I recently ran into a pretty big issue on a work trip.
During the middle of a flight, my laptop was running out of charge, so I opened the overhead bin and pulled down my Away backpack, which had a charger inside the main pocket.
As I went to open the pocket, I couldn’t get the zipper to pull. No matter how hard I tried, the zipper was stuck.
I eventually pried the pocket open enough, and when I landed back home, my local zipper-repair shop told me that I had one of two options: buy a brand-new backpack or pay $80 to install a new zipper track (that wouldn’t even match the original one).
Away’s lifetime warranty excludes backpacks (technically called “soft goods”), so I figured it was time to invest in a new bag. I wanted something that would be durable, stylish and spacious — but not too unwieldy.
I took to Instagram to ask for recommendations, and I got an overwhelming number of suggestions. I eventually distilled the list down to some top picks. And just in case you might also be in the market for a new travel backpack that works for business trips or hauling laptops around, I thought I’d share the tips, suggestions and research I used to make my decision.
Without further adieu, here are the best business travel backpacks that maximize form and function.
Related: Review of the Away Larger Carry-On
Tumi Navigation Backpack
In my informal social media poll, no brand received as much praise as Tumi. That’s not necessarily surprising, as this travel gear brand has been a fan favorite for frequent flyers for many years. Though Tumi makes a handful of durable bags, the Navigation Backpack excels for a wide range of travel needs.
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There’s a separate padded laptop compartment (that can fit even the largest MacBooks), as well as a main storage area and plenty of other smaller pockets.
But my favorite feature is the bag’s zip expansion capability, which will certainly come in handy if you pick up some souvenirs or other swag during your trip.
The Navigation Backpack comes in five colors, giving you plenty of choices to match your personal travel style.
Tumi also offers two more contenders for the best business travel backpack: the slightly larger Alpha Bravo Search (which also came highly recommended in my Instagram poll) and the Bradner Backpack — the brand’s most stylish one yet in my book.
Aer Pro Pack 20L
As far as business-travel backpacks go, Aer’s is certainly quite stylish. It comes in three colors (black, navy and olive), and it’s made of sustainable materials without compromising on durability. A separate laptop compartment safeguards your most precious technology, while the main compartment is large enough for all your chargers and other travel accessories.
The standout feature is that the main compartment features a 180-degree flat-open zipper system, which gives you unobstructed access to all of your belongings.
Plus, there’s even a hidden pocket to store an AirTag or other smart device tracker so that you can locate your bag even if it’s stolen or if you misplace it.
Rimowa Flap Backpack Large
If you’re looking to make a statement, Rimowa’s travel bags are the way to go.
This luxury bag manufacturer has entered the travel backpack space with its new Italian-made large canvas Flap Backpack, which even sports the iconic groove design on the outside.
The inside features a padded laptop sleeve and a large drawstring compartment to fit all of your travel essentials. With a flap-top enclosure secured by a magnetic buckle (that’s emblazoned with the Rimowa logo), there’s no doubt this is a very stylish, spacious and durable bag.
The one big downside? It is Rimowa and, as a result, doesn’t come cheap. But it’s also the bag that’ll probably make the strongest first impression once you enter the boardroom.
Samsonite Novex Laptop Backpack
No worries if you are shopping for a travel backpack on a more down-to-earth budget, as the Samsonite best-seller has a lot going for it, starting with the price. At just $74.99 (on a 25% off sale at the moment), it’s one of the most affordable bags in this guide.
Yet, the Novex Laptop Backpack doesn’t compromise on the basics. The separate laptop and tablet pocket features a special webbing system that provides extra durability in case you drop the backpack. Plus, thanks to the special supportive lining on the top front pocket, you won’t have to worry about misplacing your headphones, glasses or phones.
The main storage compartment has room for all the essentials, though you may not find it large enough for a full change of clothes or a pair of shoes.
While this backpack is a solid option and is a great deal considering the price, it doesn’t feature all the bells and whistles you’d find with some of its competitors.
Nomatic 20L Backpack
Though you may have never heard of Nomatic before, this brand receives rave reviews from its loyalists. The company’s best-seller backpack comes in two sizes, 14 liters and 20 liters, both of which are expandable by nearly 20%.
The flat rectangular design may be controversial at first glance, but at least you can’t complain about finding space for all of your gizmos. The bag has a staggering 24 unique storage compartments that range from enclosed pockets to mesh nets, and it’s a great bag for those who like to stay extremely organized when they’re on the road.
Plus, with a water-resistant coating on the outside, this might just be one of the most durable travel backpacks out there.
Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack
The Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack has space for everything and then some. The padded rear pocket is the perfect spot for a laptop, and I love that you don’t need to dig through your bag just to find your computer.
The main compartment is quite spacious, and you can even expand this space by nearly three liters, giving you more room for your belongings. Plus, the front pocket has a dedicated organizer with multiple pockets, so you’ll never forget where you put your passport, charger and cables.
This may be one of the bigger bags in this guide, but you’d never know it just from looking at it. (You could opt for the smaller Timbuk2 Q Laptop Backpack if you want something smaller.)
If there’s one downside, it’s the style — the bag isn’t nearly as eye-catching as some of the others.
Incase A.R.C. Daypack
Apple aficionados will no doubt be familiar with Incase, a popular brand of cases and protection solutions for iPhones, iPads and Macs.
That said, Incase’s A.R.C. Daypack could be a great backpack option, even if you don’t tote around a MacBook or iOS device. Much like an Apple product, the backpack’s design is minimalist, yet highly functional.
The laptop pocket is big enough for a 16-inch computer, and it’s lined in faux fur for additional protection. On top of that, the travel tech compartment has RFID-blocking technology, preventing thieves from stealing your digital info.
A water- and stain-resistant coating, two dedicated water bottle holders and a pass-through system for rollaboard bags make this the ideal bag for anyone going from the gym to the office to the airport. If you need something bigger, Incase also makes a larger A.R.C. travel pack.
But perhaps just as importantly, both bags are made from a sustainable mixture of recycled polyester, giving them their A.R.C, or “a responsible carry,” acronym.
Ogio Renegade RSS Laptop Backpack
If you’re looking for the bag with the most pockets, this might just be the one for you.
Ogio’s flagship backpack has dedicated space for everything (laptop and iPad included) and then some. A phone pocket, two zippered side pockets, five main pockets — you might just get lost looking around for your gear.
No matter how much you stuff this nearly 30-liter backpack, you shouldn’t have much of a problem carrying it around. I love the supportive padded back panel and shoulder straps, which make it easy to lug it around the airport or corporate campus.
Just note that the bag isn’t necessarily the most stylish, nor does it feature a strap to store it on the handle of your rollaboard bag.
Briggs & Riley Traveler Backpack
At first glance, your eyes might be caught by this Briggs & Riley backpack. With its boxy corners and flat pockets, it definitely makes a statement.
Then, once you start opening the different pockets, you’ll likely be impressed by how much you can fit inside, especially thanks to the 180-degree lie-flat opening that allows unfettered access to every nook and cranny.
The tablet laptop and tablet sleeve are in the same area as the main packing compartment, but it’s separated by a zippered inner pocket to keep your clothes all by themselves.
Another nifty feature includes a so-called “PowerPocket” that fits an external battery pack and keeps a charging cable within easy reach for a quick boost of juice while you’re on the go.
Style, form and function — this backpack is a winner, and while it isn’t the cheapest in the line-up, it also doesn’t come with the Tumi or Rimowa price tag.
Bellroy Classic Backpack Plus
Sometimes, the simplest solution is actually the best. If you’re the type of person who ascribes to the “less is more” philosophy, then Bellroy’s Classic Backpack Plus is probably your best bet.
You won’t find any complicated zippers or expandable compartments inside, but this bag packs a mighty style punch in a versatile package.
There are two main compartments in the backpack — one for your laptop and another for the rest of your belongings. The front of the bag features a small zip pocket for storing small essentials, and that’s basically it. But don’t be fooled; the bag sports a 24-liter capacity, so you’ll find plenty of room for your gear.
If simplicity is what you’re after, then you can’t go wrong with Bellroy’s flagship backpack.
Now that my Away Backpack is really on its last breath, I find myself facing decision anxiety.
There are 10 great choices for a replacement, and I’m torn as to which one to use going forward. I’m personally a big fan of the Rimowa design, but that $1,700 splurge might need to wait until I write my holiday wishlist.
Until then, I’m currently leaning toward a Tumi backpack. After all, there must’ve been a reason that it was the most-loved business travel backpack in my research.