If you want to venture out of your house with your laptop, odds are you’ll need a laptop backpack. We use our laptops for work, staying connected, and keeping up to date, so it makes sense to protect them. Most laptop backpacks have the basic anatomy of a padded sleeve, roomy main compartment, and a smaller section for items like chargers, pens, and phones. Since laptop bags all look similar, how do you know which one is the best laptop backpack?
We’ve found the top ten best laptop backpacks on the market for 2021 and compiled them in this detailed review. Of all our backpack picks, we found that the Thule Subterra Backpack was the best overall. Its dependable design keeps your valuables safe, and the construction is comfortable and practical. No matter if you’re looking for a small compact bag, roomy travel backpack, or professional briefcase, we’ve got you covered. We’ll look at features like shoulder straps and back panel padding, compartments and features, and materials to evaluate each bag.
Why do you need a laptop bag?
We spend hundreds, if not thousands on our laptops and other electronic devices. Making sure they’re protected during transit is a no-brainer. A laptop bag can help you feel more comfortable on your commute and help you organize small accessories like your charger and glasses.
Whether you’re going out to work from a coffee shop, travelling to another city for work, or going to study with a friend, you’ll need a laptop bag. Since they’re so versatile, they’re one of the best investments you can make. We recommend finding a bag that suits your lifestyle, budget, and needs, so we’ve included a large variety of the best laptop backpacks and bags in this guide.
Best Laptop Backpacks Reviewed
Our best overall laptop bag is the exceptionally well constructed Subterra Backpack by Thule. The laptop sleeve has a soft interior lining and velcro cover to protect from debris and damage. There’s an Internal Power Pocket that helps organize cords for different devices, side pockets with zippers, and a convenient side-access pocket for your laptop.
The spongy, perforated EVA shoulder straps add comfort and breathability and the pass-through panel makes for easy attachment to carry-on luggage. The internal sections are also very padded, which adds a bit of bulk but makes it great for safely carrying a laptop and essential accessories. This bag will fit Macbooks up to 15 inches and PCs up to 15.6 inches.
- Soft lining
- Organizing pockets
- Comfortable straps
- A bit bulky
For a small and compact backpack with great colour options, the North Face Vault (men’s; women’s) is an excellent choice. The padded back panel and injection-molded shoulder straps provide top-notch comfort as certified by American Chiropractic Association.
The roomy main compartment is ideal for holding books, journals, and laptops, but the basic padded sleeve might not provide enough protection. Customers also don’t like that the smaller front pocket only extends about half the length of the bag. Overall, it’s a lightweight and versatile option for school, errands, or a short trip. It’s a perfect backpack for kids to take to school since it’s small and comfortable.
- Padded back
- Daisy chains
- Not much storage
The Best Minimalist Design
If you’re looking for a small bag minimalist bag for urban commutes, check out the Arcteryx Blade 6L Backpack. It’s just large enough to fit a small laptop up to 13 inches and everyday essentials. The side-loading design means you don’t have to rummage through the bag to find your computer, and there’s an internal sleeve for a tablet.
The 20L Blade has the same stylish, minimalist design but can hold a bit more, like a jacket and lunch. The clamshell design opens widely to find things quickly and there’s a stash pocket with a pass-through cable for charging on the go. There’s an even bigger 28L Blaze for longer weekend trips and extended travel.
- Minimalist design
- Lack of support
- No water bottle pocket
Best for Students
Almost every parent or former student is familiar with the trusty JanSport Right Pack. This trusty backpack has been around for more than 50 years for a good reason. It’s a perfect size (31L) to fit books, lunch, pencils, pens, and up to a 15-inch laptop. It’s also highly durable, made with 915 denier Cordura body fabric and a rugged suede leather bottom.
It’s an excellent option for parents who don’t want to keep replacing their kids’ backpacks each year or for university students who want a reliable, straightforward bag.
- Very durable
- Minimal padding
Best for Professionals
Made with excellent Filson quality craftsmanship, the Twill Padded Laptop Briefcase is the only messenger bag you’ll ever need. It’s spacious enough to hold a 15-inch laptop, essential documents, binders, and more. The dense foam padded section keeps electronics safe, and there are many different-sized pockets for pens, business cards, and cell phones.
It comes in a smooth tan or beautiful deep olive colour, with oversized brass zippers and buckles that create a stylish, rugged look. As if that weren’t enough, the leather shoulder strap adds comfort and the twill material is water-repellant.
- Durable Material
- Ages Beautifully
- Very Stylish
If you want a fantastic bag for travelling or taking to work, look to the Thule Accent Backpack. With a multitude of smart pockets, organizing your belongings has never been easier. There’s side-access storage for plane tickets, chargers, and other essential items. The two padded internal pockets fit a 15-inch Macbook or a 15.6 inch PC plus a 10-inch tablet!
There’s also a neat SafeZone compartment at the top of the bag for valuable items, with the hidden space covered by a removable hard-shell cover. The one downside is it looks very masculine with its all-black, boxy design.
- Hidden compartment
- Many pockets
- Ample padding
- Masculine look
Best for City Commuting
Not called the Black Hole Pack for nothing, this Patagonia bag is extremely spacious and durable. There’s a sturdy dump pocket with a space maximizing bucket design. The outer TPU laminated material protects from scratches and scuffs, and the Durable Water Repellent finish helps with water resistance. While the bag might look like it lacks compartments, there are inner mesh pockets for small items and there is an internal padded laptop sleeve.
Best for Heavier Loads
The North Face is known for their high-quality construction and materials, the Surge 31L Backpack is no exception. The Padded FlexVent suspension system helps to evenly distribute the load and the bag is designed to carry a full pack.
Other lovely features include fleece-lined pockets, daisy chain loops for holding larger accessories or gear, and smooth and durable YKK zippers. This versatile bag is good for the office, weekend travel, or day hikes.
Best Briefcase Style
If you’re looking for a fashionable, sleek briefcase, try the Parallel Satchel by Matt & Nat. It has a sturdy handle and a removable crossbody strap for different looks. There’s also a magnetic flap closure on both compartments for more security.
For a more masculine style, consider the Filson Original Briefcase. It has a sophisticated and professional design, which is a good alternative to a laptop backpack. It’s also made to last for years on end with the strong Twill material and leather detail. You’ll find saddle-grade leather details in the tabs, handle straps, shoulder strap, and trim.
True to Thule’s dependable style, the Gauntlet Macbook Sleeve has a tough exterior with corner and edge protection. You would think such a sturdy sleeve would be heavy, but it’s very lightweight at only 0.34kg. The clamshell design means you don’t have to remove the case while you work, adding more peace of mind.
For a more feminine sleeve, the Herschel Spokane soft fleece-lined carrier is a great option. It comes in beautiful colour options like rose pink, grey, and black. There are hidden magnetic flap closures, and the sleek design is perfect for slipping into a bag or larger purse.
Buying guide: What to Look for in Laptop Bags
Size is an important consideration when looking for a laptop bag. You want to be sure the sleeve will fit your laptop, tablet, and essential items like chargers. The majority of products fit up to a 15-inch Macbook or 15.6 inch PC, which will accommodate most people’s devices. Look at the litre capacity as well to get an idea of how spacious the bag is – 31L is great for heavier, fuller loads, while around 20L is better for more minimalist packers.
A padded laptop sleeve is a must for many people shopping for a laptop bag. If you plan to bring the bag travelling, to the office, or on public transport, there’s a high chance it’ll get banged around. Almost all the bags on this list have a durable padded liner for laptops, and some have additional padding for phones and tablets.
Compartments & Organization
Many people struggle with organizing their things, especially when packing a bag. Most laptop bags have a laptop sleeve, a large main compartment, and smaller internal pockets for accessories like chargers, phones, and other small items. More high-tech bags will also feature external stow-away pockets with zippers and hidden compartments for valuables. Side access pockets are also more convenient for getting things out quickly.
When you’re on the move, you’ll probably want to carry a portable charger in your bag. Many laptop bags have a stash pocket with a pull-through cable space to hold portable chargers. Some will also feature charging ports on the outside of the bag so you can use your device as it charges.
Daisy chains, or straps hanging from the outside of the bag, let you attach extra gear. You usually clip a carabiner onto one of the loops on the daisy chain, then connect your accessories. These extra straps are handy for day hikes and weekend camping trips when you need to bring more gear.
Sternum straps go across your chest and help distribute the weight of your bag. They help prevent sore shoulders and keep the bag in place while you hike, run to class, or explore the city.
Water Bottle Pockets
Most backpacks have an external water bottle pocket for holding a water bottle. If you want a smaller minimalist bag, you might not find this common feature. However, you can substitute a bottle with a water bladder that’s tall, thin, and gets smaller as you drink from it.
Many backpacks have high-density foam or injection-molded shoulder straps to keep your shoulders comfortable. There’s also commonly a padded back panel to help ease the impact of the load. For commuters carrying heavy loads of electronics and documents, finding a bag with padded straps and a cushioned back panel is essential. If you live in a warmer climate, you also want the back panel to be breathable to keep you cool.
Durability & Weather Resistance
Since no one likes replacing a backpack every year, finding a high-quality one with durable materials is important. A bag with a strong material like reinforced nylon, twill, or leather will last longer than one made of light polyester or cotton. In general, the more expensive a bag is, the more durable it will be. Some bags also have a water-resistant coating, which helps if you live in a rainy climate.
Do I also need a laptop case?
Laptop cases can better protect your device from impacts and falls. However, they do add weight and can get dirty over time. If you do get a case, make sure it doesn’t add too much bulk or your laptop might not fit in your bag’s laptop sleeve.
How do I measure a laptop to fit in a bag?
On a Macbook, you can click the Apple logo in the top left corner, then click the first “About This Mac” option. It will tell you the size and year of the model. Alternatively, use a tape measure and measure the screen diagonally to find the length.
When shopping for a laptop bag, make sure you know your priorities. If you want a spacious bag, go for one with a higher litre capacity. If you want to protect your laptop and other valuables, look for bags with lots of internal padding. If you want a sure-fire high-quality backpack, go for our top pick, the Thule Subterra Backpack. With perforated EVA shoulder straps, dependable padding, and plenty of compartments, it’s the only bag you’ll need for all your adventures.