The 10 Best Laptop Backpacks
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in March of 2015. With the vast amount of important files we store on our laptops these days, they’ve become one of our most indispensable possessions. And let’s face it, they’re not cheap. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best backpacks for them, so that students, business professionals, and travelers can transport their computers — from compact netbooks to larger models — safely and stylishly. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best laptop backpack on Amazon.
Tom Bihn Synapse 19 While most laptop backpacks tend toward larger sizes, the Tom Bihn Synapse 19 offers a trim 19 liters of space, perfect for 13-inch computers and moderate loads. But don't take the smaller size for weakness: this model is constructed to stand up to the rigors of daily use. tombihn.com
Moore & Giles Quinn Commuter Tired of the same-old black nylon? Then you might take a look at the Moore & Giles Quinn Commuter, which boasts sophisticated full-grain aniline leather. Feel free to fill it with your heaviest items, but be prepared to pay handsomely for the privilege, as this particular model does not come cheap. mooreandgiles.com
GoRuck GR1 The GoRuck GR1 may or may not be out of place in an office environment, depending upon how casual it is, but it's perfectly at home in just about any other place you can think of, from the woods to a college campus. Built for stealth, it features silent zipper pulls and low-key styling. goruck.com
May 17, 2019:
Although we weren't keen to do so, we decided to remove the SwissGear ScanSmart; its overall design is excellent, but ongoing durability problems with the zippers make it a troubling investment for many. We also removed the Kayond Ultralight due to availability issues. As to top selections, however, we still prefer the ever-popular Incase Icon, the Osprey Flapjack, and the Timbuk2 Spire. Each is sophisticated enough for office use, although they're anything but stodgy. One issue to note, though, is that some users experience water leakage with the Timbuk2 Spire, despite its roll-top opening. For gentle rains it's probably fine, but if find yourself facing downpours often, it may not be your top option. On the budget-friendly end of the spectrum, we like the AmazonBasics For 17 Inches and the Case Logic Black. They aren't made to be as bomb-proof as models in the $50 and up range, but if you don't want to spend a ton of cash, they should get you where you're going. Finally, we elected to add the Fjallraven Kanken. It doesn't have a lot of the comfort features that many offer, but for those who love the Fjallraven style, any slight inconvenience is worth it.
How Do I Choose The Right Laptop Backpack For Me?
This is hella useful, but only if you're genuinely going to need it.
What questions do you need to ask yourself before you make room for a new laptop backpack in your life?
How big is your laptop?
This is the most basic question - you need a backpack big enough to fit your laptop comfortably inside. And comfortably is the word - just because you've got a laptop doesn't mean you should necessarily disregard a bag big enough to contain a , particularly if you're planning to keep the rest of your life in the same bag. More room = less strain on the zips = a longer-lasting backpack.
Where are you and your laptop going?
You'll have noticed by now that a lot of laptop backpacks promise to appease the TSA, with a lay-flat design that allows your bag to slide on through the X-ray machine while displaying your precious, definitely-not-a-bomb, ma'am-please-do-not-make-jokes-about-bombs-within-the-security-area, hardware for all to see. This is hella useful, but only if you're genuinely going to need it. Don't be swayed into spending extra on a feature that might be useful, maybe, if I take that vacation next year, if for some reason I decide I need to take my laptop with me... Nah. If you're a frequent business flyer or you need to fly home from college every vacation, you need this. If not, probably not.
Similarly, if you're going to be traveling-traveling - you know, if there's going to be a lot of lifting this pack in and out of luggage racks, and maybe hiking - then you might want to consider a pack that is especially lightweight, and/or well-padded to protect your stuff, and/or has air-flow panels to stop your back getting nasty and sweaty. A reliably waterproof pack might be in order if you're going camping. (It would never occur to us to take our laptop camping, but...to be honest, it would never occur to us to go camping, so what do we know?)
How much other stuff are you going to cram in there? And what stuff?
Again, be honest with yourself. Is this backpack really just going to be for your laptop, or is everything else you own going to end up in there too? If you're someone who generally carries a purse, is all of that stuff - wallet, cosmetics, tissues, gum, copy of that Marie Kondo book you're sure is going to change your life - going to end up in your backpack too? Do you need a little pocket for your smartphone, or is that unnecessary because your smartphone lives in your hand?
Then, think specifics. If you're transporting your tablet as well as your laptop, you might benefit from a backpack with a designated tablet pocket. And maybe cast your mind back to the previous question to think about the purpose of the trips you and your laptop are taking together: will you need somewhere to put a water bottle within easy reach? Sunglasses? A camera? Some of the backpacks on our list are designed to help you carry that stuff safely.
How disorganized are you - really?
Do bus drivers hate it when they see you waiting at their stop? Is it because you're going to spend the entire journey rooting in the darkness of your bag for your change or your travel card, which you know is there somewhere, but you don't know whether it's under your lunch or between the pages of your notebook or stuck to the bottom of that pack of glowsticks you bought for some reason? If so - especially if you're going on a long trip - you might benefit from a backpack with neat organisational features, like the eleven compartments in the Spigen SGP 10551 (eleven! If you don't know where your stuff is with eleven compartments, there is no hope for you), or the accordion-style compartments and bright orange interior of the Everki EKP119.
Does it look good?
In some ways this is the least important factor in choosing a backpack, but face it - if you carry something around on your back all the time, that something is making a statement about you, whether you like it or not. You might be content to go for form over function and let your backpack say whatever it wants - as long as it's not "hey, check me out: I'm carrying an expensive laptop" (which is why we prefer backpacks with a more subtle, rounded shape) - but if you do want to pick something a little more stylish, be sure you don't sacrifice the durability of your pack.
What Makes A Laptop Backpack TSA-Friendly?
Back in 2008, the Transportation Security Administration shocked travelers everywhere by revealing that they don't ask you to remove your laptop from your bag just because they get a kick out of wasting your time - or even because they're hoping that you'll accidentally leave your computer behind.
do not pack anything in the laptop compartment other than the laptop
Nope - apparently, all they want is a clear and unobstructed image of the laptop as it goes through their X-ray machine. And eight years ago they began encouraging manufacturers to produce bags that meet their criteria - that is, bags that have:
- a designated laptop-only section that you can lay flat on the X-ray belt
- no metal snaps, zippers or buckles inside, underneath or on-top of the laptop-only section
- no pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section.
Back then, almost no backpacks met these criteria - see this Lifehacker article, which basically tells you not to bother with a backpack for your laptop at all - but over the past eight years more and more backpacks have been designed to open fully and lay flat.
If you've purchased a laptop backpack that promises to do all of the above, here are some more things you need to remember:
- do not pack anything in the laptop compartment other than the laptop
- when you're at the checkpoint, unfold your backpack completely so that there is nothing above or below the laptop-only section, allowing the bag to lie flat on the X-ray belt
- no backpack manufacturer can guarantee that the TSA is not going to ask you to remove your laptop anyway, or undergo additional screening once the backpack has been X-rayed. (They're the TSA, man. They do what they want)
- different countries have different security procedures, and these guidelines are for the TSA only - don't get pissy with security staff elsewhere if they ask you to remove your laptop from your bag
Let's See How Much You Know About The History of Backpacks
According to Wikipedia, the first backpacks - way back in ancient times - were made of animal skin, sewn together with woven animal intestines, used to carry more bits of animal: the meat that needed to be carried home from a hunt. We love the idea of prehistoric kids opening up their backpacks at lunchtime. "What'd you get?" "Mammoth, again..."
In 2008, as we illustrated above, many manufacturers began to adapt their laptop backpacks to meet TSA guidelines for security screening.
Over the centuries, as we evolved to be a little less hunty and a little more fighty (that's right, we're all anthropological experts here), backpacks were mainly used in the military. But in the 20th century, as Americans became more and more interested in outdoor pursuits like hiking and camping, backpacks began to develop.
Gerry Cunningham of Gerry Outdoors is credited with designing the first zippered backpack, in 1938, for use in rock-climbing. In the 1960s the same company began to make backpacks from lightweight, durable nylon rather than from canvas.
In the 1960s and 70s, college students began buying these outdoor backpacks to carry their textbooks and keep them dry, and through the 70s and 80s bag manufacturers began to design backpacks especially for books - check out this npr article on the evolution of the school backpack.
Laptops, meanwhile, had been around since the 1980s, but during the 90s and 00s became more available for individual consumers, leading to the emergence of specific laptop bags - including backpacks - with padded interiors and pockets for cables. In 2008, as we illustrated above, many manufacturers began to adapt their laptop backpacks to meet TSA guidelines for security screening.
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