The 10 Best Laptop Backpacks
This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Laptops have become indispensable for everyone from students to professionals these days. But if you want to take yours with you everywhere you go, you'll need something suitable to carry it in. These backpacks can accommodate everything from compact netbooks to 17-inch models, and are available in designs that can help you get through airport security quickly and organize your other belongings. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 22, 2021:
Just a couple changes here worth bringing attention to. The 5.11 Covrt 18 2.0 is an upgraded version of the Covrt 18 that's a bit lighter and more understated but every bit as durable. We also added the Kenneth Cole Reaction because, despite its relatively small size, it can comfortable fit laptops up to 17 inches. It's designed to be compliant with TSA checkpoint regulations that let you keep your expensive laptop safe in the bag during the Xray. None of our other selections have been changed.
August 05, 2020:
While there hasn't been a lot of turnover in this category, we took a hard look at the models included and decided to replace the old Osprey Flapjack model with the Osprey Apogee, which boasts a particularly low profile, as it's made with the aerodynamics of cyclists in mind. It has an eye on safety, too, as it features an attachment point for blinkers, so if you've got any kind of bluetooth indicator control, you can ensure that motorists will be able to see you clearly.
Beyond things like that, potential owners should pay close attention to capacity, which is denoted in liters. Anything 25 liters or under is likely to be enough for daily commuters with little more than paperwork and a snack in tow, where travelers toting necessities for comfort on planes will likely want more space, especially if it's acting as their primary carry-on and will need to hold a fair amount of clothing and toiletries. Something like the Samsonite Novex is good for this, as it's made by a luggage company and has integrated loops that let you attach it to the telescoping handles on rolling suitcases, giving you more flexibility when moving around the airport.
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 some more expensive models, 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.
Tom Bihn Synapse 25 While many laptop backpacks tend toward large sizes, the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 offers a trim 25 liters of space, perfect for small-to-midsize computers and moderate loads. But don't take the diminutive size for weakness; this model is constructed to stand up to the rigors of daily use, with a lifetime guarantee to prove it. tombihn.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
Moore & Giles Quinn Commuter If you're 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
How Do I Choose The Right Laptop Backpack For Me?
Some of the backpacks on our list are designed to help you carry that stuff safely.
What questions do you need to ask yourself before you make room for a new laptop backpack in your life? Size 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 litany of other needs, particularly if you're planning to keep the rest of your life in the same bag.
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 hardware for all to see. This is useful, but only if you're genuinely going to need it, and agents can still ask you to remove it. If you're a frequent business flyer or you need to fly home from college every vacation, it's a smart purchase. If not, probably not.
Similarly, if you're going to be traveling, then you might want to consider a pack that is especially lightweight, or well-padded to protect your stuff, with air-flow panels to stop your back getting nasty and sweaty. A reliably waterproof pack might be in order if you're going camping.
If you're transporting your tablet as well as your laptop, you might benefit from a backpack with a designated tablet pocket. And maybe ask yourself some other questions: 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.
In some ways, style is the least important factor in choosing a backpack, but 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, 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. What 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.
This is especially true around the world, as different countries have different security procedures.
Those bags will often 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; and no pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section. Back then, almost no backpacks met these criteria, but over the next few years more and more backpacks were 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 itself. Also, 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 Keep in mind that 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. This is especially true around the world, as different countries have different security procedures.
Let's See How Much You Know About The History of Backpacks
The first backpacks were made of animal skin, sewn together with woven animal intestines, and used to carry more bits of animal: the meat that needed to be carried home from a hunt.
In 2008, many manufacturers began to adapt their laptop backpacks to meet TSA guidelines for security screening.
Over the centuries, 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 further.
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.
Laptops, meanwhile, had been around since the 1980s, but during the 1990s and 00s they 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, many manufacturers began to adapt their laptop backpacks to meet TSA guidelines for security screening.