For many people, carrying a laptop is as essential as carrying a wallet or phone. But tech devices can be awkwardly sized or cumbersome, and require careful handling. After researching the best laptop backpacks on the market, my top pick overall is the Thule Crossover 2 Laptop Backpack and the best value option is Amazon Basics Laptop Backpack. Both are comfortable, organize your belongings and keep your computer protected. They’re also stylish additions to your lifestyle and wardrobe.
The laptop backpacks help transport your tech safely and comfortably. All Purpose Net
Approximately 78% of American households own a computer, and while it’s hard to know exactly how many people carry it on the go, it’s probably a lot of us. Whether you’re looking for the best laptop backpack for commuting, college or traveling, you’ll find it on my list ahead. And for more tech items, check out our stories on the best laptop bags and totes, along with our picks for the best laptops of 2023.
As a writer, I spend a lot of time transporting my laptop to inspire creativity and productivity, so I appreciate how important it is to keep my computer protected, well-charged and easy to access on the move. For this story, I spoke with Angie Licea, travel advisor and president of Global Travel Collection; Thomas Florio, owner of TeamLogic IT; Melissa Perenson, Forbes Vetted Tech Editor; and Dave Johnson, Forbes Vetted Deputy Editor. They delved into the crucial details to consider to find the best laptop backpacks—including things like cord organizers, ports for charging, versatile pockets and a comfortable carrying experience.
Dimensions: 12.6 inches x 9.4 inches x 18.5 inches | Weight: 2.95 pounds | Colors: Black, Forest Night | Max Laptop Size: 15.6 inches | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
Swedish company Thule’s motto is “bring your life,” which is fitting for this weather-resistant backpack. The versatile design has a crush-resistant pocket to protect smaller items, a padded laptop compartment, a front panel pocket to organize electronics and charge them when traveling, an RFID-blocking pocket to keep personal info protected and a pass-through panel to attach the backpack to a rolling suitcase. It got the top vote for being good looking, well-made and durable—plus it stands up on its own without tipping over.
Dimensions: 13.4 inches x 7 inches x 19.3 inches | Weight: Not listed | Colors: Black | Max Laptop Size: 17 inches | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
If you like lots of compartments and pockets—and don’t mind a backpack on the larger side—this is the option for you. It’s got a spacious, padded sleeve to ensure your laptop is cushioned, along with four separate compartments to keep belongings securely organized. With its pockets for notebooks, textbooks, pens, a cell phone and water bottles, this hardworking bag is practical for students or those who carry a lot of work home. One drawback: Some users wish the zippers glided more smoothly.
Dimensions: 12 inches x 5.9 inches x 17.7 inches | Weight: 2.45 pounds | Colors: Black, Navy, Coast, Asphalt | Max Laptop Size: 15 inches | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
Away bags are beloved for their statement-making style and efficiency. This water-resistant nylon backpack features a 15-inch padded laptop compartment—and iPad slip pocket—with a magnetic locking zipper and an internal organization system with lots of pockets for supplies. The extended clamshell opening with a full wraparound zip makes it easy to get items in and out, and it has padded shoulder straps and a breathable mesh back to keep you comfy when sprinting for a train or flight. For travel specifically, the trolley sleeve attaches to a rolling suitcase to give your back and shoulders a rest.
Dimensions: 15.5 inches x 7.25 inches x 12 inches | Weight: Not listed | Colors: Black, Warm Charcoal, Warm Quartz, Nutria, Cavern | Max Laptop Size: 15 inches | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
Unlike most backpacks that hold your laptop in the main compartment, Everlane’s ReNew Transit features a padded side pocket for your computer, which is especially handy for accessing on the go. Made from recycled plastic bottles with a water-resistant finish, the ReNew also get high marks for its exterior zip pockets, interior slip pockets and spacious but slim profile. Many even say it fits a laptop slightly larger than 15 inches. A negative: The magnetic flap closure may not stay secure when the bag is full.
Dimensions: 11.5 inches x 16 inches x 5.5 inches | Weight: 2 pounds | Colors: Black, Khaki Green, Navy | Max Laptop Size: 16-inch MacBook/15-inch PC | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
For bags the perfectly combines professionalism, practicality and style, Troubadour is a go-to. The British brand’s Apex is made with waterproof fabric and zippers, well-padded back and shoulder straps, a top carry handle, cleverly placed pockets and a luggage trolley sleeve for easy transport. Plus, it goes with everything from a suit to business casual. Bear in mind, this can fit the necessities, but it’s not overly roomy for lots of extras.
Dimensions: 18.8 inches x 12.6 inches x 4.3 inches | Weight: 1.8 pounds| Colors: Black, Navy, Green, Slate, Wood, Evergreen, Silver Pine, Sand, Ink, Waves, Mineral | Max Laptop Size: 16 inches | Water Bottle Holder: No
Rains has a wide variety of waterproof laptop backpacks, all made from the Danish brand’s signature polyurethane-coated fabric. This rugged rolltop design snaps shut and stays closed with a carabiner. It has a side zipper for accessing your laptop, so you don’t have to unfurl the top of the bag. Other helpful features include a carry handle and an adjustable chest strap, which is especially convenient if you ride a bike to work.
Dimensions: 20 inches x 13 inches x 9 inches| Weight: 2.15 pounds | Colors: Geyser Grey, Black Ripstop, Gold Caramel, Castlerock Ballistic and more (7 in total) | Max Laptop Size: 16 inches | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
Dakine laptop backpacks are a favorite of Angie Licea, travel advisor and president of Global Travel Collection. The Verge pack has a split-level organization system with padded pockets for tech items, including a laptop and tablet, and mesh dividers for clothes and toiletries. There’s a luggage strap—key for travelers with rolling luggage—as well as thoughtful details such as a secure zippered pocket, sunglass slot and an expandable water bottle holder.
Dimensions: 16 inches x 10 inches x 6 inches | Weight: 1 pound | Colors: Graphite, Super Grey, Ochre, Terracotta Brown and more (10 in total) | Max Laptop Size: 15 inches| Water Bottle Holder: No
Originally designed in 1978, the Kånken pack from Swedish brand Fjällräven has experienced a surge in popularity recently, especially with students. It offers safe storage for a 15-inch laptop, and users like that it can also be carried from the top. The water repellant fabric is stiff to start but wears well over time. The Kånken also comes with a handy foam seat cushion stored in the interior back pocket, and is available in 13-inch and 17-inch sizes, too.
Dimensions: 18 inches x 12 inches x 7.8 inches| Weight: 1.68 pounds | Colors: Black Charcoal, Austere Grey, Blue, Yellow and more (12 in total) | Max Laptop Size: 15.6 inches | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
When you're traveling with tech, a backpack with a built-in charging capabilities can be invaluable, says Forbes Vetted Deputy Editor Dave Johnson. This top-rated and affordable model, from California-based Matein, is equipped with an external USB charger and cable (you just need your own power bank.) There's also a padded anti-theft pocket, a large separate padded compartment for your laptop and tablet, and a luggage strap. Users love its durable fabric that resists scuffs, too.
Dimensions: 22 inches x 13.5 inches x 9 inches | Weight: 5.75 pounds | Colors: Black | Max Laptop Size: 16 inches| Water Bottle Holder: Yes
Camera backpacks are made to protect delicate lenses, so they’re well-equipped to provide ample cushioning for your laptop and other tech. This multi-functional model from Nomatic has potential for more than just gear too. “It's superb for traveling,” says Johnson. “It accommodates both my laptop and tablet, and it has an enormous amount of space to hold clothes and toiletries.” It’s volume also makes it ideal for quick day trips or one- to two-day trips. “It's a double clamshell design—opening in both front and back—and it features Velcro dividers which are handy for organizing camera gear or other accessories, along with mesh pockets and a laptop sleeve.” Bear in mind that all the compartments and padding make this bag a bit heavy.
Dimensions: 20 inches x 13 inches x 9.5 inches | Weight: 3.92 pounds | Colors: Grey, Black, Black Camo, Blue | Max Laptop Size: 17 inches | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
This turtle-shell shaped bag—from Australian brand STM Goods—is specifically designed to keep your tech safe and easily accessible. It has positionable and removable internal shelves for a variety of storage options, a padded laptop sleeve that’s accessible from the top, a water-resistant shell and a whopping 31 liters of cargo capacity. Keep in mind that all these extras do add a bit of extra weight, though.
Dimensions: 15 inches x 11 inches x 5.7 inches| Weight: 1.6 pounds | Colors: Raven Crosshatch, Black, Black-Cordura| Max Laptop Size: 13 inches | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
Vancouver-based Herschel has been making popular backpacks since 2009. This tech-focused model—with its padded and fleece-lined sleeve for your laptop or tablet—is ideal for when you’re traveling light but want to keep your computer safely stored. It’s got a minimalist silhouette but an ample-sized, zip-front compartment, side pocket, front storage sleeve and mesh luggage trolley sleeve. This small bag can only accommodate a maximum laptop size of 13 inches, so if you’ve got something bigger, this isn’t the pack for you.
Dimensions: 22 inches x 10.5 inches x 5.5 inches| Weight: 1.43 pounds | Colors: Wax Red, Classic Navy, Black, Anacapa Blue, Lichen Basin Green | Max Laptop Size: 15 inches | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
Made with 100% recycled body fabric, lining and webbing with an exterior TPU film laminate, this roomy backpack is rugged and secure. The main compartment has a top-loading padded laptop compartment, zip-front side pocket, interior zipper mesh pocket, vertical daisy chain webbing loop and padded shoulder straps and a sternum strap to hold the pack securely to your body. Users also like that the 25-liter size offers plenty of space for your essentials and more, and despite its depth it’s easy to get items in and out.
Dimensions: 11 inches x 17 inches x 4.5 inches| Weight: 1.3 pounds | Colors: Black, Olive, Charcoal, Forest and more (15 in total)| Max Laptop Size: 15 inches | Water Bottle Holder: Yes
Founded in Colorado in 2008, Topo Designs combines outdoor inspiration with utilitarian design. The Rover Pack Classic—made from durable, water-resistant recycled nylon—works well whether you’re commuting, on the way to class or on the trails. It has a cinch closure with a top flap, an internal laptop sleeve, expandable side pockets for a water bottle or other gear, generously padded shoulder straps and side compression straps to condense the pack when it’s not full. FYI: This pick has a narrower depth than others.
There are countless backpacks out there, and they can be labeled a “laptop backpack” if they simply have a laptop sleeve. But a truly well-made laptop backpack meets a variety of important criteria. “You make a huge investment in the contents of what goes into it, so why not spend time and money to protect it?” says travel advisor Angie Licea, of Global Travel Collection. “A well-made laptop backpack protects your equipment and relieves stress on your back and body, so you get a good return on investment with a well-made bag.” To choose the best laptop bag, first consider...
First, really think about how you’ll be using your bag. If you want a bag for work, you’ll likely be looking for something minimalist and sleek. For school, you may want a pack that’s durable with lots of compartments to store books, notebooks and writing utensils. If it’s for travel, you may want something with a trolley sleeve that allows the backpack to be attached to a rolling suitcase.
If you’ll be using your laptop backpack for airline travel, make sure it will fit under an airline seat, is made from a tough, snag-resistant fabric and can be wiped clean easily, says Licea. “For international travel, you still need to take your laptop out when going through security at the airport,” she says. “Look for backpacks that are designed to open and lay flat so that you don’t have to remove your laptop completely. You just unzip, lay it flat and it goes through security.”
Size is a factor that requires lots of attention when considering which laptop bag to buy. First, look at the weight of the bag. “In general, the smaller the bag the more lightweight it is, but that usually means you can only carry the basics,” says Forbes Tech Editor Melissa Perenson. “The more rugged the bag, typically the heavier it is.” You don’t want to purchase something that will weigh you down before you even begin to fill it with your belongings. “A lot of laptop bags are really heavy, but that completely defeats the purpose of having a lightweight computer,” says Perenson.
Next, measure your laptop to determine the bag dimensions you’ll need. To get an accurate size, measure from the bottom left corner of your laptop screen to the top righthand corner. “In terms of backpack sizes, a 15-inch space in a backpack is adequate for most laptops and will accommodate most people,” says Perenson. “It will work for any computer that’s 15 inches or smaller, and it may also work for a 16-inch computer as many measure about the same as a 15-inch laptop.” If you’re not certain a bag will work for your laptop, double check the return policy before purchasing.
Finally, think about the size of your body frame. “Make sure the bag size is proportionate to your torso and shoulder width,” says Licea. “If the straps are too narrow, it can dig into your shoulders; if they’re too big, the bag won’t sit on your back properly.”
The number of pockets you need all depends on personal preference. Slip pockets are ideal for thin notebooks, tablets and documents. Zippered pockets work well for stashing things like cords, charging bricks, cash and cards. Designated slots for writing utensils are also helpful so you don’t have to dig through your bag.
For padding, there are a few areas you should focus on. First, evaluate the area where your laptop will live to make sure the padding is substantial enough. “Most laptop backpacks have a padded section that you can slide your laptop into,” says Perenson. “It’s not an additional pouch that can be removed from the bag.” Ideally you want a bag that is going to protect your device wherever you go without you having to be hyper focused on its safety, says Florio. Next, you’ll want padded shoulder straps because wearing backpacks with tech devices can get heavy quickly. Lastly, look for padding in the lumbar area since that’s where you’ll feel the weight of a hefty bag.
Most laptop backpacks are made from heavy-duty nylon. Experts advise looking for weather-proof bags—which are often treated with a durable water repellant (DWR) coating so they can repel moisture—or waterproof bags. “Generally speaking, liquids and electronics do not pair well together,” says Florio, so keep that in mind.
The best laptop bags offer add-ons that make transporting your laptop comfortable and convenient. “Some additional helpful features to look for include a USB charging pass through so you can put a power bank inside your bag and easily charge your phone,” says Perenson. Also useful for travelers: a trolley strap, or “band on the back of the bag that can slip over your rolling suitcase’s telescoping handle so it can sit securely on your rolling bag. It’s also convenient to have a laptop bag that opens really wide—this lets you fit more things and easily access your laptop.”
Polyethylene Netting I am a staff writer at Forbes covering retail. I have been at Forbes since 2013, first on the markets and investing team and then on the billionaires team. In the course of my reporting, I have interviewed the father of Indian gambling, the first female billionaire to enter the space race and the immigrant founder of one of the nation’s most secretive financial upstarts. My work has also appeared in Money Magazine and CNNMoney.com. Tips or story ideas? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.