- Buyer's Guide
The Best Backpacks for Everyday City Commuting
Updated on 15 July 2018
When you’re clocking serious hours in transit, locking down the best backpack for your everyday city commute can make your days smoother and easier. But with so many on the market, how do you zero in on the pack that’s right for you? Well, we’re here to help. Below are four universal features to keep an eye out for and a selection of proven packs, for all budgets, that will be a worthy companion from 9 to 5 and beyond.
Easy-access pockets are really helpful for getting to those little things that you reach for on the regular: headphones, books, snacks and your water bottle.
A slim profile is ideal so you can navigate your way through the crush without scraping your pack across the chest of a stranger every two strides.
Weatherproof or coated fabric is a must.Weatherproof zippers and/or weather guards are also nice to have, and you’ll need to pay a little extra for those.
A sleek and versatile city-slanted aesthetic. Keep the pop-colors for hiking through the sticks, and choose subdued for the urban jungle. Think blacks and blues and greys, so it’ll match any outfit, be it for school or the office.
But we know time is precious. So with these points in mind, we’ve got down to work and selected our top picks for the best backpacks, in a range of budgets and vibes, for everyday city commuting.
Everlane’s Modern Commuter Backpack is a solid budget-friendly option with its clean aesthetics, quick-access pockets and choice of two compartments for organization. Plus there’s an interior padded laptop sleeve to take care of up to 15″ tech.
The 24L Compass Backpack will steer you right with its pared-back looks, plush faux fur lined laptop sleeve and a choice of quick-access pockets to keep smaller essentials within easy reach.
If chic minimalism is what you’re after, the Monolith Minimal Pack is one to have on your radar. The sleek silhouette looks great on the city streets, three external pockets take care of quick-access items, and the wide-opening main compartment offers a 15″ laptop sleeve and MOLLE webbing for interior organization.
The Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck brings tactical functionality to the urban jungle, with a rip-zip opening for rapid access to your daily gear. Quick-access pockets keep essentials within handy reach, while the padded laptop sleeve protects your tech on the go. And with its comfy, burly build you’ll take the commute easily in your stride, with the flexibility to step off the beaten path on your days off too.
Tired of carrying two bags for your work and gym gear? Aer’s Fit Pack 2 will sort you out with its thoughtful organization that keeps work and workout supplies separate yet easily accessible in one sleek bag. A front-loading main compartment handles your gym gear, with a separate ventilated compartment for your shoes. A secondary compartment stores your laptop and work tools, and a quick-access top pocket is handy for small EDC items.
The durable and versatile Helinox TERG All-Way Square features a water-resistant coating and water-resistant YKK zips to protect your gear during rainy commutes. Additionally it gets creative with multiple carry options including backpack, shoulder bag, messenger and briefcase modes so you can tailor it to changing needs and settings.
Available in small runs in a range of colors, the Conceal Pack is a durable pack crafted with water-resistant 1000D Nylon CORDURA® and water-resistant YKK zippers. Made in California, the pack features a concealed side zip pocket for quick-access essentials, along with a choice of interior organization for pens, notebooks, a laptop or tablet, keys and other work and EDC items.
The Arc’teryx Blade 20 finds a great balance between clean, office-friendly aesthetics and functional organization. A host of pockets are on offer for keeping smaller items tidy and at the ready, while the clamshell main compartment provides easy access to tech, documents, lunch and an outer layer. And with its flexible design, this is a handy overnight carry companion too.
Want an EDC bag with the flexibility to go beyond urban streets when the outdoors beckons? Meet the Mantis 26, a versatile and comfortable pack that merges outdoor functionality with everyday practicality. There’s plenty of pockets to keep your EDC or trail essentials in order, along with a sleeve that can accommodate a laptop or hydration bladder.
The RYU Quick Pack 18L is weather-resistant and sleek in build, with great access and a versatile design. The molded interior shell provides protection while also retaining the bag’s shape. And with its drop front opening you can easily reach items throughout the bag. Interior pockets including space for a laptop keep your tools and tech organized, and the adaptable design moves smoothly from the commute to work, the gym and beyond.
Clean, timeless style and a practical design makes this a smart choice for everyday commuting and beyond. The Classic Backpack Plus features a water-resistant and durable Venture-weave exterior, quick-access top and front pockets, and a dedicated laptop compartment with a weatherproof zip. The contoured back panel and removable sternum strap keep you carrying comfortably throughout the day, while the sleek silhouette moves easily from work to the weekend for added versatility.
The DSPTCH Daypack packs a practical punch with its durable, water-resistant build, understated aesthetics and functional design. The front pocket provides convenient storage for frequently used items, while the dedicated laptop compartment fits up to 15″ tech devices. This comfy, made-in-the-USA pack is also backed by a lifetime warranty for added peace of mind.
A thoughtful blend of outdoor and urban design inspiration, this pack looks suave on city streets and day hikes alike. The pack features a dedicated 15″ laptop pocket, quick-access exterior pockets, and a water-resistant and durable build that will withstand years of demanding use.
The Fraction is a sleek, compact and tough pack that works just as well commuting on foot or by bike. The 14L pack features a weatherproof construction, multiple pockets for organization, and fits up to a 13″ laptop. Rounding things off is a lifetime guarantee so you can work hard and play hard with this pack in tow.
Sometimes minimalism can sacrifice functionality, but not so with the Invisible Backpack One. While the exterior is pared back and clean, you’ll find plenty of practical features such as a designated 15″ laptop compartment, a shoe pocket, and handy quick-access pockets, all within a sleek weatherproof design.
If you prioritize organization, the Synapse 25 is a great choice, boasting a range of exterior pockets for convenient access to frequently used and smaller items. Inside the main compartment are O-rings, webbing loops and an elastic-topped pocket for further organization. And with a choice of colorways and fabrics, you can pick one that suits your personal style. Added bonus? All backed by a lifetime guarantee.
The EVERGOODS CPL24 blends outdoor and urban carry DNA to create a pack that’s at home in the urban jungle but ready to venture outdoors when duty calls. The rugged, water-resistant build is complemented by a clean silhouette, ergonomic harness, and handy top and side carry handles. Quick-access storage keeps essentials at the ready, while the clamshell opening lets you conveniently access gear throughout the main compartment.
Designed to shift your expectations of what a work backpack can be, the Bellroy Shift Backpack blends performance and chic aesthetics for work and beyond. The sleek silhouette looks good in formal settings, while the water-resistant and durable Venture-weave exterior effortlessly embraces the commute. The pack’s slide hook closure allows one-handed access and the adjustable volume accommodates a variety of loads. And with its integrated lumbar support and removable sternum strap, the carry comfort is on point too.
The 18L QWSTION Backpack merges understated Swiss styling and practical design that can handle a variety of day-to-day needs. Carry it as a backpack during the commute and opt for the side or top handles in more formal settings. The pack offers a padded sleeve for a 15″ laptop and tablet, quick-access pockets for the essentials, and convenient access throughout the main compartment so you don’t need to rummage for items at the bottom of the bag. And if you’re after something a little smaller, check out the 14L QWSTION Daypack.
Highly water-resistant construction meets sleek aesthetics with the Arc’teryx Granville. The pack’s clean lines suit a range of work environments, while the large top opening lets you easily pack and retrieve items. There’s dedicated storage for your tech and smaller essentials, and the lightweight and versatile design will keep you agile on the go.
Black Ember’s Citadel Minimal Backpack delivers a sophisticated mix of quality craftsmanship, thoughtful organization, easy access and stylishly low-key looks to suit a variety of work settings. The durable and weatherproof pack will take a beating for years to come, while the ergonomic fit provides carry comfort day in and day out. The sleek aesthetics are well complemented by a clamshell opening for easy access and plenty of pockets to keep EDC and work supplies neat and tidy.
The Peak Design Everyday Backpack combines expandability, great access, flexible organization and urban-friendly aesthetics in a design that works well for work, day-to-day needs and photography use. Top and side access lets you easily reach gear throughout the bag, while FlexFold dividers and a range of pockets keep your gear tidy on the move.
Multiple compartments and plenty of pockets means you’ll find a home for all your work tools and EDC in this pack. The bag offers dedicated storage for a laptop and tablet, a water-resistant and abrasion-resistant build, and work-friendly aesthetics that will suit a variety of environments.
Chic and streamlined, the Special Ops Backpack 3.0 brings understated style to any work setting while also delivering on functionality. The pack keeps the elements at bay with a water-repellent army duck cotton canvas and water-resistant zippers. An exterior pocket houses frequently needed items, while the wide-opening main compartment provides further pockets for a laptop and additional work supplies.
When versatility is key, the Bellroy Duo Totepack shines. Carry it tote-style, or backpack it through the city, its slim profile will keep the transit streamlined. Available in two colorways: black in CORDURA Nylon, and Grey Moss in a durable crimp-weave polyester (treated to be water-resistant) and kitted out with fat AquaGuard zips, it’s great for wet-weather cities. The best bit: it’s expandable, so you can bump up your capacity when you need to lug extras home, like groceries or a 6-pack of refreshing ale. A fine all-rounder.
A suave mix of top-notch handcrafted construction, eye-catching looks and practical design makes this a great choice for the daily commute. The weather-resistant Salt & Pepper canvas keeps the contents protected from the elements while looking stylish in work settings. Inside you’ll find a useful mix of pockets for tech, work tools and EDC items, while exterior pockets keep essentials close at hand. And as an added benefit, this pack steps easily into the outdoors when it’s time to explore on your downtime.