Whether you’re going to work, the office, to class, or running errands, hauling everything you need can be a drag. The right bag can make your trips easier on bike, on foot, or on public transportation. Need a small bag to carry just the essentials, a pack with a pocket for a laptop, or something capable of carrying a bunch of groceries? There’s one that will get it done—consider these key points below when looking for a bag.
Read quick reviews of five top options below, or keep scrolling for longer reviews for these packs and more great options, and tips on how to choose the right one.
Comfort Is Key
Especially if you’re traveling a good distance or have a heavy load, look for padded harnesses and straps that will make the pack more comfortable when it’s fully loaded. A waist strap stabilizes the pack and transfers some of the weight to your hips, which alleviates pressure on your shoulders. A sternum compression strap helps balance unwieldy, top-heavy loads. If you’re likely to encounter hot and humid temps, look for a pack that’s designed with ventilation between it and your back.
Consider What You Carry
If you carry a ton of stuff, you’ll need a roomy bag. But not all roomy packs are huge. Some have expandable compartments, panels, or cinch straps that allow you to shrink it down when not fully loaded. And there are some really great sleek options for minimalist commuters.
Daily commuters who need room for a laptop, lunch, and a change of clothes should consider a backpack with a padded sleeve to keep your device safe, in addition to room to for everything else. And make sure your pack fits your laptop—some will only fit 13-inch models.
If you need to take clothes that are more business than casual, look for something with a larger, protected main compartment to keep collared shirts from wrinkling. If weather is a concern, consider a waterproof bag with waterproof zippers or one with a cover that can be easily deployed when it rains. For short, impromptu trips, a simple messenger bag that you can quickly sling over your shoulder might be all you need.
How We Selected These Bags
Every bag on this list has been thoroughly evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. That means we actually used several backpacks on this list just like you would. We loaded them with our daily essentials, including a change of clothes and a lunchbox. We wore them while riding bikes, walking around town, and running errands. To verify the packs are as waterproof as their manufacturers claim, we rode in the rain. For models we didn’t test, we relied on reviews from expert sites, such as PC Mag, Wirecutter, and Gear Patrol, as well as feedback from customers. Our evaluation criteria included price, comfort, durability, aesthetics, and of course, performance. These are our 10 favorite commuting backpacks for people traveling in any weather, hauling a lot of gear, or who just want something with a classic look for the office
Osprey brings the same thoughtful design to its new Metron commuting bag as it does to the hiking packs the brand is known for. Even fully loaded, the 26-liter Metron is comfortable to carry because of the ventilated back and shoulder strap padding and straps at the waist and chest. There are dedicated pockets for your shoes and laptop, an angled water bottle pocket, and when you’re not riding, you can hook your helmet to the front of the pack using a retractable fob. The Metron maintains its slim profile thanks to compression straps, and when it’s wet outside, keep your gear dry with the raincover that stows away in a bottom pocket. Yes, it’s one of the pricier choices on our list, but if you’re a regular commuter, it’s a worthwhile investment.
-BEST FOR LAPTOPS-
Thule Paramount 24L
Thule offers a wide range of backpacks that are well-suited for bike commuters, but the Paramount is ideal if you regularly tote around electronics. There are separate well-padded sleeves for a laptop and a tablet, and you can access your tech from the roll-top opening or a side zipper. With 24 liters of total storage space, the Paramount has plenty of room for your other affects, too, and you can attach a bike light to the front for increased visibility. Like most Thule gear, it’s also backed up by a lifetime warranty.
-BEST FOR RAINY DAYS-
Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City
If you bike in the rain and want to make sure your laptop, work clothes, and other gear are protected, Ortlieb’s Commuter Daypack City is a great choice. The 21-liter pack is made from polyurethane-laminated nylon, which is tough and keeps water out, whether it’s rain from the sky above or spray from your wheel below. Air-permeable shoulder straps reduce sweat on hot and muggy days, and the padded back has cooling ventilation channels to wick sweat. Seal your gear inside with the dry bag–style roll-top closure. Then clip on your taillight and stash your U-lock—the pack has dedicated spots for both.
-BEST CASUAL BAG-
Topo Designs Rover Pack
The eye-catching color block pattern comes in bright and muted tones for every style. But there’s more to this bag than just looks. Topo combines 1,000-denier Cordura and 400-denier nylon pack cloth to create a heavy-duty and water-repellent pack. The internal compartment, which has a drawstring closure, includes a 15-inch laptop sleeve and a small zippered pocket. The padded shoulder straps are very comfortable and made us wish the back was equally as cushioned. At 20 liters, we found the Rover Pack isn’t big enough to fit an extra pair of shoes along with our other daily essentials, but we liked it for running errands around town.
Matein Mlassic Backpack
Thousands of Amazon customers have been impressed with the Matein Mlassic Backpack, and we can see why. Keep your haul organized within the three zippered compartments, which have space for a laptop, tablet, shoes, and more. Attach a battery pack to the built-in USB charging port, and you can power up your electronics as as you pedal. The Mlassic is also available in two sizes: a 27.5-liter bag that fits a 15-inch laptop and a 36-liter pack that can store a 17-inch device. We comfortably carted the Mlassic around, though it was bulky and the lack of waist and chest straps made it less comfortable than the Osprey. But those are trade-offs we can live with at a backpack this price.
Pelican Mobile Protect Backpack
Known for their legendary cases and coolers, Pelican hits a home run with their first foray into soft goods. The Mobile Protect retains Pelican’s understated style in a feature-loaded 35-liter pack. A dedicated compartment for your electronics includes space for a laptop and tablet, and the plethora of pockets in the main storage compartment keeps the rest of your gear organized. The 1,000-denier nylon shell is ultra-tough, water-resistant, and sports padded impact zones to protect your valuables. But should you push it a little too far, Pelican offers a lifetime warranty on the pack. Shorter people might not find the Mobile Protect the most comfortable, though, given its 24-inch height.
The North Face Surge
The North Face has a backpack to fit just about any need, but the 31-liter Surge is a versatile choice that’s equally at home on a bike commute or stuffed in an overhead compartment. Like the Pelican, you’ll get both laptop and tablet sleeves, along with plenty of pockets inside and out for lugging your stuff. The well designed support system features a fully padded back panel and shoulder straps, along with straps at the chest and waist. The North Face also makes the Surge in a women’s version, featuring shoulder straps adjusted to better fit a female torso. All that comfort comes at a cost, though. The Surge weighs over 3 pounds when empty.
Timbuk2 Especial Scope Backpack
Thanks to an expandable zippered pocket, the Scope goes from medium (24 liters) to large (36 liters) with ease. That’s helpful for commuters who sometimes need a little extra room for all their stuff. Magnetic-buckle compression straps keep things tight, and side pockets are perfect for hauling water bottles or stashing a U-lock. The laptop compartment, which fits models up to 15 inches, is fully waterproof, and the rest of the pack is water-resistant. The sleek black design also has a key safety feature: large reflective stripes to catch the eye of passersby.
-BEST ROLL-TOP PACK-
Miir Commuter Backpack
MiiR’s Commuter Backpack is a 25-liter streamlined bag that promises not to skimp on durability or waterproofing. The 630-denier nylon is topped with a durable water repellent finish on the outside and a PU coating on the inside and zippers keep water out. There’s a padded pocket for your laptop and a loop for a bike light, among other standard features. Plus, the roll-top design includes a top zipper for easy access when you’re on the go.
Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack
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, you’ll find plenty of updated conveniences, 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 of this 25-liter backpack? Tons and tons of color options.