We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›
Commuter backpacks are a workplace essential whether you go into an office five days a week, on a hybrid schedule, or work from the local cafe. Some are rugged, others are light, but all of them serve a single purpose: keeping your most precious cargo safe from one place to another. We researched and reviewed the top backpacks across several brands and did hands-on testing to help you find your perfect match. We specifically focused on comfort, durability, weight, cost, and capacity when coming up with our picks. The best commuter backpacks won’t make going to and from the office more fun, but they will make the load a little easier to carry.
- Best overall: Troubadour Aero Backpack
- Best for pets: ROVERLUND Airline-Compliant Pet Backpack
- Best budget: Solo Re:Define Laptop Backpack
The best commuter backpacks: Reviews & Recommendations
Best overall: Troubadour Aero Backpack
- Weight: 2.75 pounds
- Size: 20 X 13.4 X 7.9 Inches
- Price: $295
- Large capacity
- A single main compartment
- Pleasing look
We’ve taken Troubadour’s Aero Backpack to offices, coffee shops, and even abroad several times, and we cannot recommend it highly enough. The roomy backpack’s front-side zippered pocket was designed to hold a single 15-inch laptop, but we’ve fit a 16 and 13-inch MacBook Pro simultaneously in a pinch and have never seen a single torn stitch. A side water bottle pocket expands widely enough to accommodate a reusable water bottle, which is especially helpful if you’re on a work trip. A zippered pocket on top of the backpack is the perfect spot to hold a glasses case, charging cables, or any other tools that benefit from easy access.
The backpack has a single large compartment that’s allowed us to carry more gear than we could’ve thought possible. A camera inside its carrying case? No problem. A portable printer, so we’re absolutely sure we’ll have one? Yep. Multiple pairs of headphones for work? You betcha. A plethora of different gadgets to test with colleagues without them feeling squished or getting cracked screens? Absolutely. Having everything packed in a single pocket rather than negotiating which gadgets are thin enough to fit in multiple compartments makes it easy to load and unload the backpack multiple. You’ll never have to deal with the frustration of fumbling with different zippers and rooting around different sections in order to check whether you’ve brought the right gear.
The Aero’s overall build quality also impressed us. We’ve carried this backpack around for years and have never seen a tear or blemish. Its zippers are still in perfect condition, and smaller drink spills haven’t left a stain. If you’re frustrated by overstuffed small backpacks, or having to replace one after one or two years due to daily wear and tear, the Troubadour Aero Backpack is well worth the investment.
Best for cubicle companions: ROVERLUND Airline-Compliant Pet Backpack
- Weight: 4.5 pounds
- Size: 18 X 13 X 9 Inches
- Price: $189.99
- Airline-compliant design
- Three-sided ventilation
- Built-in leash
- Easy-clean interior
- Reflective details
- Heavier dogs may cause some sag
They say every dog has their day, but not every dog is ready for the day job. However, for those with an understanding office and a well-behaved companion, having a furry friend in your cubicle means you finally have a coworker who will just listen. Of course, you must get your pup there, and that’s where ROVERLUND comes in. The company makes several sturdy carriers, but we love their backpack, which is rated for a pet up to 25 lbs. and is comfortable for both you and them.
A structured frame helps the backpack keep its shape, allowing for zippered mesh panels on the top and sides to maintain their shape as your dog reclines on the comfortable, easy-clean fleece lining. If you roll up one of the vents (secured by velcro) to let your pal take in the view, an interior leash means you can secure a collar or harness so they don’t hop out. And with the padded back panel and adjustable shoulder and chest straps, you also experience support and breathability (my 9-pound Aussie Shepherd-Japanese Chin mix made it from Crystal City, VA, to the Smithsonian Metro stop in DC with zero aches or inconveniences, as seen above). An exterior pocket lets you transport canine essentials (such as treats and proper leash like the FABLE Magic Link), aided by dual side water bottle pockets. Finally, a discrete laptop compartment means you can transport your less adorable essential. It’s a lightweight and stylish pack, and airline-compliant to boot.
One quick note: To ease the transition to this new form of transportation, introduce the backpack in the house, rewarding some time spent in and around it with some treats. Maybe take your dog in the backpack on neighborhood strolls of increasing lengths before heading to the subway. And take your dog for an energetic walk right before your commute if it’s on the longer side.
Best budget: Solo Re:Define Laptop Backpack
- Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Size: 18 X 13 X 7 Inches
- Price: $39.99
- Lightweight, with good weight distribution
- Compact yet spacious
- Well-positioned cushioning
- Comfortable for average users
- Narrow upper strap arrangement may chafe some necks
The Solo Re:Define Backpack is small but mighty, able to hold far more than its unstuffed exterior belies. And, with a padded 15.6-inch laptop compartment, front organizer with key clips, an RFID data protection pocket, side mesh pockets, a battery-pack pocket with external USB port, a wired headphones port, and a trolley strap, there’s a place for everything and everything in its place. The backpack itself is a durable recycled polyester partially made from former plastic water bottles, resulting in a water-resistant, antimicrobial surface that’s easy to wipe down and sanitize. As for the comfort, this is a backpack you wouldn’t mind having if you are in a rush. The cushioning on the straps is just right, and the pack hugs your back securely without being too constricting. The end result is a travel-friendly backpack that distributes its weight well and won’t put extra strain on your shoulders or your budget.
Here are other options that’ll have your back on your way to work:
- Best for organization: Timbuk2 Authority Laptop Backpack Deluxe
- Best multi-compartment: Samsonite Unisex Adult Laptop Backpack
- Best design: Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Travel Pack
- Best vegan leather: Monos Backpack with QuickSnap Modular Kit System
- Best for short business trips: Incase EO Travel Backpack
Q: How much should a commuter backpack cost?
This will depend on its size and extra features. Our recommendations cost between $40 and $295.
Q: Are expensive backpacks worth it?
Higher-priced backpacks from reputable brands often have more durable materials, better weight distribution, and more comfortable straps and back panels. These features can be worthwhile for frequent use.
Q: What size backpack should I get?
Choose a backpack capacity based on your intended use. Only need to take a laptop, some headphones, a book/organizer, some pens, and a water bottle with you? 20L should be fine. Does your commute involve air travel? Something between 30L-50L will be just right, but keep it under 45L to avoid oversize bag fees.
Final thoughts on the best commuter backpacks
Having the right commuter backpack and optimizing its space and organizational features will simplify your morning routine by reducing the time it takes to find your laptop, cables, earbuds, and other accessories. Just make sure not to overstuff it, as carrying around too much gear every day can hurt your back. That’s typically a trope associated with school kids walking around with bulging backpacks, but it’s true for adults, too.
Why trust us
Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.
Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.