Anyone who has lugged around a laptop and a day’s worth of stuff will know that a good backpack is a must. A shoulder bag may seem like a stylish option, but having back pain is not a good look. From butter-soft leather bags to canvas styles that can take a beating, we have tracked down and tested the best backpacks on the market. We looked for durable bags that would hold day-to-day essentials, without compromising on style. We know not everyone needs to carry their tech around with them so there are some smaller bags on this list, too.
1. Fjällräven Re-Kånken: £65, Asos
This Swedish-based company started out with the mission of fixing school kids’ back problems, but the brand has since become a street-style staple. Its latest offering is also environmentally friendly and sustainable. The bag is made almost entirely from plastic bottles – 11 to be exact. Although the material is lightweight, this backpack can withstand a rain shower and being dumped on the floor. There are lots of useful pockets and it features a clever seat pad so that it stops the contents of the bag digging into your back, it fitted our 13-inch Macbook too. This is one of the more casual bags on the list, with handles that betray its original purpose as a kids’ bag, but we’re fans. It comes in a rainbow of colours, as well as more office-appropriate black and grey.
2. The Cambridge Satchel Company Portrait Backpack: £195, The Cambridge Satchel Company
Beautifully made from leather strong enough to last a lifetime, this bag from the family-run company is worth investing in. Its sleek design and silver hardware makes it ideal if you need to look smart on a daily basis, but it is comfortable and fits a 13 inch laptop perfectly, making it practical too. A front pocket means you can also get to your keys and purse quickly, and – so long as you close the top flap properly – it feels secure. The structured design of this means you can’t cram too much in, though, so you might need to carry the likes of a gym kit separately. It comes in four colours and you can get it personalised for a small extra cost.
3. Eastpak Austin Blend Caramel: £60, Eastpak
The Austin bag will take you from office to countryside adventure – or wherever else you want to go – with ease. Because of its padded back and shoulders, it was one of the most comfortable we tried. Exceptionally roomy, and with a drawstring closure, this is ideal if you need to carry a lot around with you. You get one main compartment, a padded laptop sleeves and two roomy side pockets for items you need easy access to. We like this vintage-looking brown, but it comes in a range of other colours, with a white-striped lining.
4. Accessorize Nora Backpack: £29, Accessorize
For those whose budget won’t stretch to real leather, but who want a simple and elegant-looking smaller backpack, this is for you. The Nora bag will fit all your essentials while looking smart, and comes in the three wearable shades of blue, burgundy and black. It also has two handy side pockets and a flap and drawstring closure. A good-value option.
5. Sandqvist Kim Ground: £89, Wardow
We’ve long been fans of Swedish backpack brand Sandquist. The founders’ idea was that the bags would work as well for Nordic escapes as they would for looking stylish in the city. We say they’ve got it just right. The Kim veers more towards the urban side of things with its laptop pocket that will fit a machine up to 14 inches. It also comes with an extra big pocket at the front, which saves time rummaging, and it’s comfortable on the back. This blue-green colour is new for spring.
6. My Green Bag Leather Traveller’s Backpack: £175, My Green Bag
If you are looking for something unique, you should check out east London-based My Green Bag. Its vintage-inspired leather rucksacks are made by hand, so no two are the same. This roll-top one is our favourite – it’s a good choice if you’re after a bag you can squash a lot into. It has a drawstring and buckle closure and there’s a small internal pocket for your valuables. This is a bag that will look even better with age too.
7. BDG Canvas Backpack: £32, Urban Outfitters
This cotton canvas backpack comes in seven colours, so there’s a style to suit everyone. From bright green to soft pink, each design has a large main section with an additional front pocket and laptop storage at the back (secured with a zip). It’s an understated option from an original Urban Outfitters brand but one that will see you through many seasons.
8. Mi-Pac Mini Pug Print Backpack: £29.99, Asos
Have some fun with your backpack and opt for this pug-print design from accessories brand Mi-Pac. With plenty of room for essentials and other bits and bobs you may need, as well as a front pocket and inside slip pocket for smaller items like your mobile, you shouldn’t struggle for space. It’s also easy to clean – just wipe it down with a damp cloth. The zip fastening feels secure and the adjustable straps mean it can fit to any size.
9. Whistles Verity Backpack: £280, Whistles
If you want a classic leather bag, we like this sleek-looking black option from Whistles, a brand that nails pared-back accessories. There’s a useful pouch on the front, it zips up and folds over at the top and there’s an internal zip pocket for your valuables. It’s made from quality leather, will go with everything and should fit your work-day essentials. We’d say make sure you carry tech – it’ll fit tablet and small notebook laptops – in a padded case for extra protection.
10. Matt and Nat Brave Backpack: £98, Matt and Nat
Anyone looking for an affordable vegan option should try Canadian brand Matt & Nat. Its bags are super-stylish, look like the real deal and as well as eschewing leather, have linings made from recycled plastic bottles. There are loads of backpacks in the range but if you’re after something that can hold a 13-inch laptop, the Brave is your best bet. It’s a well-thought-out bag: there are side pockets to tuck items you need easy access to, a zipped front pocket and the adjustable shoulder straps are a bit more padded than your average style-focussed backpack, so it’s comfortable to wear. The coral is a new colour for spring but it also comes in some more muted hues.
The Verdict: Women's backpacks
The Re-Kånken backpack is our favourite because of its Tardis-like qualities. It has enough room to fit anything you might need during the day, without being too bulky or heavy. And its wide opening means that you will never have to frantically rummage through your bag again. Well, almost never. For a sleeker leather bag, try Whistles or for something with a vintage feel, The Cambridge Satchel Company and My Green Bag are both good bets.
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