The Ultimate Guide to the Best Commuter Backpacks

Man with 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.

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.

Top 10 Best Commuter Backpacks

1 – 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.

2 – Burton Prospect

Burton Prospect backpack, True Penny Ripstop, One Size
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Main zip compartment with internal Velcro secured slip pocket and zippered mesh pocket with key clip
  • Padded laptop compartment [15.5in x 10.5in x 1in] [39cm x 26.5cm x 2.5cm] and tablet sleeve [9.5in x 10.5in] [24cm x 26.5cm]
  • Ergonomic shoulder harness, adjustable sternum strap and dual mesh water bottle pockets

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Burton Prospect:

Reviewers like these things about the Burton Prospect

  • Testers say that it is a lightweight, compact and great backpack for daily use.
  • Some of the testers have also said that the pack is durable with good built materials.
  • Reviewers say that the pack is spacious to fit a large laptop.
  • Some reviewers also mentioned about the good number of external pockets that helped them to carry extra gears for daily use.
  • Some travellers said that they have used the pack for snowboarding and camping also and it was a good fit.
  • A few travellers have also complimented about the excellent waterproofing quality of the pack.
  • Most reviewers said that it is a stylish backpack and is very comfortable to carry.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some reviewers have complained that pack to be small in size for travelling.
  • A couple of reviewers also complained about the built of the pack. They say that the pack is not enough padded to carry sophisticated gears like a professional camera.

3 – Timbuk2 Robin

Timbuk2 Robin Pack Lightweight, OS, Jet Black
  • A small lightweight weatherproof cycling pack
  • Dual side stretch pockets, with grommeted drain holes, fit water bottles or U-lock
  • Padded laptop compartment fits 15 inch laptop
  • Hidden vista loop, under the front bottom panel, for attaching blinky light when riding
  • Lighweight ripstop fabric

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Timbuk2 Robin:

Reviewers like these things about the Timbuk2 Robin

  • Most reviewers mentioned that the Timbuk2 Robin backpack is durable due to its 940D Cordura nylon material.
  • Many of those who have tried the pack have commented that its roll top feature is reflective and weather-proof.
  • Others noted that its dual side stretch pockets could fit water bottles, making it easy to quench thirst when needed.
  • Laptop users found it easy to store their gadgets due to a compartment dedicated to laptops.
  • A lot of reviewers thought that its hidden vista loop could provide an avenue for attaching blinky light when riding.
  • Users highlighted on the comfort the pack delivered by its shoulder straps and back panel.
  • Several of those who have used the pack also said that its mesh panel provides a subtle illumination when hit with direct sunlight.
  • Many testers praised the bag for having attractive and colorful designs.
  • Users have noted that the back panel of the pack provides sufficient ventilation on the back.
  • Other users thought that its removable waist strap could secure a heavier load on the hips.
  • Reviewers mentioned that its sternum strap could be adjusted depending on the preference.
  • Reviewers recommend the product for everyday use, including work and school.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user thought that the backpack lacks sufficient pockets for better organization.
  • Another user noted that the bag is not large enough to place a lot of stuff in it.

4 – Deuter Gigant

Deuter Gigant 32L Backpack, Dresscode/Black
  • ENGINEERED WITH INNOVATION - Deuter's Gigant pack brings together all around versatility and advanced ergonomics to deliver optimal comfort and performance through anatomically-sound construction; Removable hip belt
  • OPTIMAL AIRFLOW - Deuter's Airstripes offers effective ventilation; 2 contoured, air-channeled foam profiles are encased in a breathable mesh that reduces contact with your back; A channel between the pads pushes warm air away and draws fresh air in, keeping you cool through your rush hour commute
  • STORAGE OPTIONS - This everyday backpack was designed to keep your school or office essentials organized; Main compartment is sized to fit folders and documents and second compartment fits a 17.3-inch laptop; Built-in organizer for laptop accessories, plus a detachable key holder and stretch side pockets
  • BUILT TO LAST - Made from Super-Polytex, the Gigant daypack delivers lightweight, high-performance durability; PU coating makes this backpack water- and abrasion- resistant, ensuring it'll work as hard as you do
  • SPECIFICATIONS - This 32-liter pack comfortably carries up to 15 lbs (6.8kg); Zipper closure with side compression straps for volume adjustment; Features comfortable grab handle, padded base, and reflective strip for visibility

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.

5 – Osprey Celeste 29

Osprey Packs Celeste Daypack, Mariposa Purple
  • Separate zippered laptop access
  • Padded front grab handle
  • Stay seen and safe in the dark by using the blinker light attachment strap located near the base of the pack's front panel
  • A heat embossed scratch-free slash pocket keeps your sunglasses and other small items safe
  • Every 24/Seven Series adult pack features a padded sleeve to keep your laptop and tablet safe

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Celeste 29:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Celeste 29

  • Reviewers thought that the Osprey Celeste backpack is ideal for traveling, hiking, and camping, among others.
  • A lot of users felt that the adjustable sternum and waist straps allowed them to carry the backpack with much ease.
  • Other users commend its heat embossed and scratch-free slash pockets which makes it handy for small valuables such as wallets and keys.
  • Many of those who have tried the bag noticed that the bag could resist rain and other liquid substances.
  • Others who have used the backpack mentioned the quality of the material which the backpack is made up of is durable.
  • Many reviewers highly commend its ability to stabilize the load, providing them sufficient balance.
  • 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.
  • Laptop users commend the pack for having a designated padded sleeve where they can place their laptop in place.
  • Other users praised the backpack for having sufficient pockets to put their things.
  • Many reviewers felt comfortable using the backpack.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user thought that the backpack might be a little pricey considering the fact that there may be other backpacks which offer similar features.
  • Another user thought that the top handle is not very comfortable to use.

6 – Osprey Quasar 28

Osprey Quasar 28 Pack
  • Blinker light attachment
  • Front organization pocket
  • Front panel bungee compression and storage
  • Heat embossed stash pocket
  • Laptop/Tablet sleeve

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Quasar 28:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Quasar 28

  • Users have noted that the Osprey Quasar backpack is built with robust materials to ensure durability.
  • Several users felt that they were able to organize things quickly due to its sufficient pockets.
  • Many of the reviewers indicated that it was cleverly designed to provide comfort to the users.
  • Other reviewers thought that the bag could be visible even at nighttime due to its blinker light attachment strap.
  • Other reviewers said that its heat embossed scratch-free slash pocket keeps sunglasses and other small items safe.
  • Laptop users found it easy to store their gadgets due to a compartment dedicated for laptops.
  • Gadget savvies likewise praised the sleeve devoted to their tablets.
  • They also said that the pack was convenient for walking around during the day.
  • Testers also noted that it has sufficient pockets to store things securely.
  • Users recommend the backpack for hiking and traveling around the city.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the bag does not have a water bladder compartment.
  • Another reviewer noted that it is not resistant to water.

7 – Dakine Eve

Dakine Women's Eve Backpack, Libby, 28L
  • Fits most 15 inch laptops
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Fleece lined sunglass pocket
  • Organizer pocket
  • Insulated cooler pocket

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Dakine Eve:

Reviewers like these things about the Dakine Eve

  • Most users said that this book bag is amazing, has sturdy bottom and roomy pockets.
  • Many users said that it does not look bulky when full.
  • One great feature mentioned by many users is that it has a buckle in the front to support the back and to distribute the weight of the bag more evenly throughout the upper body.
  • Many users said that the padded shoulder straps make it comfortable to carry.
  • Reviewers said that the bag is great for travel and hiking trips.
  • Another feature which is praised by many users is that it has an insulated pocket in the front which always comes in handy.
  • Most reviewers said that it is a perfect commuter pack, it has padded pocket for tablet, two exterior mesh pockets, an outer insulated cooler pocket and organizer slots inside.
  • Reviewers said that it has the perfect amount of pockets and compartments.
  • Many users said that the laptop sleeve gives a little extra cushion to protect your computer.
  • Reviewers said that the inside is also nicely lined, the zippers don’t stick.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users complained that that this bag is a little bit heavy on its own.
  • Some users complained that the top handle cuts into their neck while wearing it.

8 – Burton Annex

BURTON Annex Pack, True Black Triple Ripstop
  • Dimensions: 20" x 10.5" x 7"; Volume: 28L; Durable polyester construction
  • Zippered bucket top opening to main compartment for convenient storage; Adjustable webbing system for attaching gear
  • Ergonomic shoulder harness with adjustable sternum strap and load lifters for comfortable carrying
  • Internal zippered mesh pocket with key clip, external fleece-lined accessory pocket on bucket top, and secured external accessory pockets for storage
  • Externally and internally accessible padded laptop compartment [18" x 10" x 2"] and tablet sleeve [11.5" x 7.5"]; Lifetime warranty

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Burton Annex:

Reviewers like these things about the Burton Annex

  • Most users said that the pack is perfect for weekend trip.
  • Many users said that it is a great looking backpack with a lot of features.
  • Reviewers said that the pack is lightweight & not bulky.
  • Many users said that the interior is great, especially the lining at the top.
  • Reviewers said that the dense foam back frame provides some rigidity and structure to the bag while keeping it light.
  • One great feature mentioned by many users that there is a secured laptop pocket and secondary pocket for tablet.
  • Users said that there is a micro-fleece lined top cover pocket for cell phone.
  • Many users said that the laptop pocket is sewn into the back frame a couple inches above the bottom of the bag which provides protection from the ground.
  • Many other buyers said that the side pockets with flap and clip buckle closure are good sizes for accessories.
  • Many reviewers said that the main cinching buckles are metal and slide in an out of strap loops easily.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user complained that the fabric isn’t as comfortable, feels a bit cheap.
  • Some users said that the handle is very flimsy.
  • Other users said that the chest strap can’t be adjusted high enough on the shoulder straps.

9 – Everki Titan

No products found.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Everki Titan:

Reviewers like these things about the Everki Titan

  • Other users love that it has an unbelievable amount of pockets for storage volume.
  • One user said he liked that it had all the International travel requirements.
  • Some reviewers thought the non-black interior makes it super easy to find stuff when on a plane.
  • Others appreciate that it comes with a built in rain coat.
  • Many users find the built of the pack excellent.
  • large zips, sturdy materials, and extra strappings.
  • Many thought the interior is well designed and generously padded.
  • Others appreciate that it comes with rain resistant cover and solid-feeling toiletries bag.
  • Many find the velour –like main compartments useful in storing laptops and tablets.
  • Others liked the stability of the pack.
  • Many liked how the straps allow you to grab a small adjustment loop after you throw this on your back to adjust how high or low it sits against your form.
  • A lot of users love that it’s padded enough to protect computers, but not too much added weight.
  • Many reviewers love the presence of support straps that make sure everything stays snug in its place.
  • Others thought the front straps are truly amazing and well designed.
  • Many users thought the balanced design makes it easy to carry a lot of items without uneven pressure points on the back.
  • Others love the handle that is comfortable without looking like a tow rope.
  • Some reviewers find the access hole for headphone cord a smart design.
  • Many users thought the extra stitching all around the bag ensure strength.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users thought it’s simply overpriced.
  • Others say it has god material but does not protect computer very well.

10 – Brooks Pickwick

Brooks England Pickwick Day Pack
  • HANDMADE IN ITALY - Manufactured by skilled craftsmen using 100 year old traditional techniques and the finest vegetable tanned leather on the planet.
  • BLUESIGN CERTIFIED- The Pickwick is made using water resistant, Bluesign certified textiles.
  • ROLL TOP CLOSURE- The Pickwick features a roll top closure that protects its contents from the elements, a large front pockets, side pockets and elastic net.
  • INCREASED STABILITY- The chest strap locks in the Pickwick for better stability while riding.
  • VEGETABLE TANNED LEATHER- Brooks England uses only the finest 3.5mm vegetable tanned leather for their bags, straps and accessories.

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.

Selected reviews

Traveling Salseros reviewed the Burton Tinder

Posted 18 July 2018 by Travelling Salseros – Read full review

Pangolins with Packs reviewed the Timbuk2 Robin

If youre looking for a slim, durable, cool-looking backpack for office commuting and are willing to spend the money, the Robin Pack is a good choice (wait for the sales!). If youre thinking about it for hiking or travel, Id pass on it.

Posted 21 June 2018 by Hain-Lee Hsueh – Read full review

Traveling Salseros reviewed the Timbuk2 Showdown

Posted 30 April 2018 by Travelling Salseros – Read full review

Her Packing List reviewed the Timbuk2 Jet

Ive been very impressed with the feel, organizational aspects, and professional vibe of the bag. When considering a bag, youve 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 Im 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 Hynes Eagle 40

Posted 19 June 2017 by Travelling Salseros – Read full review

Traveling Salseros reviewed the Timbuk2 Jet

Posted 8 June 2017 by Travelling Salseros – Read full review

Traveling Salseros reviewed the Incase Icon

Posted 24 April 2017 by Travelling Salseros – Read full review

Traveling Salseros reviewed the Timbuk2 Q

Posted 23 April 2017 by Travelling Salseros – Read full review

The Gadgeteer reviewed the Incase Icon

Its 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

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