Most of us at Engadget haven’t been to school in a while, but we always appreciate a good backpack when we find one. We may have given up textbooks a while ago, but we still have a lot of stuff to carry around. At a minimum, most of us have to carry our laptops to and from meetings, while some of us have extra cameras and video to get around town. So while our current backpacks may not contain the same school gear you might have, we’re confident they can handle everything you need to succeed in your classes.
Timbuk2 Lane Commuter Bag
What’s green and portable and, oh hey wow, has a secret pocket at the bottom that holds a waterproof pouch I just discovered while writing this? Yeah, that’s it here Timbuk2 Lane Commuter Bag which I have owned, but apparently never really known, for the past 4 years. I bought it because it’s lightweight, comfortable to carry, could be expanded to accommodate oversized items, had a pair of exterior bottle holders – one for soup, the other for more of soup – and that it offered a generous number of pockets.
The Timbuk company has a well-deserved reputation for quality construction. I still wear their messenger bag regularly over a decade after buying it and this laptop bag is of equal durability. Even after the rigors of a few CESs, the Tombouc showed remarkably few signs of wear. The color has not faded noticeably and the straps are still not frayed. My laptop is also no worse for wear despite the rough travel of the bag. And while my bag was fairly water resistant before, finding this sheath is a handy extra layer of protection – not to mention a teaching moment about the importance of being careful when unpacking new gear. – Andrew Tarantola, Senior Reporter
Baggallini Soho backpack
I had gone through a number of backpacks before receiving this Baggallini bag as a gift, and I can say that most of my previous daily runs can’t compete with this one. It’s hard to find backpacks that are both durable and styled that aren’t strictly utilitarian. The Soho backpacks fit the bill nicely with its water resistant nylon fabric and taller doctor bag profile. I can fit up to a 13” laptop in the interior padded sleeve and I like the massive number of pockets the bag has. I most often use the two front pockets for quick access to things like my phone and keys, and almost every time I go out the two side pockets are stuffed with a water bottle and an umbrella. I also appreciate its luggage handle sleeve, which allows me to rest my back a little while on the go.
While I’m glad to have this bag now to sustain me on all sorts of travels, I often think back to my college days and how useful it would have been to have it back then. I carried a lot of inadequate bags back then, and I’m pretty sure some of my back issues are a direct result of that. At least now I can avoid further injury by carrying this practical but somewhat stylish backpack whenever needed. – Valentina Palladino, Senior Business Writer
Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack
I’m a bit of a sucker when it comes to bags. I’ve enjoyed using Peak Design’s original Everyday Messenger for the past six years, but its size was often a little restrictive on long trips. So last year I bought Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack, and it’s probably the best backpack I’ve ever owned. Much like the company’s other gear, you can tell it’s been put into a lot of thought. There are a seemingly endless number of zippers, pockets, handles and loops cleverly scattered throughout the bag, which really makes it easy to organize your gear or stow bulkier gear like a tripod. You can even turn it into a duffle bag by hiding its shoulder straps and hip belts behind cleverly placed flaps, while the built-in compression snaps help slim it down for carrying. And of course there are separate padded sleeves for tablets and up to a 16-inch laptop.
The only real downside is that it’s a little big and sometimes wearing it makes me feel like a turtle. It’s a great backpack for carrying a bunch of gear and clothes for a long weekend. Unfortunately, shortly after purchasing this thing, Peak came out with a less bulky 30L versionand if I had to do it again, I would probably opt for the smaller one. – Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter
Dagne Dover Dakota backpack
There are several reasons why I love my Dagne Dover Dakota backpack, but the main thing is that it has pockets. Lots of pockets. One large pocket on the front, three more on the other side of the front flap, two internal side pockets, two external side pockets and two other pockets on the back. Oh, and there’s also a large padded laptop compartment that’s big enough to fit my 13-inch MacBook Pro (the company says it should fit most 13-inch laptops).
All these pockets give me enough room to store a multitude of cables, external batteries, accessories, a water bottle and much more. I particularly like the two backs as I can reach them easily when wearing the backpack, making them ideal for essentials like my wallet, phone and travel documents.
The internal cavity is also spacious. I managed to fit in a large DSLR camera with a giant telephoto lens. It’s great as a gym bag too, as I can put extra clothes and a pair of shoes in it. I also like it for travel. It holds so much stuff, but it’s still compact enough to fit under the seat in front of me. In fact, the latest version of the Dakota even has a sleeve that fits snugly over your luggage handle.
Plus, this thing is durable. It is made of neoprene, a light and soft material that dries quickly if it gets wet. It is also insulating and shock absorbing. I bought it back in 2017 and five years later it’s still holding up. It doesn’t look as pristine as it once did, but it’s just as functional. Sure, it’s on the pricey side at $185, but for a bag that’s lasted this long, it’s worth it. – Nicole Lee, Business Writer
Waterfield Staad Attaché Bag
I’ve been buying gear from Waterfield in San Francisco for nearly 20 years, a rather surprising amount of time. But their bags, laptop sleeves, gaming cases, and everything else I’ve tried have been exceptionally well made and smartly designed. I’ve picked up a number of their bags over the years, but the one I keep coming back to is the City attachea waxed canvas (or ballistic nylon) satchel with a full-grain leather flap.
What I like the most is that it can carry a lot of gear, but it’s still quite compact. It has two built-in sleeves to carry a laptop and tablet, two deep hand pockets, a key clip, and a main compartment big enough to carry headphones, books, a camera, or whatever else you deem most essential. There are also two exterior zippered pockets for anything you might need to get your hands on quickly. This bag is big enough for me to carry everything I need for a day or two, but small enough not to overpack.
The Staad Attaché looks chic and understated on the outside, but the interior is a bright yellow. It might seem like an unusual choice, but it makes it easier to see what’s inside than a dark liner. It’s a good example of the smart design decisions made by Waterfield. And, perhaps most importantly, this bag can take a beating. Waterfield products are expensive; the Staad Attaché starts at $289. But it’s the kind of product you buy once and can use for a lifetime. I’ve taken this bag on tons of business and personal trips and it’s still in pristine condition. The waxed canvas and leather have aged well over the years, and I think I’ll drag this bag around for another decade, easy – unless I’m tempted by another Waterfield option before then. – Nathan Ingraham, Associate Editor
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