Professional backpack recommendations
September 6, 2017 1:54 PM   Subscribe

I used to carry a tote to work, but for the last year I've carried this mini backpack and fell in love with being hands free. But I need more space! Recommend your favorite specific model of backpack, please!

I need a bag that is:

1) Professional looking for an office environment, not student-y. More strong lines, less crushable.
2) Preferably waxed/treated canvas or leather--something wipe-able that still looks sophisticated.
3) Enough room for an 8 1/2 x 11" planner/notebook, pencil case, thermos, and my lunch
4) Ideally with a laptop pocket (13") but not a dealbreaker if not
5) Around $150 max, willing to go up for something stellar but less is always great!

I have checked the previous questions and seen recommendations for Herschel, Everlane, and Fjallraven, but I'm overwhelmed with style options, and also some of them seem a little too "school"-y. Plus, hoping that since 2015 you've found something new you love.

I'm considering the Commuter Backpack from Mark &
but can't find any photos of the inside! I also like their Convertible Commuter Briefcase and it gets bonus points for having a zippered area where I could stash gym clothes.
posted by assenav to Shopping (21 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I think the Luminary is cute, but haven't tried it. Bonus: made by full-time benefited workers in the U.S.
posted by praemunire at 2:02 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have the Timbuk2 Command in Black and love it. (I have both the backpack and messenger, and use both for work/travel.)
posted by mdbell79 at 2:10 PM on September 6, 2017

Not sure if you've seen this Wirecutter review (Our Favorite Laptop Backpacks), but it may help narrow down some of your style options.

Guyagonalize is a university professor, and he uses the Everlane Snap. Personally, I think it looks reasonably professional, and it's held up very well over time, but it's definitely more on the business-casual side, and I do see students with it on occasion.
posted by Diagonalize at 2:11 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've had this from Swissgear for about 8 years, and it still looks brand new even after I schlepped it to DC and back every day for about 4 years. It's a beast, I can take just it on a 2 day business trip with room to spare.
posted by COD at 2:28 PM on September 6, 2017

Moop is always great.
posted by monologish at 3:10 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Knomo bags are very popular right now and I believe they make leather bags so would fit all of your criteria. Tumi also makes some professional rucksacks, not sure if they have leather or waxed canvas. I'm also a fan of Osprey packs (the US outdoor gear company), as they have a few commuter/computer friendly packs with clean lines, that are durable and pretty water-resistant, and nice for traveling if you want a multipurpose bag. I've used one of their messenger totes (FlapJack) for a couple of years and it's withstood a bit of wear and still looks presentable in the office. (Sorry no more links, but on phone).
posted by stillmoving at 3:11 PM on September 6, 2017

I'm a big fan of the goruck series of backpacks. I had a $300 gr1 and when it was stolen in one of my travels I went and I bought another one without even thinking about it.

They sell a smaller model now so you can check out their offerings
posted by tedious at 3:27 PM on September 6, 2017

I quite like qwstion bags - they are on the spendier side but the simple office or simple pack sound like they would suit your needs (note also that a lot of their "tote bags" can convert cleverly into backpacks as well).

I have the simple pack, and carry in it basically exactly what you describe in your post comfortably without it looking stuffed, and have also used it as a weekend bag a few times while travelling. (I think it looks nice enough, though cannot comment authoritatively on its professionalism as a grad student :P)
posted by btfreek at 3:32 PM on September 6, 2017

Tom Bihn bags have a cult following....
posted by Sublimity at 3:53 PM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

i always recommend briggs and riley. the life time no questions asked warranty is just worth it. and everything they have is solidly built, thoughtful, and a focus on lightweight. there are a handful here that meet your style needs perhaps.
posted by chasles at 4:03 PM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

posted by jessca84 at 4:13 PM on September 6, 2017

I got a Hex Convertible a year ago and I'm still happy with it. It still holds it's shape and the synthetic canvas looks good. You might want one of their smaller models.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:43 PM on September 6, 2017

My husband carries an eBags slim professional laptop backpack (on a train commute, to a law office). The straps can be fully tucked away and it can be carried as a briefbag when you're at work. It survived a really bad bicycle crash with no damage, so it's pretty sturdy. (Also, he adores the "cord garage" feature at the bottom.) The water bottle pocket only fits little bottles securely but if you end up going that way memail me and I'll send you a link to the one we found that fits really well!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:20 PM on September 6, 2017

I love Henri Bendel's backpacks. Especially the Jetsetter. I've used one as my primary work bag for years and it's held up really well.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 8:37 PM on September 6, 2017

I had a Dakine laptop backpack in black, and it was very slick and professional looking. It comes with a dry bag and foam laptop protector, and loads of pockets.
posted by ananci at 10:45 PM on September 6, 2017

A visit to an OfficeXXX or Staples store will usually yield several prospects, and the advantage is that you can touch them, open them, and examine them. Some in the Kenneth Cole line are quite professional in appearance.
posted by megatherium at 2:46 AM on September 7, 2017

I just bought a Tumi Voyageur Halle and love it. It meets all your criteria (I think) except price, but maybe you can wait for it to go on sale. What made me choose this one in particular was the light weight and less-bulky straps. A lot of backpacks look nice from the back but have giant ergonomic straps, not necessary for the weight I'm carrying.
posted by beyond_pink at 3:03 PM on September 7, 2017

I've been using my Ogio Soho Backpack for just about 3 years and I love it! It's held up beautifully with pretty much daily use and easily holds my laptop, planner, lunch, cords, umbrella and other gear. Mine is in bright emerald green (with a polka dot interior pattern) and I get a TON of compliments on it.

I like Ogio in general and have a purse from them as well. This Newt Backpack from them is a little sleeker and from your examples might be a better fit to your style preferences.

Good luck!
posted by thatquietgirl at 4:06 PM on September 7, 2017

My go-to smart work backpacks are Sandqvuist (example is leather + waxed cotton - plain leather also available); and Mat + Nat (vegan + sustainable, but same price point as Sandqvuist).

Some of those links say 'mens' and 'womens' - I personally don't see how a backpack can be gendered so have linked to what I think fits your bill :)
posted by citands at 5:30 AM on September 8, 2017

OMG! I am super excited to share my current and AMAZING backpack that meets most of your criteria. I carry my 13" macbook air, gym/lunch, and small misc things easily:

COS Canvas Tote Backpack

(it comes in several colors and finishes if you are curious)

COS is somewhat seasonal. This is listed under Men's but I am a petite woman and it looks as great on me as it did on my 6 foot tall dude friend.

Inside contains:

- no floor padding, although cotton fabric is thick
- one inside (near front): 2 "cellphone" style pockets on one side - great for sunglasses, phone, misc
- other side (near back) 1 sizeable (kindle size) zippered pocket
- external large flat pocket on a single metal rivet/button (above where it would touch you). in other words, the back is a fairly large pocket that will lie against your back. I use this for: scarf, keys, lipbalm, wallet, phone, tickets to my event - so small things for my current activity.

It was about $100 CAD, so definitely within your price range :)

I had a Fjallraven Kånken for about 1.5 years and it is also excellent, but I love COS more.
posted by olya at 10:04 PM on September 9, 2017

The Maxpedition Falcon II doesn't quite fit your aesthetic criteria, but is the most functional pack I have ever used. It scales from just a notebook and a sweatshirt to a weeks worth of crap. Comes in a ton of colors too. I have been traveling hard with mine for 4 years, and it shows no sign of giving out.
posted by TheCoug at 10:36 PM on September 9, 2017

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