The Best Laptop Backpack Review

Click to enlarge
We tested eight packs, including the Patagonia Arbor on the left and Timbuk2 Command on the right. Two members of our testing team head in for a morning of work at the library.
Credit: Elizabeth Riley
Which laptop backpack is the very best? In order to find out, we selected eight of the best and most popular models on the market today and tested them head-to-head in our daily travels about town, work trips to the coffee shop and school, and on road trips around the country. We wanted to find out which models best protected our laptops and which were the most comfortable for carrying heavy loads on foot or by bike. We also assessed which models were the most versatile, looked the best, held the most items while staying organized, and were the most water resistant. After performing these tests, it was easy to choose our best overall winner, the bag which offers what we believe is the best value for the money, and our top pick for the fashion conscious.

This review specifically covers backpacks that are designed to carry laptops and feature two shoulder straps. For those that prefer an over-the-shoulder style messenger bag, we encourage you to check out our Best Messenger Bags Review.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Laptop Backpacks

Displaying 1 - 5 of 8 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
The North Face Recon
The North Face Recon
Read the Review
The North Face Surge II Transit
The North Face Surge II Transit
Read the Review
Timbuk2 Rogue
Timbuk2 Rogue
Read the Review
Osprey Pixel
Osprey Pixel
Read the Review
Patagonia Arbor
Patagonia Arbor
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award    Best Buy Award    Top Pick Award 
Street Price Varies $69 - $99
Compare at 8 sellers
Varies $87 - $125
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $39 - $79
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $98 - $140
Compare at 7 sellers
Varies $75 - $103
Compare at 6 sellers
Overall Score 
100
0
79
100
0
76
100
0
67
100
0
67
100
0
66
Editors' Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Comfortable, versatile, offers the best water protection, great storage capacity and organizationVersatile as a laptop carrier or daypack, lots of storage roomStylish, water resistant, large internal compartment holds lots of stuffStylish, intelligently designed laptop features, has document pouchesLooks good, stylish, large single compartment makes it a versatile daypack
Cons Style is dated, could be more protective for a 15 inch laptopNot very stylish, could have better protection for laptopNot much laptop protection, could be more comfortable, not ideal for organizationA little small, needs laptop securing strapsVery little protection for your laptop, few organizational features
Best Uses School, coffee shop, day hikesA carry-everything around-town bag, work, school, or daytripsAround-town commuter, as a daypack or outdoor packA daily laptop carrier, great for work or schoolAs a daypack or everyday backpack
Date Reviewed Feb 08, 2015Feb 08, 2015Feb 08, 2015Feb 08, 2015Feb 08, 2015
Weighted Scores The North Face Recon The North Face Surge II Transit Timbuk2 Rogue Osprey Pixel Patagonia Arbor
Laptop Protection - 25%
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
4
Comfort - 20%
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
Storage - 15%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
5
Versatility - 15%
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Style - 15%
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
10
Water Resistance - 10%
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
7
Product Specs The North Face Recon The North Face Surge II Transit Timbuk2 Rogue Osprey Pixel Patagonia Arbor
Volume (L) 29 32 27 22 26
Dimensions (in.) 19 x 13 x 11.5 19.5 x 14 x 8.5 18.9 x 12.2 x 6.3 18 x 13 x 7 20 x 13 x 7
Weight (lb.) 2.6 3.0 1.9 2.5 1.3
Number of Compartments 2 3 1 2 1
Number of Large Pockets 2 2 1 3 2
Number of Small Pockets 1 3 1 3 0
Number of Zipper Pockets 2 4 2 5 2
Key Clip? Yes Yes No Yes No
Reflective Material? Yes Yes No Yes No
External Side Pocket 3 1 1 No No
Fits Laptop 15 in, 11 in, tablet 17 in, 11 in, tablet 15 in 15 in + tablet 15 in
Available Colors 7 7 6 4 10
Hip belt Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Sternum Strap Yes Yes Yes Yes No

  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review



Selecting the Right Product


Laptop Backpacks are designed specifically for carrying and protecting a laptop computer, as well as all of the other things necessary in your daily life. Whether you are heading to work, the coffee shop, school, or on a business trip, chances are that you will want to have your laptop with you. While some folks are able to handle all of their internet surfing, email writing, or Facebook perusing on their phones or tablets, most people still find that real work needs a real computer, and thus a way to carry it. While laptops have continued to get smaller over the years, they are still bulky enough that they need a dedicated method of transport. And while the technology has continued to advance it seems that the amazing new products have only become more fragile, necessitating solid protection wherever you are carrying it. Enter the laptop backpack.

Click to enlarge
The Blade 24 digs sliding down the railings on the steps of the library. This was one of the most professional looking and most protective packs we reviewed.
Credit: Elizabeth Riley

The backpacks we tested all have similar characteristics in that their primary purpose is to carry one or more laptops and perhaps a tablet as well. These are not duffel bags or rough outdoor packs; they feature multiple compartments and a myriad of pockets designed to hold everything you might carry with you while out in the city. These packs will carry it all - from books to important papers, extra clothing, electronics, sunglasses, pens and pencils, passports and maps, or water bottles. In essence we are talking about a cross between a briefcase and a school bag, but made by the leading gear manufacturers to fit your lifestyle. Each of these bags includes two shoulder straps and are meant to be worn on the back.

We noticed that the laptop backpacks we reviewed tended to fit into one of two categories. They were either a laptop backpack or a backpack that could carry a laptop. The first type are designed around the laptop in particular, and all the features centered around carrying a laptop as the primary function. These bags were made for people who need to take their laptop to and from work or school every day. The second type - a backpack which can also carry a laptop - included far fewer work or school related features for organization, and tended to have less effective systems for laptop protection. However, these backpacks were often more versatile and were usually the ones we would pick for other activities than simply going to work. We wouldn't recommend these bags as everyday commuters, although many of them were still great products.

Click to enlarge
All the laptop backpacks in a row. From left to right they are the Patagonia Arbor, the Timbuk2 Rogue, the Osprey Pixel, the Arc'teryx Blade 24, the Timbuk2 Command, the Dakine Campus 33, The North Face Surge II Transit, and lastly The North Face Recon.
Credit: Elizabeth Riley

Choosing exactly which laptop backpack is best for you can be a difficult process. For help, we recommend you check out our Buying Advice article. If you are interested in how we went about testing these laptop backpacks, check out How We Tested. We also realize that some people prefer a different style of bag, particularly for those who need instant access to the items they are carrying or who commute almost entirely by bike. For those people we encourage you to also look at our review of the best messenger bags.

Click to enlarge
The Arbor fits in perfectly at the coffee shop. Our Top Pick for Style works well for daily around-town use and light outdoor use.
Credit: Andy Wellman

Criteria For Evaluation


In order to decide which of the bags we tested was the best overall, we chose six criteria by which to evaluate and compare each one. The criteria are comfort, laptop protection, storage, versatility, style, and water resistance. To better help you understand what specific things we tested for in each of these categories, how we tested for them, and which laptop backpacks fared best and worst, we have broken down and described each category below.

Laptop Protection


We deemed laptop protection to be the most important component of the backpacks we tested, and thus rated it as 25% of each pack's final score. No two packs, even those made by the same company, employed the same design or system of protection for your laptop. There was a wide range of performance in how well each pack protected different laptops, which are fragile items, but overall we were pretty disappointed that more emphasis wasn't placed on this critical feature. No system for protection was even close to perfect, and we found it impossible to give any single laptop backpack greater than an 8 out of 10 score. In our opinion, there is a lot of room for improvement here.

Luckily for us, no actual laptops were broken in the testing of these packs! To test protection we loaded them up with a 15" MacBook Pro, as well as the much smaller and thinner 11" MacBook Air. While a few of the packs have a separate place to store a tablet or iPad, we unfortunately did not have one of these to test. Through our extensive testing we noticed there were four main factors that made for a good, or terrible, system of laptop protection, described below:

Padding
Laptops are fragile and expensive machines and need to be protected from knocks and blows that could potentially break them. The most common types of padding were plastic sheathes or plates and simple foam pads. Laptops need to be protected on all sides, and many of the padding systems we tested left large gaps in the protection. A critical area for padding is of course the bottom of the laptop pouch which the laptop rests against. This was less of an issue for those packs which featured an adequate suspension system (see Laptop Location below). A few bags chose not to suspend the laptop above the bottom, and thus needed extra padding to absorb a blow from setting the backpack on the ground, but in general we felt this method of protecting the laptop was inadequate compared to suspending it in the middle of the bag, and tended not to include as much padding as we would have liked to see.

Click to enlarge
The hard foam back plate serves as great padding for the laptop compartment located just behind it. The special hidden passport/money pocket hidden behind the lumbar is shown also.
Credit: Andy Wellman

Laptop Compartment Size
The size of the compartment that holds the laptop is critical because if it is too large the laptop will move around, exposing it to potential knocks and friction. We found that virtually every bag we tested is designed to fit a 15" laptop, which they did with varying amounts of success. None of them were specifically designed for an 11" laptop, which moved around considerably in almost every bag, with the exception of The North Face Surge II Transit, which featured two separate laptop compartments. In many cases, issues in compartment size were minimized when the bag was filled to capacity with other items, but we chose not to account for that in our assessment, since it isn't always the case during everyday use.

Click to enlarge
Two different sized laptop pockets with securing straps are a great features.
Credit: Andy Wellman

Securing system
The securing system works hand-in-hand with the laptop compartment design to hold the laptop in place ensuring that it doesn't move. Adjustable Velcro straps, like in the Arc'teryx Blade 24, seemed to work best. Others incorporated zippered pockets, which confined the range of motion, but would not keep the laptop stable in its position. A few bags had no securing system at all, meaning you'd better be very careful to set your bag down upright and gently, or pay the possible price.

Click to enlarge
The Rogue's laptop pocket is made of mesh but has a nice securing strap. While it is suspended nicely off the bottom of the bag so that ground collisions are not really possible, we wish it included padding to protect the laptop from other items within the bag.
Credit: Elizabeth Riley

Laptop Location
The final critical feature is where the laptop storage compartment is located within the pack. All the models we tested place the laptop next to the back, thereby using the back support as laptop support and padding. This also minimizes movement if the laptop is the only thing in the bag. A critical feature though is having the laptop compartment suspended above the bottom of the bag, so that when the bag is put on the ground there is no impact to the laptop. Not all bags included this. Equally as important is whether the back support is rigid enough to absorb the blow of the bag being put on the ground. Some suspended compartments were lacking this feature, thus nullifying the advantages of suspending the laptop. In a few bags the side edges, or even top corner, of the laptop were located much too close to the edges or zippers of the bags, which did not have padding, so that an impact from the side or top would certainly hit the laptop.

Click to enlarge
The Command's laptop compartment resides right against the back and zips all the folded open. It has two pockets for laptops, although only one of them has a securing strap. Documents can also be stored in this extra pocket.
Credit: Andy Wellman

In the end, none of the laptop backpacks did an ideal job of protecting the laptop, which was disappointing. It seems that regardless of which bag you use, your best protection is diligent awareness of how you move with your pack on and how you set it down. Although there were refinements we would like to see made, we believe that the Arc'teryx Blade 24 will do the best job of keeping your laptop safe from abuse. On the other end of the spectrum, we determined that the Patagonia Arbor was the bag most likely to leave you with a broken or damaged laptop, even though we liked the bag in general.

Comfort


Perhaps the most critical component of any backpack is how comfortable it is to carry. After all, if you can't stand to put the bag on your back for more than a couple minutes, how effective will it be for carrying things all over town, or the world? To test comfort we wanted to make sure that we mimicked real life conditions, so we loaded these bags up with our around town necessities and carried them everywhere we went. That gave us a pretty good idea of which ones were most comfortable, but to be sure we then compared them head-to-head by adding a lot of weight to each one (laptop, textbooks, binders full of papers, clothes, random odds and ends) and had numerous people put them on, adjust them for their body type, and walk around.

Click to enlarge
The shoulder straps on the Campus are situated far apart where they attach to the top of the bag, ensuring comfort.
Credit: Andy Wellman

We found that the two most critical features in regards to comfort are the design of the shoulder straps and the design of the back plate. The amount of padding in the shoulder straps is not nearly as important as how far apart the straps are where they attach to the top of the pack. Further apart meant less friction and biting into the neck. Just as important was how wide the strap material was to disperse the weight of the load. The Dakine Campus 33 was hands down our favorite based on comfort alone, while the Arc'teryx Blade 24 had the least comfortable shoulder straps.

Click to enlarge
The pack is comfortable to carry with flat shoulder straps and a supportive yet soft back plate.
Credit: Elizabeth Riley

Equally important as far as comfort goes is the construction of the back plate. Some laptop backpacks we tested had super stiff stays or plastic sheets to add rigidity and protection to the laptop. While these may have done a better job protecting your laptop, which is another very critical factor in which laptop backpack to choose, we found that packs which incorporated soft padding in the back plate were the most comfortable, both for walking and bike riding. Soft padding meant a flexible fit, which we preferred. Rigid padding and rigid back plates didn't move and flex with our bodies as well, and in general were less comfortable. While sternum and hip straps were appreciated at times to help stabilize a heavy load, we didn't feel that they added or detracted significantly from the comfort of the pack. We rated comfort as 20% of each laptop backpack's total score.

Organization & Storage


What use is a backpack if it can't store everything that you need to carry? In our view, not much. We determined that two factors were most important when comparing storage: 1) How much can it hold? 2) How well does it stay organized? A few of the bags we tested, like the Patagonia Arbor and Timbuk2 Rogue were top-loading style, similar to a classic rucksack, and while they could carry enough for us to be happy, they included very few features to help us stay organized. Others, like the Osprey Pixel, had many functional pockets each obviously designed for a very specific purpose (laptop, important papers, pens, wallet, passport and money, sunglasses, iPod or other electronics), but were a little too small to fit everything we could imagine carrying (like food, water, or a jacket). The perfect combination were the bags which were both large, had many different carrying compartments, and included tons of pockets of different sizes and locations designed to keep everything separate and organized. Although their designs were quite different, the Timbuk2 Command Pack and The North Face Recon (our Editors' Choice winner) were both a great balance of volume and organization. We rated Storage as 15% of a bag's total score.

Click to enlarge
The large laptop compartment in our Editors' Choice winner has plenty of room for books as well as multiple computers or other things.
Credit: Andy Wellman

For those who are interested in the exact breakdown of volume for each bag, check out the specs table at the top of the review where we have each bag's volume listed. The packs range from 22 liters on the small end to 33 liters on the large end. In the specs table we have also broken down the division of compartments, large pockets, small pockets, external side pockets, and zippered pockets that each pack has. Compartments refers to the number of separate large, text book or bigger sized storage spaces the pack has. Large pockets are big enough to fit many things, or medium sized things, while small pockets are for things like keys, pens, or a wallet, and help with specific organization. In the case of small and large pockets, some of these are found on the inside of the bag, while some are accessible from the outside. External side pockets refers to un-zippered pockets on the outside of the bag, designed to hold water bottles or extra clothing.

Versatility


While all of the backpacks listed here are designed to carry laptops, we wanted to also compare how well they carried everything else you might need to have with you, specifically in different contexts or different activities. Was the bag big enough to carry water, a jacket, climbing shoes and harness for a session at the gym, or even a full change of clothes? How about picking up groceries for dinner on your way home from work? And what about using the bag when you weren't specifically headed to work, school, or the coffee shop? Could you ditch the laptop and happily take this pack for a day hike? Lastly, how well does the pack carry important documents, keeping them clean and unruffled, while also carrying everything else? We found that the incredible amount of features included on The North Face Recon made it the most versatile pack of the bunch. Top-loading packs like the Timbuk2 Rogue were great for carrying things like groceries, climbing gear, and clothing, but not very good for protecting documents. The Arc'teryx Blade 24 was designed specifically as a briefcase in backpack form, and while it does some things really well, it is almost useless as an actual backpack. We weighted versatility as 15% of a laptop backpack's overall score.

Click to enlarge
This pack has a large top-loading compartment and functions as a good daypack. Also visible is a 15 inch laptop secured in the laptop compartment with a strap.
Credit: Andy Wellman

Style


In our previous laptop backpack review (published in 2011), we rated each of the packs for their "Professional Look." But the reality is that none of these packs look professional at all in the suit-and-tie sense, and are not designed to be. Let's face it, it's tough to make a backpack look super professional. So we have substituted the words "professional look," with one word: Style. Now, style is a pretty subjective term, but we did our best to rate each bag according to how well it meshes with the look of today 2015. Essentially, this metric is rating how well each pack fits in with the rest of your attire. We asked women in particular to help us with this, and if you are a woman, then you will probably want to ignore this rating anyway and make the call for yourself which one you like best. The retro-hipster look of the Patagonia Arbor was the runaway favorite here, while the extremely dated looks of The North Face bags didn't win many style points. Style was awarded 15% of the overall score.

Click to enlarge
The Arbor and the Command out on the town.
Credit: Elizabeth Riley

Water Resistance


While we didn't expect any of these bags to be completely waterproof, it is nice to know that if you get caught out in a rainstorm, all of your precious gadgets will not end up water damaged. For that reason, we also decided to test these bags for water resistance. Testing these bags during the winter in Colorado, it was impossible for us to find a rainstorm to use for our purposes, so we were forced to create our own "rainstorm" in the shower. We devised a test which we thought was a fair and adequate test of water resistance and subjected each of the bags to the test. Not wanting to risk the health of our own laptops, we instead used someone else's. Just kidding, what we actually did was put a piece of fresh dry paper in every pocket of bag, including where the laptop would be stored, then filled out the rest of the volume of the bag with dry clothing. We zipped and sealed the bag as tightly as it was designed for, then held it under the shower for 30 seconds. We quickly photographed the bag to be able to show you its relative merits and faults, then dried it off with a towel, dried our hands, and slowly and carefully removed the contents to check for water intrusion.

Click to enlarge
Our Editors' Choice winner was the best performer in the shower test with a superior DWR coating and covered zippers. The water beaded up nicely and fell away without absorbing into the material, and no water leaked in through the zippers.
Credit: Andy Wellman

The results of the test were predictably all over the board. We noticed that two things in particular made for a particularly water resistant bag: a durable water resistant (DWR) coating and covered zippers. DWR coatings are applied to the fabric of a bag and help it to shed water upon contact, rather than absorb water. It's worth noting that over time and with wear, these DWR coatings will break down and wear off, and will need to be reapplied if the original amount of water resistance is to be maintained. We found that zippers were the main point of water entry into a backpack. The best ones, like The North Face Recon, had sewn flaps of water resistant material which overlapped and covered nearly all of the main zippers, while employing water resistant zippers for the small external pockets. The worst performers, like the Arc'teryx Blade 24, had many zippers that were not covered or water resistant, and laid flat on top of the bag pointing directly up, towards the direction of rainfall. These top zippers leaked and allowed water to filter down amongst every major pocket and compartment of the bag. The necessity of having a water resistant bag is largely dependent on the climate that you live in, but for the purposes of this review, we rated water resistance as 15% of the total score of each bag.

Editors' Choice Award: The North Face Recon


Click to enlarge
The Recon about town. Our Editors' Choice winner was by far the highest scoring backpack in the review. We loved its versatility, organization and storage, and its water resistance.
Credit: Elizabeth Riley


The North Face Recon was the highest scoring laptop backpack in our review, by a rather wide margin, and was the clear winner of our Editors' Choice Award. With an incredible amount of compartments, pockets, and even external side pockets, it was our favorite bag for both storage and versatility. This is a bag that can carry anything you need to comfortably, and is not simply limited to being an electronics carrier. We also loved its overall design, which gives you a plethora of options for staying organized. It had pockets for carrying more than one size of laptop, although like all of the bags we reviewed, we have a few ideas for how it could be improved to provide more bombproof protection for the laptop. On top of all this it was the most water resistant bag in our tests. The only point where the Recon under-performed was style. Its look is straight-up early '90s North Face throwback, a look which is dated and garish. But for pure functionality, no bag in the review came anywhere close to the Recon, which is why we awarded it our Editors' Choice Award.

Best Buy: Timbuk2 Rogue


Click to enlarge
The Rogue helping get work done at the coffee shop. Our Best Buy Award winner will only set you back $79, leaving plenty of spending money for your favorite latte.
Credit: Elizabeth Riley


The Timbuk2 Rogue will only set you back $79, making it one of the least expensive bags in our review, and a fantastic value. We loved this bag for its simple design and climbing haul bag-esque look. It is burly and durable. It is also simple while still including necessary organizational features such as an external water bottle pocket and organizational pockets on the inside and out. The top-loading, single compartment design is great for carrying lots of stuff that doesn't need to be organized or specially protected, like groceries, rain jackets, or work-out clothes. We also thought that it looked cool without attracting un-needed attention. Seeing as how it doesn't feature a ton of padding for protecting the laptop, this bag may be better suited to those who just need a backpack, and also occasionally carry their laptop. But given its low price and top quality construction, the Rogue is a bag that we highly recommend.

Top Pick for Style: Patagonia Arbor


Click to enlarge
The retro look of the Arbor. Patagonia says it was modeled after their climbing rucksack of the 1980's. The ice axe loop and sewn-on leather attachment points are more for looks than function.
Credit: Andy Wellman


We know you are crazy for the outdoors. And for those who want only the very best gear for their outdoor adventures, functionality should always be the first consideration. But let's be honest here, laptop backpacks are primarily for use in the city, for going to work or school, for our everyday lives, not our spectacular weekend adventures. And in the city, for most people anyway, style matters. That's why we gave the Patagonia Arbor our Top Pick Award for Style. Designed to look like a bare-bones, old-school 80's rucksack, the Arbor is retro and hip in a way that these other bags only wish they could be. No other brand in our review accomplishes the simple and rugged look like Patagonia. The Arbor looks great mostly because of all the stuff that it doesn't have. There are no extra straps, no water bottle pockets or even beer bottle openers (see the Timbuk2 bags), no buckles or zippers, and nary a logo in sight. This bag is restrained, and we like that about it. While the Arbor underperforms in organizational ability and laptop protection, its single top-loading compartment will do one thing for you very well: hold lots of stuff. And if that's all you need and want to look good doing it, then give Patagonia a call. This is the pack OutdoorGearLab founder Chris McNamara used traveling the 7 Wonders of The World in 13 Days.

Ask an Expert: Cheyne Lempe


Mountain Hardwear Athlete, and Yosemite Search and Rescue member, Cheyne Lempe, is in the midst of a budding photography and videography career. He is becoming a well-seasoned traveler and climber, making his way to the Verdon, Zion, Patagonia, and all throughout Asia and Australia, constantly in search of the perfect photo. Or even better, a video clip of someone with a giant smile on their face or that sheer look of terror when they've finally figured out that they've gotten themselves into something spicy. You can typically find Cheyne traveling with his Canon EOS 5D Mark II and MacBook Pro, always ready to capture an inspiring photograph or film a unique moment in time. Because Cheyne holds his gear very near and dear to his heart, he insists on protecting it as often as possible. Here are his tips for traveling light, fast, and comfortably to any part of the world.

Click to enlarge
Cheyne in Chiang Mai, Thailand, carrying around his valuables in an ultra comfortable laptop backpack.
Credit: Jessica Pemble

You've spent a lot of time traveling - what do you typically look for in a laptop backpack?
When traveling, you need something that is going to protect one of your most fragile investments. It most definitely needs to have a padded laptop sleeve, as well as a layer of padding on the bottom of the bag (what you'd set it down on). My laptop backpack is quite comfortable and has a nice support system, as the load can become heavy - you don't want a wimpy pack. The backpack material needs to be rugged, as traveling often can produce a great deal of wear and tear. I'd rather that it didn't look like a total briefcase - that says, hey, this guy is carrying something expensive.

Do you have any backpack accessories that you can't live without or do you like to keep it simple?
I like my backpack to be simple. I only have a few requirements: a padded laptop sleeve and a big main compartment for my charger, external hard drives, and basic camera equipment. I like a simple design and one way to access my gear - I don't want a side zip that will make someone's life easier in potentially stealing my gear.

What is considered a necessity when heading to a photo or video shoot and will it all fit in your laptop backpack?
I bring my MacBook Pro and my charger (not necessarily to the shoot) - the main compartment has to be big enough for two external hard drives, my camera, an extra lens (or two), batteries, water, and snacks. Lots of snacks.

What do you do to make sure the water and snacks don't spill?
I screw on the lid to my water bottle absurdly tight and I put the water on the bottom, so if it leaks, it just sits in the bottom of the bag. I'll put the electronics on the top and keep my bag upright - so far, so good.

Is your gear insured?
My gear is definitely insured. it makes traveling (and really, daily living) way less stressful - I can't believe that I didn't insure my gear sooner. There's no reason you shouldn't buy insurance and that's coming from me, a pretty frugal person. I currently have PPA Insurance Solutions.

Why do you need a backpack specifically for your laptop?
It makes organization much easier and a lot of times, your laptop is one of the more heavier things in your backpack. It is sitting pretty close to your back and proper weight distribution is pretty ideal. You also have less of a chance of things getting broken, though that's when the insurance kicks in.

With one (1) being the most important, can you rate how important storage, comfort, security, water resistance, professional look, durability, versatility, weight are to you and explain why.

1) Versatility - the easier I'm able to access my tools, the happier that I'm going to be.
2) Comfort - walking around with a stuffed pack (for long amounts of time) can get heavy!
3) Storage - if it doesn't fit all of the things that I consider to be necessary, it isn't going to be useful.
4) Durability - I want my goods to be safe and secure; if the bag rips, what next?
5) Weight - some airlines may have restrictions. I already struggle with weight limits and I don't want my bag to contribute to that.
6) Professional look - I prefer a sleek design, with a hint of professionalism on a shoot.
7) Security - all of these components are important to me, with security also falling under durability. If I want added security, I will throw a lock on the pack - having insurance also helps ease the mind.
8) Water resistance - it isn't often that I find myself outside in the rain with my laptop, but if I happen to, I will throw the pack on first and use my jacket to cover both the pack and my body. If you're jacket-less, run inside and find a trash bag!

What advice could you give to someone who is in search of a high-quality, comfortable, reasonably-priced laptop backpack? What is the most important criteria you look for when selecting a laptop backpack?
Think about what you want to be using the backpack for and what you're going to be putting into it - know what you're looking for. Find a backpack that fits those needs best - don't buy one with pockets, just because. Make sure you set a budget and stick to it, allowing yourself a little leeway if you find something that you absolutely can't live without. Test how the backpack fits and feels on your body, with a considerable amount of weight inside. If it's uncomfortable, keep searching!

Do you use your laptop backpack on a daily basis? Does it have any other uses?
Yes - I'm never in one place and I'm always moving around, especially living out of a tent cabin in Yosemite. I like the backpack to be multi-purpose and I need it to fit other things - climbing gear, snacks, necessities that I'll need to bring to the search and rescue cache in case of a rescue, or a few beers to drag to my favorite swimming hole.

Do you have any travel stories to share?
My first time traveling outside of the country, I was heading down to Patagonia in Argentina. I didn't have the right size backpack and so they wouldn't let me take it on the bus. For five days, it sat in the bottom of the bus, while everyone's luggage got piled on top. I was so stressed about it the entire time and I was so very thankful that nothing ended up being damaged. I learned that: a) do your research before you travel, even though it might seem more adventurous to not plan anything - at least have some idea of what you want to do and b) plan what to do to keep your gear safe when things don't go accordingly; for example, if you're in a sketchy part of town, lock your bag with a mini combo lock. If you're in the airport for long layovers or crazy time-zone changes and you need to get some rest, use your backpack as a pillow or sleep with one arm through a strap; you could also clip it to you with a carabiner.

Do you have a ritual or any tips to offer to how you stay calm when traveling? Any last pro tips?
Make sure to keep an open mind, be patient, and pack light. I never regret packing too light, but carrying around a ridiculously heavy bag filled with unnecessary objects is well, not necessary. Expect that things may not go according to plan and that all transportation is guaranteed to be late - just know that you'll get to where you're going in due time.

Andy Wellman
Helpful Buying Tips
Related Gear Reviews
The North Face Recon

The North Face Recon
$99
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Editors' Choice Award
Timbuk2 Rogue

Timbuk2 Rogue
$79
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Best Buy Award
Patagonia Arbor

Patagonia Arbor
$99
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Top Pick Award
The North Face Surge II Transit

The North Face Surge II Transit
$130
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Arc'teryx Blade 24

Arc'teryx Blade 24
$179
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Osprey Pixel

Osprey Pixel
$140
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Timbuk2 Command Pack

Timbuk2 Command Pack
$129
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Dakine Campus 33

Dakine Campus 33
$55
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5