily carry it when it's off your back. The shoulder straps even tuck into the cushy back panel so they don't flap around or get snagged when sliding it under an airplane seat. Also, the separate laptop compartment at the back can be unzipped and laid flat to slip it through TSA without taking your laptop entirely out.
At $300 (£222, AU$407), the Nomatic Travel Backpack is not exactly a bargain, but given its versatility, the quality of materials and thoughtful design, it's worth every penny.
Can't decide between a shoulder laptop bag and backpack? Hybrids like the Duane solve this with a design that works as both. Detachable backpack straps stash in a pocket on the back when you want to attach its removable shoulder strap. There's enough room for books, your lunch and whatever else you need to get through the day including a dedicated laptop compartment for up to a 15.6-inch laptop. Plus, despite a price as low as $42, it carries Solo NY's five-year warranty.
The Commuter Pack is a winner with great organization and an all-around thoughtful design. For example, the zippered pockets on each side can be used to hold a water bottle or umbrella but can also be used to simply secure small items. It's also a good place to charge your phone on the go. And when they're not in use, there are no saggy pockets to look at.
The main compartment has plenty of room for your lunch, headphones, books or whatever, and there's a large slip pocket for files, too. There is also a set of elastic tie-down straps similar to what you'd find in a suitcase -- perfect for holding a jacket. A separate laptop-and-tablet compartment with a weather-sealed zipper keeps them protected and easy to access. The laptop sleeve fits up to a 16-inch MacBook Pro and is lined with faux fur to prevent scratches (it feels amazing, too).
My favorite feature, though, is the hidden faux-fur-lined pocket on the top. It's a quick-and-easy spot to drop your phone or sunglasses, and it has a magnetic closure so stuff won't fall out. But the best part is that the pocket is accessible even when the pack is on your back.
When it comes to backpacks that pair well with business attire, leather is usually the default material. Leather is expensive and heavy, though, especially with backpacks large enough to accommodate a large laptop. The Slipstream fits a 16-inch MacBook Pro but its lightweight fabric and lining made from recycled materials keep weight down without sacrificing style. It's been waterproofed, too, so a sudden downpour won't get your stuff soggy or damage your laptop in the separate rear compartment.
There are no exterior side pockets for a water bottle or umbrella, but two slip pockets inside the main compartment can easily hold both. The shoulder straps are padded with memory foam and covered with a soft, smooth fabric to help protect your clothing. They're also curved for greater comfort.
The main compartment is large enough to hold a bike helmet, a change of clothes or whatever else you need to get through your workday. A small compartment on the front is handy for your phone, sunglasses and keys. And, despite being made from fabric, it has a structure to it that allows it to stay standing when you put it down -- whether it's empty or packed full. It is a large bag, though, so if you like the look but want a smaller option, Troubadour has a helpful visual comparison chart for all of its backpacks. The Slipstream is available in five color options and if you really want leather, it's available and it's waterproof, too.
What's great about the Jumper is that it works equally well as a daypack as it does a camera bag. Unzip the main compartment and you have a large open space for your daily essentials and a small zippered pocket for valuables (though there's no key leash). On the front, there's a zippered compartment with small organizational pockets to hold cables, batteries, earbuds and more. A water bottle pocket on the right, a hidden zippered pocket in the padded back panel and a separate laptop compartment at the back with a weatherproof zipper all give you enough storage for your daily commute or walking around campus.
Just behind the front compartment's zipper, though, is another zipper that opens the entire bottom half of the backpack to the inside. With the compartment open, you can use the included four padded dividers to organize and protect your camera equipment in the bottom half. The sides of the backpack and the bottom are padded as well. A panel inside at the top of the bag drops down to form a separation between the top portion and your camera gear so you still have room for stuff that's not camera gear. Straps on the bottom can hold a large tripod (or a jacket) or you can use the side pocket for a small travel tripod instead.
Lastly, there's a zippered opening on the left side to give you fast access to your camera without having to lay the bag down and open the front section. It's a really clever, versatile compact design. And for those who don't need the camera protection, Brevite makes a version that's just for hauling your stuff.
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 stylish 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 easily carry an iPad or snugly hold up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro.
All the zippers are weather-sealed and the fabric is water-repellent, 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.
The Up Seoul is a daypack version of the bigger rolltop bags messengers use. Rolltops are great because if you suddenly need more space in your backpack, you can unroll the top and create a chimney for your stuff. Plus, rolling over the top keeps rain out. However, once they're full it can be a pain to get to stuff at the bottom of your bag.
The Up Seoul solves this access issue with a zipper at the top of the bag that goes across and then down the right side, giving it a wider opening. On the inside, you'll find a padded laptop sleeve, a couple of slip pockets, a shallow zippered pocket with a key leash and an elastic water bottle pocket. On the outside, there's a slip pocket on the left for a water bottle or umbrella, a large zippered pocket on front and a hidden zippered pocket on the right big enough for your phone that can be accessed with the bag.
Soft padding on the shoulder straps and back panel and removable sternum and waist straps help keep this bag comfortable even when it's packed full. The Deuter Up Seoul is available in six color combinations and is made entirely from recycled materials.
Moshi Treya Lite (Update: temporarily out of stock)
Despite the "Lite" in the name, this bag actually offers quite a bit. Available in tan or black, the $210 satchel is made from vegan leather that is ridiculously soft to the touch. Included straps and multiple attachment points allow you to wear it as a shoulder bag, a messenger and, yes, a backpack. You can also just use it as a handbag.
Inside there's a sleeve for up to a 13-inch laptop, plus space for all your necessities. And if you need a bit more space, the top unsnaps to increase your storage. The top flap closes with magnets, but there's also an interior zipper to keep things more secure.
A hidden slip pocket on back gives you somewhere to quickly stash your phone or sunglasses, though there's also a zippered Napoleon pocket back there for anything else you want to keep close at hand. The external pocket on front is actually a removable clutch and can be used with the shoulder strap for when you don't want to lug a bigger bag.
The Belmont is a simple backpack with a zippered front pocket, two slip pockets -- one on each side -- for a water bottle or umbrella and a drawstring top covered with a flap to keep out the weather. It's on the inside where things get more interesting.
Along with a built-in suspended 15-inch laptop sleeve there are two rails of soft Velcro. Using those rails you can customize the internal storage with removable organizer pockets. Customizing your pockets means you get exactly what you want, plus when the bag is really full, you can just remove the pockets to get to your stuff without unpacking the backpack first.
The Belmont, like all of the company's bags, are made to order in Portland, Oregon. It's available in a dozen color options and they're made from water-, tear- and abrasion-resistant Cordura or recycled EcoPak EPX fabric.
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 Pro Executive is a stylish laptop case and office-friendly adult backpack.
The backpack features multiple compartments. Four external pockets keep your everyday essentials organized while two large main compartment sections give you room for everything from a change of clothes to a 15-inch laptop (though a newer slim 17-inch laptop will fit). The golden interior works as a light to help you find what you're looking for fast. And the backpack stays upright when you put it down.
Waterfield Design makes all of its bags in San Francisco and while that makes them a little pricier than others, it's worth paying extra for the high-quality results.