A good commuter backpack is crucial for anyone who carries a lot of gear to work or school every day. And that is exactly what you will see in this review – 10 of the best commuter backpacks money can buy!
I’ve found something for everyone’s price range, so there’s plenty of options for everyone. And bear in mind that even the pricier backpacks are not ridiculously expensive, and are well under the $200 mark. So, without further ado, let’s get into the top commuter backpacks on the market right now!
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Best Travel Option
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BEST FOR CYCLISTS
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BEST BUDGET PACK
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Timbuk2 is a well-known brand – they are very popular for the quality and durability of their bags. And what’s even better is that nearly all of their bags are incredibly stylish, and you could easily pull off wearing one of them with a suit. Granted, you can’t really pull that off with the Armory backpack since it is a bit sportier, but if you would be interested in something like that, you should definitely check out some other Timbuk2 bags.
In fact, this bag looks so sporty because it was inspired by the classic mountaineering pack, something that is quite obvious when you look at the overall functionality and versatility of the Armory.
Its backpanel is thickly padded and ventilated so that it can keep you cool both on the subway and on the hiking trail. As is the harness, which features a sternum strap that promises to keep both shoulder straps closely together, and distribute the weight of the pack more evenly.
The interior of this backpack is divided into several compartments and pockets, which includes a very spacious main compartment with a thickly padded laptop sleeve that can easily fit any 15” laptop. The zipper to this compartment is lockable, which helps keep your belongings inside more secure.
And there is also the front compartment with an organizer panel, which has spots for your pens, keys, and any other smaller items you would like to have handy. In addition to that, this backpack comes with a bottle opener, which probably won’t come in handy at work, but is an awesome feature to have in the great outdoors.
With a sleek, modern exterior and several hidden zippers pullers, the Incase City Commuter is another superb choice. It is a minimalistic backpack, and it is a great option for all of you that want something professional and business-like.
It has a roomy main compartment with a padded laptop sleeve and expandable capacity – a feature that can come in handy when your workload suddenly doubles, or when you want to use the pack as a carry-on.
The laptop sleeve is said to fit a 15” MacBook Pro, meaning that you might not be able to fit the average 15.6” laptop. That is one downside – not all of us carry around MacBooks, and it is sad Incase did not consider that.
In addition to the main compartment, this backpack is also equipped with a front compartment that has an organizer panel. A convenient feature not just for the cables and chargers, but also for other accessories you would like to have neatly organizer. And the front compartment also has room for some files and notebooks, which you don’t see that often.
There are two other zippered pockets on the front panel. The upper one is small and lined with fleece – great for your phone or sunglasses. And the lower one is a bit bigger and has a cleverly hidden zipper puller.
The great thing about this backpack is that it has a rather comfortable backpanel, with plenty of padding and breathable mesh. There is also the sternum strap, which will keep the padded shoulder straps neatly in place, and help distribute the pack’s load more evenly.
SwissGear backpacks are always an option that won’t disappoint you – they are durable, made from premium materials and they are highly functional. I would generally recommend these to the younger crowd, since they look a little too casual for the strict offices. The Travel Gear 1900 backpack in particular is a great option if your workplace is quite casual, especially if you want something that easily doubles as carry on.
The laptop compartment of this backpack is TSA friendly, and it can fit any 17” laptop. This compartment is thickly padded, and it will protect your electronics in case you drop the backpack. In addition to that, the backpack has another smaller pocket in this compartment, which you can use to store your tablet or some of the laptop accessories.
But you will also have plenty of space for cables and chargers in the main compartment, thanks to all the different pockets. In addition to that, you also get an organizer panel in the lower front compartment, but it is very small. You can use it for pens, keys and smaller papers – perhaps a passport if you’re travelling with this pack.
The exterior of the Scansmart 1900 is made from 1200D ballistic polyester, which is a very durable material. Its backpanel is heavily padded and equipped with Airflow ventilation technology, which promises to keep you cool even in sweaty summer days.
However, this highly functional backpack doesn’t have a hipbelt or a sternum strap, so you will feel the full weight of it on your shoulders. This could be an issue if you fill it with heavy items, so keep that in mind.
The Pack ’n Pedal by Thule is an amazing commuter backpack. It features a unique opening style – the roll top is held in place by plastic buckles at the sides, which are a bit of an anti-theft feature. There’s no way someone could undo those and start rummaging through your pack without you noticing what’s happening.
And the main compartment is waterproof, meaning that your belongings will stay protected from weather, as well as thieves. It also comes with a protective rain cover, which will further reinforce this protection.
One thing I really like about this backpack is that it comes with a floating organizer panel. This panel features a padded laptop sleeve, a tablet sleeve and a spacious zippered pocket that’s perfect for all the cables and chargers. It fits like a glove inside the main compartment, but you can always take it out should you need more space.
And the backpack features a proper organizer panel in front compartment. This one has a zippered pocket, several smaller slip pockets, and a key clip. In addition to that, the Pack ’n Pedal commuter backpack has three more external pockets – two on the sides, and another one on the front organizer panel.
One reason why this backpack is a good option for those of you who often ride your bike is the flexible helmet net. And also the daisy chain webbing on the sides, which allow you to attach your bulkier gear to the exterior of your backpack with a carabiner.
If you’re on a really tight budget, I would suggest theAmazonBasics commuter backpack. They actually have a lot of products in the luggage/backpack range, and they’re not half bad. In fact, this particular backpack has nearly four thousand beaming reviews, which speaks a lot about the quality!
This laptop backpack features several compartments and pockets, and it is great for the organized commuter. The main compartment is rather spacious, and it features sleeves for both your tablet and laptop. Amazon claims that their backpack is suitable for 17” laptops, but reviewers seem to disagree with this statement.
This pack also has a roomy front compartment, as well as two very large zippered pockets on the front panel. The lower of the two is equipped with an organizer and a key clip, and it’s perfect for all your smaller items. There are also two side pockets on this commuter pack, which have compression straps to ensure that even the largest bottles stay in place.
The backpanel is decent, but it’s not impressive. It has a total of three panels that are padded and ventilated, which is not really enough to keep you cool and dry during hot summer days. But, for some $30, I’m not complaining!
Another thing worth mentioning is that the AmazonBasics backpack a very small zippered pocket on top, just below the grab handle. It’s perfect for your phone or sunglasses, and it is barely noticeable!
Unfortunately, the exact capacity of this commuter backpack is not specified, but it is very roomy. It will be able to hold all your files, folders and electronics, and you just might be able to squeeze in your gym gear as well!
Kenneth Cole is a designer brand, and they’re actually pretty popular for their affordable luggage collections. This backpack is one of their best-sellers, and it’s one of the options that you could easily take to the office with a strict dress code. The exterior of the backpack is very sleek and professional, and it blends in anywhere.
This Reaction backpack is a versatile option; it can easily double as a travel bag, due to its carry on size and TSA friendly laptop compartment. However, the main compartment is perhaps more travel-oriented than it should be – it looks more like a compartment of a suitcase, and it features only two pockets.
This does mean that you can easily stuff it with notebooks, planners and files, and use the rest of the compartments for all your other stuff. The laptop compartment is in the back, and it can fit all 15” and most 17” laptops.
The front compartment is not too spacious, but it does have a very elaborate organizing panel, with multiple slip pockets and pen holders. One of the slip pockets is even large enough to fit a tablet, and another one is RFID safe – perfect for your wallet. And there is also a smaller pocket on the front panel, designed for your sunglasses or phone.
This backpack has padding in the backpanel, but only parts of it are ventilated. Some of the mesh material covers the luggage strap in the back, which is a wonderfully handy feature if you actually want to use this as a travel pack. However, this backpack is not equipped with a sternum strap or a hipbelt, so it is not the most comfortable option you could find.
Pretty much anything you pick up from Samsonite is going to be high quality. And this UBX backpack is no exception – it is made from durable polyester, with a thickly padded backpanel. There are several ventilated panels on the backpanel as well, and a thin luggage strap.
And that is just one of several features that makes this commuter backpack a really good option for travel as well. Its main compartment is very spacious, with several sleeves that are large enough to fit all the papers and files you could pack. It also features some zippered pockets that can easily hold all your chargers and cables.
The laptop compartment is not TSA friendly, but it is separate from the rest of the pack. It has thick padding inside, which will protect your laptop from any nasty bumps or falls. You can fit a 15.6” device in this compartment, but you will not be able to fit anything bigger.
There is also a front compartment with an organizer panel on the UBX commuter backpack, which is great for easy access to any smaller items you would like to have at hand. One of the sleeves on the panel can fit a tablet, while the others are smaller and suitable for your phone, wallet, passport, pens, notes, etc.
This pack also features two-side water bottle pockets, as well as a smaller zippered pocket on the front panel. Overall, it is a really good option if you want something reliable and sturdy, which will allow you to easily organize all of your belongings.
The Division commuter bag is another versatile option. It is small enough that you could use it as a carry-on if you wanted to travel with it, and it has an expandable capacity – a feature you rarely see on a commuter or travel backpack.
Its laptop compartment is in the back, and it can easily fit average 15” laptops. However, it is not TSA-friendly, so this is not the most travel-friendly commuter backpack you can get. It is thickly padded though, and it will protect your laptop in case of a fall or bump.
The main compartment of this commuter pack is very spacious, and it will easily fit all the items you need to carry around on a daily basis. It also features a quick access organizer panel, with plenty of slip and zip pockets for all your smaller items. However, the panel is inside the main compartment, which is not exactly ideal for the organization.
This backpack does have a smaller front compartment, but it’s mostly good for quickly stashing away items. In addition to that, there is a single water bottle mesh pocket on the side, which is quite handy.
The backpanel of The Division is padded, and it will feel soft against your back. But the ventilation is not the best, so your back might not be able to breathe that much in really hot weather.
There is a removable sternum strap on the harness of this pack, and that’s an upside. It keeps the shoulder straps in place, and it helps distribute the load of the pack evenly across your back.
The Jester is a good inexpensive option from The North Face. This bag is often used as a travel backpack and has been around for some time now. It’s much cheaper than it was when it was first released. If you like what you see here, I suggest you grab it before TNF comes up with a redesign, and significantly bumps up the price.
It features the FlexVent backpanel with plenty of padding and breathable mesh, which has managed to score an approval of the American Chiropractic Association. And it comes with a sternum strap that will help keep those shoulder straps in place.
The Jester has a spacious main compartment with a padded laptop sleeve inside. There are no other pockets in this compartment, but it is roomy enough to fit your notebooks, files, and whatnot.
Then there is the front compartment with an organizer panel, which is perfect for all the smaller items you carry around. It features a tablet sleeve, a large zippered pocket, several smaller slip pockets, and pen holders. In addition to that, this commuter bag is also equipped with stretch side pockets, which are the perfect size for a water bottle.
And you also get bungee cords on the front panel that allows you to quickly stash away a spare layer of clothing, no matter how bulky it is. Plus, the attachment below the bungee cords allows you to add a bike light to the pack, which will come in handy if you tend to ride your bike to work/school.
The Daylite Plus by Osprey is an excellent and versatile commuter backpack. It is incredibly lightweight and yet pretty spacious, thanks to the multiple internal and external compartments. The exterior of this pack is made from 210D Nylon Oxford, which is a very durable and water resistant material.
The main compartment of the Daylite Plus is roomy, and it features a padded laptop sleeve. The backpack also has a front compartment with an organizer panel, two side pockets, a zippered front pocket, and a quick-stash pocket. In addition to that, this Osprey pack also has an external hydration sleeve just behind the backpanel, which is compatible with their Hydraulics LT reservoirs.
Both the backpanel and the harness of the pack are padded and ventilated throughout. Osprey is very well known for putting lots of thought into their back systems, and the one of the Daylite Plus does not disappoint. It is very comfortable and breathable, and it will keep you cool and dry throughout your adventures.
One thing that is really awesome about this backpack is that it is compatible with some of Osprey’s larger backpacking/hiking packs. Meaning that you could actually attach it to an Ariel backpack or a Sojourn, and carry both of them at the same time. This makes an excellent option for travel, in addition to being a really good commuter backpack.
Oh, and the Daylite Plus has both the sternum strap and the hipbelt, which ensure that it stays safely secured to your back. And which help transfer the load of the pack onto your hips, so that you won’t have to deal with sore shoulders ever again.
Depending on how many items you carry around on a daily basis, you will want to look for a backpack that can actually hold them all. And not just have them jumbled around in the main compartment, but something that allows you to organize everything neatly so that you always know where everything is.
If you’re always carrying your laptop, then a dedicated sleeve or compartment for your electronics is a must. It’s also preferable for the backpack to have smaller pockets for all the necessary accessories – charger, mouse, external drive, etc.
On the other hand, if you tend to carry a lot of pens and papers with you, you should look for a backpack that has an entire compartment dedicated to the organization. These will generally feature several slip pockets – some of them large enough to fit a regular iPad – and pen holders, with ample space in the actual compartment for the papers and notebooks.
How do you get to school or work every day? It’s important to take this into consideration because you will need to get a backpack that’s going to fit in with your way of commuting.
If you’re driving to work every day, then this is not really going to be an issue. But if you’re riding a bike for half an hour to work every single day, you should look for a lightweight backpack that’s made from durable materials, and that has both a sternum strap and a hipbelt. These two clever features will stop the backpack from bouncing around on your shoulders, and assure that it stays attached to your body even if you go flying off your bike.
And if you’re riding the subway or the bus to school, I highly suggest you look into anti-theft backpacks. There are loads of amazing options out there, but I’m only going to show you a few of the best ones here. Those backpacks are excellent for public transportation, as they are usually made from cut-proof fabrics, feature lockable zippers, and will successfully deter any pickpocket that tries to get inside them.
I would also suggest an anti-theft backpack if your preferred method of commute is walking.
It’s important that you get a backpack that will feel comfortable, even if you load it up with bricks. Of course, this matters the most if you’re actually carrying the backpack on your shoulders for the better part of the day – if your method of commuting is driving, you don’t really have to worry too much about its size or weight.
But if you get on that bike every morning, you need something that won’t weigh you down. Look for backpacks that are lightweight and small, but still large enough to fit your laptop.
In addition to that, you should always take a really close look at the backpanel and harness – these are the things that actually matter if you are wearing a backpack every day. Look for packs that have some sort of ventilation system in the backpanel and harness, as well as thick padding.
These features will keep you cool and dry even in the scorching summer heat, and they will stop you from coming into work with a sweaty patch on your back.
The padding also ensures that you won’t feel anything poking you in the back while you’re actually commuting, which is really helpful if you tend to carry bulky and heavy objects in your pack.
Do you want only a commuter backpack, or would you prefer something versatile? If you want a versatile pack, what’s the other purpose you would use it for – travel, cycling, or hiking?
If it’s travel, you should look for a TSA-friendly backpack – I will show you a few of those in this review.
If it’s cycling, it should be something small and comfortable to wear; something that will not weigh you down, and that can endure a nasty fall.
And if it’s a hiking, trekking, or any other outdoor adventure, your main priority should be carrying comfort – ventilation, and padding in the harness and backpanel.
Whenever a backpack has some of these excellent versatile features, I will make sure to mention them in the pros boxes.
Not sure which backpack is just right for you? Well, I have a recommendation for your price range. Here are my top three backpacks, starting with the cheapest option.
If you’re really pinching pennies, then I recommend you try out the AmazonBasics Commuter backpack. It’s a really affordable option that’s worth giving a shot – the backpack has thousands of great reviews, and is praised for its functionality. You will be able to organize all of your belongings easily, thanks to the several spacious compartments. And all the other external pockets will hold your smaller items, which could otherwise get lost in the roomy capacity of this backpack.
If you’re looking for something that’s neither cheap nor expensive, go with the Incase City Commuter. It is a very business-looking backpack, so it’s really the best option if you need something for the office. The sleek exterior will fit into any dress code, and the roomy interior will hold all your belongings. This backpack even has an expandable capacity, which makes it a great option not just for commute, but also for travel. And the laptop sleeve is padded so that it can protect your laptop (as long as it’s not larger than a 15” MacBook Pro).
And if you can afford to splurge on a commuter, backpack, then I suggest you pick up the Thule Pack ’n Pedal. Especially if you’re frequently commuting on your bike – this backpack is perfect for cyclists, thanks to the helmet and light attachments. It also features a removable laptop and tablet sleeve, as well as an entire organizing panel in the front compartment. In addition to that, the main compartment is waterproof and features roll-top closure – it needs to be secured to the sides with plastic buckles, which act as sort of an anti-theft feature.
Those would be the three backpacks I was impressed by the most. However, you can pick up any one of the ten backpacks I showed you – all of them are rated remarkably high by thousands of happy owners. You can see their prices and color options on Amazon.
And if you did not find what you were looking for in this review, be sure to check out our related posts!