The 10 Best Backpacks for Work in 2021

Commute in style

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Backpacks are a comfortable way for commuters to haul around everything they need for the day. There’s just one problem: these accessories don’t always look as professional as a briefcase or handbag. Still, there are great options in the market that are workplace-appropriate. Whether you commute a mile on foot or an hour each way on public transportation—here are the best work backpacks that prove form and function aren’t mutually exclusive.

Best Overall: Dagne Dover Dakota Medium Backpack

Dagne Dover Dakota Medium Backpack

Dagne Dover

If you need a durable bag with room for everything, the Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack checks those boxes. Incredibly versatile, it’s ideal for use at the office, the gym, or even away for the weekend. There are seven different colors to choose from including black, moss green, two shades of blue, red, and blush. 

This minimalist backpack particularly stands out for its two, large separate compartments—the back section is even padded enough to hold any sized laptop safely without an additional sleeve. The front section features a mesh divider for separating gym clothing and sneakers from the rest of your gear. Even more, a front pocket provides quick access to your wallet, while two exterior bottle pockets are ideal for workout days.

The 11.5 x 5 x 17-inch bag is also made from neoprene, a high-tech fabric that’s water-resistant, insulating, and shock absorbent. Because it’s strong yet lightweight, this work backpack won’t weigh you down, even when heavily packed.

Best for Men: Herschel Supply Co. Mammoth Large Backpack

Herschel Supply Co Mammoth Large Dobby-Nylon Backpack

Herschel

If size matters to you, opt for this bag from Herschel Supply Co. Measuring 19.5 x 11.3 x 7 inches, the aptly named backpack has a capacity of 23 liters, giving you room for everything you need for work and beyond. Its dobby nylon exterior is abrasion-resistant, so there’s no need to worry about scratches and scuffs. The inside is fully lined, which adds an extra layer of durability. Still, despite its rugged style, the streamlined look of this bag is appropriate for the office. Two exterior slip pockets hold water bottles, while internal slip pockets secure laptops, tablets, and other electronics. There are also several smaller internal pockets as well as a key clip. 

This backpack is also ideal for men who bike to work, no matter the weather condition—the outer rain cover ensures everything inside stays dry, with reflective emblems to make sure the wearer stays safe, even at night.

Related: The Best Men's Briefcases

Best for Laptops: Samsonite Mobile Solution Deluxe Backpack

Samsonite Mobile Solutions

Courtesy of Macy's

Secure larger laptops with Samsonite’s Mobile Solution backpack. Measuring 12.5 x 7 x 16.3 inches, it has an interior padded tech panel that fits most laptops up to 15.6 inches vertically and tablets up to nearly 10 inches. 

This water-resistant, nylon backpack is also chock full of pockets including a large exterior front pocket, two interior zippered pockets, slip pockets, and a key leash, as well as exterior side pockets for water bottles. And if you’re on the road or at the airport, you don’t even need to haul this bag on your back because it has an exterior sleeve that fits securely over most upright luggage handles—making those long TSA security lines a little less painful. Choose from three colors including black, caper, and navy.

Related: The Best Carry-On Luggage for Business Travel

Best for Women: Calpak Kaya Backpack

Calpak Kaya Backpack

Image Source / Calpak

This women's backpack from Calpak is a great option for everyday use as it's made from durable, scratch-resistant faux leather. There's also more than enough room for your essentials: the inside features a zipped pocket, spacious main compartment, and separate pocket for carrying a laptop or tablet. 

Additionally, there’s a zip pocket on the front and slip pockets on each side. The bag has adjustable straps to ensure a comfortable fit, and it even comes with a luggage trolley sleeve to easily slide over your suitcase handle. Better yet, it comes in several different colors, including black, blush pink, and mint green. This work backpack measures 13 x 11 x 5.5 inches.

Most Versatile: Lo & Sons The Hanover 2

Lo&Sons Hanover 2

Courtesy of Lo&sons

Though it looks more like an outdoor backpack, this Lo & Sons bag is great for commuting or if you need a ton of storage. Case in point: the interior is big enough to fit a book, some toiletries, and a change of clothes or a neck pillow (if you travel for work). 

There’s even a dedicated, 13-inch laptop compartment as well as a pocket for your water bottle and extra slip pockets. The work backpack also has external side pockets where you can store your keys or ID, in addition to a phone pocket on the top. Made from lightweight recycled polyester, this water-resistant bag has adjustable shoulder straps padded with memory foam. It measures 11.5 x 7 x 16.3 inches.

Best Splurge: MCM Stark Side Studs Backpack

MCM Stark Side Studs Backpack

Courtesy of MCM

Popular among men and women, the MCM Stark Backpack has the same stylings and features you'd find in the brand's iconic handbags. While this bag doesn’t have a dedicated laptop sleeve, it is large enough to fit a tablet and items like a camera, book, sunglasses, a water bottle, and more. Plus, there’s a front zipped pocket and slip pockets on each side for more storage. Lined with faux nappa leather, this stylish work backpack measures 17 x 13 x 6 inches.

Best Budget: Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack

Style and practicality don’t have to break the bank with the Timbuk2 Rogue backpack. This 12.2 x 19 x 6.3-inch bag is designed to keep the wearer extremely organized, especially for busy commuters. Best of all, the work backpack accommodates larger laptops, with an internal pocket that can hold up to 15-inch sizes. The large main compartment can fit a light jacket, books, and even lunch. The elasticized side pocket keeps water bottles away from electronic devices. And for the occasional drink or two after work, there's a built-in bottle opener on the strap. 

Thanks to a waterproof tarpaulin exterior, the bag’s interior contents will be protected from the rain. And, because it’s designed for large hauls, there are extra comfort features including a ventilated back panel, adjustable straps, and removable sternum strap.

Best Waterproof: Rains Waterproof Backpack

A waterproof backpack is essential if you’re commuting in a rainy or wet climate, like the Rains backpack. Not only is this bag made from a waterproof fabric that’s 50 percent polyurethane and 50 percent polyester, but also the zippers are waterproof for maximum protection. With a modern aesthetic, this 20 x 12.3 x 4.8-inch work backpack is chic and gender-neutral.

The interior has room for everything you need for the office and beyond including a 13-inch interior laptop pocket, zip pocket, and hidden exterior phone pocket. The minimalist backpack also comes with a hook closure for a stylish accent, while the rest of the closures are magnetic, making it a breeze to find your umbrella.

Most Comfortable: The North Face Recon Backpack

North Face

 Courtesy of Nordstrom

Go with The North Face’s Recon backpack if comfort is of the utmost importance. Made of nylon, the 19 x 13 x 7-inch bag is both lightweight and strong. There are also a variety of ergonomic features that help distribute weight—the adjustable FlexVent injection-molded shoulder straps help assure a proper fit to your body, while a mesh back panel and spine channel add extra layers of comfort, and the optical waist belt gives additional support when needed. 

There’s also plenty of room for all of your things with interior zip and wall pockets, as well as a padded section for laptops. The front compartment has additional pockets and an organizer. Those who bike to work should take note of this bag’s useful reflective trim, which offers 360-degree low-light visibility.

Best for Travel: Tumi Voyageur Hartford Backpack

Tumi Voyageur Hartford Backpack

Tumi

Measuring 14 x 12 x 6 inches, Tumi’s Voyageur backpack is perfect if you travel a lot for work and need a bag to accommodate all of your business trips. Available in black, blackberry, and milk/silver nylon, it features bold metal hardware and two zippers with pulls, making it easy to open and close. A leather trim gives the bag an extra luxurious touch.

This well-thought-out work backpack also includes an interior zip pocket that protects the laptop pocket from spills. If all of these features aren’t convincing enough, the bag’s Tumi’s Tracer technology will give you peace of mind—it’s designed to help you retrieve lost or stolen luggage.

Meet the Expert

This roundup was written by Amanda Lauren, a lifestyle writer who covers fashion and office accessories for The Balance and The Balance Small Business.