Backpacks have come a long way from the JanSports we dragged around in high school and dumped into our lockers. But today, we’re parents and as such, we need a backpack that’s a tad more complex to survive the beating it’ll take in daily life as you load it up with wipes, snacks, water bottles, phones, sunscreen, and the various other supplies all of us drag around.
A backpack should have a few basic features. Simple access to your tech is a must, because there’s nothing is worse than fumbling through your bag in search of a cord or phone. It should fit comfortably, and be easy to take off and put on. Durable fabric and construction are mandatory since the last thing you need is a zipper breaking or a hole popping up. Lastly, it should have enough room to store everything you need either for a day in the city, or a quick getaway vacation. Here are nine that should cover you in any situation you might find yourself in.
This commuter classic boasts thousands of five-star reviews and a TSA-friendly design beloved by business travelers.
Pros: The lay-flat design means it’s easy to leave your laptop in its sleeve as you go through security. There are a lot of features on the exterior, including a handy carabiner and a quick access pocket. There’s also a lot that makes this a comfortable pack, from the vented back panel to the built-in suspension to the rubber molded grip handle.
Cons: Its staid styling leaves a lot to be desired.
You'll be shocked by the sheer amount of stuff you can squeeze into this bag, including your laptop.
Pros: This backpack converts into a suitcase, should a need arise. It features a water bottle pocket, two main compartments with numerous organizational compartments and a fold-down shelf for splitting the main compartment in half. There’s a zippered mesh panel inside main compartment that’s perfect for holding your gadgets and phone. And there’s a removable, adjustable sternum strap.
Cons: Lots of storage space in multiple compartments adds up to a backpack that’s on the bulkier side.
As the name indicates, this is a stellar yet stylish workhorse backpack to tote along every day.
Pros: You can wipe this backpack clean, and it’s resistant to dirt. It’s got one main zippered compartment, a front zippered pocket, and two open side pockets. But wait, you also get a seating pad if you need to pop a squat, and a two-way zipper with a rain flap for weather protection.
Cons: Can be a little too flimsy for truly hardcore use.
The two big selling points of this bag are the price and the crossbody style.
Pros: It’s a lightweight, stylish bag you can grab for a quick outing. It has room for a camera, tablet or a small laptop computer and a hidden anti-theft pocket and an external bottle holder.
Cons: The zipper can break, so be sure you don’t overstuff it.
One of the coolest-looking packs out there is also incredibly versatile, offering immediate access to individual parts of the bag or everything at once.
Pros: When you open the three-way zippers of this backpack, you have access to interior side pouches that will hold your electronics, a padded laptop sleeve, and other organizational spots inside. The suspension system offers superb stabilization and the packs overall low profile means ease moving through crowds.
Cons: It’s not the largest of packs at 21 liters so it’s only good for day-to-day use unless you are a minimalist packer on an overnight trip.
This American-made backpack is large enough to hold everything you need for a day at the office. It looks great and is a crowd pleaser.
Pros: It has a roomy top compartment to toss all of your necessary items in, and a strong zipper to keep them safe. The bottom is made with a ballistic nylon that’s paired with a nylon upper to withstand a beating. It has a large main compartment that is accessed from a flip-top opening with a drawcord to keep it shut. There are side straps and a front pocket for extra storage.
Cons: There is no hip belt to keep it snug to your body.
This pack is made in Colorado from mostly upcycled items (bike tires, street signs, and tent materials), so it is environmentally friendly and highly functional. Hip and sternum belts make it perfect for bike and train commuters.
Pros: Due to its construction, the backpack will shed moisture easily. The large roll-top closure further seals off the main compartments to make sure everything arrives safe and sound. It has a large exterior pocket to toss items into and there are several reflective elements incorporated into the design to make sure motorists see you at night. At 24 liters, it’s large enough for an overnight trip if necessary.
Cons: Since they are made from upcycled materials, no two bags are ever the same, so there might be some style differences when you get it.
A perfect bag for a frequent business traveler with numerous features not found in other bags, and the ability to customize it with a plethora of optional features (laundry bag, shirt organizer, vacuum compression bags) you can order after you have it.
Pros: This is the dream bag for an organized person. There are numerous compartments and zippered pouches offering you the ability to give everything a spot. At 40 liters, it’s large enough to pack for a long weekend trip, yet small enough that carrying it will not be burdensome. The exterior is waterproof, the straps pack away simply to check, and it will fit in a plane overhead compartment.
Cons: Some people complain that it is almost too tricked out, that it can be hard for the less organizationally-minded among us to keep track of which pockets have which items.
A fantastic travel pack that’s just the right size. It has a detachable day pack that can easily hold your laptop when in transit. It's also large enough to fit whatever items you will need once you arrive and start exploring.
Pros: Durable ripstop nylon construction and the heavy-duty zippers on this backpack mean it can handle any abuse tossed its way. The hip belt stows away simply and the wraparound side panels ensure that there are no dangling items if you check the bag for a flight. The main compartment is easily accessed by a wraparound zipper that opens the entire main compartment. It comes in three sizes.
Cons: The 55 liter size pushes the limit for several airlines’ carry-on size limits.
This is an affordable lightweight travel pack that offers great suspension with a plethora of storage spots to allow you to separate items when in transit for better organization.
Pros: Its ventilation system is excellent, which means no sweaty backs after working your way through a city to your location. The hip belt and shoulder straps on this backpack are nicely padded for a comfortable ride. It has enough space that you can use it for longer trips. The front stash pocket is perfect for tossing a jacket when the temps rise. It even has a spot to stash hiking poles if you did want to use it for a camping trip. The waistbelt comes off for when you want to check it on flights.
Cons: It looks more like a traditional trail backpack, not like a travel pack.
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