It’s that time of year again. Summer is over and school's starting back up. That means writing papers, online assignments, and probably more Netflix than you’d care to admit.
Whether you’re commuting to class or staying on campus, you’re going to need to invest in a solid laptop to get things done. Which means that it may be a smart idea to get a backpack that will not only carry your laptop, but also protect that investment.
Textbooks aren’t cheap, and neither are laptops. If you’re looking for a bag that will make your trips to class just a little easier, these are all great options.
The Best EDC Laptop Bags for School
Despite its unassuming design, the USA-made DSPTCH Daypack is the furthest thing from your generic bookbag. DSPTCH is known for making quality bags, and the 22L Daypack checks all the boxes when it comes to a modern, urban EDC. Inside the main compartment, you’ll find a dedicated tablet sleeve, zippered stash pocket, and internal water bottle pockets on both sides. A separate padded compartment fits up to a 15” laptop and maintains the bag's sleek structured silhouette. The water-resistant 1680D nylon exterior keeps your belongings dry, and a large front pocket equipped with MOLLE-like elastic webbing gives you quick access and organization for your smaller essentials.
Biking is a great way to get around campus, but you don’t need even need a bike to enjoy the benefits of the 20L Parkside Laptop Backpack from Timbuk2. While you can easily use the elastic side pocket to carry your U-lock, it also fits a water bottle just as well. On the front are two slip pockets for smaller essentials, while the two larger compartments can hold notebooks and a 15” laptop. The strap also has a convenient bottle opener on it for… academic purposes.
5.11 RUSH 12
In our recent Carry Smarter article, we detailed the benefits of a MOLLE-compatible backpack. One reason this type of bag might appeal to you as a student is simple: customizability. The 5.11 RUSH 12 gets its name from being able to hold up to twelve hours worth of gear, which can sometimes be how long a full day of classes lasts. This pack already has two robust front pockets and a larger main compartment, so having the option to attach MOLLE-compatible pouches means this bag can be as versatile as you need it to be.
One pack that’s been making its way around the internet is the VRS Design Ark Backpack. It was designed for the frequent traveler, but those same features are what makes it great for school. One of the two main compartments opens flat for easy access to your laptop or tablet. That makes it perfect not just for getting through airport security, but also good for quickly stowing your laptop between classes. The second compartment is large enough for a binder but has smaller pockets perfect for pens, battery packs, or calculators. If you do end up using it for travel, you can also just slip it onto the handle of your rolling luggage.
Topo Designs Y-Pack
Topo Designs offers beautifully designed backpacks for almost any occasion, but the Y-Pack is a great inexpensive option for anyone looking for a reliable EDC pack with an adventurous look. With this bag, Topo ditched the zippers and went with a drawstring closure and a flap that protects the contents of the bag from rain. The main compartment has a laptop sleeve that keeps a 15” laptop securely out of the way to make room for any other essentials you may need to carry.
CaseLogic 15.6" Laptop Backpack
Sometimes keeping it simple is the way to go, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice functionality. This Case Logic backpack covers all your bases in a low-key design. The main compartment has enough space for a textbook or two, along with a tablet sleeve and two zippered mesh pockets for holding pens and other supplies. You also get two front pockets for quick access to your keys or wallet, but it’s the dedicated laptop compartment that sets this pack apart. The padded laptop compartment is actually located underneath the straps. So if you’re in a rush to leave class and forget to zip up your backpack you won’t have to worry about your laptop slipping out.
Aer Fit Pack
The Freshman Fifteen is real, but you don’t need to be a freshman to take advantage of the campus gym. One pack that’s great for getting a workout in after class is the Aer Fit Pack. Not only can you stow your 15” inch laptop in it, but you can also pack a spare change of clothes and still have room to throw your sneakers in a separate zippered compartment. You would think all this functionality would have you looking like you're wearing a turtle shell on your back, but the pack maintains a slim and minimal silhouette.
The North Face Access Pack
There are gadget bags, and then there’s the Access Pack. The North Face designed this 22L bag for the modern commuter, which nicely sums up many students. The bag opens with a unique quick release latch system that reveals a compartment dedicated to pockets. Pens, battery packs, notebooks, and a tablet all have their place in the Access Pack's highly organized main compartment. Then there’s the dedicated laptop pocket that lets you retrieve your laptop with a handy pull tab. For a head-turning backpack that gets the job done and protects your tech, the Access Pack is a solid choice.
The GORUCK GR-1 is arguably the holy grail of durable backpacks. If you’re looking to invest in a pack that will be with you throughout school and beyond, look no further. The GR-1 is completely rainproof, can hold up to 400 lbs, and has silent YKK zippers so you can keep a low profile when you’re late to class. It also has a separate padded compartment that can hold up to a 17” laptop and is MOLLE-compatible so you can attach pouches and extra gear. The GR-1 is literally ready for war, so hauling it to and from Bio 101 should be a piece of cake.
Incase Icon Slim
If you’ve been reading the site for a while, you'd know there are always cool new backpacks being announced. But there’s nothing quite like a classic. Take the Incase Icon Slim backpack for example. While it's plenty durable with a water-resistant nylon exterior, it's how well executed it is on the inside that counts. The Icon Slim has five internal pockets for tablets, notebooks, and other essentials, with a faux fur lining in the main laptop compartment that makes this Incase so popular. The safer your laptop, the better.
For more back to school essentials, check out these guides: