Best laptop bags: Editor's choice for commuting, traveling, and charging your devices

We found some of the best laptop bags for every situation, whether you're commuting everyday to work, traveling abroad, or want to charge your devices on the go.

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Next to a laptop itself, a laptop bag is one of the most important purchases you can make. With so many laptop bags and backpacks to choose from, it would be an idle exercise to try to find the best laptop bag out there. Instead, we’d rather help you find the right laptop bag for any situation, like commuting every day to work, traveling abroad, or charging your devices on the go.

With only a couple of exceptions, each product had to have a designated laptop sleeve or compartment to be considered in this review of laptop bags. These bags can all fit up to a 16-inch laptop, except where noted. Keep checking back as we review more laptop bags and backpacks and continually update this guide.

Best commuter backpack: Timbuk2 Authority Pack

Timbuk2 has a great reputation for making durable, well-designed bags, and its newest Authority Pack collection, released in May 2017, is no exception. At first, the Authority Pack (MSRP $129, available on Amazon) may not look special or particularly impressive, but the Authority Pack’s unassuming style makes it suitable for an office environment, and it’s durable enough to withstand a tough commute.

The Authority Pack has a separate padded compartment big enough for a 15-inch laptop that you can get to without a fuss. The backpack also has two main pockets, one designed for carrying your hoodie, gym shoes, or a six-pack of beer. The second-major pocket has an internal organizer so you can keep your iPad, notebooks, chargers, and stationary stored neatly (or not). There’s also a side pocket on the front for storing things that you need to take out quickly, like your smartphone or your house keys. And don’t worry about a water bottle taking too much space inside these main compartments; the Authority Pack also has a stretch-y external bottle holder on the side.

timbuk2 authority pack Timbuk2

The Authority Pack can certainly fit a lot, yet Timbuk2 made it from a lightweight fabric so it rarely feels too heavy. And unlike other bulky backpacks, the Authority Pack is more compact so it doesn’t take too much space even in crowded subway trains or buses. You can also adjust the compression straps at the bottom so it can expand or contract based on what you need to carry. If you bike to work and find yourself working late, you’ll be grateful for the reflective tape under the compression straps as well as the reflective zipper pulls.

Runner up: Booq Cobra Squeeze

Leave it to Booq to make a laptop backpack that’s both compact and spacious at the same time. The company’s Cobra Squeeze (MSRP $195, available on Amazon) is the VW Beetle of laptop backpacks, using a dome shape so you can stuff as much as possible without creating weird bumps or needing an oversized backpack. The Cobra Squeeze has a dedicated laptop sleeve that can fit up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro or a 16-inch Lenovo Ultrabook. Then there’s a second sleeve for tablets. On either side of the backpack, you’ll find easy-to-reach zippers for storing your smartphone. These side pockets have extra padding to avoid scratches.

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This backpack’s unique turtle-shell design also helps redistribute the weight so that your shoulders don’t feel worn out throughout the day. The shoulder straps are padded and curve inwards, which is very helpful. Furthermore, the Cobra Squeeze uses a water-repellant fabric in case of a rainy day, and the company has instituted a serial number tracking system to help recover lost Booq bags, making one a worthwhile investment.

Best messenger bag: Peak Design Everyday Messenger

By design, messenger bags all have one unique problem: They have to be able to give you easy access to your stuff and also keep your stuff securely stored. Zippers can get stuck, and undoing a buckle is not always easy. The best solution to this problem that comes from San Francisco’s Peak Design. The company’s Everyday Messenger bag (MSRP $219.95, available on Amazon) has a patented MagLatch closure that relies on a powerful magnetic strip for effortless access. You can also latch and lock the metal clip for added protection.

peak design everyday messenger Peak Design

This MagLatch system may sound tricky, but its takes just a few tries to get the hang of it. Even fully-locking it becomes intuitive very quickly—it's actually fun locking and unlocking a metal latch on this bag. The outer shell is made from Kodra Nylon and coated with water-resistant wax for a tactical feel. The interior is made from mixed-cotton twill and comes with origami-shaped dividers that you can arrange to organize everything from a DSLR camera to a drone.

If you have to carry around a larger laptop, there’s a 15-inch version that’s $249 on Amazon.

Runner-up: The Messenger by Pad and Quill

This wax canvas and leather messenger bag by Pad & Quill (MSRP $395, available on Amazon) is made from high-quality materials, promising to be the only laptop bag you need and one that could last you a lifetime. Pad & Quill uses bridle leather so that it looks smooth and ages well. The bag is bound together by “parachute-grade” nylon stitching, so it’s good to know you can use it to hold on to dear life if you ever fall off a building. It comes in three color variations: Whiskey Brown and Charcoal Grey, Chocolate Brown and Charcoal Grey, and Chocolate Brown and Olive Green.

pad and quill leather messenger bag Pad & Quill

Getting this brand-new messenger bag, you can feel just how sturdy it is. In fact, it will take a few weeks for you to get a more relaxed, “lived-in” fit from the tough leather, which speaks to the high-quality of the materials that they won’t disintegrate overnight. The laptop compartment can fit a 15-inch computer, and there’s an easy-access front pocket for storing your smartphone. Inside the main compartment, there is a pocket that’s sized perfectly for a Moleskin notebook, which only complements the look that this bag is going for: Just rugged enough for the office.

Design-wise, the only thing about this bag that may throw some people off is the bright orange interior lining. Pad & Quill claims it’s to help you find your stuff, but it could jarring if you’re not used to bold color patterns.

Best leather backpack: Saddleback Leather Thin Front Pocket Backpack 

You’ll find plenty of bag companies that use leather, but few understand its potential quite like Saddleback Leather. Typically, companies merely treat leather as a fashion statement, but Saddleback embraces it for its durability. We’re especially fans of its Thin Front Pocket Backpack, which unfortunately lacks the dedicated laptop pocket of its larger (and more expensive) cousin, but this tough and beautiful workhorse boasts plenty of room for a 15-inch MacBook Pro and all the items you’ll need for a normal workday. As a bonus, it comes with three roomy pockets on the front and sides for stashing chargers, wires, power banks, and your Magic Mouse.

Saddleback Thin Front Pocket Backpack Leif Johnson/IDG

At 4.5 pounds when empty, it’s also a bit heavy; that can’t be helped. But one of the marvels of this bag is that it’s engineered so that you barely notice that weight when it’s on your back and crammed with MacBooks, iPads, and jackets. It also comes with two optional leather sleeves that fit over the main straps, which make it feel surprisingly comfortable on your shoulders.

It’ll likely outlive your MacBook. Heck, there’s a good chance it’ll outlive you. Saddleback’s bags come with a 100-year warranty, and when you see the thing in person, you understand why. This is saddle-grade leather, which means it requires virtually no maintenance and can shrug off rain or intense sun. You’ll find only buckles and straps rather than zippers and snaps, which means you likely won’t break any part of it unless you intend to. The catch is that it’s quite pricey with its $469 price tag, but then you’ll probably never need to buy another bag again.

Runner-up: Saddleback Leather Thin Laptop Briefcase

If you’re more into over-the-shoulder bags and briefcases rather than backpacks, you’ll definitely want to check out Saddleback’s Slim Laptop Briefcase. It boasts all the same durability and style as the Thin Front Pocket Backpack, but it also comes with a dedicated laptop sleeve in the main cavity and a front pocket that’s large enough to hold a 13-inch MacBook Pro or a 12.9-inch iPad.

You can tote it about with a handle like a regular briefcase, or you can sling it over your shoulder with the thick, padded leather straps that hook up to D-rings on either side. For that matter, you can slip that strap through a circular ring in the back if you want to use it as a makeshift backpack. You’ll also find a large open pouch on the back side for convenience, two pockets on each end for water bottles or umbrellas, and a keyring dongle that hangs inside the bag. And we Mac lovers are all about our dongles, right?

saddlebackthin Saddleback

We love this bag, but its roughly 5.5 pounds when empty is far more noticeable than the 4.5 pounds of the Thin Front Pocket Backpack when you’re carrying it on your shoulder. Here in hilly San Francisco, that’s a bit too much to deal with when it’s loaded down.

For that matter, that dedicated laptop sleeve we mentioned in the main cavity can’t really hold anything bigger than a 13-inch MacBook Pro, although I had little trouble fitting my 15-inch MacBook Pro in the central cavity. If you plan on doing that, though, you’ll want to make sure that you keep an extra sleeve on your MacBook to keep it from getting scratched up from anything else you’ve got stuffed in there.

Still, I love using it as a briefcase when my standard backpack feels a bit too informal, and the two sleeves make it great for taking along both a 13-inch MacBook Pro and a 12.9-inch iPad Pro without worrying about their safety. It also makes a fantastic carryon bag.

Best charging backpack: STM Drifter Energy

STM’s Drifter Energy backpack (MSRP $240) includes a Joey rechargeable energy pack, so that you can have your very own charging station wherever you go. The Drifter Energy’s 3500mAh battery was able to recharge an iPhone 6s twice before being completely drained. Best of all, the iPhone can stay securely stored inside the backpack while charging. The main compartment has straps and pouches to organize your cords so they don’t get tangled up while traveling, and the battery comes equipped with temperature sensing to prevent it from overheating.

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This backpack was designed for keeping your electronic gadgets charged, but also protected. The laptop sleeve, which can fit up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro, is padded and attached to the back of the bag, as opposed to the bottom. That way, your laptop will remain suspended above the floor when you set your bag down. You can store your phone and camera on the top fleece-lined pocket to prevent scratches, or bumping around with the other stuff in the main compartment.

Best-looking bag: M.R.K.T. Evan Backpack

If you want to make an impression, wearing this stylish backpack is a good way to start. The Evan Backpack (MSRP $99) is the product of Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger or M.R.K.T., a Los Angeles-based company that was started by a Harvard architect. So, inspired by architectural concepts, this backpack is surprisingly spacious and sturdy, with a felt interior that makes it water repellant. Its unique look literally stopped strangers in their tracks, so be prepared for people asking you where you got it.

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Evan never lost its curved-rectangular shape, even after we tossed it around a few times, stomped on it, and stuffed it to the max. In fact, the Evan Backpack may seem too precious to carry any substantial load, but it was able to accommodate a 15-inch MacBook Pro, two textbooks, a hardcover novel, a water bottle, and an iPad mini to boot. The backpack zipped up perfectly, and it retained its cool-looking shape throughout the day even with all that gear stuffed inside. 

Best travel bag: Incase EO Travel Backpack

Incase is known for making stylish, top-notch accessories, so it’s no surprise that their travel backpack is the reigning champion in this category. The EO Travel Backpack (MSRP $179.95, available on Amazon) stores up to a 17-inch MacBook Pro in a separate sleeve so you can get to it quickly without having to shuffle all your other stuff around. And boy, can it fit lot of stuff, as the main compartment expands by 35 percent when you release the compression straps on the side. 

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The EO Travel Backpack has a clamshell design so you can open it completely and lay it down flat, so you can easily pack all your things before a big trip. The shoulders straps are padded to soften the weight, and the back is made of breathable mesh so your back won’t get quite so sweaty during long travels. The backpack is also made of water-resistant fabric in case you travel to a stormy destination. And, of course, it’s allowed as a carry-on luggage.

Runner-up: Just Porter Sable Rucksack Backpack

Just Porter spent two years designing the Sable Rucksack, a waterproof, roll-top backpack which uses a custom thermoplastic polyurethane fabric to keep your things dry. And you know how you have to take out your laptop every time you go through airport screening? The Sable backpack has a padded laptop compartment with its own separate side-access, so you don’t have to dig for your MacBook.

just porter backpack Just Porter

It also has quick-release magnetic buckles on the front, just in case you do need to get to the main compartment in a hurry. The Sable Rucksack Backpack is available in gray, black, and olive for $150 from the Just Porter website or from Amazon for $149. The company also has instituted a charity program so that for every backpack sold, they send a backpack full of school supplies to a kid in need.

Best under $70: Solo Pro 15.6” Backpack

The Solo Pro 15.6” backpack (MSRP $50, available on Amazon) is a budget-friendly version of the Klasden 3 Backpack. Right now it’s on sale for $35, making it a very budget-friendly choice. You can fit a 15-inch laptop in this version, but there’s also a bulked-up 17.3-inch version available now for $49 on Solo’s website. Both Pro backpacks are only available in black.

solo pro 15.6 backpack 2 Solo

Despite its price tag, there’s nothing about the Solo Pro backpacks that could be described as cheap. Sure, it’s made from polyester (hey, it’s water resistant!) and you won’t find leather accents nor a fleece lining. But the Solo Pro still makes a reliable everyday backpack, with a padded laptop sleeve, and a pocket for your iPad in the main compartment, plus an easy-access top pocket for your iPhone. Still, the best thing about it has to be the price.