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The 13 Very Best Laptop Backpacks

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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If you need to carry your laptop with you from home to work or to the library to get some studying done, you’ll want a bag that can protect your computer between destinations. That’s where laptop backpacks come in. For those unaccustomed to laptop backpacks, let us ease your fears: They’re nothing like those tech briefcases that have to be lugged around by hand; in fact, many of them could pass as standard backpacks or even high-end outdoor gear. To help you find the best one for you, we spoke to frequent travelers, designers, and packing experts. Use the table of contents to skip ahead to what you’re shopping for or keep reading to find out how to choose the right laptop backpack for you, whether you need a good travel bag, a bag you can commute with, or something you can take to a coffee shop.

What We’re Looking for


The main thing you should look for is the size of the laptop compartment. If you have a 13-inch Macbook Air, for example, you’ll want a laptop compartment that will properly house your laptop so it won’t shift. Usually, a good bag will have an interior space (ideally padded) where your computer can be housed securely, safe from surface scratches and abrasions it might pick up if it rubs up against your keys or a zippered jacket.

Another important consideration is internal organization. If you need a bag that can double as a carry-on or you intend to bring your laptop bag to the gym, you’ll want additional compartments. You might also want to look for one with a front-zippered pocket for storing cables, keys, pens, or other small items you’d want quick access to.


Padding on the shoulders and back can help relieve some of the weight.


Waterproofing is a nice feature that can keep your computer safe and dry during an unexpected downpour, so many of the bags on our list are made of heavy-duty canvas, nylon, leather, neoprene, or synthetic materials like Fjallraven’s Vinylon-F, which is weather and dust resistant. We made sure to look for bags that are durable, stylish, and don’t look or feel flimsy — that way, they can handle any daily commute or travel.

Best overall laptop backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 17 inches; main compartment with seven pockets, separate laptop compartment with one pouch | Comfort: Breathable back panel and padded shoulder straps | Material: Waterproof, recycled polyester fabric, recycled polyester lining, vegan leather trim

If you’re looking for a bag that balances style, comfort, and function, I’ve been testing Troubadour Goods’s Apex backpack, and it fits the bill. It can hold laptops up to 17 inches, has a comfortable back panel that’s built to avoid making you sweat too much, and plenty of pockets to keep things tidy. It’s made of recycled polyester, with a vegan leather lining for a classy, understated aesthetic that’ll look good in any setting.

The Apex is just as comfortable for short distances as it is for longer walks, thanks to that padded back, and its abundance of pockets makes it easy to pack for a weekend getaway. Unlike Dagne Dover’s laptop bag, this backpack has a dedicated, padded laptop compartment on the back, as well as slots inside the main compartment to hold smaller tablets and e-readers, with extra pockets for chargers and other accessories. The Apex also has a pocket on the front that’s great for holding your phone or other often-reached-for items like a wallet, small notebook, or lip balm. Both sides of the bag have a pouch for holding a water bottle, so you can double up on your beverage of choice before taking off.

To test how much this bag can reasonably hold, I recently took it with me on a trip to Idaho stuffed with an iPad Pro, Kindle Scribe, ReMarkable 2 tablet, iPad Mini, and Kindle Paperwhite. Even with all those gadgets onboard, the bag didn’t feel heavy, lose its shape, or cause any discomfort, and I still could’ve dropped a laptop in there without any trouble. Its compartments also made it easy to grab each gadget and take it out for TSA check, which cut down on some of the frustration that line can elicit.

Best less-expensive backpack

Storage: Three options that fit laptops from 13 or 17 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and zippered pocket | Comfort: Padded shoulder strap | Material: Vinylon-F, a synthetic fiber that’s weather and dust resistant

“My Fjällräven backpack is filthy,” Strategist staff writer Lauren Ro says. “But it should be. In the six years I’ve owned it, I’ve put this bag through everything.” As opposed to being inside the bag, the laptop compartment here is a separate, zippered pouch at the back, which Ro says allows for easy access. It’s also padded, so you don’t have to buy a bulky laptop sleeve. “Whether I’m heading to the office or to the airport, the Kanken fits exactly what I need — and helps me carry it comfortably,” Ro says. The Kanken has padded adjustable straps for added comfort and two side pockets for a water bottle or umbrella. It comes in three sizes and 11 colors.

Best daily-commute laptop backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 13 or 16 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and five pockets | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back| Material: Neoprene

The Dagne Dover doesn’t have a dedicated laptop compartment, but it does have a mesh sleeve that can be secured with a Velcro strap so you don’t have to worry about it jostling around. Former Strategist writer Chloe Anello says that the backpack was her “favorite for lugging stuff back and forth” when she commuted from Beacon to the Vox Media offices downtown, adding, “It holds everything imaginable.” That’s thanks to features such as two exterior mounted pockets, a detachable key leash, and the smaller zippered sections within the main interior pocket for storing your lunch, headphones, snacks, and wallet.

Best splurge-worthy travel laptop backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 13 and 16 inches; main compartment with pouch and adjustable straps; separate laptop compartment | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Nylon

Tom Wahlin, an editor and writer at Pack Hacker, says that while the Tom Bihn “gives off some dad vibes,” there’s a reason this style is such a classic. “When it comes to laptop storage, you can choose how you want to get to your tech,” he says. “Grab your laptop by unzipping the main compartment like you would a regular backpack, or unzip the dedicated side zipper to get quick access from the outside.” It’s especially useful if you fly frequently since you can easily access your laptop (in a multitude of ways) for TSA checks and make use of its plentiful internal organization. (The heavy-duty nylon and padded straps and bottom don’t hurt, either.) The Synik comes in two sizes, 22 and 30: The 22 is smaller and better suited for 13-inch laptops, while the 30 can hold laptops up to 16 inches. While it isn’t the most stylish bag, it features many of the details you would want and expect from a laptop bag if you travel frequently. It has a dedicated water-bottle pocket in the center of the bag’s front, but you’ll have to unzip it every time you need a drink.

Best laptop backpack for gym enthusiasts

Storage: Fits laptops up to 16 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and several pockets | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Polyester

The Aer Fit Pack is great for people who like to head directly to the gym after work as it’s meticulously designed to protect your tech while being spacious enough to carry your workout gear. It has two built-in sleeves — one for your laptop and one for a tablet or notebook — while the unique middle zip makes it easy to access your gym kit. The compartment meant to house gym clothes and shoes is completely separate, meaning you can store them without worrying about sweat or grime getting on everything else in your backpack, says Wahlin. The materials are super-durable, the padded back and shoulder straps add comfort for commuters, and the bag features plenty of internal organization to keep small gear safe. There’s even a sizeable pouch on the side to hold a large water bottle.

Best high-capacity laptop backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 16 inches; main compartment with four pockets and tablet sleeve, separate laptop compartment | Comfort: Adjustable straps with loops for attaching accessories | Material: 600D rPet + tarpaulin

Since I started riding my bike again, I’ve had to think more about what I carry in my backpack and how to make space for everything I need. Esker’s GRID backpack is the most comfortable bag I’ve tested, thanks to a thoroughly padded back with enough ventilation to keep me from feeling sweaty and gross on a commute. It also makes packing feel frictionless. Unlike with most bags, its main compartment unzips all the way to the base, which makes it easier to organize everything so it doesn’t all shuffle around. It also has a sleeve that can hold an iPad or A5 document, with two pockets outside the sleeve, and two zipping pockets on the inside flap of the compartment.

In addition to the main part of the bag, there’s a dedicated laptop compartment with a separate zipper that can hold a laptop of up to 16 inches, with more padding than bags like the Rains offer. Even stuffed with a large Hydro Flask, my MacBook Air, an iPad Mini, Kindle Paperwhite, notebook, and bike lock, the Esker still had room for some workout clothes or a lunch.

If you’re the type to clip carabiners to everything, this bag is for you: The outside of the bag is covered in loops and straps you can use for additional storage. The straps on the front are expandable and have enough room to hold a yoga mat or jacket. There’s a water-bottle pouch on one side of the bag, but it’s a bit tight with water bottles like a Hydro Flask. Along the middle of the padded back, there’s a strap you can use to hold the bag like a suitcase. I tried this on a quick walk to my neighborhood cafe and it felt a little goofy, but sturdy enough to use if your back needs a break.

The company also sells a tech case you can use to better organize all your accessories and a camera cube to keep your photo gear safe from damage between destinations.

Best laptop backpack with tablet pocket

Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and multiple pockets | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Polyester

Matthew Spade, a freelance writer and content creator at the Buckets and Spades blog, has owned the Eastpak Tecum L for a few years now, which he says “feels like a breeze to carry” with a dedicated compartment that comfortably fits his 13-inch MacBook Pro. A second, smaller compartment that’s also padded can hold a tablet, while the rest of the bag has loads of space and pockets for overnight essentials, Spade says. And since it’s made of nylon, the backpack can withstand getting drizzled on (though it’s not waterproof, like the Rains backpack below). Bonus: The shoulders and back are padded for extra comfort, and the straps of the water bottle holder are adjustable.

Best waterproof laptop backpack

Storage: Fits laptops up to 13 and 15 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and one pocket | Comfort: No shoulder or back padding | Material: Polyester

I’ve been using the Rains backpack for four years to protect my laptop from inclement weather and the occasional drop on the floor. The interior laptop section has a dedicated strap that can easily store my 13-inch MacBook Pro, though you can get a larger version that holds laptops up to 15 inches. There’s also a hidden phone zipper pocket on the back that you can use to store your mobile device or quickly access an I.D. It’s one of the sleeker, more minimal laptop bags to carry on a daily commute, which means its one major drawback is the lack of space — don’t expect to pack much more than your laptop, your phone, and a book. But if all you need your bag to do is look good and protect your computer, then look no further.

Best backpack that doubles as a diaper bag

Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and two pockets, insulated bottle holder | Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back | Material: Neoprene

If you’re a parent looking to cut down from two bags to one, Dagne Dover’s stylish Indi Diaper Backpack works great for carrying all the gear you need for your baby while also keeping your work gear in tow. It has pouches for diapers, wipes, toys, and snacks. It also has straps to attach directly to a stroller so you don’t have to carry it on your back all the time, and comes in a few different sizes depending on your needs. Strategist writer Latifah Miles says, “Although my child is older than the diaper bag age threshold, he still likes to bring his precious iPad, PopIt, a few snacks, and a water bottle when we head out so I like to carry a bag that can hold everything.”

Best leather backpack for parents

From $349

Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and 10 pockets | Comfort: No shoulder or back padding | Material: Leather

If you’d like a leather backpack that’ll still hold all your baby’s necessities, get Mina Baie’s Harper Backpack. It has enough space to hold a 15” laptop in a protected sleeve, water-resistant lining, an insulated bottle pocket, and a luggage sleeve to attach to a carry on, as well as straps to attach to a stroller. Ambika Castle, a senior engineer at Vox Media, says, “I’ve used a lot of bags but I always go back to this one because it looks nice, has lots of great pockets for organization, and stands upright really well.”

Best convertible tote

Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and multiple pockets | Comfort: Shoulder padding | Material: Recycled nylon and polyester

If you’re prone to switching bags at a moment’s notice, you know the pain of having to dump everything out of one bag just to drop it all into another before heading out the door. Timbuk2 makes a variety of customizable laptop bags, but this one, recommended by Strategist deals editor Sam Daly, can switch easily from a backpack to tote and back again, all without having to do any last minute shuffling. Its laptop sleeve will hold devices up to 15”, and it’s made of 100-percent recycled nylon and polyester.

Best backpack for iPads

Storage: Fits tablets up to 11”; main compartment with one divider | Comfort: Adjustable shoulder strap with padding | Material: Recycled polyester

For those who work from an iPad and prefer to keep a light bag, Patagonia’s Atom Sling has enough room to hold a tablet and its lightweight materials make for a light carry. I’ve been using it for about two weeks, and it’s quickly become my favorite bag.

It’s made of recycled polyester, and feels durable enough to withstand a little bit of jostling; and if you get too rough with it and damage the bag, Patagonia has a repair program that, in most cases, will assess and fix your bag free of charge. Plus, as we’ve heard from other Patagonia bag owners, they may even replace the bag if it can’t be repaired.

There’s room for an 11-inch iPad Pro (sorry, 12.9-inch iPad Pro workers), but to fit it,  you have to maneuver it a little bit. That hasn’t caused too much trouble for me, though, and I’ve even been able to stuff my iPad and my Kindle Scribe into the bag — and keep them separate thanks to the bag’s internal divider. You could also use this to keep your notebook or book away from your tablet.

It also has convenient features that other small sling bags lack, like a handy zipper pocket right on the strap for things you need quick access to (your keys or a pair of wireless earbuds). It also  has a couple adjustable straps on the front to hold things like a yoga mat or an extra layer.

If you prefer a bag with a minimalist aesthetic, however, Patagonia’s signature outdoorsy design, packed with straps and extra pockets that make it look more technical than a regular backpack, might not be for you. That said, it works better for holding a tablet than any other sling I’ve used.

Best briefcase for laptops

Storage: Fits laptops up to 15 inches; main compartment with laptop sleeve and multiple pockets | Comfort: Adjustable leather shoulder strap | Material: Canvas and leather

If you want a more formal, traditional-looking bag — that’s not a backpack — Emily Grosvenor, author of Find Yourself at Home: A Conscious Approach to Shaping Your Space and Your Life, loves the Aviator Brief from Satchel & Page. “When I go out, I like to get dressed up, I like to present as a writer even when I’m just going to a coffee shop,” she says, “You’re drawn in by the styling, it kind of has an old-timey feel, like you’re going to get on a train and going on an adventure.”

It has a dedicated laptop sleeve (which can hold laptops up to 14.2 inches wide), with an internal leather sleeve for extra protection. Grossvenor, who lives in the rainy state of Oregon, says the canvas exterior of the bag is durable enough to withstand a bit of bad weather. In addition to leather handles, the Aviator has an option shoulder strap you can use if that’s your preference. There’s also a leather strap on one side of the bag for slipping it over the handle of a carry-on to keep it secure as you’re rushing to your gate.

Other Strategist-approved laptop accessories

Our experts

Chloe Anello, former Strategist staff writer
• Micki Kosman, a travel blogger at the Barefoot Nomad
• Rick McGuire, who runs the Instagram account Subway Creatures
• Lauren Ro, Strategist staff writer
Matthew Spade, a freelance writer at Buckets and Spades
• Tom Wahlin, an editor and writer at Pack Hacker
• Ambika Castle, senior engineer at Vox Media
• Latifah Miles, Strategist staff writer
• Sam Daly, Strategist deals editor

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The 13 Very Best Laptop Backpacks