While it used to be standard practice, modern laptops hardly ever come with a branded laptop bag – but how else can you transport it? To avoid being a target for thieves, and to help keep your delicate electronics safe as you travel, we’ve rounded up a selection of rucksacks, messenger bags and briefcases that are designed to do precisely that.
It’s extremely rare these days to get a case or bag included when you buy a laptop, and it may not be wise to buy one from the manufacturer as having a big logo simply advertises the fact that you’re carrying something valuable worth stealing. To avoid being a target for thieves, and to help keep your delicate electronics safe as you travel, we’ve rounded up a selection of rucksacks, messenger bags and briefcases that are designed to do precisely that. See also: 20 best laptops you can buy in 2017
Best laptop bags of 2017: Laptop bags buying advice
You might find that a laptop with a 16in screen will fit due to its dimensions, even if the bag says ‘up to 15in’ – although it may be a tight fit.Every laptop bag has a dedicated compartment for your computer, and bags usually advertise the biggest laptop you can carry by giving a screen size in inches.
The amount of protection varies from bag to bag, with some manufacturers providing all-around padding (with double at the bottom) and others just an internal pouch with no top cover. Read our reviews to find out what level of protection each bag offers.
As well as your laptop, you’ll need room for the power supply, other accessories and your own gear, whether that’s a gym kit, water bottle, documents, keys and other gadgets. Most bags have a nominal capacity, but this is usually the total volume, rather than a single space for stuff besides a laptop.
Multiple pockets are useful as they help keep everything organised, while a bag with a large extra compartment is good for bulky items such as shoes. Look for a capacity in litres, but bear in mind that the larger the capacity, the bigger (and usually heavier) is the bag you’ll have to carry everywhere.
Some bags have a dedicated pocket for tablets and another for smartphones or media players. The latter sometimes have a hole through which you can route your headphones.
It’s useful to have several zipped pockets which can be accessed independently, rather than having to open the main zip to get at internal pockets. That gives would-be thieves a view of what you’re carrying and isn’t nearly as convenient.
If you’re after a rucksack, look for one with well-padded straps and – if you’ll be walking long distances – a chest strap to help stabilise the load. Some bags even have a hiking-style waist strap, but that’s overkill on a laptop carrier.
Many laptop bags have water resistant material either on the outside or in the lining. If this is a priority, bear in mind that only bags marked as waterproof will ensure your kit stays dry. Some bags come with a separate rain cover which you can pop over the rucksack in a downpour to keep your kit bone dry.
Water resistance doesn’t mean the same thing, and if you’re cycling in the rain, it’s wise to use additional protection such as a proper rain cover or keep some large freezer bags to seal in your gadgets.
Prices vary widely, and you don’t always get what you pay for. Buying a laptop bag from a fashion brand, for example, might be more costly, but doesn’t guarantee better quality zips or fasteners than a cheaper bag.
- RRP: £74.95
STM’s Haven laptop bag was designed with style and usability in mind with a stylish look that doesn’t compromise on carry space and features. The bag can carry a 15in laptop in a specially designed sleeve lined with soft material to help keep your laptop mark-free, and with ‘slingtech protection’ that keeps your laptop suspended from the floor, you should have no worries about damage – even when dropping the rucksack on the floor. It features a number of smaller pockets to keep small accessories like your smartphone, headphones and even your sunglasses (thanks to a fleece lined pocket) safe and secure.
The bag features a cushioned back panel with built-in 3D foam cores that creates a central air channel, providing extra ventilation when you need it most. Say goodbye to sweaty backs! It’s also crafted from water resistant fabric, making rainy journeys a little less stressful. It’s available to buy in four colours – black, frost grey, Moroccan blue and steel, with Moroccan Blue being our personal favourite. It’s a great all-round laptop back with enough pockets for all your tech accessories.
Best laptop bags 2017: Targus CityGear
Available in 14in, 15.6in and 17.3in, Targus’ CityGear II backpack is cleverly designed to accommodate and protect all the gadgets a modern traveller needs to carry.
We tried out the smallest version, which is ideal for a 14in laptop or smaller. This has its own dedicated rear zipped section. In front is a larger section which has a soft lined pocket for a tablet, plus space for other stuff – you’ll just about fit in a pair of shoes.
Organiser pockets are everywhere in the front section, so you’ll find a suitable one for whatever you need to store. On the front is a handy sunglasses pocket (which is also a good size for a smartphone) and there’s a mesh pocket for a water bottle on the side.
There’s plenty of back padding, but the straps are fairly thinly padded. Overall construction quality, including the zips, is excellent, and it’s great value for money.
Moshi Helios Lite
- RRP: £95
The small, slim and stylish form factor of the Helios Lite can carry (up to) a 13in laptop along and a handful of accessories. We found the Helios Lite able to comfortably carry an 11.6in MacBook Air along with everything we need for our day-to-day life at the office and feel that it’s just the right size for everyday use. The exterior is ‘weather resistant’ according to Moshi, and features magnetic strap closures for easy access.
The Helios Lite also comes with a variety of compartments (both inside and outside) of all shapes and sizes for carrying smartphones and other important items – although the microfiber lining used with other bags isn’t present here. It also includes a rear Napoleon pocket for your valuables (passport, boarding pass, etc) that is almost impossible for pickpockets to access. It’s a little on the pricey side, but is a good option for the fashion conscious amongst us.
- RRP: £99 inc VAT
If you’re constantly worried that someone will try and steal something from your bag then the anti-theft R15 laptop rucksack will put your mind to rest. All the zips are on the opposite site to regular rucksacks so no one can get it unless you take it off.
Top- and D-pockets mean you can get quick access to things while other handy features include waterproof Cordura nylon, suitcase strap, durable Thermoplastic polyurethane base and detachable chest straps.
We like the new navy blue colour and you can also personalise the bag with RiutBands – colourful clip on bands which are reflective to help keep you safe.
It’s also available in a smaller 10 litre R10 model which is £89, but both fit up to 15in laptops.
STM Velocity Linear
- RRP: £55 inc. VAT
In some ways the new Velocity is a step backwards from the previous Linear bag as the strap lacks 360-degree hinges which prevented them becoming twisted. However, although the new nylon material isn’t as soft, it has better water resistance and there’s new cable passthrough holes which makes it easier to charge a phone or tablet from a power bank while travelling. There’s room for a 13in laptop and tablet together, plus extra pockets for keys and other small items. A decent choice if you’re looking for a small upright laptop bag.
- RRP: £75 inc VAT
The STM Impulse isn’t the latest laptop bag range released by the Australian company, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good bag. It’s designed to fit laptops up to 16in, and in our experience, we found that the main zip pocket (which STM calls the ‘technology compartment’) had compartments for both a laptop and a tablet, and is lined with a soft, microfiber-esque material. We managed to fit a 15.6in laptop and a 9.7in iPad (with a full body base) comfortably in the technology compartment of the bag, so no complaints there. There are other zip compartments that can be used to store things like chargers and other gadgets, and one non-zipped pocket that perfectly fits a half-litre drink bottle. The straps of the STM Impulse are reasonably well padded providing a comfortable experience, and the inclusion of a chest strap is ideal for those carrying heavier items.
- RRP: £200
This bag from Moshi is expensive, but the quality shines through. It’s named after an arcus cloud (no, us neither) but the headline is it’s very spacious. We like the fact the main compartment doesn’t actually store your laptop or tablet, instead using a zippered section next to your back.
We like this as it keeps things separate. The back part has room for a latop up to 15in and a small tablet, your phone, and other, flatter items like books and magazines. There are side pockets for cables, charger and water bottles and a crushproof top section for sunglasses or your phone.
Moshi also sells an Arcus camera insert for £50. This slots neatly into the bag and gives padded protection to your DSLR and accessories.
Booq Boa squeeze
- RRP: £114 inc VAT
The Booq Boa Squeeze is a turtle shell-like rucksack for 13-15in laptops that when donned, will bow out from top to bottom to provide a streamlined shape. It’s made from tough-feeling black ballistic nylon with a cream coloured ripstop polyester-lined interior for a durable look and feel. There is a smattering of hidden pockets all over the bag, which can be used to carry valuable items from smartphones to cables and even your passport. Zip-down side pockets are also available for bottles of water, keys, etc. The main laptop compartment is well padded with dense foam, although the bottom of the bag doesn’t offer quite the same level of protection. The Booq Boa Squeeze is a fairly stylish option and has a lot of useful pockets for storing accessories, however, it costs more than many competitors and thus, doesn’t offer the best value.
Moleskine Digital Device Bag
- RRP: £79.99
Moleskine traditionally produces fine notebooks – and not the laptop kind either. However, the company also makes carrying bags for laptops, and the classy, understated Digital Device bag (Vertical or Horizontal) is a great option for those on the market. There are a multitude of options available for laptops between 13 and 15.4in, and there’s plenty of padding within the bag to protect your valuable digital goods. The vertical bag can be worn as a rucksack while the horizontal bag comes with a strap to be worn as a satchel, and both come with a strap to be securely fastened to suitcase handles. Read our indepth Moleskine laptop bag review.
Wenger Swissgear ScanSmart SA1900 Backpack
- RRP: £85
The Swissgear Scansmart is a laptop bag that’ll carry up to 17in laptops and is a personal favourite of ours at PC Advisor; read our full Swissgear Scansmart review. The Scansmart features a large laptop compartment with an extra pocket for a tablet or extra gear, and it can be unzipped the whole way round and opened flat on a table. Unfortunately, the Scansmart falls into the same trap as the Thule, providing padded protection at the front and back but not at the sides or below. Apart from that, there’s a second large compartment for all your other belongings along with a number of zipped pockets throughout the bag for cables, keys, etc. It’s comfortable to wear over long periods, and features air-flow back padding for extra comfort and back support.
Thule Crossover 25L Backpack
- RRP: £90 inc VAT
The Crossover 25L has a 25-litre capacity and is crafted from dobby nylon that makes the bag appear dark graphite in colour at a distance, as opposed to pure black. The outer fabric is backed by a high-quality waterproof coating that should protect your laptop and other gadgets in a downpour. There’s one main compartment to the bag, sealed by a double-end zip and sectioned off with a designated laptop pocket large enough to fit a 17in laptop. The main compartment along with zipped sub-pockets are quite large and you can carry more than first expected. The only real downside is the lack of protection at the bottom of the laptop compartment – only a single layer of foam separates your laptop and the hard ground, potentially devastating if you drop your bag.
Knomo James Tote Backpack
- RRP: £169
Knomo makes high quality (and slightly high-priced) cases and bags for tech equipment. The build qaulity is exceptional and it has removable backpack straps if that meeting you’re off to has a slightly more executive vibe. There’s two spacious compartments that will fit up to a 15-inch laptop, but there’s also room for a tablet plus all the necessary accessories and chargers you might want to cart about. If you want a bag that can also store lots of little gadgets like your phone and Kindle you may want to consider something else, as there aren’t any smaller pockets on the rest of the bag, but you could tuck them into the front large zip section.
Booq Saddle Pro
- RRP: £250
Booq’s laptop bags are at the top end of the price range, but thankfully also at the top end of the build and quality market.
The Saddle Pro is a briefcase-style laptop bag that will easily hang over your suitcase handle as you rush from city to city. It’s much like the company’s Saddle laptop briefcase but with more room for expansion, so you can fill it with even more gadgets, papers, clothes, books and other stuff. Normally this level of capacity requires a rucksack, but if you prefer the briefcase format the Saddle pro offers a lot.
The Saddle Pro is not cheap at £250 (US$295), but then this laptop bag is built for serious business. It whispers design quality, and its expandable zip adds another 3.5 litres of storage capacity just when you thought you’d squeezed as much as you can into it.
The Saddle Pro is compatible with 12in to 16.4in laptops, with plenty of storage capacity left for tablet, smartphone, books, folders and water bottles (via handy zipped mesh side pockets).
If you frequently carry around lots of documents and magazines you’ll love the easy-access compartment at the back. There are plenty of handy zipped pockets inside, too.
The Saddle Pro feels robust in its ballistic nylon exterior and oversized and rubberized YKK zips for easy access to the pockets and compartments. The leather handles give it a real sense of luxury, and there’s also a detachable, comfortable shoulder strap when you need both hands.
Booq Cobra Pack
- RRP: £210
At £210 (US$295) the Booq Cobra Pack had better be good, and it delivers on both quality and protection (with its 1680-denier, water-repellant ballistic nylon feeling built to last). It looks damned smart, too. Your laptop would thank you every time it’s slipped into the thick, quilted padded lining in the rear laptop pocket, which can handle up to 17-inch laptops. It definitely won’t scratch your laptop, but will protect it from scrapes and bangs and bumps. In the larger-capacity central section there is plenty of space for other items, and here you’ll find four other pockets – including one that looks perfect for tablets. The breathable back padding is super comfortable, and the straps have three adjustment points. Empty it’s appreciatively lightweight. We did find the front quick-access pocket rather blind in that anything you put in there has to be rummaged around to find. There are two water-bottle pockets that fold away when not required. They are deep enough to handle a medium-sized umbrella, which is so handy you wonder why all laptop rucksacks don’t do the same. There’s even a unique serial number that you can register so your bag can be returned to you if lost. The Booq Cobra Pack is certainly at the expensive end of the laptop bag range, and if you value quality, ultra-smart looks plus great protection it will serve you well.