TL;DR – These are the Best Laptop Backpacks:
1. Incase Icon Lite Pack
Best Laptop Backpack
For a small, affordable backpack the Icon Lite Pack from Incase is my pick for the best laptop backpack. It has a high-quality construction, and is designed to carry a 15-inch laptop in a “faux-fur” pocket, along with a handful of extra items like a notebook or battery pack. There’s also a dedicated phone pocket at the top of the pack. The outside is fairly basic, but that’s part of the Icon Lite Pack’s appeal. This $75 backpack has six different color options, including black, red, and navy.
2. Mancro Laptop Backpack
Best Budget Laptop Backpack
The Mancro Laptop Backpack has over 5,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.5 star rating. It might seem like one of the more expensive backpacks I’ve recommended, but can be purchased for less than $36 depending on the color you choose. There’s enough space for a 17-inch laptop, a tablet, and it features a USB port to get power from a battery pack inside the backpack. There are a total of three main pockets and nine pockets on the inside.
3. Wandrd Duo Daypack
Best Laptop Backpack for Cameras
If you’re carrying around a lot of camera gear, you’ll want to check out the Duo Daypack from Wandrd. This pack offers up a 20-liter capacity, but all of that space is built to hold your photography equipment in an effective and convenient way. At the base of the backpack, there’s a sizable compartment that’ll hold your camera even with a lengthy telephoto lens attached, meanwhile the interior is loaded with extra compartments and sleeves for holding additional lenses, accessories, film, or whatever else you might need on a daytrip. All your gear is easy to get at, too, thanks to the fold-open sides.
The Duo Daypack also includes a laptop pocket and an exterior water bottle pocket, which could just as easily hold another lens for easy access. There’s one extra trick up this backpack’s sleeve: When you don’t need all your camera equipment, the compartments can fold flat, giving you a more standard backpack style.
4. Aer Flight Pack 2
Travel With a Laptop
For quick trips or those who need a little more room in a backpack, consider the $160 Aer Flight Pack 2. From the outside it looks like any old backpack, but there’s a dedicated spot for some clothes, all of your toiletries, in addition to space for a 15.6-inch laptop, a tablet, and a water bottle.
You’ve also got plenty of pockets for all the cables, chargers, snacks, and other knick-knacks you need to carry. Best of all you can carry this bag in four different ways: a traditional backpack, a messenger bag, handheld, or slid over your roller luggage.
5. Incase Camera Pro Pack
Best Multi-Camera Laptop Backpack
Photogs who need space for lenses, DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, a tablet, and a laptop, may I present to you the Incase Camera Pro Pack. It’s pricey at $219, but this pack has a customizable compartment with velcro separators for your camera gear, a place for a tripod, and enough room for a 15-inch laptop, tablet, phone, and a dedicated spot for your sunglasses up front. Users can also rearrange the Incase Camera Pro Pack’s inserts to also carry a DJI Mavic Pro, should you be into drones.
6. STM Drifter
Best 15-inch Laptop Bag
The STM Drifter backpack has a pretty cool look to it, with a charcoal base color and red highlights on the zippers and pockets. It’ll fit a 15-inch laptop in a pocket that’s doesn’t go to the bottom of the bag, meaning if you drop your backpack your laptop doesn’t hit the ground.
There are plenty of pockets for keys, wallets, battery packs, and the rest of your everyday carry items. There’s also a water bottle pocket on the outside of the bag, and padding where the bag rests on your back for added comfort. Oh, yeah, and it’s only $99.
7. Timbuk2 Authority Pack
Best 17-inch Laptop Backpack
Got a big gaming laptop? The Timbuk2 Authority Pack is a stylish and stealthy way to carry around your 17-inch monster machine and it won’t break the bank. The $129 backpack comes in 10 different colors, and there’s a dedicated laptop compartment and zipper, so you don’t have to fuss with digging through the rest of your bag when you need it. There is a dedicated water bottle pocket on one side, a key lanyard, chest straps, and bottom compressions straps to tighten up the bag.
8. Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2
High-End Design Meets High-Capacity
Peak Design’s slick looking Everyday Backpack got an upgrade with the V2. It’s hidden away some of the less attractive seams that appeared on the original model. You’re still getting a spacious bag for 15-inch laptops and plenty more. It has a flap on top that’s easy to open with one hand, but also has zipping sides that allow access to the bags content. This is especailly handy when you use the FlexFold dividers, which can keep things like cameras, headphones, and more safely tucked away and organized. And, if you like the style of this but want more than 20L of capacity, you can bump up to the 30L model for just $30 more.
9. Solo Duane Hybrid Briefcase
Best Laptop Briefcase
The Solo Duane Hybrid Briefcase looks all business during the day but turns into a more casual backpack at night. To be clear: You can use it like a briefcase in more formal settings, or connect two backpack straps to the rear of the bag to turn it into a true backpack. It’s a unique approach to what’s normally a straightforward device. The sub-$50 bag holds a laptop up to 15.6-inches and has dedicated pockets for a tablet, phone, Kindle, wallet, and your keys.
10. Mission Workshop The Monty
Best Messenger Bag
Biking is on the rise and if you need a bag that will carry your laptop and stay in place on your back, the Mission Workshop The Monty is it. It looks small at first but this compact messenger bag can carry a 15-inch gaming laptop easily—trust us we’ve done it.
The Mini Metro has a little bit more organization than your typical messenger bag. There’s padded laptop sleeve, two large foldable flap pocket, an even larger zip pocket behind that big enough for a full-sized notebook, and of course the cavernous main compartment.
What to Look For in a Laptop Backpack
While any backpack can carry a laptop, you’ll probably want one with a padded notebook compartment just so you can better protect your $1,000 (or multi-thousand dollar) machine.
Of course, buying a laptop sleeve is one easy way around this, but bags designed with a dedicated pocket to carry notebooks often offer extra protection by being raised slightly above the bottom of the bag. This padded pocket also usually comes with separate zipper access, so you don’t have to dig into the main compartment and mess with all the other stuff you’re toting around.
With that out of the way, the first thing you should consider when buying a laptop backpack whether it can actually hold your notebook. For the most part, you should pick a bag that’s compatible with your 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-, or 17-inch notebook without being any larger or smaller than it needs to be. Unless you’ve got a lot of additional electronics or you’re looking for a travel pack to carry your clothes, there’s no need to carry around that extra bulk or weight.
Lastly, good organization is what breaks or makes the best laptop backpacks. Think quality over quantity when it comes to pockets. Sure a bag with over 20 pockets might sound good, but if they’re only big enough to store a thumb drive, they won’t do you much good.
Think of all the other pieces of tech you might want to carry with you while you taking a closer look at the interior layout and size of each pocket to see whether everything will fit.
Jason Cipriani has covered technology full-time for the past 8 years. During that time he has freelanced for the likes of CNET, Fortune, Time, ZDNet, Macworld, Wired, and TechRadar.
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark