The Best Laptop Backpack for Commuting

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A laptop backpack is a great way to keep your laptop safe during your daily commute. Most new laptops have a thin design and can be quite fragile, so they need an added layer of protection when you’re walking, bicycling, taking the train or driving to work or school.

With the right laptop backpack your $1,000+ laptop is better protected against the elements, and you don’t have to worry about it whenever you go out the door.

The best laptop backpacks have a separate pocket located directly against the semi-hard back part, which protects it from getting warped or twisted out of shape.

Our top pick for this purpose is the Thule Subterra Backpack because it’s durable, protects your laptop very well, and keeps your belongings well organized. For more options, see our list below.

Identifying the best commuter backpacks with laptop pockets

Most of us here at ConsumerJar are either used to traveling by bus, train, bicycle or car during our daily commute. And we always bring our laptop.

We know exactly what to expect of a decent laptop backpack, and these are the criteria we usually look for:

  • Functionality – we want it to fit the items we’re carrying on our daily commute.
  • Versatility – because different tasks require different equipment.
  • Comfort – we don’t want our backpack to weigh us down in any way.
  • Durability – because backpacks are exposed to the elements.
  • Design – we want it to look good, but we also want a clever way to organize our belongings.

Most versatile commuter backpack: Thule Subterra

Thule Subterra backpack, black with 30-liter capacity
Editor’s choice

Thule Subterra Backpack

  • Recommended for all types of commuting
  • Multiple spacious storage compartments and zippered side pockets
  • The interior is brightly colored for easy visibility

Recommended for: All types of commutes: Bus, train, bicycle, walking, driving, airplane. Suits every laptop up to 15.6 inches, with additional pockets for tablet, electronics, a pen, power cords, and more.

Why we like it: The Thule Subterra backpack is not only extremely durable, but also very well proportioned to give you the perfect balance during your daily commute. We found it very comfortable to carry, even for longer tips back and forth. Your laptop is perfectly safe inside the dedicated compartment, and there’s an outer layer with added protection for all your electronic gadgets.

You can easily fit a 15-inch Macbook or a 15.6-inch PC in this backpack as well as books, papers, notepads, a pencil case, snacks, and basically anything you’ll need during your day. There are side pockets for a water bottle and other belongs that you’d want at hand during the commute, and it even has a pass-through panel so you can attach the backpack on the handle bar of your rolling luggage.

Dillon Anthony over on Altitude Blog had this to say about the Thule Subterra backpack:

The style, quality, and features are impressive. It’s exactly what I’d want to transport my important electronics, spare clothes, and a snack or two.

Dillon Anthony, Altitude Blog

He also goes on to talk about the lack of external pockets, but as he says that’s his personal preference. We do agree with him though, but for daily commutes we personally think it has sufficient storage for our needs.

Trade-offs: There’s only one large, shared storage compartment with pockets for your laptop and other personal belongings. This means that you’ll have to open your entire backpack in order to access your laptop, whereas other backpacks have entire dedicated compartments for laptop and other belongings.

The exterior is quite minimalistic, but whether you like that or not is a matter of personal taste. We do miss an exterior pocket to store a jacket or sweatshirt in case it gets hot outside, but that’s really no dealbreaker in our opinion.

Best commuter backpack for a 17″ laptop: TIMBUK2 Authority Laptop Backpack Deluxe

TIMBUK2 Authority Laptop Backpack Deluxe, Black

TIMBUK2 Authority Laptop Backpack Deluxe

  • Plenty of space for all your electronic devices
  • Rugged exterior withstands all kinds of daily commutes
  • Very practical interior layout

Recommended for: Urban commuters with large laptops up to 17 inches as well as other tech, documents, and books. Can be used for any type of commute, and fits a formal business environment very well.

Why we like it: The TIMBUK2 Authority Laptop Backpack Deluxe is a stylish laptop backpack suitable for any type of commute. The layout is simplistic but has all the features you need to keep your laptop and other tech well protected, and because of the size and shape it holds documents, books and other rectangular shaped objects very well.

Of course it has a luggage pass-through as well, which makes you able to attach it on top of a rolling luggage when you’re making your way through the busy airport.

Zach Sweat over on Lifewire liked this laptop backpack too, and had this to say:

With its useful features, solid organization, and water-resistance, it’s simply the best commuter laptop backpack available.

Zach Sweat, Lifewire

We do agree that it has a ton of useful features, and the organization is on point for us. For urban commuters with a large laptop it’s a match made in heaven. Wirecutter also stated that it “holds a lot of tech, takes a lot of abuse“, which is exactly what we like it for.

Trade-offs: The laptop backpack is quite slim, so if you’re a commuter who often need to pack a few extra books and a jacket, the TIMBUK2 Authority Laptop Backpack Deluxe isn’t for you.

It’s main purpose is to hold your tech and keep it protected from the elements, which it does really well, but for additional personal belongings it simply isn’t big enough.

Best lightweight commuter backpack: JanSport Big Campus 15-Inch Laptop Bag

JanSport Big Campus Backpack - Lightweight 15-inch Laptop Bag
Best value

JanSport Big Campus 15-Inch Laptop Backpack

  • Ultra lightweight – only 1 lb
  • Available in all kinds of colors and patterns
  • Great for short commutes

Recommended for: Commuters on a budget seeking a versatile, affordable, and comfortable backpack for their daily commute. Fits a laptop up to 15 inches as well as books, documents, snacks, a drinking bottle on the side and other personal belongings in one of many exterior storage compartments.

Why we like it: This is a classic. With its fresh look and vast range of colors and patterns to choose from, this laptop backpack is perfect for students as well as workers. It holds a 15-inch laptop in a storage compartment made specifically for this purpose, and there’s a large storage compartment for your books, documents, pencil case, and other work-related items.

Outside you’ll find multiple small, zippered compartments for additional storage of small items as well as snacks.

There’s also a side pocket for your water bottle.

Trade-offs: The JanSport Big Campus clearly isn’t designed for longer commutes, because it doesn’t provide the same protection for your electronic devices as other more expensive alternatives do.

The materials used for this laptop backpack are a bit thinner than other models too, but of course that also means the price is significantly lower – which is definitely a good thing.

Best commuter backpack for bicycling: The North Face Recon

The North Face Unisex Recon asphalt gray backpack

The North Face Recon

  • Removable waist belt keeps the backpack in place at all times
  • Flexible storage options inside and outside
  • Protected compartment holds a 15-inch laptop

Recommended for: Bicyclists in particular, but basically anyone who commutes over longer distances and need a durable laptop backpack for their daily travel in all terrains and weather.

Why we like it: The North Face Recon is a solid choice for those seeking a durable, versatile, and comfortable backpack for their daily commute on bicycle, foot, scooter, skateboard, etc.

It features not only a sternum strap, but also a detachable waist belt that will give you a tighter fit but also distribute the weight of your backpack and its contents away from your shoulders, which ultimately results in less strain being put on your shoulders and neck during your commute back and forth.

Besides the added levels of comfort, the backpack is also extremely practical on the inside. With a dedicated laptop compartment your most important tech is well protected against the elements, while your books, binders, cords, and other items are perfectly organized in the large compartment.

Katherine Elliott over on OutdoorGearLab gives this laptop backpack an overall rating of 75/100, and has this to say:

The North Face Recon is an excellent laptop backpack that is both comfortable and accommodating (of an active, busy lifestyle).

Katherine Elliott, OutdoorGearLab

We do indeed agree with her, and we wouldn’t hesitate to use it for a day hike, a road trip, or similar fun activities on a day off.

What we also really like about this backpack, is the flexible storage space. A strap on each side adjust the internal storage and grant you a large storage pocket at front, and there are a large, flexible side pocket on each side too.

Trade-offs: Although this commuter backpack is super comfortable and holds a laptop very well, it doesn’t provide as much protection against bumps and drops as other backpacks do.

It’s also debatable whether the style is actually cool or outdated, although it’s definitely still very functional.

Best carry-on friendly laptop backpack: SwissGear 1900 ScanSmart

SWISSGEAR 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack black with red detailing

SwissGear 1900 ScanSmart TSA Laptop Backpack

  • Sweep through the airport security easily
  • Easy access to your laptop and other electronics
  • Large main compartment for books, files and documents

Recommended for: Commuters that are often traveling by plane for work and therefore need to bring their laptop. The backpack also works great for office workers, students, and others commuting by train or bus.

Why we like it: The SwissGear 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack is a match made in heaven for those often traveling by airplane. It has a lay-flat TSA-approved compartment for your laptop, which means that you can get through security without dismantling your entire collection of tech in front of the security staff and other passengers.

Besides the amazing padded 17-inch laptop compartment, you also get a protected tablet sleeve as well as a larger storage compartment for all your personal belongings.

The backpack has a plethora of pockets and zippered storage compartments, making it extremely easy to organize your belongings for a more efficient day at work.

We’re not the only ones liking this laptop backpack, here’s what Kimberly Holland of TripSavvy has to say about it:

a smart investment for travelers who frequently carry several electronics, need easy organization, and like the look of a more professional case.

Kimberly Holland, TripSavvy

And we fully agree with her. We wouldn’t hesitate to bring this backpack on our next commute for a business meeting, and we would definitely bring it on our next flight as well.

Trade-offs: Weighing 3.3 lbs, the SwissGear 1900 ScanSmart is heavier than other backpacks of a similar size. The added weight is probably caused by the interior dividers and numerous pockets, so if your carry-on bagage is at a limited weight level you should probably consider another laptop backpack for your daily commute.

It isn’t able to stand on its own either due to the rounded design of the backpack, and when you’re commuting daily you probably don’t want your backpack to lean against anything/anyone.

The zippers are also quite noisy, which could potentially annoy other passengers in the early morning hours or late hours.

Best durable laptop backpack: Thule Crossover 2

Thule Crossover 2 Laptop Backpack, 30-liter capacity

Thule Crossover 2 Laptop Backpack

  • Protected compartment for sunglasses and other fragile equipment
  • Well organized interior tech compartment
  • Padded SafeEdge pocket for 15.6″ laptop

Recommended for: Long commutes by train, bus, bicycle, scooter, skateboard, and more. Not only does it have a padded compartment for your laptop, but also for sunglasses and other fragile equipment, hence the recommendation for longer commutes by public transportation where drops and bumps could appear from time to time.

Why we like it: The Thule Crossover 2 isn’t just a durable laptop backpack created for daily commutes, but also a stylish and sleek backpack that looks great in all thinkable environments.

We love this backpack for its spacious laptop compartment with generous protection against bumps and drops, but it also has pockets and other protected areas for your tech, sunglasses and other fragile objects.

There’s a pass-through panel on the back part too, so you’ll have no problem securing it to a telescopic handle of a rolling luggage.

Thule Crossover 2 holds a total of 30 liters, and has a pair of spacious, zippered side pockets that will easily hold your water bottle, an umbrella, and other equipment that you’d like to keep at the ready in case you need it.

David Pierini from Cult of Mac has this to say about the Thule Crossover 2 backpack:

There are less expensive backpacks, but because this one has the strength to last the carrier’s whole career, it’s worth the extra money.

David Pierini, Cult of Mac

We do agree with his points, this laptop backpack isn’t really commuter-friendly when it comes to pricing, but in return it could potentially last a lifetime if treated fairly well.

Trade-offs: The top carry handle isn’t as comfortable as we’d want it to be, and for some people the SafeZone compartment isn’t really necessary as they probably already have a storage container for their sunglasses and a cover for their most expensive and important tech.

There’s no strap to connect the shoulder straps together and hold the back in place, so in case of security this backpack isn’t your safest bet.

Best organized laptop backpack: Everki Atlas

Everki EKP121S15 Atlas Checkpoint Friendly Laptop Backpack, black

Everki Atlas EKP121S15

  • Lots of storage options
  • Comfortable strap system
  • Pockets for 11″ tablet and 15.6″ laptop

Recommended for: The Everki Atlas EKP121S15 is a great choice for those in need of a well organized backpack with pockets and compartments for a vast range of tech. The lay-flat laptop storage compartment makes it easy to breeze through airport security, hence rendering it a great choice for airplane commutes as well as other travels by public transportation.

Why we like it: The Everki Atlas backpack is a great choice for commuters of all types, and it comes in two sizes: One that fits a 15.6-inch laptop, and one that fits a 17-inch laptop. Both have practical storage for tablets and other tech-related gadgets, and all of it is able to be organized properly with the vast amount of pockets and zippered comparments.

There’s also a pass-through strap for your rolling luggage, making this backpack an even better choice for the busy airplane traveller.

If your laptop isn’t exactly 15.6 inches, you can adjust the interior velcro system to fit any laptop above 11 inches. There’s also a felt-lined storage space for your laptop, which has a similar velcro strap that fits most tablet sizes.

Trade-offs: Weighing in at a whopping 3.5 pounds, this laptop backpack is among the heaviest options mentioned in this article. The rugged exterior material is mainly what weights this backpack down, and we feel like it’s a double-edged sword because on one hand we want a durable laptop backpack for our daily commute, but on the other hand we want it to be as lightweight as possible.

The Everki Atlas uses a large part of the total space on padded laptop compartment, which is of course great because it means the laptop is secure, but if you want to carry books, binders and documents with you too, there are probably other better alternatives on the market.

Most stylish laptop backpack: Victorinox Architecture Urban Rath

Victorinox Architecture Urban Rath Laptop Backpack, Grey/Brown with genuine leather details

Victorinox Architecture Urban Rath

  • Genuine leather details
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Very well made

Recommended for: Business commuters who work in an office setting and want a stylish laptop backpack that fits their work environment. Works especially well for commuters going by train, bus, and oven short bicycle rides.

Why we like it: Victorinox is probably better known for their Swiss Army Knife that has been copied a thousand times since it appeared on the market for the first time in 1897.

However, Victorinox also designs and manufactures a large range of commuter-friendly laptop backpacks, that are both stylish and durable at the same time.

The exclusive design features a dedicated laptop compartment at the back area, and there’s also a large storage compartment for your clothes, snacks, and personal belongings.

One of the amazing details that make this laptop backpack stand out from the crowd, is the genuine leather trims that you’ll find all over the backpack. The genuine leather looks great, and you can clearly tell that this backpack works really well in a formal business setting.

Trade-offs: While parts of the backpack is made by genuine leather and looks great, it does actually require a bit of treatment every now and then. Otherwise the leather could dry out and simply snap, which would be a shame.

Because of the slim design, there isn’t room for more than a couple of books and a few papers next to the laptop compartment.

Why choose a laptop backpack?

Man on a bicycle commuting between his home and work
A laptop backpack can be used for all types of daily commuters.

We all use bags to carry all of our stuff with ease. The most common type of bag that we use is the backpack. It is convenient for moving around while keeping your hands free to do other things like sending a short message through your phone or grabbing your credit card to pay for something. This is why most commuters choose to use a backpack, to keep their hands free while moving from point A to B.

A well-made backpack has a proper weight distribution that lessens the stress on the wearer’s back. If you compare it to other kinds of bags, such as the messenger or shoulder bag, the pressure is kept on one shoulder, making a person more prone to experiencing backaches. Laptop messenger bags and laptop backpacks both have compartments for laptop and other accessories. But when it comes to carrying other bulky items along with your laptop, having a proper backpack is more suitable than a messenger bag.

Treat your backpack as a partner

Once you have chosen your laptop backpack, it is essential to remember that you should treat it as your partner for your everyday commute. Remember these three tips.

  1. Keep your backpack clean, inside and out. Use a clean rug to wipe it. Do this every after use, especially if your bag is not suitable for machine wash.
  2. Be mindful of the items you carry with you. If you know that the bag is at its carrying limit, do not put more things on your backpack. Your back will thank you for it.
  3. When not in use, avoid hanging it or leaving it on the floor. Keep your bag in a dust bag and on a proper keeping place, like a cabinet.

These simple actions will make your backpack last longer. And you will be getting your money’s worth by keeping your bag in excellent condition.

What to consider before buying a laptop backpack

Woman working at a café with her smartphone in hand and a coffee
With laptop backpack you can go anywhere and work or study. Remember that café downtown? Bring your laptop for a work session while having your favorite coffee!

If you don’t know what to choose, here’s a general boiled-down guide on what you need for your daily commute.

1. The size of your laptop

Laptop dimensions vary a lot, and it can go up to 17 to 18 inches long. If your laptop is around this size, then it is crucial to make sure that it will fit the bag before you make the purchase. Your computer might not fit in the backpack if you don’t consider this.

QUICK TIP: Laptop compartment
Choose the backpack with a laptop compartment that functions both as a divider and sleeve. It should be well-padded to absorb the shock of your daily commute.

2. Aesthetics

Laptop bags are commonly in neutral colors, but some options have bold or subtle colors and even pretty designs. Choosing a suitable style and color depends on your choice. It will reflect your personality.

QUICK TIP: Safety in style
Choosing neutral colors that can easily blend into the crowd is a good idea if you are commuting a lot. This option will not attract too much attention and will be less enticing for thieves.

3. Do you beed a waterproof backpack?

It is not uncommon for the weather to go awry. The weather can be quite fickle; from sunny, it could turn rainy. If this happens and you don’t have an umbrella with you, there is a high risk of getting your electronic devices wet if you’re bag is not waterproof.

There are different levels of a waterproof bag, and you will encounter these terms when purchasing one. The first rank is water-resistant, next is the water-repellent, and the highest level is 100% waterproof. The use of a waterproof bag highly depends on your activities.

A water-resistant backpack is a go-to option for everyday activities like commuting. The fabric is of sturdy grade polyester or nylon. It can keep a light shower from getting through, but it can still get wet if you are under the rain for a long time.

Water-repellent backpacks are the option for those who bike when commuting. The fabric for this backpack is treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellency) and coated with TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane). This type of bag can stay dry as long as it’s not submerged in the water for a long time.

If you are planning for an extreme activity or long hours of commuting by bike, you should consider a 100% waterproof bag. The fabric and zipper used in this type are for heavy-duty use that keeps your valuables dry inside. This kind is airtight, making sure that water does not permeate through even if you accidentally drop it in the water.

A waterproof backpack is an important consideration to avoid any damage to your devices in case of weather change or spilled drink accidents. Think about it thoroughly if you will need this kind of feature for your laptop bag.

4. Anti-theft features – are they necessary?

Whether you are driving, walking, or riding the train, it is best to be wary of pickpockets and thieves. If you don’t want this to happen to you, there are anti-theft backpacks that can ease your worry.

There are different types of anti-theft backpacks in the market. The bag can either be anti-slash fabric or RFID blocking fabric, with hidden zippers, lockable features, hidden pockets, and compartments, or reinforced steel straps.

If you frequent an area that has a high rate of theft, make sure to put this into consideration when purchasing your laptop bag.

5. What other items are you putting in your bag?

If you are planning to bring your lunchbox, water bottle, umbrella, documents, books, and other items, you will need to find a backpack that can accommodate all of your stuff. It will put the backpack’s space and durability to the test.

Some backpacks come with organizational features that will keep everything arranged. These kinds commonly have pockets designated for pen, phone, tablet, or notebook.

You can opt for bags with cinch straps or expandable compartments if the items you bring with you do not overuse the space on the bag every day.

For laptop bags, look for a padded laptop compartment that can fit your laptop. Choose one with pockets where you can store laptop accessories such as the charger, mouse, external hard drive, or headphones/earphones.

6. How do you commute?

Do you commute by walking, biking, riding the subway, carpooling, or by driving yourself? The way you travel every day will dictate a specific type of laptop bag you require.

For a comfortable commute, you might favor a backpack that comes with an adjustable sternum strap and waist or hip belt that will keep it secure as you move. It will help relieve most of the weight from your shoulders and distribute it to your back and hips. A lightweight backpack made from durable materials should be kept in mind if you are not driving.

If you commute any way other than driving yourself, you should consider the use of anti-theft backpacks. These types have lockable zippers and cut-proof material. There are some with hidden zippers that will surely dissuade pickpocket from trying to steal.

If you have extended hours of commute that requires you to wear the bag most of the time, it can cause a lot of sweat to accumulate on your back. To avoid this, you should look for a backpack that has thick breathable padding with smooth ventilation or airflow system. Having this kind of backpack feature will let your back breathe and remain comfortable even with long hours of use.

7. Will you be using it other than commute?

Identifying the different occasions when you will be using the bag is an excellent opportunity to consider the other purpose of your purchase.

QUICK TIP: The best option for travelers
If you are planning to travel a lot, it is an excellent choice to have a TSA friendly backpack. TSA or Transportation Security Administration inspects the luggage of everyone who is going through an airport checkpoint. A TSA-friendly bag is easy to flip open into a butterfly or tri-fold arrangement for screening.

Having a concrete idea of where you are planning to use it will make it easy for you to choose the best bag that suits you. This awareness will also save you money from spending more on another bag.