How To Choose The

Best Laptop Bag

The ultimate guide to selecting the best laptop backpack, tote, messenger, and more.

01 Introduction

There’s more to a laptop bag than simply being able to carry a laptop.


We’ve teamed up with Tortuga to give away a selection of newly released travel gear! Check it out →

A Preview of The Best Laptop Bags

Click for more info on each of these top picks to see why we love them.

See all reviews: Daypacks

Finding the Best Laptop Bag for You

If you want to leave your house with your laptop, then you’re probably going to want a laptop bag. Of course, you probably already know this. But you may not know which laptop bag you should buy. There seem to be a million (approximately) options out there.

Unfortunately, we can’t tell you what the best laptop bag is. We wish we could, because let’s be real, it would be a lot easier to simply write the name of a single bag than an entire guide about a bunch of them. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the “best” laptop bag because everybody has different needs and preferences.

Fjallraven Kanken 13" Laptop Backpack In Detroit, Michigan
Fjallraven Kanken 13″ Laptop Backpack In Detroit, Michigan

So, in this guide, we’re going to walk you through how to choose the best laptop bag for you.

What You Can Expect From This Guide

Here at Pack Hacker, we’re all about putting gear to the test, noting all strengths and weaknesses as we go. (We’ve written about our testing and reviewing process here if you would like to learn more.)

For this guide, our team of gearheads has gotten our hands on over 100 laptop bags. We’ve looked at each one, even fully testing and reviewing several of them. Based on months—sometimes years—of using these bags, we’re going to take you through everything you need to consider when choosing the best laptop bag for you. That means diving into all the different components of laptop bags and explaining what works best for a variety of situations. Throughout this guide, we’ll also provide laptop bag recommendations that are, once again, based on our rigorous testing.

Testing Lots Of Laptop Bags In Detroit
Testing Lots Of Laptop Bags In Detroit

Now, we understand that you’re a busy person and may not have time to read every single word of this guide. So, we’ve recommended ten laptop bags below that cover a wide range of use cases. Keep in mind, everybody has different needs and lifestyles, so your future favorite may not have made the list. That’s why we recommend you read the full guide—or, at the very least—skim it while enjoying your morning cup o’ joe.

What is a Laptop Bag?

Before we get going on this guide, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what a laptop bag is. Sure, you can shove a laptop into whatever you have on hand and call it a laptop bag. We’re not going to stop you.

Tom Bihn Synik 30 Laptop Compartment Side Access
Tom Bihn Synik 30 Laptop Compartment Side Access

That said, we define a laptop bag as a bag that has specifically been designed to hold a laptop. To put it another way: a laptop bag is a laptop bag first and a camera, travel, hiking, makeup, dog, etc., bag second.

Conversely, you can have a bag that just so happens to be able to hold a laptop. Take travel backpacks—they’re designed for travel, but many of them have a laptop sleeve, too. See the difference?

02 Our Picks

A taste of some of our favorite laptop bags.


We’ve teamed up with Tortuga to give away a selection of newly released travel gear! Check it out →

EVERGOODS Civic Panel Loader 24L V3 (CPL24)
EVERGOODS Civic Panel Loader 24L V3 (CPL24)

As a brand, EVERGOODS has some of the most versatile wholesale organizational features in its daypacks and travel backpacks. Every piece of gear has a home, but the segmentation isn’t limiting, and their packs can be used for everything from hikes in the foothills to long days traversing an unfamiliar city. The CPL24 is the perfect size for a minimalist carry personal item or a daypack you stow inside your rolling luggage to use when you arrive.

The clamshell-style opening offers excellent access to the main compartment, there’s a separate compartment to stow up to a 17-inch computer safely, and you can even use a water bladder with this pack. We’ve found the harness system comfortable; however, if your torso is shorter than 16 or longer than 23 inches, we’ve noticed it can feel too large or too small to fit comfortably.

Because of how versatile the internal organization is and how comfortable this pack is for most travelers, it’s a solid option for people who want a pack that can do it all. Whether you’re looking for a pack to take to the city, the trail, or both, the EVERGOODS CPL24 V3 might be the best laptop bag for you.

Why We Like It

  • The materials are durable, and the hardware is rugged
  • The organization is well-thought-out but doesn’t get in your way

What You Should Know

  • It’s not the lightest pack on this list
  • The pack only comes in black

Tom Bihn Synapse 25 In Detroit
TOM BIHN Synapse 25

If you’ve been on your journey to find the best laptop bag for a while, odds are, someone has recommended the TOM BIHN Synapse 25 to you already (we’re looking at you, r/OneBag). If you weren’t impressed by what you saw or you’ve never heard of this pack, let’s dive into what we’ve found in testing to shed some light on this dad-like pack.

When you pop open most TOM BIHN packs, internal organization is king. Seriously—they put time and thought into everything inside this pack, including the laptop compartment, which uses a cache system that perfectly molds to your computer’s size. We like this method; however, you’ll need to upgrade the system if you get a different-sized laptop. Additionally, it can be hard to slide your laptop back into place when the pack is completely full; however, that’s often an issue with travel packs.

If internal organization is king, high-quality materials are the Ace. There are numerous options regarding what fabrics you’ll receive from TOM BIHN, which will affect the colorway you get, too. On their product page, you can explore the different options and find which one will make the best laptop bag for you and your next trip!

Why We Like It

  • The laptop cache system is innovative and easy to use
  • The materials and hardware are durable, versatile, and customizable

What You Should Know

  • If you upgrade your computer, you’ll need to change the laptop cache system
  • The bag’s style isn’t for everyone

Aer Fit Pack 3 | Using the backpack in Detroit
Aer Fit Pack 3

When you think about the best laptop bag, you probably don’t think about a gym bag. Well, the Aer Fit Pack 3 can change that. They’ve combined the organizational features we’re used to seeing from Aer with a large main compartment that can handle (and wrangle the smells from) your gym gear.

The laptop compartment can handle up to a 16-inch computer and is well-protected with a false bottom and dense padding. There are numerous pockets for stowing tech, snacks, and everyday items.

On top of that, there’s a large compartment that you can use to stow travel gear, like packing cubes and organization pouches, gym gear, or whatever else you can fit inside. With a capacity of 18.7 liters and a comfortable harness system, you can use the Aer Fit Pack 3 for nearly anything within the space restrictions of its smaller size.

After all, is it really the best laptop backpack if you can’t go to the gym with it?

Why We Like It

  • The materials are top-notch and will last ages
  • We dig the duality of the tech compartment and the large top storage area

What You Should Know

  • It’s heavy for its 18.7-liter capacity
  • The heavy look isn’t for everyone

GORUCK GR1 in Ann Arbor, Michigan

The GORUCK GR1 is one of the most durable packs on this list, making it a solid contender for travelers who are rough on their gear. After all, if the elements can’t get through the outside payer of your pack, they can’t get your computer, right?

Whereas that last sentiment isn’t always true, the laptop compartment can handle models up to 15 inches, has a false bottom to protect the bottom and corners of your laptop, and ample padding to protect it from anything you might throw at it. Whether you’re clumsily walking the streets of Boston or trekking through the wilderness of Washington, you can count on this pack to keep your gear safe, from your laptop to your toiletries.

There are 26 and 21-liter models available; however, if you want something bigger, you can opt for the GR2, a travel backpack with 40 liters, which is one of the highest-rated packs on Pack Hacker. Because of the ruggedness offered by their packs, almost anything they make that has a laptop compartment will do well at protecting your computer!

For the rugged adventurer reading this from the top of a mountain, this might be the best laptop bag for you! How’s the weather up there?

Why We Like It

  • The materials are incredibly durable and well-padded
  • The clamshell-style opening is handy for stowing travel and tech gear

What You Should Know

  • It’s one of the heavier packs on this list
  • The look feels more military than travel

The North Face Recon Review
The North Face Recon

The North Face Recon’s laptop compartment isn’t raised as high as we’d like it to be; however, in weeks of testing, we haven’t had any issues with it crashing too hard onto the floor, so we’re happy with its performance! Apart from that minor gripe, this is one of the best laptop bags on the market, and it comes in at a budget-friendly price, comparatively speaking.

At 30L, this can be used as a travel backpack, daypack, or hiking pack. The shoulder straps are flexible and comfortable, the materials are durable and water resistant, and there are multiple compartments to stow gear, from tech to packing cubes and shoes.

In testing, the lack of strap keepers can be annoying. That said, you can craft your own or get used to it, so this isn’t the biggest deal. Multiple colorways are available, so you can snag a pack that matches the vibes of your next trip or your wardrobe. Plus, it isn’t too sporty or business-focused, making it a solid middle ground for travelers who like to change things up now and then.

Why We Like It

  • The pack is budget-friendly
  • There’s ample space to stow various kinds of gear

What You Should Know

  • It looks a little sporty
  • The materials aren’t as structured as some tech packs

Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24 in Detroit
Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24

The Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24 has some of the most unique storage of any laptop bag on this list, and we’re here for it. You can access all your tech gear quickly, from a mouse to your external keyboard.

The computer storage area can handle up to a 15-inch laptop, which is more than capable for most travelers. It’s inside the main compartment, which isn’t as quick to access as some of the external sleeves on this list; however, we dig how much protection it offers. Plus, you can bend the back of the pack out of the way to get easier access so that the computer doesn’t hit any snags on the way out of the bag.

In typical Mystery Ranch fashion, the materials on this pack are durable, and the harness system is capable. There’s enough padding to sustain long journeys, and the pack is water-resistant enough to handle walks in the rain. The pack can get a bit hot, especially on sunny days, but we can get used to that, especially considering that our laptop will arrive safely!

Why We Like It

  • The laptop compartment offers ample protection for your computer
  • The external materials are incredibly durable

What You Should Know

  • It doesn’t handle large gear as well as other bags on this list
  • You can’t access your laptop super quickly

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L V2
Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L (V2)

Just because you’re looking for the best laptop bag for you doesn’t mean that you won’t carry other gear inside, too. The second iteration of the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L isn’t just one of the best laptop backpacks around; it also excels for your EDC and photography needs. The pack is compatible with Peak Design’s camera cubes, which quickly transform this into a photography backpack.

The laptop compartment can handle up to a 15-inch device, which is more than optimal for most travelers. It’s on the backside of the pack, which is handy because you can access it quickly. The compartment is entirely adjustable, so you can change it to fit your computer size. Our full review of the pack describes it as a laptop hammock. The smaller the computer, the higher it rests inside the pack, offering more protection from the ground.

At just 30 liters, some users may find that this pack isn’t large enough for their one bag travel goals. However, if you pack smarter for a weekend trip or even a week-long adventure, this is one of the best laptop backpacks!

Why We Like It

  • It can be easily transformed into a photography backpack
  • The materials are highly weatherproof

What You Should Know

  • The capacity might not be large enough for one bag travel
  • Not all users will like the style

Bellroy Venture Ready Pack 26L Review
Bellroy Venture Ready Pack 26L

The Bellroy Venture Ready Pack 26L is an excellent daily carry backpack that offers stellar protection for laptops up to 16 inches. In addition to the durable and lightweight Canva Ripstop, this pack utilizes YKK zippers and Woojin hardware, two of the best brands in the world at what they do. What’s not to love about that?

The laptop sleeve has a false bottom and is well-padded, so you can feel safe that your computer is safe while exploring a new city or taking a day hike on the outskirts of town. It’s inside the main compartment, which isn’t as quick to access as if it were inside a dedicated pocket. That said, the main compartment has a wide opening, so it’s relatively easy to get your computer when you need it at the local coffee shop or while waiting for your flight at the airport.

The pack has thoughtful organization for your laptop accessories, travel gear, and clothing. Whether you’re crossing the city or heading across the region, this might be the best laptop bag to get you there.

Why We Like It

  • The laptop compartment is well-padded and has a false bottom
  • There’s ample organization for your tech accessories

What You Should Know

  • The laptop doesn’t have a dedicated compartment
  • The design is a little sporty

Osprey METRON with Bike

This is the best laptop bag for bike commuters because of one handy feature missing from many bags—a helmet strap! In addition to the Lidlock attachment point, a bike light loop, U-lock slot, built-in rainfly, and a compartment for shoes and dirty clothing add up to a bag cyclists love. It has an aerodynamic shape, thanks to a straightjacket compression system that keeps the bag close to your body, although there are no keepers to keep some slack in check. We dig the comprehensive harness system. The straps, padding, and mesh material combine with Osprey’s Airscape back panel to feel like it’s holding on tight for the ride ahead, just like a friend. It includes a sternum strap, load lifters, and a hip belt to help you dial in the fit.

There are several pockets for gear outside the bag, and the 26L main compartment is accessible via a clamshell design once you undo the compression system. Be sure to put the gear you need to grab during your commute near the top, though, because that’s the only place you can reach when the straightjacket is in place. There’s space for up to a 15-inch laptop in a padded sleeve with a false bottom and a hook-and-loop fastener to hold it in place, and there’s another sleeve in front for documents or a tablet, so you should have no issue bringing the daily essentials you need wherever you roll.

Why We Like It

  • It has an aerodynamic, bike-focused design
  • The harness system is comfortable to wear for miles

What You Should Know

  • We wish there were strap keepers for all the danglers
  • The straightjacket compression limits main compartment access

Osprey Arcane Large Day Pack (V2)
Osprey Arcane Large Day Pack (V2)

Sometimes, the best laptop backpack is simple, with a no-nonsense design and a clean look. The Osprey Arcane Large Day Pack is just that: a comfortably-built bag that looks great wherever it goes and will take you smoothly throughout the day. It includes a nicely padded harness system with breathable mesh that doesn’t pull at the traps despite the yoked attachment. It’s just right for a bag of this size, and there’s a G-hook at the bottom of one strap that you can undo to wrap it around a chair leg for security. There is also a mesh pocket on the strap for small gear like a card or lip balm, though it’s too small for a phone.

There’s a good amount of organization to help you make it through the day, too. We pack our minimalist wallet, AirPods, and keys in the horizontal front pocket. An offset opening runs all the way down the left side and partially down the right to get into the main compartment, giving you clear access to your laptop and everyday essentials. There’s a padded sleeve for a tablet, as well, and a zippered pocket for small accessories, plus a pen slot and a slip pocket for a battery bank or travel mouse. A key clip on a leash is attached here, as well, in case you want to store them here instead of in the front pocket. There’s room remaining for a tech pouch—if you have more accessories—or a packing cube if you want to use it as a personal item bag on the plane. Wherever you bring it, we think you’ll appreciate its simple design, organization, and comfortable harness system.

Why We Like It

  • Water bottle pocket lays flat for a clean profile
  • Suspended laptop and tablet sleeves add protection for your gear

What You Should Know

  • The packcloth material can get marked up easily, though we otherwise dig the look
  • It’s cumbersome to access the key clip quickly


Tortuga Laptop Backpack Review
Tortuga Laptop Backpack

With durable yet lightweight materials, good organization, and a well-padded harness system, this bag is a great travel laptop backpack for your next trip. Tortuga uses SHELL200, a recycled water-resistant sailcloth fabric, for its Laptop Backpack, quality YKK AquaGuard zippers, and Woojin hardware. The main and laptop compartment zippers are lockable to protect your gear from prying hands, and it has a polished look that meshes well with many situations, whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure.

There’s a shallow pocket that opens via a vertical zipper on the front for your phone, wallet, and travel documents, two stretchy mesh water bottle pockets, and a top pocket that’s also accessible from the bag’s interior. That’s where we pack a toiletry bag for the plane since we can get at it before heading through security. The laptop sleeve is inside the main compartment, but you can also access it via a zipper on the right side to avoid having to dislodge everything else you’ve packed to get it out. There’s another padded sleeve in front of it to hold a tablet and an admin panel with pen slots, card pockets, and a stretchy pocket for more bulky gear. Then, there is plenty of room left for packing cubes, pouches, packable travel jackets, and more.

It’s a great personal item bag for the plane, as it slides nicely under the seat in front of you. That gives you access to everything you need during your flight, whether a laptop and your notes so you can finish a term paper on your way home from spring break or a tablet and an extra layer to get cozy and watch your favorite show. Plus, the design places more bag components at the top to make it easier to access while lying on the ground, making it easy to grab your toiletry bag at security or your snack on board.

Why We Like It

  • The recycled fabric repels water and dirt easily
  • Cushioned shoulder straps and the EVA-molded back panel are covered in a spandex-like material for breathability

What You Should Know

  • Packing heavy gear in the top pocket can make the front panel fall forward when you open the main compartment
  • While the harness system is well-padded, you can feel it dig somewhat into the top of your shoulders when using the sternum strap

03 Considerations

Overwhelmed by all of the laptop bags out there? We’ve got your back.


We’ve teamed up with Tortuga to give away a selection of newly released travel gear! Check it out →

What to Consider Before You Buy a Laptop Bag

Finding the perfect laptop bag can be as overwhelming as finding the perfect pasta sauce. There are just so many options. Marinara, pesto, Alfredo, vodka, oil, and garlic…Whoops, went off on a tangent there. The point is there are so many laptop bags—and pasta sauces—to choose from.

The best way to combat overwhelm is to think through a few key considerations, which we’ve listed below. If you’re able to think through these points and clearly understand your needs, you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect laptop bag for you. So, let’s get into it.


You may be thinking to yourself, “Obviously, I’m planning on using my laptop bag to carry my laptop. Next consideration.” But we challenge you to dig a little bit deeper here. Consider:

Your Commute

It’s worth spending time figuring out the challenges of your commute and how your bag will meet those challenges. Take public transportation, for example. If you ride the subway to work, school, or wherever else you want to bring your laptop bag, a challenge may be limited legroom and space. If that’s the case, you’ll want a bag that’s compact enough to not crowd your legs, annoy your seat partner, accidentally whack people in the face while you’re standing, or take up a whole extra body’s worth of space.

Or maybe you take a bus that has plenty of legroom, but your bus stop is over a mile away from your destination. You’ll want a bag that’s comfortable enough to carry that distance.

Able Carry Daily Backpack in Detroit
Able Carry Daily Backpack in Detroit

If you ride a bike to work or school, you’ll want something with solid weather resistance, whereas if you drive, you may want a tote or briefcase for convenience and accessibility. You can easily grab something from an open tote hanging off of your shoulder, which isn’t necessarily true with a backpack. You get the idea.

Now, make sure you think about all of the ways you get to the office/coworking space/coffee shop/school/laptop bag convention. Even if you only scooter to work for the summer months, you’ll want a laptop bag that can keep up with your epic scootering.

Your Workspace

You may work at a traditional office, a coworking space, a coffee shop, the pool at your apartment complex, your father-in-law’s attic, and so on. In the modern world, it seems like you can work anywhere (particularly if you work on a laptop).

Different laptop bags work better or worse for different workspaces. For example, if you regularly work at a coffee shop it’s nice to have a laptop bag that stands up on its own. That way, it won’t slide down the table legs to the floor and get in everyone’s way. If you work in a cubicle at a traditional office, it’s nice to have a laptop bag that’s small enough to easily slide beneath your desk. If you go to school, you’ll probably appreciate a laptop bag that’s comfortable enough to carry between classes.

Looking Professional With The Bellroy System Work Bag
Looking Professional With The Bellroy System Work Bag

Also, consider the dress code at your work. Some workspaces are dressier than others and may prefer more professional messenger bags or briefcases over laptop backpacks. That’s important to keep in mind unless you’re a #rebel who likes to break the rules.

Additional Activities
A laptop bag can do more than hold a laptop so consider any secondary activities you would like to use your it for. They may include:

You may find yourself in other scenarios outside of the ones on this list, but we hope that we’ve sparked your imagination. Of course, laptop bags won’t work for every single occasion. Activities like backpacking or long-term travel will likely require that you pick up a separate bag. But some versatility is a plus, so look out for:

  • A larger size: Increasing the capacity gives you more space to work with, allowing you to use it for short trips, groceries, beach excursions, etc. Of course, the downside to a larger laptop bag is that it will be more cumbersome to carry for everyday life. (We’ll discuss size more in a bit.)
  • Minimal organization: A big bucket of a compartment will fit a larger diversity of gear than one that’s filled with pockets or otherwise sectioned off. Too much organization—especially specific organization designed for specific gear—can feel limiting.
  • A separate laptop compartment: If there’s a specific compartment for your laptop, you can use the remaining compartment(s) for other stuff. We’ll talk about this concept more in the Organization section of this guide.


You should take into consideration not only the size of the laptop bag, but the size of its laptop compartment, sleeve, and/or pocket. Brands call the dedicated laptop spot inside of their bags by different names. For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to refer to these spots as laptop sleeves throughout the rest of this guide.

Sleeve Size
This goes without saying, but make sure to choose a pack that has a laptop sleeve that will fit your laptop. You don’t want a sleeve that’s too small, and you don’t want anything too big, either. Your laptop may move around during transit, which opens up more opportunities for damage.

Ogio Shadow Flux 420 Backpack Laptop Compartment
Ogio Shadow Flux 420 Backpack Laptop Compartment

Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. The advertised laptop sleeve size can vary from company to company. One brand’s 13’’ sleeve will easily fit a 16’’ laptop while another’s 13’’ sleeve will barely fit a 13’’ laptop. (Exasperating, right? Get it together, brands!). To be extra sure, it’s probably best to size up. If the sleeve ends up being too big, you can always stick your laptop inside of a case or an additional padded sleeve first. We’ll talk about laptop protection more in the Protection section of this guide.

On a similar note, if you plan to put your laptop inside of a separate sleeve or case before putting it into your bag, make sure you consider that when looking at the laptop size limitations. If your additional protection is too bulky, it may not fit inside.

Bag Size
By our definition, laptop bags are usually between 15 and 30L. Keep in mind, that 1) there are many exceptions to this “rule” and 2) there is no standard backpack liter measurement. One company’s 20L can be another company’s 15L. (Again, get it together, brands!).

You may want a laptop bag that can hold your lunchbox, change of clothes, and go-to encyclopedia as well as your laptop. As we mentioned earlier, larger capacities do tend to make for more versatile bags, but they can be a pain to carry around.

Trakke Canna Backpack (V2) Back
Trakke Canna Backpack in Detroit

Or, you may want a laptop bag that will hold a laptop, a pen, and nothing else. If that’s the case, you could probably even size down to an 8L bag. Smaller laptop bags tend to be easier to lug around and can work as lightweight daypacks when you want to carry a little more than your pockets allow. But, if you ever do need to haul your go-to encyclopedia to work, you may run into problems.


We probably don’t need to tell you that aesthetic is a key factor when it comes to choosing a laptop bag. You’ll likely use it frequently—maybe even daily—so you should love how it looks. Luckily, there are so many high-quality laptop bags that you should be able to find one that’s not only your style but also durable with thoughtful organization and adequate laptop protection.

We’re not here to tell you what a fashionable laptop bag looks like—beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all—but we’ve noticed the most common styles you’re likely to come across, including:

  • Techy
  • Heritage
  • Business Casual (the bag version of a button-down and khakis)
  • Sporty
  • Classic (a slightly elevated version of your elementary school bag)
  • Fashion/Slick
Laptop Bag Styles
Laptop Bag Styles

Materials, Durability, & Craftsmanship

We suggest investing in a bag that’s made from high-quality materials with excellent craftsmanship. In your search for a laptop bag, you’ll probably come across materials like:

  • Standard Nylon
  • Ballistic Nylon and/or Ripstop Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Various types of CORDURA® branded fabrics
  • Canvas
  • Leather
  • Tarpaulin or TPE Fabric Laminate
  • And more

We’re not going to take a deep dive into all of these fabrics in this guide (check out our Travel Backpack Guide if that’s what you’re looking for.) As a general rule of thumb, Ballistic and Ripstop Nylon as well as CORDURA® branded fabrics are going to be your most durable. Leather and canvas laptop bags look classy and professional, although they’ll be heavier and more susceptible to the elements than the synthetic options. For that reason, we don’t generally recommend them for travel or if your commute involves a lot of walking. But, if you’ll primarily be driving to and from work, a leather or canvas laptop bag could treat you well (and impress your fashionista coworkers). Bags made from Tarpaulin or TPE Fabric Laminate will be highly water-resistant but will also pick up marks and scratches quite easily. Finally, Dyneema and X-Pac provide some nice weather resistance and are typically lighter weight, but they tend to be expensive fabrics.

Aer Day Pack 2 Material
Aer Day Pack 2 Material

Of course, the durability of your laptop bag should depend on personal preference and/or how often you’ll be using it. Daily use is going to be tougher on your bag than if you work from home and only go to the neighborhood coffee shop occasionally.

Tom Bihn Brain Bag Zippers
Tom Bihn Brain Bag Zippers

Also, consider zippers and hardware. They may seem like a small thing, but a broken zipper or buckle can render some bags inoperable. Do your best to avoid unbranded zippers and hardware (we’ve had some bad experiences). We’ve had great luck with YKK and Riri. Zoom and SBS zippers are decent, but we’ve generally found them to be less desirable. Duraflex, YKK, Woojin, Nifco, and ITW are all solid brands when it comes to other hardware on bags like buckles and strap-adjustment sliders. Note that zippers come in sizes on a scale from one (small) to ten (large). We’d recommend looking for something above a #5 for all exterior zippers, although #8-#10 will treat you the best. Smaller sizes work fine for internal pockets.

EVERGOODS CPL28 in Detroit
EVERGOODS Civic Panel Loader 28L (CPL28 V2)

The EVERGOODS CPL28 feels like it has been built to withstand a hurricane. That’s to say, it’s super durable with exceptional craftsmanship. The exterior of the pack is made of some durable stuff—840d ballistic nylon 6 to be exact—that has been finished with a DWR coating for water and abrasion resistance. While the massive zippers can be a little sticky around the corners, they will (probably) last you decades to come. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if you passed your EVERGOODS CPL28 down to your favorite grandchild.


You should keep your budget in mind. If you can afford it, we suggest investing in a laptop bag that will last you for years instead of continually needing to replace a cheaper one. In the long run, purchasing a more expensive, yet higher-quality bag will probably save you money. Plus, it’ll have a better environmental impact, keeping broken bags out of the landfill. As the saying goes, “buy nice or buy twice.” Of course, this requires that you have the initial money to invest in a pricier bag, which we understand not everyone has.

Bellroy Tokyo Totepack in Detroit
Bellroy Tokyo Totepack in Detroit

Now, keep in mind that expensive doesn’t always translate to durable. Sometimes, you’re paying for style, brand, or clever marketing. A good rule-of-thumb is to look for brands that proudly back their gear with generous warranties. That usually means a brand makes quality products that they’re happy to guarantee. You can also read through our detailed reviews, as we’re dedicated to helping you decide whether or not a bag is worth the money.

The North Face Daypack in Detroit
The North Face Daypack

The North Face Daypack is a great budget laptop bag as it’s intelligently designed and durable enough, yet clocks in at an affordable price point. It’s solid all around—good harness system, good organization, and good laptop protection. Plus, it’s available in several fun colorways to give your daily routine a splash of style.

04 Carry

A question of the ages: should you carry a laptop messenger, tote, or backpack? Let’s break it down.


We’ve teamed up with Tortuga to give away a selection of newly released travel gear! Check it out →

Laptop Backpack, Tote, or Messenger? How to Choose the Right Laptop Carry for You.

While searching for the best laptop bag, you’ll probably run into the same modes of carry again and again. There are different pros and cons to each mode—which we’ll discuss below—but it’s also one of those things that’s a personal preference. Maybe you’re a huge fan of tote bags, although you can’t put your finger on why. If that’s the case, don’t let us stop you from buying a tote. You do you.


Tom Bihn Synapse 25 Details
Tom Bihn Synapse 25 Details

The Good:
First of all, if you haven’t already gathered from what you’ve read thus far, there are a ton of laptop backpacks on the market these days, so, you have a ton to choose from.

Two straps also evenly distribute weight better than a single strap, meaning backpacks are likely going to be more comfortable to carry over long distances than other styles. Additionally, wearing a backpack frees up both of your hands, allowing you to do all sorts of two-handed activities (juggling, miming, and hand-clap games, to name a few). Backpacks can also be more versatile than some of the other options—you can take your laptop backpack on a hike, whereas a laptop briefcase probably won’t hold up so well on the trails.

The Bad:

Compared to some of the other styles in this list, a backpack may look the least professional. Of course, you can find polished and stylish laptop backpacks, but they may not scream “office” as much as a tote or briefcase will. Additionally, backpacks can sometimes feel cumbersome if your commute primarily involves driving; throwing a backpack over your shoulder(s) for a 30-second walk into the office or your house can be annoying. Finally, getting inside a backpack may take a little bit longer than getting inside one of the other bag styles. You can’t just leave the top of the backpack unzipped (unless you want to risk things falling out) like you can with a tote so it may be frustrating if you need to frequently get in and out of it.

Tom Bihn Daylight Backpack Review
TOM BIHN Daylight Backpack

The TOM BIHN Daylight Backpack is made of durable materials that should hold up against the test of time (and the company has a great warranty, if not). Plus, it has a decently comfortable harness system. The organization is relatively DIY compared to other TOM BIHN bags, but we don’t mind having the freedom to add pouches to the built-in O-rings. Our main gripe is that, when the main compartment is full, it can be difficult to slide the laptop cache in and out.

Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack Review
Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack

You’re probably familiar with the Fjallraven Kanken—at least in look if not in name. This boxy laptop bag is globally popular, but it’s more than a fashion statement. We’ve been testing the Kanken 13″ Laptop Backpack for over three years (!) across three continents (!). Overall, we’ve been impressed with how well it’s been holding up. We’re also digging its super minimal organization, versatility, and how easy it is to grab your laptop. However, the harness system isn’t super comfortable since the straps have minimal padding and there’s no sternum strap (note that the straps on the original Kanken do not have any padding). There are multiple iterations of the Kanken—including a version made of recycled plastic bottles—and multiple sizes, so you can pick up one that suits your needs.

Osprey Radial Semi Side
Osprey Radial

The Osprey Radial has a solid amount of organization and features a specific spot to store a helmet on the outside, making it a great option to consider if you’re into bike commuting. Though it it’s a bit on the larger side and lacks our preferred amount of strap keepers for a backpack you use while cycling, the aerodynamic, sleek design makes riding a breeze and looks good in and out of the saddle. On top of that, the harness system is comfortable and comprehensive, so you’re in good hands.


Peak Design Everyday Tote 15L V2 In Essex England
Peak Design Everyday Tote 15L V2 In Essex England

The Good:
Some totes close at the top, while others don’t have a closure at all. Even totes that do close can usually be left open, so they’re a great option if you’re always pawing through your bag. And because of the possibility of an open top, you can stick in longer items whenever the need arises—say if you need to pack a tripod or want to pick up a baguette on your way home. Plus, they’re a step up from a backpack as far as professionalism is concerned. (Of course, you can find an unprofessional tote. We’re speaking in generalizations here.) The handles on a tote are also frequently large enough to toss over your shoulder, so you can have the hands-free carry that we love.

The Bad:
Totes can be uncomfortable to carry over long distances or when you load them up with heavy gear. Even well-padded handles can’t stop your shoulder from aching after an hour of lugging your tote around. And, while you can toss those handles over your shoulder for that hands-free carry as we mentioned above, they can easily slip off your shoulder as you walk or bend down. Finally, when it comes to totes that don’t close, it only takes one accident for all of your gear to be splayed all over the ground. So, clumsy folks beware.

Mission Workshop Drift Tote (Huckberry Exclusive)
Mission Workshop The Drift Tote

The Mission Workshop Drift Tote has a clean, thoughtful design. It feels like the tote’s designers really took their time creating the bag, putting in thoughtful details like the metal key clip and highly water-resistant bottom. There’s a separate laptop compartment for your laptop (duh), which is a nice touch and something you don’t frequently see with laptop totes. The bag itself is large for a tote, meaning you can load it up with a ton of your gear. That said, it will get heavy. Keep in mind that the carry isn’t especially comfortable. While wide, the shoulder strap isn’t well-padded.

Peak Design Everyday Tote 15L V2 In Essex England
Peak Design Everyday Tote 15L (V2)

If you’re a photographer, videographer, or otherwise like to carry around camera equipment, then you’ll probably like what the Peak Design Everyday Tote 15L (V2) has to offer. You can use the two included FlexFold dividers to customize the tote’s main space to fit your camera or other gear. Plus, the bag is made from durable, weather-resistant materials. However, we do wish that the laptop sleeve had a false bottom and could accommodate laptops over 13’’.

Tote Pack

Bellroy Duo Totepack In Detroit
Bellroy Duo Totepack In Detroit

If you’re not familiar, a tote pack is the combination of a tote and a backpack (tote pack, get it?). Basically, it’s a bag that has stowable straps you can pull out whenever you’d like to have a backpack and hide whenever you’d like to have a tote.

The Good:
Tote packs combine the professionalism and accessibility of a tote with the comfort of a backpack. You can walk into a meeting with a tote pack in your hands and then when the business talk is over, throw it on your back and ride on home. Getting in and out of them is usually quick and easy, although not as much as with a regular tote.

The Bad:
While tote packs are more comfortable to carry long distances than a regular tote, they usually aren’t as comfortable when worn as a backpack. That’s because the harness system often isn’t as robust or breathable. The back panels of tote packs frequently don’t have any air channels or mesh for ventilation (this helps give the bag a clean look, but isn’t ideal if you’re a sweaty person). Moreover, they can also be cumbersome to convert from tote to backpack and back again. This isn’t a huge deal if you don’t need to convert between modes frequently, but it can get annoying if you’re doing it every day.

Osprey Arcane Tote Pack In Ferndale
Osprey Arcane Tote Pack

The Osprey Arcane Tote Pack works well as both a tote and a backpack. While there are no real air channels on the back panel, it has a ribbed texture beneath a layer of mesh that helps with ventilation (something you frequently don’t see with tote packs). The bag has enough space for all the daily essentials—and it expands via a roll-top—although we’re disappointed in the lack of water bottle pockets. Still, the thoughtful design, comfortable carry, and overall durability make the Tote Pack worth considering.

Bellroy Via Workpack Review
Bellroy Via Workpack

The most sophisticated-looking totepack on our list, the Bellroy Via Workpack will be at home at whatever professional events you have on the docket. That said, its slim design means it’s best to load up the bag with thinner items. The harness system is nice enough for an 18L bag, but there’s nothing particularly fancy going on (no sternum strap, load lifters, mesh, air channels, etc). Of course, this helps the bag look sleek and tidy, but may not be a worthwhile tradeoff for you.

Peak Design Everyday Totepack V2 In Essex England
Peak Design Everyday Totepack 20L (V2)

The Peak Design Everyday Totepack 20L has all the same features we’ve come to expect from Peak Design—customizable organization (in the form of FlexFold dividers), a durable build, clever detailing, and a sleek aesthetic. Its exterior also has a good amount of water-resistance. Now, the handles aren’t large enough to toss over your shoulder—you have to carry them in the hand, which is only comfortable for so long. Luckily, it’s quite comfortable to carry as a backpack as the adjustable shoulder straps are anchored to the bag in a way that lets them rotate, so they move with your body.

Messenger Bag

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag in Detroit
Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag in Detroit

The Good:
Typically, messenger bags have been designed for laptop and office gear, meaning they’re usually more mindful of organization and aren’t often too bulky or oversized. They’re also professional. You can easily find messengers sophisticated enough to rock at your law firm. Of course, you can also find more casual messengers.

Though they’re not often as comfortable as a backpack, messenger bags can be enjoyable to carry for short periods. Just look for a well-padded shoulder strap that’s properly anchored to the bag. Some messengers even have an extra stability strap to secure the bag to your body for better weight distribution and security while commuting. Lastly, like a tote, it’s easy to get in and out of a messenger. You can simply reach into your bag hanging at your side instead of swinging a backpack off of one shoulder.

The Bad:
Yes, messengers can be comfortable to carry, but they’re still dumping a ton of weight onto just one shoulder, which gets painful with time and can also make you walk unevenly. They’re also generally more unwieldy and less secure than other bags, swinging around when you’re walking or biking. (Unless a messenger bag has a stability strap, it’s not ideal for bike commuting.) Finally, wearing a fully-packed messenger can wrinkle up your shirt, which may impact the professional aesthetic you’re looking to achieve.

Editor’s Note: These days, there’s not a hard line between briefcases and messengers. There’s quite a bit of overlap, and some people use “briefcase” and “messenger” interchangeably. While a traditional briefcase carry is a top handle you hold in the hands, modern briefcases tend to have a crossbody or shoulder strap as well. They often have more structure than messengers and are a little bit smaller and square-er. Of course, you’ll find many exceptions on both sides. Because of these similarities, we’re not going to have a separate section on briefcases. The pros and cons are the same.
Timbuk2 Closer Laptop Briefcase Usage
Timbuk2 Closer Laptop Briefcase

The Timbuk2 Closer Laptop Briefcase has an adjustable, well-padded shoulder strap you can throw over one shoulder or crossbody. The bag sits relatively close to your body as you’re wearing it, so it feels secure. All that said, it does not have much structure. Putting a laptop inside helps some, but we don’t like it when a laptop has to act as a bag’s frame sheet. Because of this—and the design of the interior organization—it’s definitely best for lighter loads.

Tenba DNA 16 Slim Messenger Bag Front
Tenba DNA 16 Slim Messenger Bag

The Tenba DNA 16 Slim Messenger Bag is durable, sleek, and has built-in organization to carry your camera gear (if that’s something you’re into). If you remove the dividers, there’s enough capacity to even act as a travel bag if you’re in need of something for an overnight or two. This brief’s organization makes it easy to keep all of your gear in place so that quick grabs can stay, well, quick.

Aer Tech Brief Review
Aer Tech Brief

The Aer Tech Brief stands up on its own (at least in our testing), which is a unique feature for any bag let alone a messenger bag. You can simply pop it by your side at school, work, the coffee shop, wherever. It’s super handy. The organization is on the more detailed side, which may not be your cup of tea. That said, it’s laid out in an intuitive way that’s worked really well for our daily setup. The laptop sleeve is also super padded, offering great protection. Our biggest grievance is with the snap fastener handles, which slow down access.


Mystery Ranch 3 Way Expandable Briefcase Carry Options
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Expandable Briefcase Carry Options

There are some laptop bags available that don’t fit neatly into the above categories, including hybrid bags that you can carry in multiple ways. We’re not going to take a detailed look at these bags—since they have pros and cons unique to the specific bags—but we wanted to point out that they exist in case you’re less than impressed with the above options.

Topo Designs Global Briefcase 3 Day Backpack Carry
Topo Designs Global Briefcase 3-Day

The Topo Designs Global Briefcase 3-Day is a triple threat—a briefcase, messenger bag, and backpack rolled into one sleek and cheerful profile. The 3-Day name comes into play because the bag has been designed to work as a solid weekender. It has plenty of space—and organization—for everything you need for a long weekend away (well, within reason). We do think the laptop sleeve could be improved as it lacks both substantial padding and a false bottom. As it stands, we suggest using a separate laptop sleeve for proper protection.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable In Detroit
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable

The Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase (Expandable) is a briefcase, messenger bag, and backpack, although it has clearly been designed to work as a briefcase first (due to the layout of the pockets). The Rip Zip style of opening on the front compartment is a clever design, allowing you to “rip” open the compartment and access whatever’s inside within seconds. The interior organization is extensive, which may be right up your alley…or not so much. Its expandability also means that it works for quick trips.

05 Protection

Padding is only the beginning.


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Choosing a Laptop Bag That Will Protect Your Laptop and Fragile Gear

Arguably, one of the most important aspects of a laptop bag is how well it protects your laptop. Here’s what you should look for:


Padding will protect your laptop from other items in your bag, but our team is split on how important we think padding is. Some of us prefer to stick our laptop in a separate case or sleeve before putting it in a laptop bag, which means it’s not as important to have a heavily padded internal sleeve. Members of the Seperate Laptop Sleeve Club say that they give extra peace-of-mind, plus they’re portable from bag to bag and add protection when you’re carrying the laptop by itself.

Incase Compact Sleeve with BIONIC at work
Incase Compact Sleeve with BIONIC | Sleek.

On the other hand, some of our team members appreciate laptop bags that feature enough padding that you don’t feel like you need to put your laptop in a separate sleeve and/or case first. These members of the Dedicated Laptop Sleeve Club like bags with consistent, dense padding on all sides of the internal sleeve.

Now, all of us here at Pack Hacker think that an optimal laptop bag has more than just padding. In fact, we think that too much padding can lure you into a false sense of security. So, look out for other security features, which we’ll talk about next.

NOMATIC Travel Pack 14L Review
NOMATIC Travel Pack 14L

The NOMATIC Travel Pack 14L has a separate laptop compartment that opens completely flat and features a well-padded laptop sleeve. The thick padding makes it feel like your laptop is cradled inside of a fluffy cloud, and the loop on top keeps it from slipping out. Not only is this great for your expensive machine, but because the laptop compartment is against your back, it makes for a comfortable carry to boot.

False Bottom

A false bottom is exactly what it sounds like—the laptop sleeve or compartment ends before the bottom of the backpack. Basically, it suspends your laptop off the bottom of the bag. Why is this important? Because this means that if your pack hits the ground abruptly, your laptop won’t smack the ground as well, which goes a long way in protecting your tech. Unless you can guarantee that you will never drop your laptop bag—or set it on the ground with a little too much oomph—then you’re going to want a false bottom.

Laptop Compartment False Bottom
Laptop Compartment False Bottom

Now, not all false bottoms are created equal. Some laptop sleeves will have a very small one, which is basically like not having it at all. We recommend looking for a false bottom that sits approximately an inch minimum off of the bottom of the bag.

Soft Lining

Incase ICON Backpack Laptop Compartment
Incase ICON Backpack Laptop Compartment

We appreciate laptop sleeves that feature a soft lining, which will help prevent your laptop from getting scratched up. We don’t think this is as necessary as a false bottom or padding, but it’s just one of those things that’s nice to have. Like one of those mini cocktail umbrellas. Do you need it? No. But is life better with it? Absolutely. The fuzzy lining will protect your laptop from scratches. Plus, it’s just fun to run your fingers over.

Alternative Protection

Minaal Daily 3.0 Bag DeviceNest
Minaal Daily 3.0 Bag DeviceNest

Some bag brands are starting to get clever with how they design their laptop compartments, going beyond padding and even false bottoms. Brands like Minaal and Tom Bihn have nests and caches respectively that suspend your laptop in the center of the sleeve and are adjustable to the exact size of your laptop. This means that your laptop is not only securely held in place, but lifted away from all sides of the bag, which adds protection no matter what angle you drop your bag at.

Minaal Daily 3.0 Bag in Detroit
Minaal Daily 3.0 Bag

The Minaal Daily 3.0 Bag is a solid pick if you’re looking for a laptop bag with premium protection. Minaal calls its laptop sleeve the “patented DeviceNest™ shock-proof device sleeve.” Despite this super jargon-y name, this device sleeve is amazing. It securely holds your laptop and tablet in a soft, padded embrace. The sleeve also sits in the center of the compartment, meaning the laptop will be protected on all sides (and regardless of the angle you drop it from). Plus, it’s adjustable, so you can ensure your laptop is being held firmly.

Weather Resistance

A little bit of weather and water resistance is nice to have—after all, laptops + water = not a good time (to put it lightly). But you don’t need anything overkill. We tend to look for bags that are weather-resistant and designed to hold up in ordinary inclement weather (think rain shower, not hurricane). Note that we said weather-resistant, which is not the same thing as waterproof. You can find both—and there’s a big difference between them!

If you plan to go whitewater rafting with your laptop bag—maybe that’s your commute?—then you’ll want a waterproof bag. Most people should be okay with a water-resistant laptop bag as opposed to a completely waterproof bag. Here’s what to look for when scrutinizing a laptop bag’s weather-resistance:

Weather resistance is almost always achieved through some kind of coating. Whether that be a DWR (durable water repellent) coating, waxed canvas, polyurethane, or something else. These coatings will wear off with time, reducing the water resistance of your bag, but there are some things you can do to help with longevity. These care tips differ from coating to coating, so be sure to look into the specific care tips of your bag—and follow them!

Triple Aught Design Axiom 24 Pack Water Resistance
Triple Aught Design Axiom 24 Pack Water Resistance

Weather-Resistant Zippers
There are water-repellent zippers on the market—YKK AquaGuard® zippers, for example—which repel water with a polyurethane coating. These water-repellent zippers tend to be stiffer and harder to zip, so we only recommend a bag with these if you really need that protection. Some laptop bags only feature water-repellent zippers on the laptop and/or tech compartment(s), which is nice as it’ll protect your expensive equipment, but not slow down access to the other areas.

YETI Crossroads 22L Backpack | Side Pocket
YETI Crossroads 22L Backpack | About to start a fight with the compression straps.

You will also find bags with covered zippers (i.e. there’s a strip of fabric over the zipper track), called a fabric welt, which gives the bag more water protection.

As zippers tend to be the first place water will leak through a bag, choosing a laptop bag with a roll top will help add water resistance to that compartment (as long as the fabric is weather-resistant too). Keep in mind that a roll top backpack isn’t as quick to get in and out of as traditional zippered compartments.

Rain Shells
Some laptop bags may include a packable rain shell that you can throw over your bag when you need serious weather protection. They’re usually small enough to stick in your bag on the daily, which comes in handy if you get caught in a storm on the way home from work. Looking for a laptop bag with a rain shell—or buying one separately—is great if you need hefty water protection sometimes, but not always. If you walk to work every day, but live in a climate that rarely has inclement weather (lucky you!), you may want to look for something with additional weatherproofing as we mentioned above.

Timbuk2 Parker Commuter Backpack In Detroit
Timbuk2 Parker Commuter Backpack

If you’re looking for a laptop bag that’s highly weather-resistant then the Timbuk2 Parker Commuter should be on your radar. To get technical for a second, the main exterior is polyethylene vinyl acetate. Rain will simply bead and run off of this material. Plus, there’s also welted fabric over the zipper of the main compartment for even more water resistance. If that’s not enough—say you frequently bike to work in the rain— the pack comes with a rainfly, which tucks away into a zippered compartment at the bottom of the pack.

06 Organization

Hint: It’s somewhere between 0 pockets and 1,000.


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Finding the Best Laptop Bag Organization for You

As gear reviewers, we’ve concluded that organization is personal, like how you take your coffee (or don’t). You may like a laptop bag with large, empty compartments, or you may like to have a spot for everything. Even our team differs.

Laptop bags run the gamut of organization—simple, complex, or anything in between. Plus, you can find bags with exterior organization if that’s your thing. But beyond how much organization a bag has, there’s the question on how easy said organization is to access. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s break it down.

Interior Organization

As we mentioned oh-so-long ago (read: toward the beginning of this guide), bags with simple organization tend to be more versatile. You aren’t limited by all of the pockets and can use the bag for travel, picnicking, carrying around your rock collection, etc.

GORUCK GR1 Main Compartment
GORUCK GR1 Main Compartment

These bags also allow you to take organization into your own hands by utilizing packing cubes and pouches. You can get as intense as you want here, organizing your gear in color-coded pouches that you evenly distribute throughout the various compartments in your bag, or just throw most of your gear into one pouch, toss it in the main compartment, and call it a day. Plus, you can take the whole thing out of your laptop bag and keep it on your desk for easy access too all your tech.

GORUCK GR2 In Detroit, Michigan

While there is some organization inside of the GORUCK GR2, the main compartment is basically one giant bucket. There’s a ton of space to throw tech pouches or additional organizational systems, so you can customize to your heart’s content. We’re also digging the MOLLE webbing, which makes it easy to store your stuff. But, keep in mind, smaller things may disappear into the Bottom of the Backpack Blackhole (a.k.a fall to the compartment’s bottom never to be seen again).

Some bags make it super easy to customize your organization, going beyond simply having empty compartments where you can dump accessory pouches. You’ll see things like hooks where you can attach a MOLLE panel to strips of velcro to connect sold-separately organizers to dividers you can fold up to create a unique interior layout. Another example comes from the brand Tom Bihn. The folks there put O-rings in most of their bags—a lot of O-rings—so you can create a complex organizational system with pouches and other accessories. Note that most brands who design bags with modular organizational systems sell accessories and pouches they think would work inside the bag.

Tom Bihn Synik 30 Gear Loops
Tom Bihn Synik 30 Gear Loops

While these bags are great if you want to really optimize your organizational setup, they aren’t as cost-effective as having a bag with built-in organization already. Plus, you’ll have to put a lot of time and thought in to creating your modular system.

Tom Bihn Cadet in Essex, England

The Tom Bihn Cadet is as durable, well-constructed, and intelligently designed as most Tom Bihn gear. It’s a minimalist bag designed to fit your laptop and some daily essentials…and not much more. It also features O-rings for some customizable organization. The carry is relatively comfortable—you can wear it over one shoulder, crossbody, or hold the handles—but you should upgrade to the Absolute Strap if you’re looking for some primo comfort. Our main gripe with the Cadet is that the laptop compartment does not have a false bottom.

You may prefer more organization if you like to have a dedicated spot for all of your gear, including notebooks, pens, and love letters from your crush. If you opt for a laptop bag with a more robust amount of organization, then you don’t need to buy tech pouches separately, which can be more cost-effective. It’s also nice when bag companies do all of the thinking for you. The organization is already there; you don’t have to think about it and plan a system of your own.

Aer Commuter Brief 2 Front Compartment Organization
Aer Commuter Brief 2 Front Compartment Organization

Note that the organization inside of these laptop bags has been designed for the average person (and thus for average gear). It’s great at organizing pens and notebooks. But if you carry things that vary in size and shape from product to product, like a battery bank, you may feel limited by built-in organization.

Pacsafe Metrosafe LS450 Anti-Theft Backpack Usage 1
Pacsafe Metrosafe LS450 Anti-Theft Backpack

The two front compartments of the Pacsafe Metrosafe LS450 Anti-Theft Backpack feature several pockets to help you organize your tech gear. There are pen holders, zippered mesh pockets for cords and chargers, liner pockets, and more. All in all, it has a pocket for all the “typical” EDC gear (including a laptop and tablet, of course) while leaving the rest of the backpack open to pack as you please.

All that said, most people will probably want organization that’s somewhere between simple and complicated with a few specific pockets, but nothing over the top.

Exterior Organization

Some people prefer bags that have a more minimal, sleek look without much going on externally, while others don’t care about that clean aesthetic and prioritize external pockets or attachment points for quick-and-easy access. External attachment points also allow you to carry gear externally that you wouldn’t want to put inside your bag, like a rain jacket, which could get all of your other stuff wet.

Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24 in Detroit
Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24 in Detroit

Your use-case comes into play here. Do you have a long commute on a bus or train? If so, you might want more external pockets to be able to quickly grab a book or a snack. Do you walk to work? You might appreciate having easy access to water via external water bottle pockets. Do you frequently find yourself outside while it’s raining? Keep an eye out for external attachment points.

The North Face Borealis Backpack Review
The North Face Borealis Backpack

The external bungee cord that stretches across the face of the North Face Borealis backpack is perfect for lashing on additional gear you don’t want to carry inside the bag. You can tie a handkerchief to it (for those days on the trail), tuck a rain jacket beneath it, or use a carabiner to attach a good luck charm. It also stays flat against the bag whenever you don’t need it. On either side of this bungee system, you’ll find daisy chains to attach any gear you want to keep close by. There’s also a bonus attachment point at the bottom of the bag to secure a bike light. Finally, the bag also features two external water bottle pockets, which are stretchy enough to accommodate oversized bottles (and a great place to stash snacks).


You’re likely going to be accessing the laptop sleeve/compartment at least twice a day, so it’s worth paying attention to how easy it is to get to. We prefer quick access because time is money and all that. Plus, it’s just a huge hassle to have to work your laptop around tough angles or annoying straps.

You’ll usually find one of two things: the laptop sleeve is inside the main compartment or the laptop sleeve in its own compartment accessible from the outside of the bag. Let’s take a closer look.

Laptop inside the main compartment
First of all, you need to consider how easy it is to get inside the main compartment. Are there compression straps that block the zipper? Rounded edges that make it difficult to zip a square laptop inside? Roll tops will slow down access, although they add water-resistance and expandability, as we mentioned earlier.

Osprey Daylite Travel Pack Mesh Pockets And Laptop Compartment
Osprey Daylite Travel Pack Mesh Pockets And Laptop Compartment

Additionally, look for side access points that give you direct access to the laptop sleeve in addition to the top access via the main compartment. We’re fans of secondary access points as they make it easy to quickly grab your laptop. Plus, you don’t have to sort through all your stuff to get to it.

Next, look at the laptop sleeve itself. Is it tight to the back compartment? Does it close with a buckle, velcro, or magnets? A closure may help keep your tech firmly in place, but it will take longer to grab if there’s a flap in the way.

Aer Slim Pack Laptop Sleeve
Aer Slim Pack Laptop Sleeve

We know that these may seem like small details, but they matter. Put on your glasses, pull out your calculator, and let’s do some math. Let’s say it takes 15 extra seconds to grab and put away your laptop because of a quirk in the design. If you access and put away your laptop twice a day that’s 15 x 2 = 30 seconds per day. Multiply that by 5 days a week = 150 seconds per week. Multiply that by 50 weeks—taking into account two weeks of vacation— and you get 7,500 seconds. That’s a lot of seconds, people! Not to mention all the frustration it will cause you.

Laptop inside its own compartment
With a dedicated compartment, never again will you have to slowly and discreetly unpack your random assortment of gear onto the floor of a coffee shop while trying to grab your laptop from its interior sleeve (or is that just us?). And you can easily slide the laptop into its compartment while the rest of the bag is stuffed to the brim. What we’re trying to say is that we’re usually fans of laptop bags that have a dedicated laptop compartment.

The North Face Kaban Backpack Laptop
The North Face Kaban Backpack Laptop

The way these compartments are implemented on bags differs from company to company, of course. Some are designed only to fit a laptop, while others have a little more room and bill themselves as a “tech compartment.”

Be sure to look at the access to this compartment. Can you get to the compartment from the top, side, or both? This seems like a small thing, but it matters in context. Take plane travel, for example. Side access will be annoying if you frequently fly. That’s because if your bag is underneath the seat in front of you, you’ll have to fully pull it out to grab your laptop—a problem you wouldn’t have with top access.

Tom Bihn Synik 30 In Detroit, Michigan
TOM BIHN Synik 30

The laptop compartment in the Tom Bihn Synik is accessible from both the top and side. The top access is great if you’re pulling the bag from under your airplane or bus seat, especially if you’re a bit constrained in a middle seat. But the side access is great when you want to quickly and easily grab your laptop. We’ve found that laptops glide in and out of this side access oh-so smoothly. Plus, the entire pocket is lined with a lightly-padded mesh material.

Look for a bright lining

Regardless of whether or not a laptop sleeve is in its own compartment, we appreciate laptop bags that have bright interior linings.

Topo Designs Rover Pack Tech Laptop Compartment
Topo Designs Rover Pack Tech Laptop Compartment

A bright lining really “turns on the lights” inside of a bag, helping you see what’s going on (anyone else start singing Marvin Gaye? No?). These linings are particularly helpful with bags like roll tops that can often become a deep, dark pit of gear.

Topo Designs Rover Pack Tech In Detroit
Topo Designs Rover Pack Tech

In true Topo Designs fashion, the interior of the Topo Designs Rover Pack Tech is a cheery, neon yellow that helps with visibility (and style, of course!). This yellow liner really allows you to see the gear you’ve tossed inside your bag, so you don’t waste valuable seconds looking for whatever it is you need.

07 Conclusion

That’s a wrap, folks.


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Congratulations. You’re Ready to Choose the Best Laptop Bag for You!

Phew, you’ve made it to the end of our guide. Congratulations on becoming an official laptop bag expert! Hopefully you know enough to go out into the world and find the best laptop bag for you. If you do find The One, snap a picture and tag us @packhacker on Instagram. If you haven’t already guessed, we love looking at and obsessing over bags. And if you need more information, be sure to check out our gear reviews and Youtube channel.

Lots Of Laptop Bags In Detroit
Lots Of Laptop Bags In Detroit

We’d like to close by reminding you that there is no such thing as the best laptop bag. Remember, it all comes down to personal preference and use-case. Of course, you’ll also want to assess quality, laptop protection, and organization (which is why we wrote this guide in the first place.) So, good luck, and happy shopping!

Pack Hacker