Best Backpacks 2020: Bags for laptops, students, travel & more Android Central 2021
The best backpacks are used for all kinds of reasons, whether it's to travel to work, school, or even vacation. There are so many types and kinds of backpacks, many of which are appropriate for different use cases. But one of the best and most versatile is the Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2 which, as the name implies, is designed to handle everyday use, whatever you might throw at it. It can hold a laptop and other essentials, both large and small, thanks to adjustable dividers. Plus, it's water-resistant, expandable, and designed with plenty of features to reduce theft.
- Best Overall: Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2
- Best for Tech Gear: The North Face Resistor Charged Backpack
- Best for Students: JanSport Big Student Backpack
- Best for Business: Targus Spruce EcoSmart Travel Backpack
- Best for Travel: Nomatic Backpack
- Best Oversized Backpack: Mountain Warehouse Traveller
- Best Value: Herschel Heritage Backpack
- Best for Photographers: Lowepro Freeline BP 350 AW Backpack
- Best for Versatility: Socko Laptop Backpack
Best Overall: Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2
As the name implies, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2 is a versatile backpack made for everyday use, and it's designed such that it would look as great on a college campus as it would while you walk about a trade show. The internal dividers are adjustable so you can move them around as needed, whether you're carrying a laptop, camera gear, or clothing for an overnight trip.
It can accommodate a laptop up to 15 inches in size in the protected laptop sleeve. A MagLatch at the top keeps your stuff protected inside, both from falling out and from unauthorized access. Inside is 8 liters of storage space, but you can carry more if needed using the hidden straps on the exterior. Inside are tons of hidden compartments and expandable pockets for storing even more. Note, however, that the side openings aren't super wide so you might not easily be able to fit a wide water bottle.
The 100% recycled nylon canvas shell is weatherproof so you don't need to worry about a little rain or snow. There's both a 20L or this 30L option, depending on how much you want to carry. The attractive style and color options make this bag a great one, no matter what you want to do with it.
- Ample storage
- Two size options
- MagLatch closure
- Adjustable dividers
- Elegant design
- Can only hold up to 15-inch laptops
- Only two colors
- Side openings aren't very wide
Best for Tech Gear: North Face Resistor Charged Backpack
A trend over the last few years has been to include chargers in backpacks so you can keep your gear chugging along throughout the day. One such backpack is the Resistor, which has a battery pocket and hub holder inside that you can recharge then use to plug in your electronic devices.
The backpack itself has custom-molded shoulder straps, a padded mesh channel and spine channel, and a lumbar panel that is designed to make it comfortable to wear without putting strain on your back.
Carry items inside the main compartment, including an up to 17-inch laptop in the zippered mesh pocket. It also has a secondary main compartment, which has an internal organization and cord management system. Two external zippered mesh pockets are lined with fleece and can store smaller items.
With a reflective design and two water bottle pockets, this bag is as great for using at a trade show as it is while hiking in the great outdoors.
- Lots of pockets
- Can hold an up to 17-inch laptop
- Padded, mesh back panels
- Reflective material
Best for Students: JanSport Big Student Backpack
When it comes to backpacks for students, JanSport is one of the most recognized and popular brands, and for good reason. Its backpacks, like this one, are standard in design, but have all of the features a student would need and are very affordable.
The Big Student backpack has plenty of pockets to store everything from a laptop to the various small items you generally carry. A front utility pocket can hold the items you need to grab quickly, like your wallet, ID, and phone, while other larger zippered compartments can hold a notepad, charger, and other items. Store everything from electronics to your gym clothes or running shoes in the spacious 34-liter interior. Plus, it has a water bottle sleeve so students can stay properly hydrated. While the inside is very spacious, and large enough to hold a laptop, it doesn't actually have a padded laptop sleeve inside, which is the one downside.
Available in more than 35 color options, it's made from durable material and comes with ergonomic S-curve shoulder straps and a padded back panel so you can comfortably wear it all day.
- Spacious interior
- 35+ color options
- Padded back panel
- Casual style
- No padded laptop sleeve
Best for Business: Targus Spruce EcoSmart Travel Backpack
Great for travel as well as business, this eco-friendly backpack has the added advantage of being made from 100% recycled PET polyester and PVC-free material, so you can feel good about using for multiple reasons. It only comes in black, but its style will fit right in with any office.
The foam padded laptop compartment can keep a laptop up to 15.4 inches in screen size protected by absorbing shock. It also comes with a removable padded slipcase, making TSA security checks at the airport simple. There's also a larger version with a slipcase that can hold a 17-inch laptop.
It also has zip down compartments for accessory pockets, and a quick access mobile phone pouch when you need to answer that urgent call from a client. As with all Targus products, it comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
- Understated design
- Padded laptop sleeve
- Quick access phone pouch
- Eco-friendly material
- Lifetime warranty
- Only fits 15.4 inch laptop (17 inch version available)
- Only one color option
Best for Travel: Nomatic Backpack
When traveling, you need a backpack that is large enough to accommodate everything you need but won't be a strain. And it helps if you can use the backpack after you arrive at your destination, too. The Nomatic Backpack offers all of that thanks to its design that can easily expand from 20 liters to 24 liters by simply unzipping it. Use it to pack all of your essentials, unpack when you arrive at your destination, then zip it up to use the smaller version while out and about, bringing along only what you need.
It's lightweight, made from water-resistant tarpaulin fabric, and has a laptop compartment that fits most 15.5 inch laptops. Inside is a mesh dividing wall so you can organize items, keeping your books and electronics, for example, separate from clothing and toiletries. There are also specific pockets to hold items like laptop chargers, notebooks, smartphones, sunglasses, and more.
The design is not only elegant but functional. It has cord passthroughs so you can charge your devices via the cables while keeping them safely tucked away, and two exterior water bottle pockets with magnetic snaps. It also has a roller bag sleeve for easily mounting it on your luggage to get around the airport when traveling. RFID technology, meanwhile, allows you to safely store your electronics inside while going through TSA.
- Expandable design
- Padded laptop compartment
- Mesh dividing wall
- Cord passthrough for charging devices
- Roller bag sleeve
- Only one color
- Only fits up to 15.5 inch laptops
Best Oversized Backpack: Mountain Warehouse Traveller
With this handy, machine-washable backpack, you essentially get two backpacks in one. The main backpack has a massive 60-liter capacity to store all of the essentials you'd need while the travel backpack that attaches to its front has a 20-liter capacity, enough to use for day trips and short outings.
Don't worry about the size on your back. You can adjust the shoulder straps to help prevent back pain and use the chest and hip straps as well to further stabilize the pack and distribute weight evenly throughout your body. It also comes with a rain and flight cover.
It also has plenty of pockets to keep smaller items organized. It's a pretty big backpack, but in terms of oversized options, this one provides the best of both worlds because you have the option to use it as a small bag as well when needed. It's also available in five colors so you can find one that fits your style. Just keep in mind that there's a separate version designed to better fit female bodies.
- Large interior
- Removable smaller backpack
- Included rain and flight cover
- Chest and hip straps
- Separate version for women's fit
- No laptop sleeve
- Too big for some
Best Value: Herschel Heritage Backpack
With the Herschel Heritage Backpack, you get a really cool, modern, and elegant design with high quality material that will meet your basic needs. It's more stylish than what you might get with a basic backpack from a brand like Jansport, it isn't that much more expensive.
In addition to the full-sized, classic 21.5-liter version, it also comes in smaller 7-liter and 14.5-liter versions, all made from polyester material that is easily wiped clean with a damp cloth. It's also fully-lined inside, and the interior sleeve can hold an up to 15-inch laptop.
The larger bag has a dedicated laptop sleeve along with a zippered pocket on the front, a key clip, and a headphone port inside the internal media pocket. It won't accommodate everything you might need, but it's enough to do the trick for daily outings. It comes in a number of patterns, solid colors, and designs to suit every personal style.
- Lots of color and pattern options
- Smaller sizes available if desired
- Laptop sleeve
- Laptop sleeve only holds up to 15 inch
- Not as spacious as others
- Not rugged
Best for Photographers: Lowepro Freeline BP 350 AW
Photographers have lots of gear they need to bring along with them, which requires a specific type of backpack. And while you might have or want a backpack with slots that are designed just for your specific equipment, there are great backpacks that can you use both when you have your photo gear as well as when you don't.
The Lowepro Freeline BP 350 AW has customizable QuickShelf dividers inside that either open to a three-tier shelf when you're bringing your camera gear with you or can fold flat when you aren't. Plus, it comes with a tech organizing pouch, slots inside for small items like charging cables and SD cards, and even straps on the front so you can easily carry items like a tripod.
Made with a water-resistant coating and high-grade nylon exterior, it can withstand the elements while you shoot in harsh conditions. Its large and spacious interior can accommodate pretty much everything you'd need. A padded compartment can also accommodate a 15-inch laptop.
- Large interior
- Removable dividers
- Straps for tripod
- Water-resistant coating
- Laptop sleeve
- No side handles
- Only one color
- Sleeve only fits up to 15-inch laptop
Best for Versatility: Socko Laptop Backpack
This backpack can accommodate larger laptops up to 17 inches in screen size, but what really sets it apart and makes it the most versatile of the bunch is that it has various buckles and hooks, so you can easily convert from a standard backpack design to a shoulder bag/messenger, or even a briefcase. It also has a top carry handle, side carry handle, and a pair of hidden adjustable and detachable shoulder straps.
Made of water-repellent high-density nylon material, it can resist not only moisture but also scratches; the zippers are anti-rust and the bag has reinforced seams as well. The padded laptop and tablet compartment has anti-collision isolation foam to provide sufficient protection for your tech gear. It also has plenty of pockets, including two big inner pockets and four outer zipper pockets.
- Padded laptop compartment for up to 17-inch laptop
- Rugged material
- Convertible to shoulder bag
- Water-resistant coating
- Only one color
- Not as spacious as others
There are so many backpacks from which to choose, so it's a tough decision when it comes to narrowing things down to the best one that will meet your needs. Sometimes, the business "travel" backpack is actually an ideal one for business, or the value backpack is what you really need for school.
In terms of being the most things to most people, however, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2 lives up to its name, providing different size options depending on your needs along with a padded laptop compartment, adjustable dividers to organize items inside, and plenty of hidden compartments and expandable pockets for smaller items. It might not be the cheapest backpack of the bunch, but if you're looking for a backpack that will last, can withstand the elements, will deter theft, and can accommodate everything you need for work, play, or other outings, it's one of the best options out there.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Christine Persaud resides in Toronto, Ontario Canada with her husband and 8-year-old son. While she works from home, a backpack is essential for day trips, trade shows, and other events; and she always takes one as a carry-on while traveling.
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