How to Choose the Best Commuter Backpack

A good portion of your life is spent commuting to and from work or school. This is why it can pay to have the right pack on your shoulder. You will be able to make sure that you have everything that you need to succeed each day but also make certain that you are comfortable.

Since commuter backpacks are only now gaining popularity, you will be hard pressed to find any help on finding the right one for you. This is why we have taken hold of the reins. In this guide, we look at the type of commuting you might do and consider all of the features you should have in your perfect backpack. See it all here.

Picture Brand Rating
Picture Brand Rating
Osprey - ( Momentum 32 )

Osprey Momentum

26-32 L / 1587-1953 CI

4.6

42 reviews
Mountain Hardwear - ( DryCommuter 22 )

Mountain Hardwear DryCommuter

25-33 L / 1526-2014 CI
Mammut - ( Xeron 20 )

Mammut Xeron

20-25 L / 1220-1526 CI

5.0

2 reviews
Timbuk2 - ( Parker  )

Timbuk2 Parker

25 L / 1526 CI

4.6

17 reviews
Timbuk2 - ( Robin 20 )

Timbuk2 Robin

20 L / 1220 CI

4.6

28 reviews
Thule - ( Pack n Pedal Small )

Thule Pack n Pedal

5.0

1 reviews

Your Guide to Finding the Best Commuter Backpack for Your Journey (Buyers Guide)

There is a lot that you need to think about when choosing a commuter backpack. Due to the many different ways that people travel, it is not a one size fits all situation. This is why you need to consider each scenario and feature to determine which capacity, style, and design is ideal for you. Here are all of the things you will need to keep in mind:

How Do You Commute to Work or School?

The first thing you will need to narrow down is just how it is that you get to work. Here are some of the more common ways to do so and some of the backpack attributes you should consider:

Commuting by Public Transportation

Most people use the bus, train, tram, or another form of public transportation to move around. While this is a more affordable way of traveling there are several things to think about. This includes the size of the pack, how easy it is to travel with the pack, and just how comfortable it is as well.

Run Commuting

If you use your own two feet to get you where you need to go, you are a part of a rapidly growing group. With this type of commuting, you need to take weight, comfort, and movement into consideration. Since you are relying on your own strength, you need a pack made from lightweight material that is also strong. You will also need a fairly compact pack to minimize its movements on your back. Last but not least, it needs to be comfortable and breathable as well.

Commuting on Bicycle

If you are riding around on a bicycle, you do have a few more options in terms of backpacks. That being said, you will also have to find one that will stay securely on your back throughout the ride. You will also need one that is small enough to not interfere with your riding. Also, considering your destination, a decent capacity and organization features are also important.

Best Commuter Backpacks

Where are You Commuting To?

Where it is that you are traveling to each day is also significant. This will determine the style of the backpack that you choose.

Commuting to a Corporate Office

So, if you are heading to a workplace that is very strict with the dress code, then you need to pay special attention to how your backpack looks. First and foremost, you should focus on the overall style. Stay away from backpacks that are a throwback to your school days or anything that looks hipster. Instead, opt for boxier styles so that they mimic handbags or briefcases. You should also stick with either leather or canvas materials. These may be heavier and not as durable but they do make up for this with style points. Last but not least, stick with neutral colors like black, gray, navy blue, and brown. These will match your suits better.

Commuting to College or Low-key Workplace

If you don’t have a lot of style rules imposed upon you, there are a lot more options for you to choose from. Here, it is better to choose materials that are tougher and easier to maintain like nylon or polyester. The color and design are entirely up to you. If you want your backpack to stand out, you can go for something that is bold and bright. However, if you are more concerned with it matching all of your outfits, look for one in neutral tones.

What Capacity Do You Need?

Now, the precise capacity that you need is dependent on what you need for your work or school day. However, the most common capacities for commuter backpacks are often between 10 liters and 30 liters. Sometimes, they may go up to 40 liters, if you want to carry a lot of items with you.

  • 10 liters: a backpack of this capacity is good for someone who wants to carry their laptop and little else. There may be space for a few documents or files but that is about it.
  • 20 – 30 liters: these are the best capacities for those who would like to take their laptop, books, documents, and may be even other devices with them.
  • 30+ liters: few people actually need quite so much space but it can be useful for commuters who like to carry changes of clothing, food, etc. each day to work or school in addition to their computer and books.

Of course, you need to be able to fit everything that you need into your commuter pack. Still, the rule of thumb with commuter backpacks is to never get one that is larger than what you absolutely need. This guideline is in place for a couple of reasons:

For instance, if you work in a corporate environment, the last thing you want to do is to step into work with an overly large, unprofessional bag. Also, if you are running or cycling, a backpack that is too big will hinder your movement and make your commute quite uncomfortable. For those that are using public transportation, a bulging bag will just take up more space and probably hit fellow passengers in the face.

Organization Features

Commuter backpacks, in most instances, have to function as school bags, laptop bags, and briefcases. This means that there need to be various organizational features both internally and externally. Here are some of the things that should be a part of the design:

  • Laptop sleeve: it is quite unlikely that you are working or schooling anywhere that doesn’t require a laptop. This is why you need in addition to checking for a laptop sleeve, you should also discern the fit. Your laptop should snugly fit into the built-in sleeve and not move around. Also, the diagonal length of the laptop should be similar to the length of the backpack.
  • Internal sleeves: look for a smaller sleeve where you can securely keep your phone in during your commute. Additionally, having slim pockets to store pens, keys, and flash drives can also come in handy.
  • Built-in earphone line: if you listen to music while you commute, you probably don’t want to carry your phone or music device in your hand. A built-in earphone line can help with this as you will be able to run the line from the device stored in your bag to the outside.
  • Hydration pockets: if you aren’t using public transportation, you are going to need to rehydrate quite often. This is why you should look for external pockets, especially mesh pockets where you can store water bottles.

Suspension System

There are two reasons that the suspension system (how the straps are positioned) are important on commuter backpacks. First, the straps will determine just how comfortable your pack is as well as how the weight is distributed across your torso. Also, a good suspension system will prevent your backpack from swinging wildly while you run or cycle each day.

Shoulder Straps

The first thing that you should consider with shoulder straps is the width. While they should be in proportion to your own shoulders, a wider strap is always better. This spreads the weight out so that the strap won’t dig into your skin. A padded strap also helps to improve how comfortable a pack is on your shoulders.

Sternum and Waist Straps

While you may not use these straps too much on a regular backpack, they are absolutely imperative when it comes to a commuter pack. This is because these are the straps that will make certain that your backpack is held as close to your center of gravity as possible. In turn, this makes it easier for you to maintain your natural posture. Not to mention, these are the straps that are responsible for making sure that your bag doesn’t move around while you are running or cycling.

Women Specific Straps

There are backpacks that are geared towards the female form, complete with straps meant for shorter torsos and wider hips. If you are going to be cycling, running, or even walking to work these packs can be quite useful. This is because they will make sure your backpack sits where it needs to without drifting below your waist and impeding your movement. If you are really petite, youth backpacks may be an even better fit for you.

Weatherproof Features

Regardless of how you commute to work, there is a good chance that your backpack is going to need to have to withstand the elements. This includes the heat, the sun, and the rain. Here are the features you should be looking for:

Water Resistant Capabilities

It is unlikely that you are going to need a commuter backpack that is entirely waterproof unless you are planning on dealing with daily downpours. In most instances, a water resistant bag will do just fine. These bags may be made of polyester and nylon with waterproof coatings or waxed canvas. You should make sure that the zippers have been similarly protected against the rain.

UV Light Resistant

If you live in a place that is quite sunny for most of the year you may find that most backpacks look worn out or begin deteriorating after a while. This is because of the constant exposure to UV degradation. Polyester is typically the best material for such weather conditions although some backpacks may have coatings that are UV resistant as well.

Ventilation

In warm weather, the sun is not the only thing that you need to be concerned about – you also have to stay as cool as possible. This means that you have to look for packs that allow for ventilation on your back. The best design for warm weather is padded panels on the rear of the packs which allow for space between your back and the materials. This allows for greater air flow.

These are all of the details and features that you will need to consider when choosing a commuter backpack for yourself.


Last updated on November 14, 2017

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