The 10 Best Business Backpacks
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in July of 2015. Now that today's essential equipment includes a laptop or a tablet, a cell phone, and a myriad of other gear, the right business backpack can make all the difference in keeping you organized and comfortable when traveling or commuting. Check out our selection of the best and most ergonomically-friendly options, which includes a range of designs to please all manner of stylistic sensibilities. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
October 27, 2020:
Because they balance a workplace-appropriate aesthetic with usability, the Timbuk2 Authority, the Incase Icon, and the Everki Atlas all remain excellent options, but we've removed the eBags Professional Slim. Although a redesign addressed the main complaint of many, that this bag was too heavy, the changes were perhaps detrimental to its overall convenience in use. Considered on its own, it remains a decent bag, but compared to the competition, it simply doesn't hit the mark.
As a replacement, we selected the Kenneth Cole Reaction Manhattan on the strength of its sleek, attractive leather styling. In fact, this lends it a more formal appearance than is offered by many laptop backpacks or messenger bags, but of course, this means it is not vegan friendly, if that happens to be important to you.
We decided to remove the Victorinox Altmont 3.0, as well, instead choosing the Thule Pack-n-Pedal for those who commute via bike. It gives you the features you need to stay safe out on the road, including reflective detailing and a high-visibility rain cover to help motorists see you when the weather is poor. You can count on it to hold your helmet when you get to where you're going, too.
Finally, we still like the CoolBell Convertible and the AmazonBasics 17-Inch as wallet-friendly choices. Keep in mind that they aren't as rugged as some pricier models, but they leave room in the budget for other business essentials, like your laptop.
November 08, 2019:
We've opted to remove the Booq Cobra at this time, due to problems with availability, as well as the Kenneth Cole Reaction Ez-Scan, which tends to feel stiff compared to the competition. As for updates, we've added the newer Samsonite Xenon 3, which takes the place of the Xenon 2. They're remarkably similar, so if you like the older version, it's likely that you'll enjoy the newer one.
We selected two new options at opposite ends of the price spectrum, as well. On the less expensive side, there's the AmazonBasics 17-Inch, a laptop backpack that's fine for work, school, and just about anything else. It doesn't have the rugged durability of many others, though, so consider it an entry-level option that will probably need to be replaced down the line. Still, if you can't spare buckets of cash for a splashier option, it should get the job done. At the pricier end, we opted for The Backpack by ISM. It doesn't have a lot of flashy features, but it offers an understated elegance that could be perfect for those who don't want to draw attention.
And, finally, when it comes to the one to beat, that honor still goes to the Incase Icon. This popular bag has a following for plenty of reasons: its efficient use of space, its sleek style, its comfortable straps — the list goes on. We like its range of colors, too, which includes some brighter options to balance out the business staples of black and gray.
Tortuga Setout To be clear, the Tortuga Setout is huge at 35 or 45 liters, but it still works as a cabin bag for many airlines so you can avoid baggage charges. Even though it's large, it has business-friendly styling that lets you go from airplane to office without any stops, if you must. tortugabackpacks.com
Aer Day Pack 2 If you're all about that minimalist lifestyle, the Aer Day Pack 2 should fit right into your aesthetic. It doesn't have flashy exterior pockets and mesh compartments; instead, it is sleek but structured, hiding all of its organizational components in its two zippered compartments. aersf.com
Tom Bihn Synik 30 If your business often takes you out on the road, the thoughtful design of the Tom Bihn Synik 30 will ensure that carrying your gear is both simple and comfortable. The clamshell opening makes it easy to get to your clothing, while the two-point laptop access lets you get to work at a moment's notice. tombihn.com
The Changing Nature Of Business Travel
The benefits of being able to work from anywhere are greatly reduced if you can't perform your job duties adequately when working remotely.
The first major change to the way business was done arguably came with the telegraph. The ability for information to be almost instantly transmitted over great distances sped up the processing time of transactions and shortened the time required for a back and forth negotiation, bringing rapid change to the mid 19th Century. The telephone further increased the speed with which work could be shared among distant parties, while the computer increased the efficiency of each individual worker. In the late 20th Century, the Internet connected the world in ways never before imagined, with one of its major impacts being new ways for businesses (and business people) to connect.
The development of reliable wireless internet and the prevalence of smartphones and compact computers has further changed the nature of the way we do business. When anywhere you can get a signal can serve as a mobile office, you can get work done at almost any time. This reality certainly has its drawbacks, as people find it harder and harder to step away from work and enjoy their leisure time fully, but from the perspective of meeting goals and deadlines, easier access to files, email, and the web is nothing but positive.
As modern technology has decreased the need for collaborative work conducted in close physical proximity to one's clients or coworkers, it has increased the need for a worker to find ways to make themselves as efficient as possible when away from the convenience of an office. The benefits of being able to work from anywhere are greatly reduced if you can't perform your job duties adequately when working remotely. Making sure you have high quality electronics, such as a great smartphone and laptop, are important first steps, but also making sure you have a backup power supply to keep them running is critical. It's also important to design and maintain systems of organization for both your digital and hard copy files and projects; quick access means more time working and less time searching.
And finally, if the nature of your work sees you commuting via public or alternative transportation, traveling regularly for work, or splitting your time between the office, the home, and the coffee shop, then you need a reliable bag to tote your computer, your files, your pens and pencils, and your lunch. A briefcase, the original method of carrying business related materials from place to place, is out of date in the days of the bicycle commuter or the person hopping on and off of subways and trains. A good business backpack is the best way to make your mobile work experience easy and efficient.
The Business Backpack For The Commuter
If you spend most of your workdays in an office but you need to transport your computer, documents, files, or materials to and from work regularly, then a business backpack is a great idea, especially if your commute involves anything other than your own personal motor vehicle. There are many slender, lightweight business backpacks that can easily accommodate most laptops and have pockets designed to hold smaller items like a phone, wallet, keys, and other sundries. These compact backpacks are a wise move as they occupy minimal space and frequently have a form-fitted design that helps them to hold their shape whether almost empty or fully loaded. That way, you always know how much room you are occupying when squeezing onto a busy subway car or navigating crowded city streets.
A slim backpack designed to hold lighter weight loads is also a great idea for the working professional who commutes via ride sharing, bicycle, a motorcycle or scooter, by walking, or by another means other than their own car, especially one that leaves him or her largely exposed to the elements. (Skateboards are not uncommonly seen under the feet of today's working professionals, for example.) Many business backpacks offer excellent rain, snow, and general moisture and dirt resistance, so you can keep your electronics and sensitive documents safe, even when poor weather rears its head. Many professional backpacks offer enough room to store a computer, paperwork, and a change of clothes, so you can cycle or jog to work dressed for sports then change into garments more appropriate for the professional world.
When choosing a business backpack that will see regular use, you should of course review its storage capacity and make sure it suits your needs. Also make sure to pay attention to factors such as padding, strap adjustment ability, and other facets that can help ensure your backpack will be comfortable and protective.
The Business Backpack For Overnight Travel
If you regularly travel for business, and most of your business trips tend to last only a night or two, then learning how to pack everything you need into a business backpack will make your travel experience convenient and easy. Using a backpack that can easily fit onto a passenger plane removes one of the largest hassles the traveler faces: checked baggage. Any bag that can fit onto a plane will also need to clear the TSA security checkpoint without issue, so look for ones with a TSA-compliant laptop compartment.
The business traveler's backpack needs to be durable enough to protect a computer and other electronics against the bumps and jolts of travel, and it needs to hold a change of clothing or two in addition to that laptop and those files, so it will likely be a bit larger than the bag one would choose for cross town commuting. To compensate for the added seize and weight, look for a business backpack with wide, supportive straps and plenty of adjustment points. A business backpack used for travel needs to work well, with less emphasis given to its appearance than you might with a big you will use each and every day.