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.
Laptop bag buying advice
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. 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.
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) 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.
STM Banks is the latest laptop bag from Australia-based STM, offering a large 18L capacity without compromising on the slimline design. It comes in green, blue, brown or grey, while each features a pop of colour on the zips that help make it stand out from the crowd. There's also breathable mesh fabric on the back, helping to avoid the awkward back sweat when carrying a rucksack.
It's designed to be an everyday bag as well as a laptop bag, with plenty of space for your laptop (up to 15in), charger, phone, lunch and even a jacket - believe me, I've tried. There are plenty of pockets of all shapes and sizes that'll hold everything from sunglasses to phones to battery packs and more.
That's not to say that it has some impressive laptop-specific features including the company's own Slingtech protection that suspends the laptop sleeve from the ground to protect it from drops, while also providing extra cushioning at the corners.
It also features the all-new CableReady routing system that allows you to store run cables through different sections of the bag, perfect for keeping your smartphone or laptop topped up while on the go.
Our only criticism? While there is plenty of storage, we found that the openings were a little tight for our liking, making peering into the contents of the bag a slightly awkward process. It's a similar story with the front pockets, meaning you'll be relying more on your sense of touch than sight when fishing for your iPhone cable or headphones.
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 at just £41 from Amazon.
Hex Alliance Backpack
A lot of laptop backpacks tend to be bulky affairs - the necessary result of adding extra compartments, pockets, padding, zips, and more. If you're looking something a little slimmer, you might want to consider the Hex Alliance range.
There's only one main compartment, though it contains a couple of smaller external pouches for pens and accessories, along with a space for laptops - up to 15in screens. This laptop pouch is both padded and fleece-lined, so your laptop can recline in luxury. The same treatment is given to the front pouch, which is big enough to fit a small tablet or eReader.
The whole thing is water-resistant, and build quality is among the best we've seen. Our only hesitation is the slightly rigid strap padding, which means this is a bit less comfortable than some of the bags here - not a problem for the commute, but bear it in mind if you expect to be carrying a lot of heavy gear around all day.
We've tested out the 'Grid' version (pictured), but Hex offers it in a few different colours and finishes.
Booq Cobra Squeeze
Popular laptop maker Booq says its most in-demand backpack is the Cobra Squeeze (RRP £175/$185) looks small on the outside but boasts a decent internal capacity.
It features a unique turtle-shell-like dome shape so it should keep its shape and distribute weight even when packed with a 15- or 16-inch laptop (nice extra padding in the pocket) and all your other goodies – such as second-screen tablet, as there’s a separate compartment for multiple device storage.
There’s a smaller zipped quick-access top pocket for your phone, keys, headphones, etc. This is beautifully lined to protect your phone from scratches, and feels like a luxury glove. There is a side pocket on either side of the bag – one with built-in key holder.
The Cobra Squeeze looks like a proper design-conscious bag in a lovely monochrome grey, and is built using a water-repellent canvas-like fabric (a blend of recycled PET and natural cotton that has been dyed in a resource-friendly process using organic pigments). There’s air-mesh padding on the back.
Each bag includes a serial number tracking system to help recover your bag, so the reasonably hefty price-tag is covered in the case of emergency.
While on the pricey side, the elegant, low-profile and comfortable Booq Cobra Squeeze looks the business, and is a quality backpack that hasn’t skimped on the build or the details.
Moshi Tego Sling Messenger
If you're carrying heavy gear a backpack is usually a safer bet, but for a lighter load you might prefer a messenger bag.
We're fans of the Moshi Tego Sling, a satchel that's part of Moshi's anti-theft Tego range. Like the rest of the range, it features a durable fabric, an RFID-shielded pocket to prevent people lifting information from your cards, and inward-facing zips to make it harder for anyone to open the bag without you knowing.
That does bring with it a touch of inconvenience - you basically have to take the bag off entirely to open it - but it's arguably worth it for the piece of mind it brings. Throw in the water-resistance, padded 13in laptop/tablet compartment, and eye-catching sci-fi design, and there are plenty of reasons to pick one up.
Mission Workshop Rhake
This bag might be overkill for some, but it's an incredibly well-made option particularly if you cycle a lot.
The roll top design makes the 22L pack completely watertight, and the hard wearing material is sure to last you years. There's clever water bottle, laptop and tablet pockets, front pockets to tuck away small accessories and optional phone and DSLR inserts.
If you want a bag to keep your laptop safe and dry while also lugging round your gear and maybe a couple days clothes, then this is the one for you.
This smart daypack from Booq is a 19L backpack that is slimline and lightweight. You can fit a surprising amount of stuff in its top-load design and has clever popper side pockets.
Inside are two back pockets, the biggest of which can told a laptop or tablet up to 15.6in. There's also a mesh pocket and other handy areas for all your tech and more besides.
To top it off it has a Terralinq unique serial number on the back, designed to help you recover your bag if you lose it and someone finds it.
Speck Ruck Backpack
Speck is best known for its range of phone and tablet cases, but The Ruck (great name, we've got to admit) is proof that the company is capable of more.
Available in grey or khaki, The Ruck has a hefty capacity of 28 litres, and should hold most 15-inch laptops in its dedicated padded section, found within the main compartment.
A second zipped compartment contains separate padding for a tablet, along with an assortment of other smaller pockets and pouches for organising your gear. This pouch is designed to only open halfway down, which might sound annoying but is actually very convenient, as it stops it falling completely open, spilling your stuff everywhere.
There are a couple of side pockets, ideal for water bottles or small umbrellas, and there are two separate smaller zipped sections at the front for other stuff - one on the flap, and one underneath it.
The straps are padded with an air mesh fabric to keep the bag comfortable to wear no matter how weighed down it is, and the top handle is lightly padded too.
Build quality is solid too, which is especially impressive given the price - for its size and features, this is one of the most affordable laptop bags around.
Buckle & Seam Cara satchel
This bag is designed for the businessperson who wants to add a bit of leather and class to their daily tech carry. The satchel carries a laptop or tablet up to 13in in the padded section and is handmade in Pakistan.
The leather is high quality and sturdy and will wear attractively over the years into a well-loved item.
Buckle & Seam belong to an initiative that helps Pakistani girls get the best education possible, so you can spend in the knowledge your purchase is helping someone.
Targus Work+Play Fitness 15.6"
Those who need to carry a laptop to the gym will appreciate this 15.6in Fitness rucksack from Targus. It's designed to safely transport a laptop along with a pair of shoes and toiletries.
It has a decent 24L capacity and a clever design. The zip to the rear compartment runs right to the bottom on each side so the bottom edge acts like hinge. A retractable hook at the top lets you hang it up when open and there's a dedicated (and removable) section which can hold your deoderant, shampoo and other toiletries.
Even with a pair of shoes in the bottom compartment, there's enough room for a change of clothes. Plus there are two net pockets on the sides for water bottles and a zip pocket at the top for your phone. An extra divider would be nice for things like headphones, but considering the price, this is a great-value rucksack. It's also available in black.
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.
Moshi Helios Lite
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.
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 laptop 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/$50. This slots neatly into the bag and gives padded protection to your DSLR and accessories.
Booq Boa Squeeze
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.
Thule Crossover 25L Backpack
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.
STM Saga Backpack
If you like the look of the STM backpacks above but are looking for something a little smaller, you might want to check out the Saga. It takes most of the best features of the STM range and squeezes them into a design that's both cheaper and slighter than its siblings.
There's only a single main compartment, but it's helpfully split down into a 15in padded laptop pouch and several other smaller pockets, along with an interior mesh pouch opposite - smartly weighted so that it will hang outwards when the bag is open. Beyond that there's a small zip pocket on the outside, bottle pockets, and one un-zipped pouch in case you want to store anything for quick access.