Best backpacks for work: Professional styles perfect for the office

·9-min read
 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

Back to the office? Then you face that never-ending question of how you’ll ever be able to cram all of those essential items into one bag, without it weighing you down so much that you feel your back’s going to break – if the bag doesn’t first.

Common consensus states that the best way to achieve the perfect balance between storage and comfort is with the humble backpack, so set aside those handbags, totes and holdalls.

But even after narrowing it down to type, with so many backpacks out there, it’s difficult to know where to focus your attention. So before considering which to purchase, there are a few things you should bear in mind to ensure you bag the right one for you.

Firstly, look at capacity – a standard commuter backpack should be around 10-30 litres to allow you to carry all that you may need. Next, think about usage. Are you going to be taking it through all weather conditions? Then you probably want to opt for one that’s waterproof. Finally, examine comfort. If you’re going to be taking your bag on public transport or wearing it for any length of time, consider padded or chest straps to help take the pressure off – just make sure you’ve got it fitted properly so weight is evenly distributed.

So whether you want a stylish one, one made for cyclists, one that’s laptop-compatible or just your bog-standard one, we’ve got the lowdown on the best backpacks about town for commuters.

Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway because - puns), we’ve got this one in the bag.

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Stolt podium business set

Combining high-tech features with a streamline design, say hello to the commuter’s dream. The podium business set, which is available in blue or black, is one of the most compact backpacks I’ve seen – but crucially, without compromising at all on space.

In fact, this set has everything the happy worker could need to take them right through the day, including a folding garment card and hi-vis rain cover for those who cycle, as well as space for storing a laptop, valuables and even a built-in garment sleeve. For those staying in town mid-week, the expandable pocket gives you that little bit of extra room, whilst still remaining incredibly lightweight in design.

As well as the three-way shield that protects the bag from rain, sweat and odour, the podium has an amazing strap system that allows you to carry it as a backpack, briefcase or shoulder bag and the straps can be zipped neatly away when not in use.

For those looking for something a little larger, the Alpha C has all of the basic features and more, with a separate garment box and laundry bag taking the backpack game up a step.

Buy now £159.00, Stolt

BearMade Gouthwaite backpack

We cannot preach more about how fantastic BearMade’s Gouthwaite backpack is. Made in the UK from organic canvas, the brand is serious when it comes to being eco-friendly, minimising waste by using sustainable materials wherever possible, offsetting carbon and only selling locally.

Their products are designed to last a lifetime but just in case they don’t, BearMade offers free repairs and will take your bag back if you no longer need it in exchange for credit.

The roll-top bags come in two colours, black and orange, and in 15L or 23L. The larger one is fantastic for commuters, with a clip on the top to make sure everything is secure, side pockets and a removable chest strap for comfort. There’s also room for a laptop and it is weatherproof.

No only that, the bag is made from GOTS-certified organic dry-waxed cotton which uses 88 per cent less water and 62 per cent less energy than normal cotton. Now that’s what we call smart packing.

This is clearly a brand that genuinely cares about their impact and has invested in their products right through from manufacture to use, which is a breath of fresh air in an industry that is saturated with brands whose claims to be green are sadly often all talk.

Buy now £195.00, BearMade

Lovevook laptop backpack

A good backpack can often be a hefty investment – but not here. Lovevook’s backpack really is an all-in-one masterpiece, and all for under £30. Maximising on storage, there are multiple zippable compartments, including three on the front alone, with a designated padded pocket at the back to store a laptop. And speaking of pockets, it also has a nifty, anti-theft pocket on the back which is perfect for keeping a bank card or phone in.

Taking it to the next level is the external USB port with built-in charging cable, ensuring your phone will never run out of battery again. It also comes in a wide array of colours, including red and light blue, which couldn’t be further than that dull executive look you often come across.

For all you could need, with a neat price, this is the one to choose.

Buy now £29.99, Amazon

Stubble & Co roll top backpack

Stubble & Co’s roll top is THE all-weather backpack. It describes itself as functionality meets performance and boy does it live up to it.

Not only is it made from recycled materials, which always sits high in my estimations, it also has a large 20L capacity and is all wrapped up in a sleek, stylish design.

One of the best features a direct-access laptop pocket on the side, which slides in neatly behind your back and is a complete innovation for those who want to work on the commute, as you don’t have to pull everything else out of the bag.

Its lightweight nature means it doesn’t feel heavy on your back but for those who tend to clock up the foot miles, the cushioned back panel and adjustable chest strap provide maximum comfort all day long.

With sealed seams, water-resistant zips and reflective trim, as well as separate bottle and bike lock pockets and a bike light anchor point, you can tell this bag was made with cycling and the outdoors in mind.

Buy now £105.00, Stubble & Co

Trakke Bannoch backpack

The Bannoch is certainly one to turn your head. Available in three colours – black, sand and khaki – don’t underestimate the simple style of this canvas backpack, which certainly carries weight in the bag realm.

In fact, its simple style is one of the factors we love best about it – there’s none of that unnecessary faff of excess features that get you in a spin. With a volume of 17L, it holds more than enough for your everyday journeys, plus a whole host of useful pockets (including two for bottles, an interior zip, a document and a laptop sleeve).

Added to this are the double G clasps which sit neatly under the top flap to keep the bag securely shut, no matter how bumpy the ride.

With a winning formula bundled up in a classic design, the Bannoch ensures there’ll be no more endlessly searching for things that always seem to hide in a bag’s bottomless pit.

Buy now £210.00, Trakke

Antler Chelsea daypack

The award for the most fashionable backpack definitely goes to Antler. The Chelsea daypack is available in a range of delightful pastel tones – from blush to mint, as well as taupe – and at 12L is a little smaller than others out there but this, along with its super lightweight design, makes it the perfect size for taking on the go.

With a padded back pocket big enough to fit a laptop, as well as a roomy interior with several more pockets, this is the perfect bag to take from day to night.

There’s even a back sleeve that slots over a suitcase handle to keep it safe on your travels. And, if you want to be really smart, get the full look by coordinating with the other luggage and accessories in the range.

Buy now £99.00, Antler

Eastpak out of office

Everyone’s favourite backpack brand is back with a bang in terms of the out of office. This nifty bag, which comes in at under £60 and is made specifically with commuters in mind, providing all you could need for a smooth journey to work. With a padded laptop sleeve to keep your hardware safe, to multiple pockets in the middle that allow you to compartmentalise your stuff, this is a great mid-range option for those on a budget.

Many backpacks aren’t gender specific and so can come up a little large, but this is the perfect size – allowing you to carry all you should need and still fitting comfortably even for smaller-framed people. It also has a padded back panel and adjustable shoulder straps for maximum wearability, which is always a bonus.

Buy now £57.00, Eastpak

Rapha reflective travel backpack

Cycling aficionados out there, listen up. Bike specialists Rapha have pulled out all the stops with their travel backpack. Not only is it reflective (yes, you heard me right), making it great for those on the move after dark, it also has a waterproof coating and rain cover so your stuff remains protected, whatever the weather.

Despite its deceptively slim size, this backpack can hold a huge 25L – roomy enough to hold all your office wares, as well as for an overnight stay. Other top features include the chest strap, which has a magnetic closure to keep your bag in place when loaded, which makes release so much easier than traditional clips. Honestly, try it.

This is also one of only a few bags that has a small zip pocket at the back to store essentials like keys and phone, and it can be accessed even when the rain cover is on, which is a massive plus point. Added to this, it also unzips like a clamshell so you can lie it flat and access everything with ease. There’s also a moulded back panel with channels to promote airflow, for maximum comfort.

Seriously, is there anything this backpack can’t do?

Buy now £150.00, Rapha


For those after a backpack exclusively for commuting, Stolt’s podium business set has thought of everything, containing all you could need for a full day (and night) in the office. But if you’re looking for something a bit more stylish and multipurpose, I could not recommend BearMade’s Gouthwaite more. With ample room and lots of pockets, and all wrapped up in a sustainable shell, there’s nothing not to love about this future-facing bag.

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