Top 10 Best Commuter Backpacks in 2018

Man with commuter backpackBringing your stuff back and forth to work might seem uncomplicated at first glance, but it’s actually worth spending some time thinking about how you carry things.

After all, you will not just need to bring your stuff back and forth 1-2 times. Commuting goes on several times every week, so it’s super important that you bring your stuff in a backpack that is comfortable and have room for everything without being too heavy.

Having checked many thousands of commuter backpack reviews, we can say that the Patagonia Ironwood is the best choice for most people.

Patagonia Ironwood

Patagonia Ironwood

The best reviewed commuter backpack
Rated 4.88 out of 5

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PS: We have checked 23,946 reviews to make this top 10 list!
1Patagonia IronwoodPatagonia Ironwood4.88Check Price
2Granite Gear ChampGranite Gear Champ4.85Check Price
3Brooks PickwickBrooks Pickwick4.82Check Price
4Patagonia Paxat 32Patagonia Paxat 324.80Check Price
5Patagonia Toromiro 22Patagonia Toromiro 224.79Check Price
6Deuter GigantDeuter Gigant4.77Check Price
7Sherpani SoleilSherpani Soleil4.76Check Price
8Lowepro Ridgeline BP 250 AWLowepro Ridgeline BP 250 AW4.75Check Price
9Osprey Nebula 34Osprey Nebula 344.73Check Price
10Fjallraven Raven 20Fjallraven Raven 204.73Check Price

How we rate the bags

We have checked 23,946 commuter backpack reviews, so we can show you the weighted average rating of all the bags.

Using the average ratings, you can check what all the reviewers think instead of just viewing the subjective opinion of one specific reviewer.

It’s much simplier to find the best bags that way.

Not sure what commuter backpacks to choose? Read on as we are going to take a closer look at each bag!

1 – Patagonia Ironwood

5 review stars Rating 4.88 based on 60 reviews

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Patagonia Ironwood

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Patagonia Ironwood:

Reviewers like these things about the Patagonia Ironwood

  • Several reviewers thought that the Mountainsmith Approach backpack is ideal for everyday use, light camping, and travel, among others.
  • Testers praised its Recycled-polyester fabric body with a DWR finish, making it durable and well-balanced.
  • Users noted that the backpack has sufficient compartments to store essential items and personal belongings.
  • Laptop users lauded the presence of a padded sleeve dedicated to keeping their gadgets safe and secure.
  • Several users thought that the pack is resistant to water and snow due to its durable water repellent fabric.
  • Other users praised the different versions of colors which the backpack is available on.
  • Those who have used the bag found it comfortable due to its human curve shoulder straps.
  • Users are ensured of the safety of their belongings due to its zippered exterior stash pocket.
  • Many reviewers noted that the backpack offers a sufficient amount of storage albeit its size.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user thought that the backpack lacks organizing pockets which could help in arranging personal belongings.
  • A reviewer found out that the front pocket was a little tight to put things in.

2 – Granite Gear Champ

5 review stars Rating 4.85 based on 47 reviews

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Granite Gear Champ

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Granite Gear Champ:

Reviewers like these things about the Granite Gear Champ

  • Many reviewers said that it is a comfortable pack with great colours.
  • They also said that the bag is decently priced and with great quality.
  • A user said that he dropped the bag twice but the padded inner compartment saved his laptop.
  • Few students said that the pack is spacious and holds their books also after inserting their laptop.
  • Many have mentioned about the comfortable should straps which helped them to carry the pack for daily travel.
  • A user also said the commuting with the pack is very comfortable for the back padding.
  • A few buyers said that the bag is very light to carry.
  • A buyer also mentioned that the pack is water resistant.
  • Some reviewers also said that the pack is more organized with several internal and external compartments.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user complained that the pack is a little big for small kids.

3 – Brooks Pickwick

5 review stars Rating 4.82 based on 24 reviews

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Brooks Pickwick

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Brooks Pickwick:

Reviewers like these things about the Brooks Pickwick

  • One user described it as smart looking and utilitarian.
  • Some users liked how the inside sleeves fits a full sized macbook pro.
  • Other reviewers thought it’s a nice vintage bag with a nice color.
  • Well built, solid zippers, perfect size, heavy duty stitching and materials, lightweight and long lasting materials are cited as the main reasons for choosing this bag.
  • Many users thought the wide straps are properly placed, no tangling, solidly made and high quality.
  • Some reviewers thought it has a clean look and simple design that goes well with some outfits.
  • Many owners liked how it’s very spacious yet very compact and sturdy.
  • Many agree that it’s got top notch quality and style and works great for commuting.
  • One user said that every detail of this bag was made with love.
  • An owner described it as an epic, aesthetically pleasing and functional bag.
  • Some users find the straps useful in keeping the bag’s weight well balanced.
  • Other reviewers find its straight forward simple design timeless.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users thought it’s a bit expensive for a backpack.
  • Other reviewers said it would’ve been perfect if the straps are padded.

4 – Patagonia Paxat 32

5 review stars Rating 4.80 based on 95 reviews

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Patagonia Paxat 32

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Patagonia Paxat 32:

Reviewers like these things about the Patagonia Paxat 32

  • Many reviewers noted that the nylon and polyester materials of the Patagonia Paxat backpack make it exceptionally durable.
  • Many users also pointed out that the presence of several pockets makes it easy for storing equipment and gears securely.
  • Several reviewers found out that the pack is lightweight, providing ease when using it for travel or everyday use.
  • Many of the users commended the internal organization feature of the backpack for keeping electronics and other supplies.
  • Users like that the main compartment of the bag is spacious to hold books and clothes for a getaway.
  • Other users noted that the bag might be repellent to water due to its fabric.
  • Laptop users found it easy to store their gadgets due to a compartment dedicated for laptops.
  • Reviewers noted that it was comfortable to use the backpack due to its airflow-mesh shoulder straps and back panel.
  • Other reviewers thought that it was easy to use the zippers.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that the back panel of the backpack is not as efficient as a those from a hiking backpack.
  • A reviewer noted that the bag lacks a hip belt which could also offer more space.

5 – Patagonia Toromiro 22

5 review stars Rating 4.79 based on 68 reviews

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Patagonia Toromiro 22

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Patagonia Toromiro 22:

Reviewers like these things about the Patagonia Toromiro 22

  • Reviewers thought that the Patagonia Toromiro backpack provides optimal durability due to its Recycled-polyester fabric body.
  • Other reviewers noted that the pack is waterproof due to its durable water repellent (DWR) finish.
  • Many of the users were able to fit essential things and equipment due to its generous main compartment.
  • Those who have used the backpack felt that the bag provided enough safety for their stuff due to the bag’s zippered stash pockets.
  • Laptop users commend the pack for having a designated padded sleeve where they can place their laptop in place.
  • Other users found the backpack comfortable to wear.
  • Testers lauded the shoulder straps which are shaped after the human curve to provide additional comfort.
  • Other testers also commented that the backpack has a simple yet versatile design.
  • Many reviewers found the stability and load dispersion of the bag great.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that the backpack might get saggy if he did not place much stuff in it.
  • Another user noted the lack of a water bottle holder.

6 – Deuter Gigant

5 review stars Rating 4.77 based on 46 reviews

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Deuter Gigant

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Deuter Gigant:

Reviewers like these things about the Deuter Gigant

  • Buyers said that the bag is quite spacious.
  • Majority of the users said that the bag is sturdy and highly durable.
  • Some reviewers commented that the backpack is light and is ideal for use at work or travel.
  • Reviewers mentioned that there are plenty of pockets to store the smaller items.
  • The side compression straps for volume adjustments work great.
  • The comfortable grab handle of the bag is quite useful as highlighted by buyers.
  • Other reviewers said that the back-air circulation of the bag is up to the mark.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users said that the bag’s side pockets are too tight.
  • A buyer mentioned that an outer pocket for rain cover would have been made the bag even better.

7 – Sherpani Soleil

5 review stars Rating 4.76 based on 108 reviews

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Sherpani Soleil

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Sherpani Soleil:

Reviewers like these things about the Sherpani Soleil

  • Users recommend this bag to anyone looking for a bag that is versatile and doesn’t look like a student backpack or a stuffy briefcase.
  • Many reviewers love how the backpack straps can be clipped off at the bottom plus a pouch compartment for them to slide into and stay out of view.
  • Some users love the presence of a special strap that can slide over the telescoping handle of a suitcase.
  • Well made, nice design, light weight, versatile and comfortable are cited as the main reasons for buying this bag.
  • Other users thought it’s a functional, stylish and great travel bag for work.
  • Many reviewers are happy with how it easily holds laptop, notebook, laptop charger, two water bottles, cosmetic bag, and has ample pockets for smaller items.
  • A lot of users love the option to wear as a backpack or carry as a shoulder bag.
  • A number of reviewers especially love the shoulder pads/backpack feature.
  • Others thought its unique design makes it perfect for both men and women.
  • Many users said it has all the strap options they could want such as handles, adjustable and removable shoulder strap, and adjustable and hidden backpack straps.
  • A lot of reviewers agree that it has great pockets and zippers to keep things safe and handy.
  • Many users said it has a sleek design that makes it convenient, stylish, super comfortable to wear and goes with anything.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Others said it’s well made but too small for their needs.
  • Some users said it’s a bit expensive.

8 – Lowepro Ridgeline BP 250 AW

5 review stars Rating 4.75 based on 52 reviews

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Lowepro Ridgeline BP 250 AW

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Lowepro Ridgeline BP 250 AW:

Reviewers like these things about the Lowepro Ridgeline BP 250 AW

  • A lot of users laud its cradle fit compartment feature that suspends and protects a laptop and tablet.
  • Travelers like the presence of a built-in trolley handle for easy transport when paired with a rolling bag.
  • Some reviewers like the stretch-mesh side pocket which offers easy access to a quick-grab item like a water bottle or travel umbrella.
  • Many users describe it as spacious, well made, sturdy, very comfortable and comes with many good features.
  • Others chose it for its perfect fit and well designed pockets.
  • Some reviewers said it’s lightweight yet carries a full day’s worth of needs.
  • Others find it perfect for office commute and business travel.
  • Some users particularly like its comfortable shoulder straps.
  • A number of users thought it’s designed for safe transport of laptop and peripherals.
  • Some reviewers said the zippers are very solid and the stitching is great.
  • Many users love that everything has its own perfect safe place in this bag, including the cables in their little banded storage spots.
  • One user described it as a great all purpose backpack.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users said that the only downside was the shoulder straps tend to fit in the outside of the shoulders.
  • Others said it has great quality and functionality but not big enough to carry stuff for work.

9 – Osprey Nebula 34

5 review stars Rating 4.73 based on 215 reviews

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Osprey Nebula 34

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Nebula 34:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Nebula 34

  • Several reviewers recommended the Osprey Nebula backpack to be used in business and leisure travels.
  • Other reviewers praised the ventilation which the meshed back panel provided.
  • Laptop users lauded the presence of a padded sleeve dedicated to keeping their gadgets safe and secure.
  • Other users thought that its sufficient pockets made it easier for them to organize items such as hydration bottles and electronics.
  • Testers have discovered that the bag includes a blinker light attachment, providing an area to place a blinker light which makes the backpack visible when users are in dark environments.
  • Many reviewers thought that the backpack was lightweight and durable.
  • Other users also found the bag comfortable to use.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user mentioned that the hip straps are difficult to stow when not needed.
  • Another user said that the backpack has a seemingly thin fabric material.

10 – Fjallraven Raven 20

5 review stars Rating 4.73 based on 268 reviews

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Fjallraven Raven 20

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Fjallraven Raven 20:

Reviewers like these things about the Fjallraven Raven 20

  • Many reviewers noted on the durability of the Fjallraven Raven backpack due to its G-1000 Heavy duty material.
  • Most reviewers agree that optimum support and comfort is provided by its padded back panel and shoulder straps.
  • A reviewer thought that the backpack ensures the security of belongings due to its zippered main compartment.
  • Laptop users agree that a zippered laptop compartment secures their laptops in place.
  • Other users lauded on its zippered security pocket which keeps valuable items such as phones and wallets confidential and secure.
  • Some reviewers also praised the presence of several external pockets where users can store equipment and valuables.
  • Some testers also pointed out that the backpack possesses a sufficient gear capacity.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user’s primary concern is that the fabric material may be susceptible to being ripped, especially at its seams.
  • A reviewer thought that the water bottle pockets are not elastic, making it difficult for the bottle to place.

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Buyer’s guide to commuter backpacks

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.

Your Guide to Finding the Best Commuter Backpack for Your Journey

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.

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.


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.

Selected reviews

Her Packing List reviewed the Timbuk2 Jet

I’ve been very impressed with the feel, organizational aspects, and professional vibe of the bag. When considering a bag, you’ve got to pick the one that works best for you, and for me, so far so good with the Timbuk2 Jet Laptop Pack!

Posted 14 August 2017 by Ali Garland – Read full review

Her Packing List reviewed the Herschel Little America

I would totally recommend it! My backache is gone and I’m surprised every time how much fits in it if you know how to compartmentalize. The design is timeless so I intend to keep it for a long time to come!

Posted 31 July 2017 by Ali Garland – Read full review

Traveling Salseros reviewed the Timbuk2 Jet

Posted 8 June 2017 – Read full review

Traveling Salseros reviewed the Incase Icon

Posted 24 April 2017 – Read full review

The Gadgeteer reviewed the Incase Icon

It’s so comfortable, can fit all of my tech gear for work, is great when it rains, and I always get compliments regarding the color.

Posted 1 February 2015 by Liz Rodriguez – Read full review

Road CC reviewed the Timbuk2 Q

Founded by a cycle messenger in San Francisco in 1989, Timbuk2 is perhaps better known for its messenger bags. Its Q laptop backpack is equally well designed around a rider’s actual needs , and is a pleasure to use.

Posted 11 November 2014 by Iwein Dekoninck – Read full review

Notes about this top 10 list

The list was last updated 19/09/2018.

The list shows the best reviewed commuter backpacks from a much bigger list of selected products. The list should not be considered a complete list of all available, excellent commuter backpacks

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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So far we have checked more than 2,1 million reviews!

Using our bag review summaries, we aim to help you find the perfect bag without having to spend a lot of time reading an endless list of reviews.

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