The 14 Best Commuter Backpacks of 2023

The sleek and expandable Nomatic Original Backpack is our top choice for transporting work essentials.

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15 Best Commuter Backpacks of 2022

Amazon / STM

Commuter backpacks are purpose-designed to get your essentials organized and on your back for easy transport between home, work, and beyond. At a bare minimum, a commuter bag should have a dedicated space for your laptop or tablet and organization of some kind for things like pens, ID, transit cards, and, ideally, a water bottle. They should be comfortable on your shoulders, water-resistant in case of rain, and leave no open pockets for wandering hands. 

These are the baseline qualities we considered while vetting our picks for the best commuter backpacks. After all was said, researched, and tested, the Nomatic Original Backpack 20L snagged our best overall pick. We love this backpack’s slim silhouette (particularly great for packed commutes on trains), the high level of interior organization, and option to expand the capacity. However, there are plenty of more commuter backpacks to choose from to streamline your everyday routine.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect commuter backpack to get you through inclement weather, something colorful and customized, or a bag built for working parents, one of our picks will ensure flawless journeys between home, work, and wherever else life takes you.

Best Overall

Nomatic Backpack Water-resistant RFID Laptop Bag 20L

NOMATIC Backpack Water-Resistant RFID Laptop Bag 20L

Amazon

Why We Love It: Ultra-functional design makes use of every bit of the bag. 

What to Consider: It only comes in black. 

At first glance, the Nomatic Original Backpack may seem like style over substance, but it’s actually one of the most functional commuter backpacks on the market. The fact that it’s fashionable, too? That’s what makes it the whole package for us — and our best overall pick. This water-resistant bag ranks best for organization, access, and adaptability thanks to the 24 dedicated organization pockets and sleeves, a full-perimeter zipper around the main compartment, and expandability. A quick zip amps up capacity by four liters without compromising the slim profile. 

We were able to pack a change of clothes, gym shoes, tablet, a 13.3-inch MacBook Air, a paperback book, phone charger, and lunch items in the main pocket without expanding or creating a noticeable bulge. A few pluses: an RFID zippered pocket for sensitive items, hideaway padded backpack straps, waterproof YKK zippers, and the ability to carry it via side handles (though we found that can throw off the weight distribution slightly). Right now, the biggest downside is that this backpack only comes in black. 

Price at time of publishing: $280

Capacity: 20 to 24 liters | Weight: 4 pounds | Dimensions: 19 x 13 x 5.7 (7.7 when expanded) inches

Best Budget

Open Story Commuter Backpack

Open Story Commuter Backpack

Target

Why We Love It: This polished backpack checks all the must-have boxes without breaking the bank.  

What to Consider: The design can leave tote handles in an awkward position against your neck and head when worn as a backpack.

The Open Story Commuter Bag is an excellent bang-for-your-buck commuter backpack. It’s deep, wide, and full of functionality. Several inside pockets make it easy to organize office necessities, while the main body is big enough to hold bulkier items like gym shoes, a lunch box, and a sweatshirt. The water-resistant coated nylon material gives the bag a polished look and keeps things dry and safe against spills. The three available colors (black, thistle, and taupe) are modern and professional. We appreciate the tote handles, but they can get in the way when you’re wearing it as a backpack. 

Price at time of publishing: $50

Capacity: 18 liters | Weight: 2.9 pounds | Dimensions: 6.1 x 17.8 x 18.6 inches

Best for Bike Commutes

Rains Rolltop Rucksack

rains-rolltop-rucksack

Rains

Why We Love It: The side-access laptop pocket is super efficient.   

What to Consider: Top-loading bags make it difficult to easily access items packed at the bottom. 

This 100 percent polyester waterproof bag is a simple and sleek design that gives a sophisticated and streamlined silhouette for your daily bike rides. The rolltop design and buckled chest strap help keep contents and the bag snug and stable with minimal weight shifting during the ride. The exterior zippered pocket has a waterproof closure for protection against rain or snow, and a sneaky side pocket can store up to a 16-inch laptop. However, the top-loading design will mean you’ll have to unpack the items on top to reach anything at the bottom. 

Price at time of publishing: $125

Capacity: 13 liters | Weight: 1.8 pounds | Dimensions: 18.8 x 12.6 x 4.3 inches

Best for Walking Commutes

Timbuk2 Lane Commuter Laptop Backpack

TIMBUK2 Lane Commuter Laptop Backpack

Amazon

Why We Love It: Reflective material helps keep you seen in conditions with low visibility. 

What to Consider: Color selection is limited.   

The Timbuk2 Lane Commuter Bag was built for daily commutes. We love it for anyone that walks to — and especially from — work. Both upper shoulder straps and the lower body of the backpack are made of reflective material that makes sure commuters are visible in dark or hazy conditions. You’ll also get a side-loading laptop sleeve that holds up to 15-inch screens, a removable waterproof bag cover for that extra layer of protection in inclement weather, and a dedicated key holder so you’re never stuck searching for your keys. The bag also comes with three exterior pockets and two side slip pockets for small water bottles. Currently, it only comes in black or navy. 

Price at time of publishing: $189

Capacity: 18 liters | Weight: 2.4 pounds | Dimensions: 10.8 x 5.5 x 17.7 inches

Best for Gym Days

Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack

Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack

Saks Fifth Avenue

Why We Love It: Pockets, pockets, pockets!

What to Consider: The exterior side pockets are a bit too tight for water bottles.

Head straight from work to workouts? No need to pack a separate bag. Dagne Dover’s Dakota Neoprene Backpack easily moves you from the office to the gym with features like a shoe bag for your sneaks, eight storage pockets for everything from deodorant to dual laptops (the largest can fit up to 15-inch screens), and a 20-liter capacity. Plus, a detachable neoprene zippered pouch can hold your ID and cards for quick office errands or for safe keeping at the gym. We found the tight side pockets are better suited for your phone than a water bottle. 

Price at time of publishing: $155

Capacity: 20 liters | Weight: 2.6 pounds | Dimensions: 13.2 x 5.2 x 17.5 inches

Best Multi-Functional

Jansport Pro Pack System

Jansport Pro Pack System

Jansport

Why We Love It: It’s a modern, modular take on the classic backpack style.  

What to Consider: There are no interior pockets or sleeves. 

This commuter backpack has a modular design that turns the traditional front pocket into a detachable crossbody pouch, a feature we haven’t seen before. Ten daisy chain loops make it easy to twist-and-pop the pouch in the position you pick. The main bag sports a soft-lined 17-inch laptop pocket with waterproof zipper and a zippered loft pocket with interior slip pockets for your phone, ID, and cards. Two extra-stretchy side pockets can accommodate large water bottles. The main compartment is roomy, but that’s partly because there is no interior organization.

Price at time of publishing: $150

Capacity: 33 liters | Weight: 2.1 pounds | Dimensions: 18.9 x 11.6 x 6.3 inches

Best for Travel

Kroser Laptop Backpack Large

KROSER Laptop Backpack Large

Amazon

Why We Love It: It looks great, holds up well, and fits more than you think. 

What to Consider: It’s very easy to overpack.

Don’t let the price tag on this backpack fool you — it’s a complete gem. The durable, water-repellent exterior and faux-leather detailing make the bag look more expensive than it is, and numerous interior pockets, pouches, and slots seem to have a spot for everything. Two laptop slip sleeves can fit devices up to 17-inches, and there’s a power bank USB cable for charging on-the-go. Soft, thick padding against the lower back, shoulder blades, and on the shoulder straps make this one of the most comfortable backpacks we’ve worn, even when it’s packed to the brim. There’s enough organization and space in here to use this as a long-weekend bag — in fact, we prefer it. 

Price at time of publishing: $40

Capacity: 31.5 liters | Weight: 2.64 pounds | Dimensions: 18.5 x 13.3 x 7.8 inches

Best Customizable

Timbuk2 Custom Prospect Backpack

Timbuk2 Custom Prospect Backpack

Timbuk2

Why We Love It: Being able to customize the color and material on different parts of this bag makes it feel more personal. 

What to Consider: Interior organization pockets are on the bottom, which can throw off your ability to pack bottom heavy.

Who doesn’t love being able to customize their bag? Choose between different fabrics, colors, and textures for five different panels to create a custom Timbuk2 Custom Prospect Backpack. Fabric choices include canvas, rain-resistant, reflective, and heathered, in over 20 colors and hundreds of combinations. You can even choose whether or not to add side pockets. The backpack itself has a flap-and-roll top design with sneaky zippered access, slip pockets for two laptops, interior organization to keep track of the small stuff, and a wipeable TPU material in case of any spills. We would like this backpack even more if the organization pockets were a little higher up, giving us more room to pack larger items at the bottom. 

Price at time of publishing: $139

Capacity: 22 liters | Weight: 2.4 inches | Dimensions: 12 x 5.3 x 18.5 inches

Best Laptop Protection

STM Myth Backpack 18L

STM Myth Backpack 18L

STM

Why We Love It: It's comfortable to carry and packed with pockets.  

What to Consider: It feels a bit stiff right out of the box.

STM Goods’ technology works great for laptops, especially for anyone who may have a particularly bumpy commute. The brand’s SlingTech creates gapless corners and extra padding to prevent your device from sinking into the danger zone. Instead, it’ll just hover in a safe space. The STM Myth 18L Backpack is made from several layers of water-repellent material to keep your goods dry and safe. A high center of weight makes the bag manageable for carrying long periods of time on your shoulders. It’s also packed with pockets and sleeves to keep your on-the-go office organized. However, it does feel a bit stiff and awkward right out of the box, something that should resolve over use. 

Price at time of publishing: $120

Capacity: 18 liters | Weight: 2.2 pounds | Dimensions: 17.7 x 11.4 x 5.9 inches

Most Colorful

Cotopaxi Tasra 16L Backpack - Del Dia

Cotopaxi Tasra 16L Backpack - Del Dia

Cotopaxi

Why We Love It: It’s a fun and functional way to keep things sustainable.  

What to Consider: The final product look will be out of your hands. 

There isn’t a lot of color when it comes to commuter bags — blacks, whites, dark gray, and navy saturate the color schemes. Anyone searching for a bit more color in their commute should check out the Tasra 16L Backpack in Cotopaxi’s Del Dia series. You’ll stand out in a crowd — and not just because of your bag’s color-blocking. While Tasra backpacks all have the same overall features and design, the exact color combinations will vary. These backpacks are made from recycled nylon and scrap fabrics, making no two bags quite the same. Along with a chunky main compartment, your backpack will also have two front pouches, and a padded 15-inch laptop sleeve. These bags open into two halves like a suitcase for easier access to items. One side has a mesh packing cube approach, while the other will have different mesh and slide pockets. 

Price at time of publishing: $85

Capacity: 16 liters | Weight: 1.37 pounds | Dimensions: 17 x 10.5 x 5.5 inches

Best for New Parents

Ayla & Co Ayla Diaper Bag

Ayla & Co Ayla Diaper Bag

Ayla & Co

Why We Love It: Not everyone in your lunch meeting needs to know you’re working two jobs. 

What to Consider: The laptop sleeve costs extra.

Being a working parent is like having two jobs — and the Ayala and Co. Diaper Bag has got your back. This may be a diaper bag at heart, but it also works double-duty as a stylish commuter backpack in disguise thanks to the plentiful organization pockets (they’re even numbered), optional 15-inch laptop sleeve (extra cost), and spacious interior that can hold a change of clothes, slim sneakers, a tablet, and lunchbox. As far as baby goes, it comes with a wipeable vegan leather changing pad for diaper swaps on-the-go, a reusable wet bag for soiled clothes, an insulated snack pouch, and a totally removable and washable liner. Plus, we found it surprisingly comfortable for not having padded straps. 

Price at time of publishing: $209

Capacity: Not listed | Weight: 4 pounds  | Dimensions: 15 x13 x 6 inches

Best Small

Harber London Slim Laptop Backpack

Harber London Slim Laptop Backpack

Harber London

Why We Love It: It’s classic English minimalism that only gets better with age. 

What to Consider: There’s not room for much more than a laptop and a few key essentials.

Just because you’re looking for something small doesn’t mean it has to skimp on style. At under 2 inches deep, this Harber London Slim Laptop Backpack is remarkably thin, yet still manages a 3.9-liter capacity. This backpack is a great option for commuters who are only needing to transport a 14-inch or smaller computer or tablet and minimal other things — phone, wallet contents, and keys — to and from work. The price tag is steep, but it’s worth the investment. Made from 100 percent tanned cowhide leather, this bag ages beautifully. 

Price at time of publishing: $431

Capacity: 3.9 liters | Weight: 2.86 pounds | Dimensions: 13.4 x 10.2 x 1.7

Best with Lunch Compartment

Minkeeblue Amber Backpack

Minkeeblue Amber Backpack

Minkeeblue

Why We Love It: It’s hiding a lot of removable extras that can be used as needed. 

What to Consider: The lunchbox takes up half of the bag.

Compartmentalizing is an art, especially when it comes to commuting. The bottom half of the backpack features a lunch compartment complete with an insulated lunchbox. This compartment is partitioned off via zips and velcro and can be accessed from the top of the main compartment or through a sneaky zipper in the lower back of the bag. No lunch? Use this space (and the included shoe bag) to store a change of footwear. The top half of the compartment can be packed with a light change of clothes, books, pens, notebooks, and a 13-inch laptop or tablet. There’s also a detachable chain wallet that keeps your cards, ID, and cash nearby and accessible during your commute. 

Price at time of publishing: $230

Capacity: 17.5 liters  | Weight: 2.2 pounds | Dimensions: 13 x 5.5 x 15 inches

Best Minimalist

Monos Metro Backpack

4.8
Monos Metro Backpack

Monos

Why We Love It: You won’t get tired of the modern, minimalist, modular look. 

What to Consider: The laptop sleeve could use a little more padding.

This Monos Metro Backpack is all you need to get your commuter basics on your back, in style. The modular design includes interchangeable floating front pouches (called “kits”) that can be switched out depending on your needs. These kits attach via a QuickSnap technology with a pull-and-click closure. Interior storage includes PET felt-lined slip pockets, a waterproof zip compartment for wet clothes or shoes, and two elastic pockets for water bottles. There’s also a hidden back phone pocket by the carry handle, but it’s so slim we found it to be more trouble than it’s worth. 

Price at time of publishing: $220

Capacity: 18 liters | Weight: 3 pounds | Dimensions: 11.5 x 6 x 16.5 inches

Tips for Buying a Commuter Backpack

Organization and access are key features

Having a spot to put all your things can be a godsend. Knowing where to find what in a pinch — and being able to access it easily without jumping through a ton of buckles, snaps, and zips — will help prevent stress and keep you streamlined. 

Don’t forget about weather protection

Chances are you’ll experience changes in the weather during your commute. Protect your laptop, files, clothes, and whatever else you’re schlepping around in your backpack by choosing a commuter backpack that has a water-resistant (if not waterproof) material. If you live in an area prone to extreme weather, make sure you choose a backpack made from materials that can perform.  

Consider capacity 

Capacity can make or break your commuter backpack experience. Choose a bag too small, and you’ll have to juggle more than one bag or buy a new one. Choose a bag that’s too big and it won’t be as comfortable or stable. As a guide, a 20-liter backpack is usually the perfect size for carrying a computer, change of clothes and shoes, book, and small lunch bag.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What should I look for in a commuter backpack?

    Top commuter backpacks will include dedicated organization pockets, chest straps to help balance weight, a dedicated (and ideally padded) laptop sleeve, cushioned adjustable shoulder straps, and they’ll be made with some kind of water-resistant material. 

  • How big should a commuter backpack be?

    The size of your commuter backpack should land somewhere between 9 to 30 liters. You’ll be wearing it nearly every day, so you want to avoid big, bulky bags, particularly if you’re traveling during rush hour on public transportation or need freedom of movement while biking. 

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Katherine Alex Beaven is a writer and photographer covering travel, food and drink, and culture. Her work always finds her on the move, commuting between different locations. Alex relied on her personal experience and needs as a commuter, as well as hours of research and product testing, to suss out the best commuter backpack for each category. 

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