If you're hauling your gear with you to work every day, you need a backpack that's sizable, comfortable, and looks damn good, too. It can make a sweaty bike ride or bumpy train ride all the better.
Here are eight packs that'll meet a range of different needs, from heavy-duty bags for daily bike commuters to lightweight, easy to carry backpacks that'll protect your precious laptop.
Thule offers a wide range of backpacks that are well-suited for bike commuters, but the company’s Paramount Daypack is by The Wirecutter as its favorite weatherproof commuter backpack for its durability and great set of features, including what the site describes as “one of the best laptop compartments we’ve seen in a backpack” (which can be accessed both from the top and from a separate side zipper. Like most Thule gear, it’s also backed up by a lifetime warranty.
It’s hard to go wrong with Brooks England if it’s a classic, hand-crafted piece of cycling gear you’re looking for. The company’s Pickwick backpack isn’t all old school, though—the waxed canvas and leather pack comes complete with a 15-inch laptop sleeve and plenty of zippered and hidden compartments for tools and other gear, as well as a chest strap to keep it in place while you’re riding. You can also take your pick from no less than nine different color options, from understated grey or olive green to bright yellow.
The Mission Sling by Timbuk2 is the perfect commuter bag (as long as you don't have to do lug around a laptop). Made from 100 percent nylon, the Mission Sling can roll open to accommodate a heavy load and pack tight when you're on the go. It's sling design makes it the perfect companion for any cyclist, but at the very least—it's much, much more stylish than a fanny pack.
It comes at a premium price, but the Rapha Backpack isn’t likely to disappoint anyone looking for an everyday commuter bag that’s durable, functional and high-end all around. While says it may not be ideal if you regularly carry an extra-heavy load, they found little else to complain about, and praise the backpack’s thoughtful design with tons of pockets and compartments that’ll keep all of your gear well-protected. That protection is further bolstered by the bag’s water-resistant fabric and a stowable rain cover that’ll ensure everything stays dry even in a downpour.
Pelican hits a homerun with their first foray into soft goods. Known for their legendary cases and coolers, the Pelican Mobile Protect backpack retains Pelican's understated style in a feature loaded pack. The large compartment is wrapped in a water resistant shell and zippers to keep your gear dry. It's got a lifetime warranty so if you break it, they'll replace it!
Not everyone is going to spend over $200 on a backpack, but if you're a serious commuter looking for a pack that'll last, you won't be disappointed in Mission Workshop's Sanction. The company says it's "built to last a lifetime," and The largely agrees with that sentiment, noting that, "if anything, the Sanction is a bit too tough for its own good." Its heavy-duty waterproof liner adds considerable weight, making the bag 2.6 pounds when empty.
If carrying your laptop is a top concern, you may want to consider something like Booq's Cobra Squeeze. It gets for its high carrying capacity with relatively little bulk—all of which remains well-padded to avoid any damage. The bag itself is also made from a water-repelling fabric, and Booq uses a serial number system that can help you track it down if you lose it.
MiiR's Commuter backpack is a big and light bag that promises not to skimp on durability or waterproofing. You'll get a padded pocket inside for your laptop, a top zipper for easy access, and a loop for a bike light, among other standard features. It helps that it also has a sleek and streamlined design.
If you're looking for something cheap, simple, and gadget-friendly, this 1Voice backpack will serve you well. At only $50, it comes in a clean design with an included 10,000mAh battery inside, charging gadgets up to 6 times on a single charge. It also has a padded compartment for 15-inch laptops and comes in two designs (Finch and Sidewinder) and two colors (black and grey).
Chrome is another manufacturer that's a favorite of many cyclists, especially those whose top concern is durability. The Urban Ex Rolltop backpack uses the company's so-called lightweight Knurled Welded construction, which promises less weight and durability, and found said it delivered as advertised. Larger laptops may be a tight fit, but you do get what Chrome describes as a padded iPad sleeve, along with a waterproof quick access compartment.
Osprey's Flapjack is another bag designed with gadgets in mind, offering both a 15-inch laptop sleeve and a tablet sleeve. Those features, among others, made the bag a clear winner in testing, which notes that the backpack is "extremely well-thought-out" and also the most comfortable among the ones they tested. The only potential drawback is you'll need to lean the bag against something when you put it down since it can't sit upright on its own.
The North Face has a backpack to fit just about any need, but the Surge is a versatile choice that's equally at home, on a bike commute, or stuffed in an overhead compartment. Like the Osprey, you'll get both laptop and tablet sleeves, along with plenty of pockets inside and out for lugging your stuff.
If modern commuter backpacks aren't quite your style, there's always more traditional-looking bags like Herschel's Little America pack. Despite outward appearances, however, there are plenty of updated conveniences to be found, including a padded sleeve that'll hold a 15-inch laptop, a media pocket complete with headphone port, and a padded mesh lining to help keep your back cool. But the best part? Tons and tons of color options.