How to Pick the Best Laptop Bag for Professionals

Recently I started using a professional laptop backpack for work and as a result, commuting isn’t so terrible anymore. Let me give you some background, may messenger bag had been slowly falling apart for months.  But I was afraid of losing what I was carrying inside and I didn’t want to risk it so I looked where to buy a professional backpack and began researching online.

Thing is, there are tons of brands out there with different price ranges, I wasn’t sure how to choose the right one. But I eventually found a great bag for a fair price, and after using it for 2 weeks now, I can say it was a great purchase.

However, in the process of my research and also my previous experience, there are a couple of things that I was really looking for in the bag. For example, I had been robbed once,  and I wanted to make sure that I can have a security stash for my money.  To any type of weather. I do a lot of commuting and I wanted to make sure that I can handle whatever weather was thrown my way.  And because I had used a messenger bag throughout college I had some ideas of what I was looking for regarding style.

If you’re like me and thinking about purchasing a backpack for work, here are my tips for finding the right bag for you.

Why a Business Backpack Is Better Than a Messenger Bag

I’ll preface this section by stating that I have used both a backpack and a messenger bag for work. And as I have mentioned before, I used a messenger bag all throughout college and at the beginning of my professional career. Although the messenger looked cool, I will gladly choose my computer bag any day.

The Debate of Messenger Bag vs Backpack

In my experience, here are some of the advantages (and disadvantages) of using a messenger bag:

  • Stylistically, it’s more professional looking than a backpack. I will say that wearing a backpack takes me back to my school days.  Messenger bags have the corporate elements of a laptop bag or briefcase.  However, not all messenger bags are created equal.  You really need to make sure that if you’re going to be using a messenger bag for work, that it fits the professional environment.  For example, you can’t have something that’s canvas and looks very worn. You really want to stick with a waterproof fabric that looks slick or leather.  It creates a cleaner design and puts you in a more professional light at your office.
  • It’s easy to locate your belongings. With a messenger bag, you only have 3 inner compartments which makes finding your phone and wallet pretty easy.  And I’ve found, the best bags are the ones that make it easy for you to get to your items quickly.
  • It’s versatile. It’s quite the handy man-purse on a casual day.   Generally, you can carry a lot of Business and personal items in your messenger bag depending on size.  However, You need to make sure that if you’re mixing both personal and business items but you have a method to keep them separate when you need to.

Now, I know that not all messenger bags are created equal. Some messenger bags, like Chrome, for instance, are great for biking but don’t look all that office appropriate. Again, this goes back to what your needs are. While I’ve found some great professional looking messenger bags, they often times come with a few tradeoffs that I think is important to share with you:

  • Not biker friendly. If you decide to bike to work with a messenger bag, good luck. You’re back will be all sweaty in twenty minutes. If you think about a messenger bags were made for people that were biking and moving things from one location to another: Envelopes, packages, whatever you can think of.  They were designed just to hug your back, Which leads to some pretty sweaty backs.
  • Not friendly on your shoulders, either. You really have to be willing to sacrifice comfort for style.  Just to give you an example, the original seat belt material. Not much made for padding and comfort.
  • It’s easy to have your belongings stolen. Commuters, beware of those small pockets in the front flap. That’s easy access for anyone in close quarters on the train or bus. Listen, I’ve been robbed to before, and it was his easiest someone putting their small little hand inside my bag.

Zara Messenger BagSo, how did I come to this decision?  Frankly, the messenger just wasn’t serving my needs as a commuter and professional. I needed something far sturdier and long-lasting. My professional backpack has been treating me well thus far, and here are just a few of the perks I’ve noticed.

  • Very stable and comfortable. My back and shoulders no longer kill me by the end of the day.  It’s one thing to feel uncomfortable for 10 to 15 minutes. However, it’s a different thing to feel uncomfortable after working all day and then beginning the commute back home.
  • A versatile travel bag. Backpacks are spacious enough for carry-on travel. So, if your job requires you to do any type of carry-on travel, you just might want to think about using a backpack.
  • Secure. I feel more confident knowing that there are heavy-duty zippers protecting my belongings, rather than just a flap of fabric.Everyone’s had their bag fall or tipped over, and if you have a messenger bag imagine all of those things on the bottom of your bag turning out and falling to the floor. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does you’re very inconvenienced.
  • Fashionable. Not all work backpacks look bulky. Minimalist models are out there if that’s your thing.  It’s about balancing functionality with utility.

Hopefully, this clarifies why I think a backpack is the better option. Next, I’ll go into detail about how I chose my bag and the features that I find really important.

Important Features to Look For In a Work Bag

In this section, I will discuss what criteria I used when searching for my professional backpack.

After reading tons of reviews, I’m well versed in what makes a good backpack and how to go about picking one. So, let’s get started.

First, you need to take into account what you’ll be carrying. Stop. Let’s think about the amount of weight you might be carrying on a daily basis. Secondly, you want to think about the time and distance you’ll be traveling on a daily basis.  All of these things are all important in finding the appropriate bag.

Let’s take a look at an example…

What’s In My Bag?

  • MacBook Pro 13”
  • iPad mini
  • 2 inch-binder
  • Notebook
  • Pencil case
  • Cords
  • Headphones
  • Book I’m currently reading
  • Agenda
  • SolPro Charger
  • Sunglasses

Calculating the weight of your contents and level of activity will allow you to narrow down what type of professional laptop backpack will work best for you.  What’s the best method? Take it, loaded up in your old bag, and weigh yourself. What yourself again without the bag. Basic math will tell you the difference. Voila!

Calculate the Weight of What You Carry. Start There and The Rest Falls into Place.

All in all, I carry about 12 lbs and I commute about an hour, so I reasoned that I won’t be able to get away with a canvas backpack or any other type of cloth bag. I also excluded animal skin bags because it wasn’t my style.

Here’s something that you should keep in mind. Though you may want to look at a canvas or a cotton bag, I highly recommend against it. Why? Because canvas and cotton bags tend to rip, tear and have holes appear out of nowhere. Listen, if you keep anything inside of that type of bag, You need to make sure that there are no sharp edges. Even something as silly as a hardcover book will have sharp edges. And those are the types of things that can cause holes.

In my case, the options left were tarpaulin, nylon or polyester backpacks. After you’ve narrowed down the material, you can go ahead and filter by color or style if you’d like. For instance, you can look for gray nylon roll-top backpacks or black cordura backpacks.

Once you’ve found a potential bag, here are key features you should be looking for:

  1. Wide padded straps.  Wide padded straps keep your shoulders comfortable and lessen the strain on your back.
  2. Cushioned back with breathable material. Absolutely necessary to keep you from sweating all over your shirt.
  3. An appropriate number of compartments.  Pro tip: just because you can have 30 pockets, doesn’t mean you should. Look for something underneath five pockets for a more professional look. 

  4. Expandable side straps.  Expandable side straps allow you to expand as well as shrink the size of your overall backpack so depending on what you’re caring the footprint of your backpack reflects what you’re caring. This leads you to have a more comfortable backpack.

These are basic features that most people forget to look for when bag shopping. The wide straps and padded back cushion make a difference if you walk or stand for a majority of your commute. The breathable padded material will also keep you from getting a sweaty back.

Compartmentalization is also important if you commute. Pockets make it easier to access items you need right away, like your transportation card or keys. Expandable side straps give you the extra space you need on occasion. You can also compress your professional laptop backpack, keeping your belongings from tossing around.

A laptop sleeve is also a must for me, as I want to minimize any damage to my computer as I travel to and from work.

Keep these features in mind when backpack shopping, especially if you’re a commuter and/or biker.


More On the Laptop Backpack

By this stage of your search for a professional backpack, you’ll have about five backpacks to choose from. Now what?

Well, here are some additional, but not necessary, features that I think can help you decide what professional backpack to choose:

  • Less is more. You don’t need ten small pockets on the outside of your bag, nor do you need long straps hanging from your bag. Pick a clean backpack without all the bells and whistles for a more professional look. A professional backpack should look like, well, professional.
  • Wipe clean exterior and interior. Some materials are easier to clean than others, so make sure you check out what the interior of the backpack is made out of.  Imagine, you’re on a trip for business. You’ve decided to use your backpack as a quick little carry-on and you’ve put a 3-ounce shampoo in your bag.  Unfortunately, if you forgot to tape it closed. This is a perfect example of why you want to have something that cleans up quickly. As for the exterior, you want to make sure that you can quickly clean it with a damp rag with a little bit of soap as well as perhaps an old toothbrush.
  • Chest strap. This is ideal for people who or who need that extra support for their back.  Now, it may not look cool.  But, sometimes being comfortable outweighs being cool. Especially inside of an airport. If you’ve got a long-haul to the end gate to catch your flight, the last thing that you want to do is be uncomfortable.
  • Lifetime guarantee. Self-explanatory, but it really comes in handy down the line.  However, this says a lot about the company who is selling you your backpack. If they stand behind their backpack with a lifetime guarantee, that’s really all you can ask for.

Now, these are just some extra elements that helped me make my decision. Again, the important thing is to find a bag that suits your needs, so if you do in fact need ten or twenty pockets, go for it.

Another great way to narrow down your choices is to set a price range for yourself. I did this towards the end of my search because I was looking for a quality bag, but I wasn’t sure what the price range for that would be. If you’re tight on money, then feel free to set a price range in the early stages of your search.

However, price isn’t everything. If you purchase an inexpensive bag with cheap zippers, you’ll probably be replacing the back within the next four months. Now, if you go for a great bag that has great zippers and great fabric. That should last you for years. So, prioritize appropriately.


So if you’re looking to buy a professional laptop backpack, or are thinking about it, I highly recommend it. Compared to other professional bags I’ve had, it’s by far the better option for those who have long commutes.

What works for you? Let me know in the comments below!