The North Face – Mainframe is the finest laptop backpacks under $150, according to our four reviewers who tried six different backpacks for two months. The Mainframe is a fantastic bag for commuters because it has excellent organization features and a stylish style. We also adored the small REI – Ruckpack if you’re looking for something even more cost-effective, and the Targus – Work + Play Fitness pack is a wonderful choice if you have a larger laptop and additional items to keep track of. If those choices don’t fit your desired style, take a look at the Rip Ruck from Mystery Ranch.
How we selected products to test
Your laptop and other everyday necessities need to be transported in comfort and security by a laptop bag. The aesthetics of a bag gain importance as you spend more money. In our evaluation, we examine premium backpacks from several merchants that have useful functions and attractive designs. We looked up reviews on Reddit and YouTube and physically examined backpacks at REI and Best Buy. The majority of the best options fall within the $50–100 price range; we evaluated a $130 bag.
What about premium bags?
Many bags in the $200 and up price range that we didn’t test are ones that we enjoy. The models that were closest to passing were The Incase – Icon, Black Ember – Citadel, Tom Binh – Synapse, and GoRuck – GR1.
Compare the best laptop backpacks
|Backpack||Price||Storage Volume (liters)||Fall Protection?||Waterproof Rating (1–5)|
|1. The North Face – Mainframe||$$$||24||Yes||★★★★★|
|2. REI – Ruckpack||$$||18||Yes||★★|
|3. Targus – Work + Play Fitness||$$||27||Yes||★★|
|4. Mystery Ranch – Rip Ruck||$$$$||22||Yes||★★★★|
|5. Dakine – Campus||$$||33||Yes||★|
|6. SwissGear – 1900||$$||31||No||★|
Important features to consider
A backpack’s capacity is an indicator of how much weight it can carry. A 20-liter backpack barely has capacity for a laptop and a few books, but a 25-liter bag has space for a sweater. For weekend travel, a 35-liter bag can substitute for a carry-on bag.
The industry standard for a strong, lightweight polymer that withstands wear, heat, and stains is nylon. Sometimes polyester is used in place of nylon to provide colors or textures that are not achievable with nylon. Most bag fabric receives at least a brief spray of a long-lasting water resistant treatment.
Some bags come with TSA-approved laptop sleeves or pouches that allow you to see your laptop clearly through X-ray machines. Other anti-theft bags often add a lot of bulk and weight, such as incorporated cut-proof steel mesh. On long, steamy days, sweat-wicking fabric or ventilation-friendly sculpting keeps your back cool.
How we tested
Our testers traveled with laptops on motorcycles, trains, and airplanes, from ultralights to 15-inch models. Each backpack was filled to the brim with sandwiches, water bottles, chargers, and headphones.
Fit for different laptop sizes
|Backpack||Fit 17″ MacBook Pro||Laptop Pocket Width (inches)||Laptop Pocket Thickness (inches)||Padded||Elastic for Security|
|The North Face|
Work + Play Fitness
There is a full-size laptop pocket on the Swissgear – 1900. The side pockets of the REI – Rucksack will accommodate a 15-inch MacBook Pro. When utilizing backpacks that prevented their laptops from flopping around, our testers with thin or small laptops felt better.
Comfort and stability
Comfortable options included Mystery Ranch’s Rip Ruck and The North Face’s Mainframe. The Targus – Work + Play pack surprised me by still being surprisingly cozy with a full load. For 10 minutes at a time while sitting at his desk, our lead tester tried wearing each pack with 20 pounds of weight inside.
To help shed water, all of the tested bags contain some sort of water-repellent covering. Any water leaks were stopped by The North Face – Mainframe. In general, the Rip Ruck absorbed less water and dried off faster than the Mainframe.
Top pick: The North Face – Mainframe
This bag is a wonderful compromise between carrying adequate goods and maintaining a streamlined, minimalist profile because it just has one main compartment and a storage capacity of 24 liters. The Mainframe is a smaller version of the large 30-liter Surge travel pack with many of its best features.
Materials and style
The Mainframe bag from The North Face was created especially for Best Buy. It is made primarily of 210-denier ripstop Cordura nylon with a bottom panel made of a thicker Oxford-weave polyester-nylon fabric. The style that our testers loved the most by far was this one.
Best Overall: The North Face – Mainframe
This is a scaled-down version of a fantastic hiking daypack with the ideal number of organization features. Each of our testers thought this was a winner because of the design, comfort, and adaptability.
As was already established, the Mainframe has exceptional waterproofing. Even after a thorough soak and a gust of wind, water won’t enter through the flap-covered zippers. But it’s not a dry bag; if you leave it in the bottom of a kayak, the Nylon fabric will absorb water. In the event that you are caught in a downpour, be sure to empty the bag and allow the fabric to air dry.
Not as good for 17-inch laptops
A MacBook Pro can fit within The Mainframe, but not a large gaming laptop. Even an outdated 14-inch Thinkpad slides in with difficulty. The pocket panel blows out because it is trimmed roughly half an inch wider than the back panel.
Useful organization for essentials
A nice backpack for small to midsize laptops up to 15 inches is the Mainframe. It won’t slow you down while you’re moving but it can’t hold enough clothes for a weekend trip. An excellent alternative to a second full-size compartment and useful exterior pockets are the zipped pockets.
- The North Face – Mainframe is a fashionable and elegant backpack that is also very functional.
- This bag is waterproof and made of high-quality materials.
- It’s not much of a travel bag with only one main compartment, but organization pockets keep the necessities close at hand.
- The pricing is appropriate given the style and in light of the other products offered by this brand.
- Look elsewhere if you want to transport a large gaming laptop or more than a few textbooks.
For small laptops: REI – Ruckpack 18
Everything you need for a lengthy vacation may fit in the REI 18-liter Rucksack. One zippered compartment can be used to keep notebooks in pocket size, a wireless mouse, daily carry equipment, and pens.
The top flap is incredibly light and simple to maneuver in and out of, but its zip-around construction makes it challenging to swiftly insert and remove a laptop.
Best Value: REI – Ruckpack 18
This bag is ideal for carrying your laptop and other essentials when hiking. The rucksack has a full-size water bottle pocket and an adjustable sternum strap. Even the loops and ladder straps for trekking poles and backpacks are elastic.
- The REI – Ruckpack is a small, inexpensive bag with plenty of useful features.
- This type of side-zip top flap requires two hands to open and close.
- For its practical outer organizer pocket, REI received high marks.
- This bag’s water resistance was below average.
- Despite the fact that this bag won’t hold enough, sternum and waist straps help keep loads stable.
For 17-inch laptops: Targus
We believe that the Targus – Work + Play Fitness is the finest backpack for a 17-inch laptop. This backpack is ideal for anyone who goes to the gym in the middle of the day. It’s a bag that appears smaller than it actually is, which is a hallmark of excellent bag design.
Extra Organization: Targus – Work + Play Fitness
Pouches are fantastic for organizing your laptop and accessories. Many people could get away with using this as a weekend carry-on, even if you don’t use all of the features.
Carrying big laptops
A built-in laptop compartment measuring 11 inches wide and an inch thick is available in the SwissGear Targus bag. A padded tablet pocket is also included in the second compartment.
Overall, the Targus bag’s material quality is less spectacular than that of the Swissgear or Dakine packs. This bag had some of the easiest-zipping zippers we could find. The extensive mesh cushioning on the back has some people worried about how it will hold up over time.
- The Targus – Work + Play Fitness gives you carrying capacity if you have a 17-inch laptop without requiring you to carry a huge bag.
- An open-flat layout works well for travel or even the changing room, but not at a coffee shop.
- Although the organizer compartments in this backpack are designed for usage at the gym, additional items can also be organized using them.
- Look into this backpack if you change shoes at the office.
- Although they are very expensive, Targus bags are widely available.
For adventure: Mystery Ranch
A great backpack for laptops up to 15 inches is the Rip Ruck from Mystery Ranch. The document sorters in the laptop compartment are great for holding large books, notepads, and periodicals.
Materials and comfort
The bag is made incredibly comfortable by the padding on the shoulder straps. This bag is the quickest to load and unload gear, and it only allowed a few drops of water to enter during a rainy simulation. It has an interior coating for good water resistance, and it performed admirably even after becoming soaked.
Too many zippers
For water bottles or other equipment, two exterior pockets are a good size. These pockets are virtually less practical than an internal pouch due to the dual-zip plus buckle design.
Rugged Reliability: Mystery Ranch – Rip Ruck
This tough pack was a favorite among several of our testers because it was made with the best materials to ensure a long life of dependable service. Others feel that the design is rather of ridiculous, having too many buckles and not enough pen loops.
Who is this bag for?
The Rip Ruck backpack from Mystery Ranch largely relies on buckles for aesthetic reasons. The Urban Assault contains a laptop pocket and is a much better daypack for trekking. One of those bags that you can use for decades without it wearing out is this one.
- A smart, durable backpack with laptop compatibility is the Mystery Ranch – RIp Ruck.
- Like a traditional canvas rucksack, the styling of this bag mainly relies on additional buckles.
- YKK Aquaguard zips and Cordura nylon are only two examples of high-quality construction.
- There aren’t many organizational features, but those that are present perform excellently.
The other finalists we tested
Dakine – Campus
The 33-liter Campus from Dakine is their entry-level bag. It’s a terrific bargain for carrying a laptop because to its affordable materials and construction quality. The inadequate laptop support offered by the pouch most disappointed our testers. If you plan to fill the large main compartment, it is unquestionably the least comfortable backpack.
SwissGear – Scansmart 1900
One of the laptop bags on Amazon with the most reviews is the SwissGear – ScanSmart 1900. It doesn’t include a laptop compartment, but it is TSA-approved checkpoint friendly. The bag does have a lot of pockets, however most of them are worthless for carrying a laptop.
Best Overall: The North Face – Mainframe
The North Face is known for producing high-quality products, and this backpack is just another excellent illustration of how to combine practicality with individuality in design. The Mainframe, which is only available from Best Buy, is a combination of a several previous North Face bags that satisfied all of our testers.
The bottom line
The Mainframe laptop bag by The North Face strikes a good blend between classy and geeky. Our reviewers were thrilled by the Targus – Work + Play Fitness backpack’s practical organization features. You can get some of the same fantastic capabilities from REI’s house-brand Ruckpack for around a 35% lower cost.