For many of us, laptops are an indispensable part of our working lives. A decent- to high-end laptop will stretch well into four figures, so it’s imperative that it’s well-protected when we’re carrying it around. Yet, there are plenty of people out there who remain happy to carry around their thousand-dollar laptop in a bag that offers little more protection than a canvas tote. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re only traveling on occasion, but for commuters, frequent flyers, or digital nomads, spending a little extra on a proper protective backpack is undoubtedly the way to go.
To decide on the best type of backpack for you, make sure to consider your traveling environment and usual mode of transport. For example, those in rainy parts of the world should probably factor in a good level of water resistance, and frequent flyers should look for something TSA-friendly. Once you’ve worked out what you need, take a look at the backpacks below and see which one works best for you. They are all among the best on the market when it comes to all-around protection, with each one offering its own particular strengths to protect its cargo against the hazards of everyday life.
Samsonite Konnect-I With Google Jacquard
Samsonite’s range of premium backpacks are already a great choice for the frequent traveler, but the Konnect-i offers an extra layer of tech functionality with Google’s touch-sensitive Jacquard fabric. It has touch sensors woven into the strap that allow the wearer to control basic functions on their phone, including music playback, answering calls, and activating Google Assistant. The sensor strip can track taps, long-holds, and brushes up and down, with each gesture able to be customized through the Jacquard app.
It’s not cheap, with the “slim” version of the Konnect-i starting at $199.99 and the regular version costing $219.99, but those prices are in line with much of the rest of Samsonite’s range. Both variants can hold a 15.6-inch laptop or a 16-inch MacBook Pro, and there’s plenty of padding in the laptop sleeve to protect against bumps and scrapes. There’s also a separate tablet pouch, so wearers can bring both a MacBook and an iPad and not have to worry about having one of them bumping around in the main compartment.
The Overboard Pro-Light is not just waterproof but also submersible for short periods of time, and it’s designed to float if it’s dropped in water. That makes it ideal for travelers or cyclists in parts of the world where heavy rain is common. There are bungees at the front of the backpack for which to attach either a helmet or a lightweight jacket, and there are bottle holders for drinks on both sides. The backpack comes with an adjustable waist strap to keep it securely fastened to the wearer, but for more casual use, this probably isn’t necessary, and it can be fully detached.
Keeping a laptop securely in place requires the use of a backpack tidy, which Overboard sells as an extra for $26.99 on top of the main backpack’s price of $155.99. The Pro-Light’s very outdoorsy looks and relatively high starting price may be overkill for the average urban commuter, but for the ultimate in waterproof protection, there’s not much better on the market.
Herschel Little America
A stylish yet functional everyday backpack that’s versatile enough for commuting or leisure, the Herschel Little America is one of the brand’s best-sellers for good reason. There are over 30 different color options available, so fashion-conscious wearers should always be able to find one that’s exactly to their taste. Its laptop protection features are equally comprehensive, since the sleeve is fleece-lined to protect against scratches, and it’s suspended at the bottom to protect against drop impacts.
The sleeve can accommodate laptops up to 15 inches in size, and there’s a roomy 25L of total luggage space for other gear. It’s worth noting that the Little America is only water-resistant, and not waterproof, so it’s best for urban commuters and those living in sunnier climates. The standard-size backpack retails for $120, although a smaller “mid-volume” version is available for $110. This smaller version can only hold laptops up to 13 inches in size, but it still comes with all the same protective features as the full-size version.
Boundary Supply Arris
The Boundary Supply Arris backpack can best be summed up as “the one-bag traveler’s dream,” and its thoughtful modular design and attention to detail set it apart from the pack. There are a multitude of compartments within the main body of the backpack, with each compartment individually accessible through an innovative zipper system. The whole bag also unzips into two halves, which makes traveling through airports easier, as there’s no need to unpack the whole bag to appease TSA.
The laptop sleeve itself is lined with Nywool and features a self-latching magnetic hook for convenience. The modular design also allows for a variety of extra packs to be attached to the main Arris backpack, with the Stasis Sling being particularly useful. The Sling is large enough to fit a laptop, charging cables, headphones, and so forth, but it’s small enough to keep with you on a plane when the main backpack is stored in the overhead bin. After you land, simply clip the Sling back on to the main backpack, and you’re ready to go. At $399 for the base backpack and $119 for the Stasis Sling, the Arris is a serious investment, but it’s worth it for frequent flyers who want a more convenient setup for their travels.
STM Goods Dux
The highlight of the STM Goods Dux is its unique zipper and shelving system, which allows wearers to get almost anything out of the bag without having to unpack their other belongings. Both sides of the backpack feature full-length zips, which allow easy access to the main compartment. The compartment itself is separated by adjustable velcro dividers which act as shelves and mean that everything is within easy reach, no matter whether it’s at the top or bottom of the compartment. There’s room for up to 30L of luggage space, although features like the collapsible bottle holders make it easy to reduce the size of compartments you’re not using.
Like the rest of the backpack, accessing the laptop sleeve is simple and won’t disturb the rest of your things. It fits laptops up to 17 inches, and there’s a separate additional pocket for a tablet. The sleeve itself is protected with soft fabric, and it’s generously proportioned, so there should be no need to fight with the backpack to squeeze laptops back in even if the rest of the compartments are full. For extra protection, the front, back, and sides of the Dux are also padded with foam, giving extra impact resistance on top of the sleeve padding. The downside is that this is a seriously bulky bag, so it’s best suited for wearers who regularly take lots of things with them and need the extra capacity. The Dux costs $249.95 from STM Goods.
A budget option with plenty of padding in the laptop sleeve, the Matein Travel is a great option for commuters that want to keep their tech safe without shelling out big bucks on a backpack. It comes in two sizes–a 15.6-inch version, and a larger 17.3-inch version. The larger backpack has a capacity of 34L and is split into two primary compartments and three smaller ones. The main compartment is very roomy, so it’s best suited for carrying larger items like books or clothing. There’s an adjacent inner pocket made of mesh which provides space for smaller items, and a second inner pocket that can either be used as a tablet sleeve or for separating out files and documents.
The other big compartment is the laptop sleeve, which features plenty of padding to keep its all-important cargo safe. There’s also a built-in USB charging port which can be easily connected to a power bank to charge smaller items. It’s not quite as protective as many of the other backpacks here, and it’s not waterproof, but then it’s also available at a fraction of the cost. The Travel backpack is currently available direct from Matein for just $29.99 plus shipping for the 15-inch version, or $67.99 for the 17-inch version.
SwissGear 1900 ScanSmart
The SwissGear 1900 ScanSmart is one of the most versatile offerings in its price bracket, with plenty of useful pockets and a well-padded laptop sleeve. The bag itself is made from 1200D ballistic polyester fabric, which makes it more hard-wearing than many similarly-priced backpacks, a claim that Swissgear is happy to back up with a 10-year warranty for products purchased off its website. The laptop sleeve can hold devices up to 17 inches in size and it’s TSA-friendly, so you should be able to scan the laptop at the airport without needing to take it out of the backpack.
There’s also a separate TabletSafe pocket that floats for better impact protection. Wired headphones users are in luck, as there’s a padded pocket for your phone which features a built-in cord port. The 1900 ScanSmart is available for $99.99 direct from SwissGear. That’s a very reasonable price that undercuts many competing backpacks while still offering comprehensive levels of laptop protection. Although it’s a great all-rounder, it’s worth noting that it’s only water-resistant rather than waterproof, and it does lack the easy-access divider systems that some of its pricier alternatives offer.
Pacsafe MetroSafe LS450
If security is an issue on your daily commute, an anti-theft backpack might be the best way to get some additional peace of mind. The Pacsafe MetroSafe LS450 is designed for urban travelers and it features a stainless steel wire mesh built into the outer fabric for slash protection, which PacSafe calls eXomesh. Each zipper has its own lock to prevent thieves, and there’s also an “RFIDsafe” pocket that stops scammers from swiping credit card or passport info. With a 25L capacity, it’s roomy enough to bring everything travelers might need for a day trip, and with a fairly low-profile look, it shouldn’t attract attention if you’re just wandering around town.
The laptop sleeve is able to fit devices up to 16 inches, and it’s also roomy enough to accommodate tablets as well. It’s padded, although it’s not very structured, so it tends to stick out whether there’s a laptop in it or not. For a retail price of $159.95, the Metrosafe provides an extra layer of device security that other backpacks simply can’t provide, and for that alone, it’s worth the investment.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack
Peak Design might be the new kid on the block, bursting onto the scene with the Kickstarter-funded Everyday Messenger in 2016, but the company has quickly found its niche catering to photographers who need a comfortable way to haul around camera equipment. So, to call its Everyday Backpack a laptop bag might be slightly reductive: it’s more a laptop-and-camera backpack, with plenty of room for a camera body or two and a selection of lenses alongside the protective laptop sleeve. This focus on camera hauling does mean that it’s less geared towards general use, and our review found the sleeve a bit too tight to comfortably fit both a laptop and a tablet, despite the fact that there’s a divider to accommodate both in theory.
It’s capable of fitting a 15-inch device at a push, but it’ll be a bit snugger than many of its competitors. However, its overall protection of devices is excellent, especially since it’s fully waterproof and every pocket is padded with soft fabric. It’s available for $279.95, a pretty big investment for a backpack, but a small price to pay to protect that all-important laptop and camera gear.
If style is the number one priority, it’s hard to beat Rains’ Scandi chic. The brand’s range of waterproof bags are suitable for the office or for leisure travel, with the Backpack Mini providing a sleek, slimline alternative to the usual array of laptop backpacks. There’s a concealed external phone pocket on the back panel, and the laptop pocket will fit devices up to 13 inches, or up to 15 inches without the protective sleeve. Buyers with bigger laptops can upgrade to the full-size Backpack, which holds up to 15-inch laptops in its sleeve.
There’s not as much padding around the backpack compared to many of the other options on offer, but it has the effect of making Rains’ offering look a lot sleeker than many of its rivals. The full-size Backpack retails for $110, while the Backpack Mini is a relative bargain at just $95. For a good-looking, fully waterproof backpack around the $100 mark, Rains has the market cornered.