The 10 Best Commuter Backpacks Are Just As Stylish as They Are Functional

With stylish picks from brands like Everlane, Dagne Dover, and more.

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Rains / Parker Clay

A backpack is a hardworking accessory in anyone’s wardrobe, from a kindergartener to a law student to a CEO. Not all backpacks are created equal, though. A smart, modern backpack marries functional features (like a safe spot to stash a laptop and plenty of secure pockets) and style—since you don’t want to look like you rolled into work straight from a camping trip. 

As you’re scrolling, remember: buying a backpack as an adult isn’t like back-to-school shopping. You shouldn’t have to pick out a new one every year. “Finding a piece that will wear well throughout the years is crucial,” says Agee Gretta Leinberry, co-founder of fashion retailer Couper.

That’s why we narrowed down the 10 best commuter backpacks so you can arrive to work (or wherever) in style, with everyday essentials perfectly organized for years to come. These commuter backpacks range in colors, price, and material, but any of them would be a quality addition to your work ensemble. To narrow down the best commuter backpacks, we tapped an expert, poured over top-selling products and their reviews, and even tried a few for ourselves. We considered features (like whether or not the backpack had helpful pockets), as well as the sizing options and colorways. Read on for the best commuter backpacks you’ll love for years (and years) to come.

Best Overall

Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack

Everlane ReNew Transit Backpack


Everlane thought of everything when it came to the ReNew Transit Backpack. No matter where you’re headed—to work, to a picnic, to the other side of the world—this backpack is a must-have. It features oh-so-smart compartments capable of holding all of your essentials, packaged in a sleek design. The exterior pocket, which fits a 15-inch laptop, allows for easy access so you don’t hold up the airport security line, while the zippered pockets keep all of your non-negotiables, like your phone and wallet, securely close by. If you’re traveling, you can use the pass-through strap to slip it onto your rolling luggage, temporarily giving your back a rest. Perhaps best of all though, the water-resistant backpack is made (almost) entirely from recycled plastic bottles, so you can feel good about wearing such a stylishly sustainable backpack. 

Price at time of publish: $95

Main Features: Exterior laptop pocket, zippered pockets, water bottle pockets | Sizes: One size; fits a 15-inch laptop

Best Budget

Adventurist Classic Backpack

Adventurist Classic Backpack

Adventurist Classic Backpack

As the name suggests, the Adventurist Backpack Co. Adventurist Classic is a minimalist (and minimally priced) backpack versatile enough for all kinds of travels and, yes, adventures—even if you’re simply venturing to your 9:00 a.m. meeting. Made from an ultra-durable and water-resistant polyester, this backpack features supportive padding—including a padded sleeve that fits a 15-inch laptop, padded shoulder straps, and additional padding for your belongings. In addition, the bag features two water bottle pockets and a convenient front pocket to stash the most important items. You can feel good about clicking “add to cart” on this backpack too. For every purchase, Adventurist provides 25 meals to families in need. 

Price at time of publish: $65

Main Features: Padded shoulder pads, water-resistant, front phone pocket | Sizes: One size; fits a 15-inch laptop

Best Splurge

The Row Leather-Trimmed Canvas Backpack

The Row Leather-Trimmed Canvas Backpack


There’s no denying that this backpack by The Row comes with a serious price tag. But, it also comes with a love-it-forever, quietly luxurious style that will look just as elegant decades from now as it does today. The backpack’s canvas and leather design features a drawstring with thin straps. Inside, there’s a slip pocket for organizing small essentials.

Price at time of publish: $1,420

Main Features: Interior pocket, leather straps | Sizes: One size

Best Convertible

Caraa Studio Tote Leather Large in Black



Sometimes, a backpack doesn’t always go with the outfit. Thankfully, this convertible bag from Caraa exists. It’s a tote, it’s a backpack, and it’s bound to be your new favorite bag. It easily transitions between the two carrying modes (either tote or backpack-style) and organizes all of your essentials (with room for more) in its eight pockets and compartments. The Studio Tote features a laptop pocket and a rollaway shoe compartment—which doubles as a nifty compartment to carry your lunch, keeping your laptop safe from salad dressing, sauces, and other culinary mishaps. 

Price at time of publish: $348

Main Features: Converts between a backpack and a tote, laptop pocket, shoe compartment | Sizes: Medium and large

Best Waterproof

Rains Rolltop Rucksack



Leave it to the Danish to create cool, high-quality waterproof products, like this backpack from Scandinavian brand Rains. Not only is it waterproof, but the sleek-looking bag features a roll-top opening with a snap compression and carabiner closure, guaranteeing your essentials won’t get wet no matter what Mother Nature has in store. It’s also incredibly comfortable to wear, thanks to the padded air-mesh back panel and adjustable padded straps. All in all, this backpack proves a functional piece can also be fun. 

Price at time of publish: $125

Main Features: Roll-top opening, side-access laptop pocket, front zip pocket, D ring | Sizes: One size; fits a 15-inch laptop

Best for Laptops

Cuyana Leather Backpack

Cuyana Leather Backpack


If your laptop goes anywhere and everywhere with you, you’ll want to invest in a backpack that has a proper home for it. This Cuyana design is luxury in its purest form, in addition to being very practical, thanks to a built-in laptop sleeve that keeps your computer safe. The rest of the spacious interior can house plenty of your other essentials, while the two large patch pockets allow for quick access to your phone, keys, and wallet. This is an investment piece, but a timeless one you’d use, well, time and time again. 

Price at time of publish: $478–$498

Main Features: Built-in laptop sleeve, two large patch pockets, magnetic and clasp closure | Sizes: 13 or 16 inches

Best for Biking

Paravel Fold-Up Backpack



If you bike to work, look for a lightweight backpack with comfortable shoulder straps and a streamlined silhouette that won’t slow you down. Paravel’s Fold Up Backpack is just that—it folds up into a pouch when not in use. We love the zip closure, which allows you to feel confident that your belongings won’t accidentally spill out onto the road while zipping through traffic. “The Paravel Fold Up Backpack provides the ease of optimal organization,” says Leinberry. “The fact that this backpack zips up into a tiny compact pouch is such a no-brainer for those with a shortage of storage space.” 

Price at time of publish: $65

Main Features: Folds into a compact pouch, interior zip pockets | Sizes: One size; fits a 15-inch laptop

Best Leather

Parker Clay Miramar Leather Backpack


Parker Clay

While backpacks come in a variety of materials, there are countless reasons why you may want to opt for leather: the material is strong, comfortable, recyclable, and, best of all, luxurious. The Parker Clay backpack, which is crafted in Ethiopia from full-grain leather, features soft-to-the-touch leather that’s still super durable. And still, its sleek, chic design can easily transition from work to happy hour without looking ludicrously capacious, and for a personalized touch, you can choose to monogram it.  

Price at time of publish: $248

Main Features: Spacious exterior pocket, optional monogramming, can be worn as a backpack or carried as a tote | Sizes: One size; fits a 13-inch laptop

Best Colors

Topo Designs Rover Pack Classic


Topo Designs

Whether you’re headed to work or walking to class, you’ll want to grab a Rover Pack Classic from Topo Designs. Its versatile, durable recycled nylon design—which is available in a slew of classic solid colors and expected color combinations—is lightweight, with a spacious main compartment. There’s plenty of room for your laptop, workout clothes, and whatever else you need from 9:00 a.m. to long after 5:00 p.m.  

Price at time of publish: $99

Main Features: Internal laptop sleeve, expandable water bottle pockets, external zippered pocket | Sizes: One size; fits a 15-inch laptop

Best for Travel

Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack

Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack

Saks Fifth Avenue

No matter where you’re going, you’ll want this backpack from Dagne Dover. The Dakota Neoprene Backpack (a favorite of Team Byrdie’s)  is versatile and lends itself well to daily commutes, weekend trips, long-haul flights, and everything in between. The design may look simple from the exterior but looks can be deceiving, trust. The inside is remarkably organized, boasting smart interior pockets, a zip-top pouch, a shoe bag, and a key leash.

Price at time of publish: $215

Main Features: Exterior top panel phone pocket, laptop sleeve, shoe bag | Sizes: Small, medium, and large

Final Verdict

When it comes to a backpack for commuting, style, and functionality are key. The Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack is one of our favorites, thanks to smartly-placed pockets and a sleek, goes-with-everything design. For a more budget-friendly pick, you can’t go wrong with the Adventurist Backpack Co. Adventurist Classic, a minimalist backpack that’s durable and comfortable.  

Meet the Expert

Agee Gretta Leinberry is the co-founder and chief creative officer of fashion retailer Couper. She has experience in the fashion industry, working for brands like Veronica Beard, Rebecca Taylor, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

What to Look for in Commuter Backpacks


A backpack stores your everyday essentials, so you’ll want to keep them properly contained and safe from whatever weather you may encounter. Backpacks come in a variety of materials, including leather, nylon, and various waterproof or water-resistant options. Whichever one you choose, opt for a high-quality material that won’t rip or lose its shape, after all, you’ll want it to look just as good years from now. We love the Cuyana Leather Backpack, a leather option that is designed to last through day-to-day life. You can’t go wrong with the Rains Rolltop Rucksack, either, since it’s waterproof and protects valuables from unexpected weather changes.


We’ve all been there: digging desperately through a backpack that seemingly has no bottom looking for one little item. To avoid that scenario, look for a backpack with smart organization, like the Caraa Studio Tote. As a rule of thumb, look for a laptop sleeve to keep your computer safe and plenty of extra pockets never hurts, either. An exterior pocket that securely shuts is a must too; that way you can grab your phone, keys, wallet, or whatever else you want within easy reach. 


Size matters here, especially since you’ll be counting on your commuter backpack to carry everything you could need throughout the day. Look for options that hold plenty of items—from shoes and a change of clothes to a travel-size makeup bag and a water bottle. The Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack is a great choice, as it comes in three sizes—small, medium, and large—so you can pick the one that caters to your needs most.

  • How big should a commuter backpack be?

    The size of your commuter backpack should depend on what you intend to carry in it. If you want to carry a laptop in your backpack, double-check that it can fit yours before adding the bag to your cart” 

  • What should you put in a work backpack?

    “I think the essentials are a laptop and a small makeup bag,” says Leinberry, “but if there is room to throw in a pair of sneakers, leggings, and sports bra for a post-work workout, that’s a huge bonus.” 

  • How heavy should a backpack be to avoid pain?

    Here’s a quick math equation for you: your full backpack shouldn’t exceed more than 15% of your body weight. So, if you’re 135 pounds, a 20-pound backpack is your limit. But, we recommend being as intentional as possible about packing, the lighter the better. Doing so will help you avoid back pain, neck strain, and a slouchy posture.

Why Trust Byrdie

Full-time freelance writer Megan McCarty has been writing about the best of the best of fashion and design for over 15 years, and her work can be seen in InStyle, Domino, Architectural Digest, Bustle, and more. She often carries what feels like her entire life with her—a laptop, a variety of snacks, and who knows what else—so she’s well-versed in quality backpacks.

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