Top 5: Best Work Backpack 2020
To reach the pinnacle of Best Work Backpack 2020, there’s always the key elements to hit: the right level of refined style and formality for the office. The right organization and protection for your daily tools. Fast and easy access to those tools. And the all-important comfort level, when you’ve crushed a long day and you need that transit home to be as effortless as possible.
The above is the baseline. But to truly excel and become champion, a pack must do so much more. It must delight and innovate. Capture your imagination. Nail that X-factor. Or come in at incredible value. The below do just that, but which one in particular has done it best?
It’s safe to say that San Francisco’s Aer has mastered the secret sauce. As a brand, they resonate to a huge cross section of Carryologists, appealing to ‘the organizers’ who need pockets for all the small things, while maintaining a pared-back vibe to still appeal to the minimalists. They’re office-appropriate but with enough attitude and street style to cross over to fashion. And their material and hardware choices are well in line with premium military brands, but with more approachable price tags swinging from the grab handle. It’s a remarkable achievement, and something a lot of brands strive for, but inevitably fall short on.
Pair that remarkable balancing act with the constant pursuit of perfection (note their consistent upgrades to their range) and you’ve got one helluva brand, doing so much right.
And the Aer Day Pack 2 is a quintessential example of the above: Quality materials. Smart design. Versatile aesthetics. A high value proposition at $140. All wrapped in a pack iterated from version 1 to be even better.
So let’s dig into the details. The nylon face is coated with carbonate polyurethane, giving an extra fashion element and a clean minimal exterior. It’s soft to touch but burly and water resistant, and will scuff just a touch to give a little character as it ages.
The shoulder straps are wide, thick and padded – and if you look closely, reinforced with bar tacks to make sure they don’t fail over years of use.
The back panel is made of an incredibly strong but soft mesh, has a ventilation channel down its spine for airflow, and also has a luggage pass-through sleeve for easy attachment to rolling luggage when in transit.
The carry handle is a good size, supplying a big enough gap for even the biggest paws. It’s also incredibly soft, which is important when it’s one of the spots you’ll engage with most.
The zippers are strong and smooth and YKK with metal zipper pulls. Yup, you’ll get a little ‘clinking’ when they knock against each other, but they surely won’t age or fail.
And when it comes to organizing, there’s plenty of options with the admin panel, and lots of thought put into protecting your beloved tech with a suspended and soft-lined sleeve to do just that.
And then of course, there’s those nice touches that Aer weaves in, like a felt-lined sunglasses pocket and reverse coil zippers with garages for extra weather security.
At 14.8L this is a size that suits males (under 6ft is probably the sweet spot) and females alike. It’s everything you’d want in a work backpack – refined minimal style, good organization, weather protection, long-lasting build, with nice design touches, all at an exceptional price. Classic Aer!
Wins in value
Minimal and versatile aesthetics
Great protection for tech
Lithuanian-based OPPOSETHIS are a brand synonymous with minimalism. Ever since their Invisible Backpack dropped in 2014, they’ve been working to build a range of bags that wear ‘invisibly’ on your back, with a design DNA hell-bent on clean lines, hidden pocketing, and smooth low-key styling, amounting to a look and feel all their own and bags that tend to lean back from the foreground, chameleon-like, and adapt to any scenario or outfit.
They’re also a brand that reiterates, improving their staples from season to season (note their naming conventions: ONE, TWO, THREE), and adding new pieces along the way – and the ARK is the newest addition to their growing stable.
The 25L clamshell backpack (made in the EU) has a clean tombstone silhouette. Built from a weatherproof nylon-polyester blend (which comes with a subtle sheen), it’s lightweight (950g / 33.5oz) and stripped back to the bare essentials: size 4 YKK zippers all round with a reverse coil on the laptop compartment and stash pocket, lightly padded contoured shoulder straps, and a simple fabric back panel with a luggage pass-through.
The front compartment is spacious, perfect for a day or two’s clothes or organizer cubes with the flap donning two small organized compartments, one gusseted for a little extra room.
The laptop compartment is floating, and there are three more compartments for things like a tablet and other items like notebooks or chargers / batteries.
The zipper pulls are long and easy to grab, and simply a lithe folded strip of nylon-polyester. The grab handle is a cushy rubberised PU that feels nice in the hand and appears to be sewn in well. And the side water bottle pocket is entirely invisible and a delightful surprise.
All in all, this is a pack stripped right back. There are no extras piled on or superfluous features weaved in for the sake of it. It’s clean, light, timeless in looks, and ‘invisible’. And that’s exactly the intention.
Versatile minimalist aesthetics
There’s something very romantic about Japan’s rofmia. Situated in Minokamo City, Gifu Prefecture, in a small boutique (a renovated kimono store), a small team of craftsmen design, create patterns, sew and sell from a space as beautiful as its products – think rooms divided by washi partitions, tatami mats, sculpted gardens outside, with the crystal clear Kiso River running out front. It’s something to behold, and notches up the mystique of this special little Japanese brand doing beautiful things with Dyneema and daily carry.
And that’s really just the beginning of the experience you get with rofmia. There’s lovely touches along every step of the product journey here. From rich abstract photography printed on the wrapping paper and included postcards by their ALIGHT collective stablemate, Masaki Yokoyama, to a handwritten note, to the immaculate build and hand-feel once you start interacting with the 22L Daypack V2. Every stitch and line is hit with perfection. And as an object it’s a thing of beauty, certainly walking the line of art piece meets pack. And if that’s your jam, then this will most definitely bring you delight.
Building on version one, there’s a lot more to like with V2. There’s more capacity (22L vs 17L), burlier Dyneema (5.0oz vs 2.9oz), better access through a full clamshell, added Fidlock to the removable sternum strap, and a triple-layered (two layers of Dyneema with stretch material in-between) reinforced bottom.
The shoulder straps have also been improved and carry really well, with beefy foam, ergonomic contours and soft stretch fabric underside to ensure your expensive shirts don’t pill or chafe.
The internal pocketing is minimal and again made from 4-way stretch, providing super soft and comfortable interactions inside the crunchy Dyneema shell, with my favorite pocket in the main compartment up high and out of crush zones.
Around the main compartment, there’s three AquaGuard matte zippers (with shapely ergonomic zipper pulls) that allow for dynamic access to your contents. Only half zip from the bottom to access gear from your hip or completely open up when loading in your daily gear suitcase-style.
And being a small, agile maker, there’s custom options available too. You can choose an outer or inner water bottle pocket, and even left-handed versions if the timing is right.
All in all, this is a remarkable piece. This is backpack craftsmanship at its very best, and a beautiful object worthy of any collection. It’s a daypack made even better in V2. And one of the best urban daypacks made from Dyneema, period. If you’ve got the passion for top-tier carry and deepish pockets (this is certainly in Nomin price tag territory), then this is something that’ll bring you delight on a daily basis.
Wins in X-Factor
Top-tier build and materials
We’ve been fans of Amsterdam’s Property Of… for many years. It’s a brand that has always kept to classic and timeless design but with a driving intent to layer in modern improvements. Their bags are beautiful in person and are designed to age and form a lovely character over time, with their leather, brass and canvas combination developing fine patinas.
In recent years, they’ve flipped their entire bag line to sustainable polyester made from recycled PET bottles – the Charlie 12h’s fabric is made from 18 recycled bottles to be precise. The canvas is very natural-looking and rugged in the hand with exceptional weatherproofness. Pair that with the flap lid design and it’s nearly an impenetrable force in dealing with inclement weather.
The silhouette is a classic rucksack design, nodding to early European hiking and school packs, and appeals to those who lean more to the history books for their style choices.
The main leather strap also has a smart touch. It looks like it needs to be unlatched but instead features an easy magnetic buckle that allows quick opening of the lid and access to the lid pocket, front stash and main compartment. Fitting a 13″ tech device, the interior organization gives you everything you need, plus a nice touch with a removable travel pouch for smaller items.
When carrying it feels good on the back and has soft mesh and thin, curved shoulder straps that provide ample comfort. As far as size, at 9L the Charlie 12h is enough for a day’s carry and no more, with Property Of’s Alex 24h the next natural step up for larger folks and larger loads.
And, if you’re not familiar with PO, then you’ll get a kick out of the little extras you get by carrying their gear – a personlized leather ID tag with your initials, and their free worldwide Lost&Found Service. It’s fun and practical, much like PO, let’s be honest.
As a work bag, this is a classic and timeless option, with modern practicality designed in. It’s sustainably built, and will last for many years without ever going out of style. Smart. Compact. Classic. And we wouldn’t expect anything less from Property Of….
Timeless and classic design
There’s very few brands with a more loyal following than Tom Bihn. It seems once you carry a TB then there’s a 90% chance that you’re hooked for life. And so what’s the addictive recipe, you ask? Well it’s very simple: well-crafted bags, built in the US with a lifetime guarantee, with purpose-built features not only designed in, but fine-tuned, constantly, through user feedback. And the Synik (the reimagined Carry Award-winning Synapse) is no different. Officially designed by in-house team “Nik in collaboration with Tom (the man himself)”, it actually feels like a bag that’s been designed by thousands of people. Every corner of the bag has a nice detail, that little extra step worked in to make daily interactions just that little more pleasurable.
At a compact 22L, and with an almost turtle shell silhouette, the Synik comes in at a good size and shape for guys (under 6ft) and gals. And with a huge stable of exterior fabric (525d HT ballistic, 420d HT Parapack, and 400d Halcyon, and interiors of 210d HT ballistic, 420d HT Parapack, and 200d Halcyon) and liners, there’s almost limitless combinations and opportunity to customize your Synik to your own style.
Certainly one for the organizers among us, the exterior pocketing is out there for all to see, bringing a geometric vibe to the facing panelwork, and ensuring there’s a pocket for you to quickly access all of your small essentials. Dig inside the pockets and you have even more options, such as pen slots and O-rings for attaching TB’s huge selection of pouches.
Standing up to TB’s reputation, this pack is also exceptionally built. The stitch lines are clean and straight, the zippers are bulky YKKs, and the bag feels incredibly good in the hand.
The back panel is no-frills with a strong, soft mesh with stitch lines to create some grip, but with a welcome inch-thick wad of foam, providing some real cushy comfort.
Digging inside through the clamshell opening, there’s more goodness in the main compartment with more O-rings for mods, a snug and suspended laptop sleeve, and removable internal cinch straps to keep a day’s worth of clothes neatly compressed and to help push this bag past daily use and into travel scenarios.
The Synik is truly an impressive feat. It’s a pack that has been tinkered with and fine-tuned and built to last a lifetime. It’s a pack that’s intuitive to use, and works well for many use cases and load types. It’s honest and no BS. And that’s where the charm lies.
Wins in features
Most customization options
VOTING FOR BEST WORK BACKPACK CLOSES SEPTEMBER 13TH