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After several years of remote working, work bags may not be top of mind. But for many workers, commuting is back. Whether you've returned to transit twice daily or are heading into an office or coffee shop a couple of times a week, the right backpack can add comfort and organization to your workday. Read on for our picks of the best backpacks for work.
What to consider when buying a backpack for work
Consider your commute
Do you live in a big city and commute using public transit? Do you mostly work from home, but go into an office twice a week? These considerations offer insight into the types and styles of work backpacks you might want to consider.
Any subway rider knows that you need a durable, easy-to-clean fabric or, if you commute in your personal vehicle, straight to an office once or twice a week, you might be able to withstand a more delicate choice, like leather. Considering your commute will help you narrow down choices.
Think about your work needs
If you work on a laptop and have to carry it around, many work backpacks come with internal laptop pockets that protect the device, but not all. “While the backpack profile is important, it needs the right storage,” says TV personality and fashion expert Cindy Conroy. “Look for a dedicated laptop compartment that has oodles of padding and a slip pocket. Extra brownie points if it’s a zippered compartment.”
Choose with comfort in mind
One-sided bags, like totes or purses, unevenly distribute weight and, over time, can cause back and neck pain. When choosing a backpack make sure that it is capable of evenly distributing the weight of everything that you carry. This will take the weight off your back and prevent back pain.
“Just like a new pair of shoes, test-drive possible contenders,” says Conroy. “Ask yourself, ‘Are there air-mesh back panels so you stay cool? Do the straps evenly disperse the weight? Are the straps adjustable or cushioned with ample padding?’”
Make sure it’ll last
“The allure of an inexpensive polyester backpack is like the scent of a chocolate chip cookie wafting along the path of your commute. It’s irresistible, but is it worth it?” says Controy. “Nylon and coated canvas are superior options if durability is at the top of your must-have list. Both are easy to clean, too.”
Know your budget
Even if your budget is on the lower side, you don’t have to settle for a basic bag—instead, look for details that have an expensive look. “Pick backpacks with supple faux leather, gold-tone hardware, or color blocking: These decadent accents elevate an affordable selection without breaking the bank,” Conroy says.
Top backpack picks for work
Best work backpack for staying organized: Briggs Riley Rhapsody Essential Backpack
Type A personalities will love this backpack, with pouches and compartments for any of your work needs. From a 15-inch padded laptop pack to the interior pocket that fits folders and paperwork, this pack is perfect for the ultra-organized. It even has a hidden RFID-blocking security pocket to protect credit cards, passports, or wallets from digital theft. Complimentary monogramming is available.
- Materials: The exterior fabric is a soft, but durable micro-weave nylon, which is easy to keep clean; it’s also water and moisture resistant
- Dimensions: 16 inches height x 11 inches width x 5 ½ inches depth
- Laptop sleeve: Padded interior, up to 15 inches
- Colors: Available in black, navy, or deep purple
Briggs & Riley Rhapsody Essential Water Resistant Nylon Backpack in Plum at Nordstrom
Best backpack for going from work to gym: Bellroy Transit Backpack
Tired of carrying two bags every day, one for work and one for the gym? Not only is this pack large enough to hold a 16-inch laptop and other items, a large internal stretch pocket holds gym shoes and a sleek side pocket conceals a water bottle. It’s a great pack for those who run to the gym for lunch, or before or after work.
- Materials: Recycled body fabric, water resistant
- Dimensions: 19.68 inches x 12.6 inches x 7.09 inches, available in three capacities
- Laptop sleeve: Interior, up to 16 inches
- Colors: Available in four colors: Bronze, black, navy, or olive green
Bellroy Transit Workpack Backpack in Night Sky at Nordstrom
Best budget backpack for work: Herschel Heritage Backpack
A zippered front pocket allows for quick-access to phone and wallet, and an internal key clip keeps your keys safe from falling out in transit. Dual water bottle pockets may be a little excessive, but can be made versatile by carrying a rolled up rain jacket, etc.
- Materials: The recycled nylon body fabric means it’s easy to wipe to keep clean, and the same goes for the inside recycled liner; leather diamond detail.
- Dimensions: 18 inches height x 12.25 inches width x 5.5 inches depth
- Laptop sleeve: 15-16 inches
- Colors: With 38 color options, including two- and three-tone looks, it’s easy to show a little personality, while still maintaining a professional, clean look
Herschel Supply Co. Heritage Shoulder Bag (Navy/Tan) Handbags
Best work backpack for the sustainability-minded: Beis Expandable Backpack
For the eco-minded professional, this backpack is made from recycled plastic water bottles, giving it a lightweight feel that’s also easy to clean. It’s versatile, too, and even though it’s packed with compartments, including a concealable water bottle pocket, it still maintains a sleek profile.
- Materials: 100 percent recycled polyester and recycled faux leather, nylon zipper, zinc alloy hardware
- Dimensions: 15 inches (height) x 13 inches (width) x 1.97-7.87 inches (depth, expandable)
- Laptop sleeve: Separate padded laptop pocket with zipper closure accommodates 13- or 15-inch devices
- Colors: Black or beige
Béis The Backpack in Beige at Nordstrom
Best work backpack for small people: Rains Backpack Mini
Not only is this pack waterproof and durable, at under $100, it’s an affordable staple piece that should stand the test of time. Customizable in 11 different colors, you can get funky and show some personality, or keep it simple in a black or tan. The simple, sleek profile is a good choice for smaller people.
- Materials: Polyester with signature polyurethane waterproof coating fabric
- Dimensions: 15.7 inches height x 11.4 inches width x 3.9 inches depth
- Laptop sleeve: Flat laptop pocket fits 13-inch device with a sleeve, 15-inch without
- Colors: 11 choices, from white to tan and black to pink, dark green, and mint
Rains Backpack Mini
Best hybrid backpack for work: Tumi Liv BackpackTote
For those who love the look and sophistication of a high-end leather tote but the comfort of a backpack, Tumi’s Liv Backpack doubles as both. The leather exterior gives it an elevated look compared with other backpacks, but it maintains the feel and style of a leather tote bag. Interior pockets accommodate a laptop and other media, water bottle, pens, and keys. At such a splurge, take comfort in Tumi’s five-year warranty.
- Materials: Leather
- Dimensions: 14.8 inches height x 11.5 inches width x 4.3 inches depth
- Laptop sleeve: Zip-entry, padded 14-inch laptop compartment
- Colors: Only available in black leather; monogrammable.
TUMI Voyageur Black Leather Liv Backpack/Tote
Best customizable backpack for work: Timbuk2 Division Laptop Backpack
This backpack is not only fit for comfort and organization, but offers dozens of customizable options to really make it your own. A rear-access laptop pocket protects your device while giving you faster access and more room in the main compartment. Sturdy and connectable back straps add stability and comfort.
- Materials: Customizable canvas, nylon, polyester, mesh
- Dimensions: 17.3 inches height x 11 inches width x 5.12 inches depth
- Laptop sleeve: Up to 15 inches
- Colors: Customizable in over a dozen colors or combinations
Timbuk2 Division Laptop Backpack
Best vegan backpack for work: Monos Metro Backpack
Sleek and tailored, this versatile work backpack is made from a water-resistant vegan leather. The backpack comes with Monos’ signature QuickSnap modular kit, which can be easily detached or added, based on your needs. Customers report an easy transition from work to travel. Backed by a two-year limited warranty.
- Materials: Made with vegan materials, including felt made from recycled plastic bottles; also available in nylon.
- Dimensions: Without kit, 16.5 inches height x 11.5 inches width x 6 inches depth
- Laptop sleeve: Separate, easy-access 15-inch laptop compartment
- Colors: Vegan leather option is available in five colors
Best work backpack for bike commuters: Stubble & Co. Backpack
Breathable and sturdy without compromising sophistication, this Stubble & Co. backpack is a great choice for those who bike or walk to work. Available in two capacities, 10.5 or 21 liters.
- Materials: Water-resistant Tekwax canvas, leather, cotton lining
- Dimensions: 19 inches height x 12 inches width x 5.5 inches depth, up to 21 liter capacity
- Laptop sleeve: Accommodates up to a 16-inch device
- Colors: Back, dark brown, or dark green
- Price on publish: $145
Most versatile backpack for work: Tom Bihn Synapse 19
Though pricey, this splurge is well-rated for its durable materials and thoughtful organization pockets. It looks sleek and sophisticated, with a slight hint of sportiness, and plenty of room to hold a liter-sized water bottle.
- Materials: Signature lightweight halcyon/nylon blend is durable and holds up to rips; also available in a textured nylon; shoulder straps and back pad are made of foam for extra comfort
- Dimensions: 16 inches height x 11.4 inches width x 7.9 inches depth
- Laptop sleeve: No integrated sleeve, but the main compartment should hold most laptops (check this measurement guide)
- Colors: 12 color combinations are available, with two more in production for the future
- Price on publish: $242
How we tested and selected the best backpacks for work
We arrived at our list through a mix of thorough research, asking experts for their opinions and recommendations, and going through hundreds of customer reviews. Then, we cross-referenced our list to match the top concerns shoppers have when shopping for a backpack for work.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Are work backpacks professional enough for the office?
As long as you select a backpack that looks sleek and provides all of the functionality you need to do your job well, a backpack is a great choice for a work bag. Avoid messy looks like hanging water bottles, messy and visible cords or wires, or dangling straps.
What is the best men's backpack for work?
Style is subjective. However, for options that have a straightforward design (available in black, hardware that doesn’t stand out, etc.) that works with any style and has work-friendly features like extra storage and enhanced durability, Timbuk2 and Tumi are popular brands.
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