Not every bag is built for a week in the woods. Sometimes, we just need a bit of help getting to work. Enter the commuter backpack. It holds everything you need for the day while still being small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of you. 

There is a surprising number of gearheads who don’t properly invest in their commuting bag. It might be tempting to go with the cheapest option, but only the best commuter backpacks include features and quality materials that last longer and hold more while staying small. 

You just need to get caught out in the rain with your laptop once to understand the value of a backpack that goes the extra mile to protect what you carry with you. Whether it’s water, lunch, essential documents, textbooks, or electronics, your commuter backpack needs to be able to carry it all. 

Plenty of cheap bags don’t take care of all the details, and your shoulders will feel it.  It’s worth investing in one of the best gear haulers on the market to protect your health and your valuables better. 

Not all bags are made equal, and you don’t want to end up with an expensive bag that just talks the talk. Read on to find out more about the best commuter backpacks on the market, so you can find the bag that helps you walk the walk. 

Quick Answers

Product
Description
Best Commuter Duffel Backpack
Best Commuter Duffel Backpack

Osprey Arcane Duffel

  • > $$
  • > Made from recycled materials
  • > Multiple carry options
Best Overall Commuter Backpack
Best Overall Commuter Backpack

Aer Travel Pack 2 Small

  • > $$
  • > Front zippers are lockable
  • > Extra rain protection
Ethically Made Commuter Backpack
Ethically Made Commuter Backpack

Gulu Made Motivator Pack

  • > $$
  • > Loads of extra pockets
  • > Unique design scheme
Best Waterproof Commuter Backpack
Best Waterproof Commuter Backpack

Arc’teryx Granville 16 Zip

  • > $$
  • > Completely waterproof
  • > Minimalist design
Commuter Backpack For Hipsters
Commuter Backpack For Hipsters

Fjällräven Ulvö 30

  • > $$
  • > Waterproof
  • > Sternum straps
Commuter Backpack For Students
Commuter Backpack For Students

Tortuga Outbreaker Laptop Backpack

  • > $$$
  • > Weatherproof
  • > Lockable zippers
Best Commuter Gym Bag
Best Commuter Gym Bag

Aer Duffel 2

  • > $$
  • > Loads of extra compartments
  • > Fits a basketball
Best Business Commuter Backpack
Best Business Commuter Backpack

Nomatic Travel Bag 30L

  • > $$$
  • > Water-resistant
  • > Many carrying options
Best Commuter and Hiking Backpack
Best Commuter and Hiking Backpack

Osprey Quasar 28

  • > $
  • > Extra shoulder protection
  • > 13 different pockets
Most Versatile Commuter Backpack
Most Versatile Commuter Backpack

Osprey Centauri

  • > $
  • > Tons of different colors
  • > Adjustable sternum straps
Bicycle Commuter Backpack
Bicycle Commuter Backpack

Osprey Apogee

  • > $
  • > Durable protection
  • > Minimalist design
Leather Messenger Bag
Mahi Leather Explorer
Leather Messenger Bag

Mahi Leather Messenger

  • > $$
  • > Messenger style satchel
  • > Excellent Leather

The Very Best Commuter Backpacks

From Berlin to Bolivia, we’ve consulted loads of broke backpackers to put together this list of the best backpacks on the market. Of course, everyone’s needs are different, but one of these packs is bound to make your commute easier. 

#1 – Best Commuter Duffel Backpack – Osprey Arcane Duffel

Osprey Arcane Duffel Pack

Osprey Arcane Duffel is our pick for best commuter duffel backpack

Specs
  • Size: 18.5” x 12.2” x 10.6”
  • Weight: 1.89 lbs
  • Capacity: 30 liters

This duffel takes care of the details to make the bag easy to organize and transport, and recycled materials make this bag stand out. Made out of plastic bottles and durable fabrics, the bag is minimalist but it’s still supportive. It’s a duffel style bag, so don’t expect too many front pockets or water bottle holders, just plenty of lightweight storage space. 

With handles, shoulder straps, and a full-body sling, you can carry this duffel bag however you see fit. No matter how you hold it, the interior is easy to pack, thanks to the full zipper that allows the bag to open further. 

If you’re looking for a lightweight everyday duffel that can also fit underneath a plane seat, this weekend pack is built sturdy and packages in fun features that make it work for all occasions. 

Pros
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Multiple carry options
  • Works great with packing cubes
Cons
  • Not many pockets
  • No water bottle holder

#2 – Best Overall Commuter Backpack – Aer Travel Pack 2 Small

Travel Pack 2 Small

Our pick for best overall commuter backpack is Aer Travel Pack 2 Small

Specs
  • Size: 19” x 12.5” x 7.5”
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs
  • Capacity: 28 liters

The Aer travel pack is a commuter backpack that can go anywhere. Whether you’re heading to work, sport, or vacation, this pack will get the job done better than the competition. The bag fits as a carry-on, has a separate laptop compartment, and even has a stowable shoe compartment so your wet trainers won’t ruin everything you own. 

In addition to protecting the rest of your clothes from damp shoes, the exterior of the bag features water-resistant nylon that is as durable as it is dry. Across the board, this bag is built tough with reinforced buckles, zips, and grips designed to last for decades. 

While the bag comes with a hefty price tag, its various uses and high-quality materials more than justify the price. 

Pros
  • Great for Airplane Travel
  • Front zippers are lockable
  • Extra rain protection
Cons
  • Shoe compartment is large
  • A bit on the heavy side

#3 – Ethically Made Commuter Backpack – Gulu Made Motivator Pack

Gulu Motivator Pack

Meet the ethically made commuter backpack: Gulu Made Motivator Pack

Specs
  • Size: 19” x 12” x 9”
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Capacity: 25 liters

Team up with the women of Gulu for your next commuter backpack, and you’ll receive a roomy pack with plenty of small pockets for essential details. The Gulu Made brand set up shop building a backpacking factory in Uganda and has entrusted the local community with making sustainable backpacks built to last. 

These bags are designed and built by local tribes. The women of Gulu took modern comfort features into account, adding on water bottle holders and ten different organization pockets with an extra computer sleeve. 

The Motivator is the most spacious Gulu-made pack on the market and offers everything you need to commute in sustainable style. If you are after an ethical product, this is a good one.

If you look ethical gear, we have a cracking vegan backpack round up on the site.

Pros
  • Unique design scheme
  • Loads of extra pockets
  • Built for life
Cons
  • Not protected against the weather
  • Not built for mountain treks

#4 – Best Waterproof Commuter Backpack – Arc’teryx Granville 16 Zip

Arcteryx Granville 16 Zip

Arc’teryx Granville 16 Zip is one of the waterproof commuter backpack

Specs
  • Size: 18.5” x 12.2” x 10.6”
  • Weight: 1.65 lbs
  • Capacity: 16 liters

There’s no good reason to take a risk with your commuter backpack. Your everyday bag will have to get the job done rain or shine, and this lightweight Arc’teryx will make sure everything stays dry no matter the weather. 

The waterproof technology is everywhere from the external pocket built for holding your cell phone down to the watertight zippers. Don’t expect any bells or whistles on this pack. A minimalist, monotone exterior only comes with one extra pocket. 

Inside the main compartment, you’ll find a few more storage options. A laptop sleeve, mesh separators, and secret pockets make a convenient and dry space for everything you’ll need in a day’s work.  This is one of the best waterproof backpacks I’ve ever tried.

Pros
  • Completely waterproof
  • Minimalist design
  • Reinforced straps
Cons
  • Zipper is finicky
  • Not many external pockets

#5 – Commuter Backpack For Hipsters – Fjällräven Ulvö 30

Fjallraven Ulvo 30

Our pick for commuter backpack for hipster is Fjällräven Ulvö 30

Specs
  • Size: 20.1” x 11” x 10.2”
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Capacity: 30 liters

The Bergshell exteriors are hanging from the upper bunk of shared dorms worldwide for a reason. Fjällräven has built a dynasty on the back of their everyday backpacks, and this model continues the trend. 

The recycled fabric that gives the bags their signature look isn’t just stylish; it’s also completely waterproof making the bag ready for the city streets and single-track wilderness. 

Mesh pockets and a surprising amount of internal storage capacities push the bag over the edge. There’s more than one reason these bags are favored by hip adventurers – a better combination of style and performance is hard to find. 

Pros
  • Waterproof
  • Tried and true
  • Sternum straps
Cons
  • Doesn’t conform well to shoulder
  • Won’t stand out in a pile

#6 – Commuter Backpack For Students – Tortuga Outbreaker Laptop Backpack

Tortuga Outbreaker Laptop Backpack

Tortuga Outbreaker Laptop Backpack is our pick for best commuter backpack for students

Specs
  • Size: 18.5” x 12” x 9”
  • Weight: 3.2 lbs
  • Capacity: 27 liters

With all the right reinforcements in all the right places, this bag will help carry your load. Extra cushioning in the shoulder pads help lug your books home from class, and it’s still small enough to fit underneath a seat. 

Many bags can fit a laptop, but no models go further than this one to keep your electronics secure. An extra layer of ariaprene foam protects the laptop compartment, and lockable zippers make sure nothing accidentally slips open.  

Pros
  • Sternum Strap
  • Weatherproof
  • Lockable zippers
Cons
  • Feels bulky
  • Expensive

#7 – Best Commuter Gym Bag – Aer Duffel 2

Aer Duffel Pack 2

Aer Duffel 2 is one of the best commuter gym bag

Specs
  • Size: 21.5” x 12” x 8”
  • Weight: 2.4 lbs
  • Capacity: 24.6 liters

Don’t let the name fool you – this is more than a simple duffel bag. Three separate straps allow you to carry the bag however you’re feeling that day, giving you one less excuse to skip the gym. 

An extra compartment prevents stinky shoes from spreading, and a top pocket lets you store your keys and flash your key card with ease. The bag is a hybrid model built for the gym and the office. 

With a separate laptop compartment, you can keep everything together in their respective space, making Aer’s Duffel the perfect bag when you want to stop by the gym on the way home. 

Pros
  • Loads of extra compartments
  • Several carrying options
  • Fits a basketball
Cons
  • Only comes in black
  • No rain protection

#8 – Best Business Commuter Backpack – Nomatic Travel Bag 30L

Nomatic Travel Bag 30L

Meet the best business commuter backpack: Nomatic Travel Bag 30L

Specs
  • Size: 19” x 19” x 13”
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs
  • Capacity: 30 liters

Nomadic broke backpackers across the world have been using Nomatic for years. The technology we pack inside our backpacks is constantly improving, and travel bags like these provide the extra features to keep everything secure no matter what we take with us. 

The thick 30Ls of volume are perfect for laptops, cords, and equipment. Various exterior pockets make security checks a breeze, and sternum and waist straps will keep the pressure off your shoulders. 

This is one of the larger packs on the list, its a great business backpack for overnight trips.

Pros
  • Does a bit of everything
  • Water-resistant
  • Many carrying options
Cons
  • Doesn’t ship to Europe
  • Heavy

#9 – Best Commuter and Hiking Backpack – Osprey Quasar 28

Osprey Quasar 28L

Osprey Quasar 28 is our pick for best commuter and hiking backpack

Specs
  • Size: 19.3” x 12.6” x 10.2”
  • Weight: 1.68 lbs
  • Capacity: 28 liters

Packed full of easy-to-reach outside pockets, this bag has tons of fun features that make it a great companion on the way to work or the trail. The outside storage pockets all have different functionality, with two side pockets for water bottles or walking sticks and a scratch-free central pocket to protect your phone from rocky scrambles. 

There is an included laptop sleeve, although at 14 inches, it can’t quite hold every laptop. However, this small size does have its advantages. The pack is so light, you can carry the bag in one hand, or use the included sternum strap when it’s full of gear. 

To top it all off, an exterior layer of mesh doubles the amount you can carry, providing a convenient place for wet shoes or souvenirs. The quasar is quite simply, a great every day backpack that I quite literally use every single day.

Pros
  • Can handle a beating
  • Extra shoulder protection
  • 13 different pockets
Cons
  • Not the most laptop-friendly

#10 – Most Versatile Commuter Backpack – Osprey Centauri

Osprey Centauri

Our pick for most versatile commuter backpack is Osprey Centauri

Specs
  • Size: 18.1” x 11.8” x 10.2”
  • Weight: 1.4 lbs
  • Capacity: 22 liters

Affordable, breathable, and lightweight, there are not many commuters that wouldn’t benefit from the Centauri on their backs. The slim bag doesn’t provide high-tech features but does offer plenty of pockets and padded protections. 

Two separate internal dividers keep space for your computer and important documents, but a cleaner layout ensures nothing gets lost in cracks and crevices. While there’s not much weight on this bag, Osprey still found space for a hip belt to make the bag great for shorter runs. 

This bag won’t win any awards, but its simple features do enough to help out in any scenario. 

Pros
  • Tons of different colors
  • Adjustable sternum straps
  • Quick reach pocket
Cons
  • Not many extra features
  • No back ventilation

#11 – Bicycle Commuter Backpack – Osprey Apogee

Osprey Apogee

Osprey Apogee is one of the best bicycle commuter backpack

Specs
  • Size: 19.7” x 11.4” x 9.5”
  • Weight: 1.81lbs
  • Capacity: 28 liters

You may have noticed the trend by now – Osprey makes tons of great commuter backpacks. The Apogee combines some of our favorite features from across Osprey’s backpack repertoire, making it a great bag to strap on if you wear clip ons to work. 

We love this backpack’s Airscape ventilation system, a rare find on backpacks that feature a laptop compartment. The frameless back allows a better fit for biking, and the variety of pockets and volumes of dedicated storage allow you to fit a change of clothes easily. 

You won’t find a gear hauler better suited for biking to work in this price range. There are even built-in blinker light attachments if you plan on working late!

Pros
  • Two water bottle pockets
  • Durable protection
  • Minimalist design
Cons
  • No hip strap
  • Not much external storage

#12 – Leather Laptop Backpack – Kodiak Katmai Laptop bag

Kodiak Katmai Laptop Bag

The Harber London

Specs
  • Size (Large): 14″ W x 11″ H x 3.75″ D
  • Weight: 1.81lbs
  • Capacity: 5 liters

First up, this isn’t a backpack its a carry case. Sorry for misleading you but its such a cool bag that we just HAD to include it. Most of the commuter backpack we have featured in this post are pretty spacious providing room for gym bags, lunch boxes and changes of shoes. However, some commuters just really need a backpack for holds a laptop and nothing more.

This beautiful, elegant slim leather backpack by Kodiak is perfectly sized for your laptop. It has a main laptop compartment with an internal pocket as well as front zipper pocket for cables, cards and keys. Its just a laptop pack so look elsewhere if you need a leather travel bag.

Pros
  • Stylish
  • Durable protection
  • Minimalist design
Cons
  • Limited Storage
  • No hip belt

#13 – Leather Messenger Bag – Mahi Leather Messenger

Mahi Leather Explorer

The MAHI Leather is a great option for business travelers.

Specs
  • Size (Large): 37 x 28 x 8
  • Weight: 1.81lbs
  • Capacity: 5 liters

The eagle eyed amongst you will no doubt have spotted that this is NOT a backpack. It is instead a satchel/messenger bag that can also be carried like a briefcase by a leather handle. This makes it a great option for business and professional commuters who need to look a bit more formal.

It’s made from top notch full grain leather and comes in a classic tan colour. Its storage options are fairly straightforward in that it has a main laptop/document compartment as well as 2 additional pockets for keys and cards.

Complete with a fawn cotton lining, the Messenger Satchel includes a zip pocket at the back, an internal zip pocket, a leather pouch style pocket at the front and an extendable detachable shoulder strap.

Final Thoughts

Whether your commute takes you through city streets or snowy pastures, the backpacks on this list offer lightweight protection and stylish features that help you carry more with you. 

Whether you want all-around performance or best-in-class features, these bags run the gambit of industry-leading commuter backpacks. 

Stay organized and stay ahead of the game with the right backpack on your shoulders. Decide what you want out of your bag, and find out what the best gear haulers on the market can do to ultimately decide which bag is best for your arsenal. 

You’ll likely be using your commuter backpack more than any other bag in your kit, so make a list of demands, check it twice, and gear up properly with the bag built for you. 

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