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Sometimes it’s the little things that make heading out the door to another day of work seem doable. Maybe it’s the promise of a fancy latte from the local coffee shop or grabbing lunch at your favorite salad spot. Perhaps it’s an outfit that makes you feel unstoppable. Another thing that can help you feel confident as you go from your commute to your desk job? A great work bag. The perfect work bag is that hard-to-find combination of comfort, style, and flawless organization and storage.
When it comes to the perfect work bag, fashion and function should be in perfect harmony. It should be a bag that you don’t feel embarrassed to be carrying and one that holds everything from a laptop to a giant water bottle to fun extras like gym clothes, a lunchbox, and more. Because there is such a demand for excellent work bags, there is also a lot of variety on the market. From backpacks to messenger bags to vegan leather options, there are work bags of every shape, size, and color. We tapped handbag designer Sherrill Mossee to help make the decision process a bit smoother.
Meet the Expert
Ahead are the best work bags we found, whether you’re commuting to a traditional office, hopping on a plane, or just going to a local coffee shop for your workday.
Best Overall: Cuyana Classic Leather Zip Tote
You can't have a conversation these days about work bags without talking about Cuyana, and there's a good reason for that. Made out of buttery soft leather while still offering structure and secure storage, this work bag is as classic as it gets. Plus, at 18 inches wide, it can hold even the largest of laptops.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, Caramel, Stone, Olive, Burgundy, Pearl Grey, Navy, Ecru, Blush
Best Tote: Away Latitude Tote
A classic, sturdy leather tote, this bag from Away features room for a 15-inch laptop as well as a magnetic-closure top, large looped handles for comfortable carrying, and a detachable zip pouch and key clip strap. According to reviews, this bag is the more affordable version of popular, more expensive totes. “This bag is designed like a sturdier and more useful version of the Saint Laurent leather shopper tote,” one verified buyer wrote in a review.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, navy, pine, buff, ruby
Best Designer: Bottega Veneta Tote Bag
Looking for a designer back that can withstand everyday use and commutes? This Bottega tote would be a great option. With multiple pockets, a zipper top, and elastic loop holders (great for keys and sunglasses), this bag could handle even the busiest of commutes.
Materials: 35% cotton, 35% polyurethane, 30% polyamide | Colors: Black
Best for Laptops: Calpak Kaya Laptop Backpack
Featuring a famous back compartment for a 15-inch laptop, the Kaya Laptop Backpack is perfect for digital nomads who find themselves heading on a plane for work with nothing but their laptop and a few essentials. The multiple interior pockets help keep you organized, while the luggage sleeve trolley and adjustable straps make it incredibly comfortable to bring to work—no matter how long or short your commute may be.
Materials: Faux leather | Colors: Caramel, Blush, Charcoal, Mauve, Stone, Navy, Gunmetal Black, Black, Mocha, Bluebell
Best Leather: Cuyana Leather Triple Zipper Overnight
This bag is for anyone who finds themselves going on frequent work trips—or really just needs a ton of extra room in their bag. The leather is the top-notch quality that Cuyana is known for, and the multiple pockets and zipper compartments make it easy for you to stay organized (and look chic while doing it).
Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, Stone
Best Messenger Bag: Cuyana Messenger Bag
Available in both 13- and 16-inch versions, this messenger bag gives you options based on what size laptop you have (or how much storage you need). Along with a built-in laptop sleeve, it also has a thick, adjustable shoulder strap for maximum comfort while carrying. The best part about it, though, is that it looks nothing like a work bag.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, Cappuccino, Light Stone, Soft Rose
Most Durable: Lo & Sons Seville Aire Tote
The nylon body of this incredibly helpful work tote makes it incredibly durable, resistant to general wear and tear as well as water. It also has a huge selection of inner pockets (including a laptop sleeve) to help you stay as organized as possible. The zipper top also means everything stays organized, secure, and tucked away from the elements.
Materials: Nylon, polyester jacquard, leather | Colors: Black, Navy
Best Backpack: Dagne Dover Large Neoprene Backpack
With more than 1,700 reviews and an average 4.8-star rating, this neoprene backpack is a customer favorite, to say the least. It includes a padded laptop compartment to keep your electronics safe, and its material means it’s incredibly lightweight and comfortable to carry throughout the day.
Materials: Neoprene, recycled lining made from plastic bottles | Colors: Onyx, Dark Moss, Storm, Dune, Heather Gray, Evergreen
Best Budget: Target Reversible Tote Handbag
This tote is a great size for holding all of the day’s necessities but also offers the added bonus of being reversible. This means you essentially get two bags for the price of one—and that price is pretty reasonable, to begin with.
Materials: Polyurethane | Colors: Black/Brown, Olive Green/Gold, Brown/Gold
Best on Amazon: Nubily Laptop Bag
With almost 6,000 reviews and an average rating of 4.6 stars, this bag is a solid contender for an affordable work bag. It offers a laptop compartment, shoulder strap, top zipper closure, and water-resistant outer material to keep you covered and organized for even the busiest of workdays.
Materials: PU leather | Colors: Black, White, Navy, Brown, Green, Purple, Gray, Nude, Pink, Purple
Best Canvas: Dagne Dover Vida Cotton Tote Bag
This 100 percent organic cotton tote is cute—like, really cute. With multiple inner and outer pockets (including one made for laptops up to 16 inches), it holds a ton of stuff. If your job is on the more casual side, or you frequently find yourself running errands before and after work, this would be a great option.
Materials: Cotton | Colors: Onyx, Natural, Ochre, Denim
Best Work-to-Gym: MinkeeBlue Ella Tote
With a shoe compartment and an insulated lunch compartment, this bag will help you live your most productive life. Not only can you pack your gym clothes and shoes hygienically and conveniently, but you can also make sure your work bag is stocked with healthy snacks and other essentials, like your laptop (there’s a handy laptop sleeve, too, of course).
Materials: Nylon, vegan leather | Colors: Black, Navy Blue
Best Vegan: Senreve Maestra Bag
Though this work bag is a bit of an investment, it’s worth it if you’re looking for a high-quality, stylish, convertible work bag that is 100 percent vegan. The bag also converts to a tote, handheld, or backpack bag, giving you some added versatility.
Materials: Vegan leather | Colors: Black, Merlot, Taupe, Pecan, Forest
Best Classic: Tory Burch Robinson Tote
With two exterior slip pockets, six interior slip pockets, an interior zip pocket, and an open top, this work bag is a classic silhouette that combines quality, convenience, and style.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, Bistro Brown
Best Washable: Corkcicle Re:Tote Bag
Not only is this tote machine washable, making it incredibly convenient, but it also comes with an easy-insert cooler compartment, perfect for bringing lunch and/or snacks to work, kids’ events, or both.
Materials: Recycled bottle yarn | Colors: Black, Woodland Camo, Rose Quartz
Best Waterproof: Maverick & Co. Explorer Light Backpack
This backpack-style work bag includes a 16-inch laptop compartment and multiple easy-to-access outer compartments, but it’s also water-resistant and scratch-resistant, making it great if you commute on a bike or on foot.
Materials: Water- and scratch-resistant nylon | Colors: Black, Navy
Best Sustainable: Culthread Blenheim RV-Leather Tote
Made from vegan leather and 100 percent recycled material, this bag is as convenient as it is sustainable. It features pockets, double-zip closure, protective bottom studs, a magnetic laptop flap, a bottle pocket, and more. It even comes with a shoe bag, too, in case you need to keep an extra pair of sneakers or heels in your bag.
Materials: Vegan leather | Colors: Black
Best Convertible: Pond Los Angeles Transform Tote
Whether you want to wear it as a tote, crossbody, or backpack, this work tote has enough storage for all your work needs. With a laptop sleeve that fits up to a 15-inch laptop, side pockets perfect for water bottles, and a waterproof and scratch-proof exterior, this bag is incredibly versatile.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Stone, Peony, Black
Best for Moms: Monos Metro Duffel
The thing to know about the Monos Metro Duffel is that it features Monos’ Modular Kit System, which is interchangeable and can be swapped out based on what you need (or don’t need) that day. This makes it an ideal choice for moms who may be shuffling between multiple obligations and settings throughout the day.
Materials: Nylon or vegan leather | Colors: Black, Oxford Blue, Juniper Green, Dover Grey, Ivory, Saddle Tan, Mahogany
Best Large: Kate Spade Essential Large Work Tote
Another classic work bag, the Kate Spade Essential Large Work Tote has been a fan favorite for a while. With six interior slip pockets, an interior padded zipper sleeve, and more, this bag can fit an iPhone XS Max, a large continental wallet, an iPad, an A4 binder, and a 15-inch laptop, according to the brand.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, Lingonberry, Mineral Grey
Best Trendy: Everlane Italian Leather Studio Bag
If you’re looking for a work bag that holds all the essentials but strays away from the traditional work bag silhouette, this Everlane option would be a great pick. Large enough to hold an 18-inch laptop with multiple pockets and a comfortable, adjustable strap, this bag would look chic going from the office to, well, just about anywhere.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, Light Taupe, Cognac
What to Look for in a Work Bag
When choosing your perfect work bag, Mossee says to first consider what you'll be keeping in the bag day-to-day. Need to pack both your lunch and your gym shoes? Then you'll probably want a bag that has separate compartments for both to keep things clean and sanitary. Need a bag you can take on flights easily? Make sure to find one that slips onto the handle of a rolling suitcase.
"My bags from my own collection are all vegan leather because I find it's the most durable," Mossee says. "The last thing you want is a bag to fall apart while in use; that's the exact opposite of a handy, helpful handbag."
If you're stuck on material, think of the most long-lasting, sturdy handbag you already own and try to find a work bag in the same material. Otherwise, make sure to check reviews for longtime customers or notes about general wear and tear.
What Should You Pack in a Work Bag?
When packing your bag for work, it’s best not to overcomplicate things. The worst work bag is the one that’s overly full or causing you pain or discomfort to carry because it’s so heavy. Focus first on the essentials: Laptop, water bottle, gym clothes, snacks, etc., and then add in some extras from there based on how much room you have left.
“Besides obvious personal items when packing your bag for work, I also recommend a journal for any downtime you might have during your day or if you need 5 minutes to destress, a lightweight laptop or iPad, some lunch/snacks, and a water bottle,” Mossee suggests.
What is Vegan Leather?
Vegan leather is popular for a lot of reasons. It’s a more animal-friendly option, of course, but it’s also durable, water-resistant, and (sometimes) scratch-proof, as well. So what is it, exactly? Well, technically, it’s usually a form of plastic, usually PVC (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) or PU (polyurethane). With high-quality vegan leather, though, you won’t be able to tell the difference between soft, supple real leather and the faux version.
Why Trust Byrdie
Olivia Muenter is a fashion commerce contributor for Byrdie, and she has been published in Refinery29, Bustle, Fashionista, Glamour, and Woman’s Day, among others. Her search for this piece covered handbag retailers of all types. For criteria, she evaluated customer reviews, storage, versatility, materials, and style.