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Whether you work in a corporate climate or a more casual workplace, everyone needs a good work bag. This can be the perfect bag that carries your laptop, electronic devices, or even a spare change of shoes to commute to the office or your coworking space. The definition of a perfect bag will vary based on how much stuff you tend to carry and if you’re comfortably commuting in your car or taking public transportation. But there are a few key factors to keep in mind.
While some people might appreciate a variety of pockets, others might prefer one large compartment, so all items are accessible. Straps or handles are also pretty vital when selecting a work bag. The choice between an actual handle or straps that go over your shoulder can be an aesthetic choice but also a functional one, particularly if you have a long work commute. And of course, there’s the matter of material. Leather or faux leather are great picks, but so is an easily wipeable, and even, foldable nylon.
To help you determine the best option for your needs, here are the best work bags for women on the market.
Overall: Away Longitude Tote
This is one sleek work bag that’s also highly functional. The interior is pretty spacious and easily fits up to a 13-inch laptop, and there’s also a detachable zip pouch and key clasp so you can easily have access to smaller items. There aren’t any zippers, but the magnetic clasp makes it easy to keep all of your items within reach. One really fun feature is the removable trolley strap that secures the tote to a suitcase, making this the perfect carry-on personal item when you choose to fly.
Leather is a material that tends to just look better over time, so you can carry this bag on your daily commute without worrying about wear and tear. Black is always a classic choice that seamlessly goes with anything you wear—or try navy, emerald green, and there’s even a version with a bold green stripe down the center.
Best Budget: Lululemon Easy As Sunday Tote
Cheap or wallet-friendly doesn’t have to equal poor quality, and this Lululemon bag is proof of that. The bag actually looks way more expensive than it actually is, and that’s particularly due to the unique design of the drawstring top. It’s such an unexpected design but still has a work-appropriate feel. The interior is spacious enough to hold a change of shoes, electronics, or whatever else you might need for a productive day, and the small interior pocket keeps items like your phone or keys in close reach.
Also, the bag is 100 percent nylon, so that means any spills can be spot cleaned, and the material is water repellant.
Best Versatile: Bellroy Tokyo Totepack
Is it a backpack or a tote? Well, actually it’s both. The totepack serves up major versatility in a single bag, thanks to the straps and handles. Carry it by the handles like a classic work tote or utilize the padded backpack straps, which actually fold into the bag when not in use. This is easily a bag that goes from work to the weekend.
Holding up to 20 liters, the bag can easily contain electronics, a change of shoes, a water bottle, and more. Speaking of water bottles, the totepack has two internal “pop pockets” to hold larger items like a water bottle or umbrella. Not only does this make those items more accessible, but keeps them securely tucked away from other fragile or valuable items. While many bags can fit a laptop that’s 13 or maybe 15 inches, this padded sleeve holds a device that’s up to 16 inches. The water-resistant bag holds quite a bit of stuff, so the discreet front pockets contain the items you don’t want to get lost in the shuffle.
Related: The Best Business Backpacks
Best Eco-Friendly: Everlane The Lantern Bag
Finding ways to be increasingly eco-friendly is at the top of the list for many people. That eco-chic consciousness can extend to style choices, especially with a brand like Everlane, which has a commitment to sustainability and eliminating virgin plastic from all of its products. This particular product, the Lantern Bag is made of 100 percent certified cotton canvas and recycled nylon trim.
Besides being better for the planet, the bucket-style bag’s unique shape is sure to stand out. The 13.25-inch bag has five pockets, as well as two deep external pockets for easy access. Also, the sturdy strap provides the bag with even greater versatility. The strap can easily adjust from 12 to 24 inches, so throw it over your shoulder or even wear it as a crossbody depending on your needs.
Related: The Best Tote Bags for Work
Best Lightweight: Longchamp Small Le Pliage Nylon Shoulder Tote
Some bags can truly look big and bulky before you’ve even added your essentials to them. But Longchamp’s Small Le Pliage is that rare combo of being sufficient enough to carry daily essentials but still lightweight. The bag is just 0.5 pounds and folds flat when not in use. This smaller, compact style is perfect for the person who likes a pretty pared-down bag.
The nylon exterior and water-resistant lining make for easy clean-ups in the event of a spill or if you’re caught in the rain, and the embossed leather trim of the 8-inch straps has such a classic touch. Also, if you drop your bag, no need to worry about your prized possessions flying everywhere. Not only does the bag zip shut, but there’s also an added snap closure.
Best Large: Dagne Dover Classic Tote
While compact and sweet is convenient, some days you just need a bag that’s going to hold pretty much everything, especially if you know you have a long day ahead. The Signature Tote from Dagne Dover measures just under 14 inches long, and the 9-inch leather handle allows it to be comfortably cradled under your arm or carried in your hand. With colors like black, blush, or graphite, the bag is absolutely gorgeous, and the coated canvas can be cleaned with a damp cloth.
The inside has the necessary compartments to keep your life organized. There’s a phone pocket, three elastic loops for pens or cosmetics, a water bottle holder, and a padded laptop sleeve to hold a device that’s up to 13 inches long. If that’s not enough, there are also two slip pockets, a large zippered compartment, and a 10-inch padded sleeve to hold a tablet or important documents. Pyramid-shaped hardware on the bottom provides a safe, solid base.
Best Laptop Bag: MZ Wallace 13” Metro Commuter
Laptops are pretty expensive so having a dedicated bag to protect the device that helps you get your job done is pretty important. This option from MZ Wallace has six interior pockets, so not only is your laptop safe and secure, but there’s more than enough room for other business essentials. Laptops up to 13 inches can comfortably fit in the bag, and the bag that’s made of water-resistant material as well as accented with stylish leather trim.
The trim is also on the handle, which has a 3.7-inch drop length. On days when you don’t feel like carrying it, easily attach the crossbody strap that has an adjustable length from 28.7 to 51.6 inches. Two exterior slip pockets add to the bag’s function. Choose solid black or have fun with the blue camo print.
Best Backpack: Calpak Kaya Laptop Backpack
Backpacks don’t always have the most work appropriate look, but when it’s as chic as Calpak’s Kaya bag, it passes the HR test. There’s no bulky backpacks over here, because the design is super sleek and is only 4.5 inches deep. The back has a 15 inch laptop sleeve with a snap closure, and the main compartment has a few interior zippered pockets. The bag can comfortably be carried by the short top handle or the straps, which go from 18 to 33 inches.
The faux leather material looks extremely luxe. Details like gold hardware and a weaved pattern around the perimeter add to the high end feel. Also, for those who appreciate work bags that come in fun colors, this one includes standout hues like burgundy, mauve, and blush.
Away is a brand known for its beautiful, trendy luggage, but it also wins major points for quality. So it’s no surprise their Longitude Tote is great for everyday wear (view at Away). The tote has a 13.7-liter capacity, so it’s the perfect balance between fitting everything you’ll need for the day while still maintaining a classic look. In addition to the stylish design, the neutral colors and leather material make this a bag for every profession, from the most corporate to a more laid-back atmosphere.
What to Look for in a Work Bag
This might sound like an obvious one, but when ordering something online, you really want to consider the size of the bag. Check all the dimensions to give yourself a realistic idea if the bag will accommodate your needs. Also, bigger isn’t always better. Some large bags can be uncomfortable to carry or even take up a lot of space, which is something that can truly become problematic if you’re walking or taking public transportation.
Electronics, particularly laptops, can be pretty expensive, so look for a bag that has a dedicated space for your device, whether it’s a padded sleeve or even a secure snappable strap, so it doesn’t shift around too much. Also, a bag with a structured flat bottom or even metallic feet can keep the bag upright instead of tipping it over, which is something you don’t want with a laptop onboard.
The overall material of a work bag is important, but pay special attention to the straps. This is the part of the bag that can experience a lot of wear and tear, so construction is key. Leather or canvas straps are durable options. Also, for any backpack or crossbody straps, check for padding, which adds to comfort. And having the ability to adjust straps to your preferred length will come in handy.
Meet the Expert
This roundup was written by Patrice J. Williams. She loves helping her friends and family find unique, thoughtful, and wallet-friendly products for their everyday life. In addition to her work for The Balance, she writes commerce articles for The Spruce and TripSavvy, as well as appearing on-air for The Today Show, WEtv, and she was the Savvy Shopper reporter for WPIX in New York City.