The 9 Best Work Backpacks

By Scarlett James
Shift Drive / Shutterstock

Whether you keep corporate office hours or are juggling lots of gigs, you need a functional bag. The best work backpacks seamlessly tote all your essentials and don’t look out of place in a last-minute client meeting or a sweaty gym. Plus, they often carry more than a handbag ⁠— even a large tote ⁠— and offer hands-free practicality.

Finding your Holy Grail backpack requires some soul-searching and an honest assessment of your lifestyle. First, ask yourself: How much do you carry to work? Is anything easily damaged? If you carry a laptop regularly, you might want to look for an option with a dedicated sleeve. Also, make sure the bag is large enough to carry your laptop; most are suitable for screens up to 15.6 inches but some can accommodate even larger models. Or, if you frequent the gym after work, look for a dedicated shoe compartment.

The type of commute you endure is also a factor to consider. Those who walk or bike want to consider bags that are water-resistant, and investing in a model with padded shoulder straps can help lighten the load during your commute. Those who are often crammed on the subway might prefer a bag with a slimmer profile.

Not sure where to begin? I’ve done most of the legwork for you. Here are the best work backpacks on Amazon for whatever assignment life throws your way.

1. The Best Overall: A Versatile Backpack With Lots Of Color Choices

If you want a solid, all-purpose backpack that has all the essential features you need without the frills of other models, the MATEIN laptop backpack is a popular and reliable choice that fits laptops up to 15.6 inches in size. Its water-resistant polyester fabric looks like a nice cotton twill from a distance, but its simple style is loaded with functional everyday features: an interior key hook, ventilated padding in the back, padded straps, and a separate laptop compartment. The large front zip pocket is ideal for organizing smaller items, with mini pockets for pens and phones but enough space to tuck a spiral notebook inside, too. The main compartment is roomy enough to hold a change of clothes or an impressive lunch.

2. A Budget-Friendly Backpack With A Genius Zip-Open Laptop Compartment For Travel

If you log lots of miles for business, you need a durable backpack that won’t bring the TSA line to a halt for inspection. This one features waterproof 1,680-denier Oxford polyester and a genius laptop compartment that unzips to lie completely flat on the conveyor belt so you don’t have to remove all of your electronics and then re-pack your bag once you’re through security.

It also has a handy luggage strap that allows you to slide the pack over an extended suitcase handle for greater convenience. A padded back and straps offer comfort, while a hidden RFID-blocking pocket helps keep credit cards secure. With enough space for a 17-inch laptop, this is one of the bulkier picks on our list, but its functionality is worth the extra real estate. (And its dimensions work as a carry-on for most commercial airlines!)

3. A Stylish Convertible Backpack & Purse In Vegan Leather

If you're looking for a backpack that looks a little less utilitarian, consider this convertible backpack by Cluci. It comes in a variety of bright and pastel shades as well as classic black and brown, and its water-resistant vegan leather design is sleekly elevated. The additional canvas strap easily converts it into a shoulder or cross-body bag. Be advised, however, that this is the smallest pick on our list; you can easily fit a tablet inside, but it’s not ideal for someone who needs to carry a laptop every day. It also doesn't feature a padded back or straps like all the other picks.

Despite its small size, Cluci still managed to fit seven pockets into the design so that when it’s time to hail a ride-share at the end of the night, you know exactly where to find your phone.

4. A Great Budget Laptop Backpack For Commuters

Sturdy water-resistant material and extra security features make this laptop backpack a great pick for public transit commutes. One of the exterior side pockets contains a hidden snap that attaches to the top zipper pull to help keep your belongings secure. It also has a dedicated channel for earphones so you can listen to music while your phone stays zipped away.

The capacity is generous, with two large interior compartments, plus a laptop pocket for up to 15.6-inch models, and its main external zippered compartment is an organizational dream with plenty of small pockets, dedicated pen slots, and a key fob to keep everything neat. It features breathable mesh padding on the back panel and shoulder straps for comfort and a rear reflective stripe makes this backpack also a good pick for cyclists. At less than $25, it's a great deal. However, it doesn't have the slimmest profile out of the picks on this list.

5. A Minimalist Backpack That Protects Your Tech

This streamlined semi-hardshell backpack was made for those who carry a lot of electronic equipment with them and want to keep it protected. Its modern geometric frame is manufactured from sturdy, water-resistant, 600-denier nylon and EVA (the same durable foam used to make pool noodles) so your external hard drives, thumb drives, and backups won’t take a hit even if your bag does. It holds up to a 15.6-inch laptop.

Despite its impressive capacity, this has an overall external depth of just under 5 inches so it's great for carrying on to tight spaces like a subway or bus during rush hour. There are three compartments, and it comes with a divider that is perfect for organizing cables and adapters. The back is also cushioned, and the adjustable straps are padded. The one thing this doesn’t have that techies might want is a built-in USB charging port.

6. A Budget Backpack That’s Lightweight & Cute

This backpack’s vintage vibe belies an innovative water-resistant fabric with cushioned back and adjustable shoulder straps. The interior consists of a single large compartment with a padded laptop pocket that can hold screens measuring up to 16 inches and a strap to keep it from shifting around inside; while it will keep your laptop safe and snug, people who prefer maximum organization may want to look for a model with more pockets or compartments. However, it’s a lightweight and versatile pick, offering a lot of charm and functionality at an affordable price.

7. The Best Backpack for the Gym

This sleek water-resistant backpack transitions seamlessly from the boardroom to the weight room thanks to a dedicated shoe compartment at the bottom and spacious storage capacity that can accommodate up to a 17-inch laptop. A zippered pocket on one shoulder strap makes cards easily accessible, and a side-zip insulated pocket will keep your pre-workout shake chilled. When you’re carrying a lot of extras throughout your day, this one even includes a chest strap to help evenly distribute the weight, plus a padded back and straps to keep things comfy.

8. A Chic Leather Backpack With A Slim Profile

If you’re looking for an ultra-sophisticated backpack, this Kenneth Cole Reaction option ticks all the boxes. The rich Colombian leather is water-resistant and develops a distinctive patina over time for maximum aesthetic appeal. The back features ventilated padding and cushioned straps to keep you comfortable during your commute, too.

Its interior is fully lined for an added touch. This pick has a padded laptop pocket, which holds up to a 16-inch laptop and zips all the way open to lie flat during TSA checks. It also has a luggage strap that slides over an extended suitcase handle. With plenty of interior pockets including a phone pocket and five card slots, this is a great option for anyone who needs to carry lots of essentials in a single, sophisticated package without sacrificing practicality or taking up too much space on crowded transit. The only drawback might be that it's the most expensive pick out of the bunch.

9. A Brilliant Backpack & Diaper Bag In One For Working Parents

The Bamomby backpack and diaper bag has everything working parents need to stay organized whether they’re running a business or running after a toddler. It is made of a lightweight and water-resistant vegan leather with a tasteful quilted pattern that’s playful yet subtle. It also features a padded back and straps for comfort. A single large interior compartment with organizational pockets and a slim anti-theft pocket along the back panel can hold a tablet or smaller laptop.

Where it really shines for working parents is in the details like stroller straps, easy-access insulated bottle pockets and a small exterior zippered tissue pocket. With 16 pockets in total, you'll always be prepared for the next spill.

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