Yet another work backpack question
February 9, 2020 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a professional backpack that doesn't stick out a mile yet holds all my stuff.

I've seen this question but it's nearly 10 years old now.

This is what I want in a bag:
Space for 13 inch macbook pro and associated bits and bobs
Lots of pockets, one big enough for basic overnight gear
Separate water bottle pocket (maybe)
Low profile so doesn't protrude too much from my back
Somewhat structured so it doesn't dangle down when heavily laden
Doesn't make me look like a student
(My current bag falls down on the last three points)

I don't care too much about colour. I'm in the UK and I'd prefer something that's made in Europe. Help?
posted by altolinguistic to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
How rain/weather proof do you need this to be?
posted by mce at 1:12 PM on February 9


Not aggressively so, but protection for electronics when walking in the rain would be good.
posted by altolinguistic at 1:21 PM on February 9


And I forgot to mention budget: I'd go up to £200, perhaps slightly more but only if it were to last me the rest of my life (I'm 42).
posted by altolinguistic at 1:24 PM on February 9


This Samsonite one looks as if it fits the bill.
posted by essexjan at 1:35 PM on February 9


I bought one of these about two months ago but at the time they had one that was black without pattern. It has a lot of pockets with varying degrees of accessibility and would fit my work gear and a change of clothes. What I liked about it was the fact that it can look smart enough for work (at least the pure black one I have) and does all the things a business backpack does but doesn’t scream business backpack when you use it outside work.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:45 PM on February 9


And this one has a specific compartment for an overnight stay.
posted by essexjan at 1:46 PM on February 9


They fall down on that last nice-to-have, but otherwise I think Aer is everything you’re looking for. I have their Duffel Pack 2 and it’s my daily driver, but you might want to look at the Travel Pack 2. I really love the bag of theirs that I have; it powers through Chicago’s nasty weather without a blip, doesn’t have any obtrusive branding, rides pretty close to me when I’m on the train, but has a bunch of space (and a dedicated shoe pocket) to eat up all my stuff.
posted by protocoach at 2:08 PM on February 9


I have been trying to justify getting one of these Bellroy bags, which looks like it ticks many of your boxes.
posted by biffa at 2:19 PM on February 9


I've been using an Everki bag for the past five years or so. I own a Titan, which I believe is their largest size. Depending on your needs you can even consider going down a size.

Space for 13 inch macbook pro and associated bits and bobs: ✓Holds my 15" MBP just fine
Lots of pockets, one big enough for basic overnight gear: ✓ has a cable organizer panel, an office supplies pocket (pens, business cards, keys, change). if your version of "basic overnight gear" includes tomorrows clothing it can be done when rolled up.
Separate water bottle pocket (maybe): ✓ side pockets have zippers and elastic bands and nettings to hold a bottle snugly.
Low profile so doesn't protrude too much from my back: ✓ Titan is a big'n, but comes with compression straps to keep it from getting too poofy. Obviously the more you put in the more round it gets, but it's also rather broad and the default state is fairly thin
Somewhat structured so it doesn't dangle down when heavily laden: ✓ adjustable shoulder and sternum straps will keep it where you want it
Doesn't make me look like a student: ✓ Everki's design is largely black (often leather) with orange accent / interior.

Frankly, at least in America backpacks are coded as either student or hiker. You can put up as many photos of people in suits wearing black backpacks as you like, it won't really undo that. You may be better off looking for a briefcase; some folks even make backpacks with removable shoulder straps so you can still keep the weight balanced until just before you walk into your client's lobby.
posted by pwnguin at 3:01 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I think the Freitag Hazzard fits all your criteria except water bottle cage / "lots" of pockets (though it depends what you mean by that). Watch the video at the bottom of the page to see "features".

Some other features that might appeal:

- waterproof
- backpack handles can be stowed and can be carried like a briefcase
- fits under airline seats for carry-on luggage (I use one as my second / smaller carry-on)
- would probably last your lifetime, if not a couple decades
- each is unique and handmade, with new ones added to the site daily
- upcycled

My favorite of their backpacks is their Voyager (and its smaller buddy, the Skipper), but they don't fit all your criteria.

I've travelled around the world with carry-on luggage that is a Voyager and a Hazzard.
posted by dobbs at 3:12 PM on February 9


Not European made and may or may not look studenty to you, but I'm currently enjoying using a North Face Vault in black and burnt coral as my work bag. I think it fits your other requirements in terms of space, organisation and low profile.
posted by escapepod at 3:20 PM on February 9


KeySmart Urban 21 backpack. Water bottle, laptop compartment, hard shell compartment for delicate items, TILE tracker. It looks nice and is low profile.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 3:39 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


The Tom Bihn Synapse. It keeps its structure, I use the bottom pocket for my charger and white board markers and clicker and handkerchiefs and still have plenty of room to spare, the side pockets are the perfect size for a glasses case or small travel mug alongside pens and such, and the centered bottle pocket seems ridiculous at first but it seriously works like gangbusters. Oh, and the main pocket is just right; substantial but not cavernous. When stuffed full it looks big but not chunky, and when empty, it’s slender and comfy. I’m a professor, I wasn’t interested in a briefcase, but my messenger bag was destroying my neck and shoulders. I adore this backpack. No regrets. The construction is impeccable (these zippers!) and I expect it to last forever.
posted by flipmodemedian at 7:21 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I bought the Tortuga Setout Divide based on this question, and I'm really happy with it. I love that I can use it for my real travel and my every day commute.

If I didn't want the expansion feature for long trips, I probably would have just bought their laptop bag. It looks plenty big enough for basic overnight gear.
posted by oryelle at 5:48 AM on February 10


My current bag from Ucon Acrobatics, which I adore, is both comfortable and professional-looking, structured but low profile, and made in Europe. Unfortunately it’s a little small for your needs, but their Nathan backpack looks like it was designed for your use case. They also have some bags for sale on the UK-based wardow.com, which carries other brands you could look at.
posted by bettafish at 6:51 AM on February 10


According to Gee Thanks Just Bought It, this is the grown up commuter backpack to end all grown up commuter backpacks.
posted by dotparker at 10:50 AM on February 10


I have a convertible briefcase/backpack and I think you should look for one of those. Mine is from solo ny (so not European) but I think the general style would keep it low profile and not student-y. It has two handles that snap together for a briefcase look, two backpack straps that can be hidden in a zipper pocket, and one detachable shoulder strap that I never use.
posted by soelo at 12:41 PM on February 10


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