10 Best laptop backpacks for travel

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Traveling with a laptop bag might initially seem like overkill for those who pride themselves on their savvy packing skills. After all, is it really necessary to carry a bag dedicated to your computer? I’m thinking of those bulky, multi-pocket black padded shoulder bags that look like something out of a late ‘90s CIA movie. Aren’t laptop bags a clunky and outdated concept at this point? 

The key here is to take a look at what laptop bags have evolved into, which is a far cry from the original design you might be thinking of. Laptop backpacks are now the ideal carry-on. Yes, they do protect your computer when you’re taking it out at TSA, dropping your bag on the floor, and stuffing it under your seat for take-off. But they also come in a variety of stylish and smart designs. You can imagine that they folks who are designing these bags to protect your laptop also have some thoughtful ideas around minimalist design and smart organization, making the laptop backpack a perfect travel bag. Here, we took a look at the top 10 laptop backpacks with function, style, and organization for travel in mind. 

Herschel Little America

Just to prove that a laptop bag can be both really stylish and totally functional, I had to start out with the Herschel Little America. This bag comes in fifty-eight different colors (you might spend as much time deciding on the perfect color as you do flying from Chicago to San Francisco), includes a padded 15” laptop sleeve, and has multiple other pockets to keep all of your carry on items organized and easily accessible. Plus, it looks like a backpack that you would want to wear around town once you arrive. 

Matein Travel Laptop Backpack

The Matein Travel Laptop Backpack kind of does it all, plus it has over 24,000 rave reviews on Amazon, and is at a really affordable price point. The Matein is waterproof, has a built-in USB charging port, easily fits over the handle of a small roller bag, and has a secret pocket on the back where you can store valuables. This bag would be great for a college student looking for a laptop backpack that can double as both a travel bag and a school backpack. 

Timbuk2 Q Laptop Backpack

The Timbuk2 brand is known for its sturdy, waterproof travel bags and commuter bags. This laptop backpack is another great example of beautiful, minimalist design from the San Francisco-based company, with a lot of thought given to function as well. The Q Laptop Backpack was designed with comfort and organization in mind. The bag has an air mesh back panel, to keep you cool and ventilated.  So whether you’re breaking a sweat running through the airport to catch a flight, or enjoying the day while riding around Amsterdam on a bike, this backpack would be a great choice. 

KROSER Laptop Backpack

The KROSER laptop backpack is another great option for those who are looking for a more affordable bag that still comes with a lot of nice features. The design is fairly nondescript, in a good way. This backpack is made from a water repellent material to provide protection from the rain and comes in both a 15” and 17” option. It contains a USB port for on the go charging, and has a large front pocket where you can keep travel documents and electronics easily accessible. 

Thule Crossover 25L Daypack

For those who are looking for a super burly, durable laptop backpack with tons of padding, the Thule Crossover is worth checking out. Although it is not a hard case, many of the reviews mention that there is much more rigidity to this bag then the standard laptop bag. The padded sleeve fits a 15” laptop, and the front pocket can also hold an iPad. This bag would be a great option for someone who is traveling a bit more off the beaten-path and is on the hunt for an extra-tough laptop backpack. 

Fjallraven Kanken

Another brand that will get you a few style points is the Fjallraven Kanken laptop backpack. Fjallraven is a brand that is based in Sweden, and has been popular for quite some time, especially around the global travel circuit. One of the big selling points about this backpack is the sustainable and built-to-last material it is made out of. This backpack is made of 65% recycled polyester and 35% organic cotton with a wax coating in the help to protect from rain and snow. The Kanken comes in both a 17” and 15” laptop sleeve option. 

Pacsafe Metrosafe

Are you planning to travel with a lot of expensive equipment in addition to your laptop? If so, you might want the extra protection of the Pacsafe Metrosafe bag. I’m thinking of those folks who are headed out with their camera or video equipment. You might not feel comfortable placing these items in your checked bag and running the risk that they aren’t delivered to your destination. The Pacsafe metrosafe backpack was built specifically as an anti-theft bag with locking zippers, a slim, tapered design, and pockets that are placed strategically to avoid pickpocketing. 

Carhartt Legacy

Carhartt is well known for its nearly indestructible fabric, which is a fantastic quality to look for in a travel laptop backpack. The Legacy is made from Carhartt’s synthetic, abrasion- and water-resistant material and includes a padded 17” laptop sleeve to keep your computer safe. This backpack is another example of a bag that does a lot more than simply hold a computer. There are extra pockets to hold small items like pens and keys and larger pockets that can accommodate a water bottle and extra electronics. 

Targus Compact Rolling Backpack

I had to include at least one rolling laptop backpack on this list because, let’s face it, sometimes our backs need a rest! Having the option to roll your backpack through the airport might sound a bit uncool to backpack traditionalists, but by the time your wheels hit the ground all of that will be left behind you. The Targus backpack offers a ton of storage space and easily converts from a backpack to a rolling bag. It also includes a removable laptop sleeve, a nice feature that allows you to keep your computer protected as you move it from one bag to another. 

The North Face Recon Backpack

TNF’s Recon backpack was designed for safety and visibility with 360 degrees of reflectivity. This is a great bag for those who commute or travel at night and are looking for a bag that is highly reflective. This backpack is also ideal for someone who is going to be wearing it for long stretches of time, as the positive reviews mention that it’s incredibly comfortable for all-day use. This might be your laptop backpack, your carry-on and your day bag, all in one. 

FAQ about laptop bags for travel

What are the benefits of getting a travel laptop bag?

Laptop backpacks are designed with organization in mind! That is one of the top reasons that these bags double as the perfect travel bag (even if you don’t bring your computer). You’ll find a spot for all of your carry on essentials and will be able to find them easily when you need them. 

What are TSA-approved laptop bags and do they work?

A few years ago, TSA released guidelines for approved laptop bags. These bags are designed so that the laptops can remain in the bag while it goes through the x-ray screening in an effort to help speed up the TSA process. That said, the TSA is very clear that they still hold the right to determine whether or not a laptop bag is truly TSA-approved. 

What should you pack in your laptop bag?

You should pack all of the standard items you would want in your carry-on. This includes all travel documents that you’ll need to have accessible, any electronics or books you’ll want while in flight, and other conveniences that you typically bring on the plane with you. 

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that laptop bags serve a large range of purposes beyond simply protecting a laptop. These bags are some of the most thoughtfully designed backpacks out there and make a perfect carry-on for those who are looking to stay organized, safe and stylish when they travel.

Erin Lizzo is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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