As we head into 2023, many major backpack makers are getting ready to refresh product lines and roll out new models as kids return to school and everyone from travelers to office workers are looking to start the new year with a fresh look. And for many of us who either bought or were gifted new tech this holiday season, we definitely can't forget to protect our new gear while we're on the go, and the best backpacks on this list will definitely help keep your stuff safe and secure. We're already in the process of review new bags from brands like Timbuk2 and North St. for the new year, so stay tuned for what 2023 has in store.
- John Loeffler, Computing editor
If you're looking for the best backpack for your needs and budget, you have no shortage of options out there. From low-capacity day bags to travel backpacks that pack in the most stuff in an easy to organize way, there are countless options out there, so it can be daunting to sort through them all.
And given that so many of us are shopping online without the backpack in our hands where we can feel the construction and see how well it might hold your essential tech like laptops and tablets, there's plenty of reason to be shy about commiting to a purchase – especially when the prices on the best backpacks can be substantially higher than you might be accustomed to.
Fortunately, we've given a number of backpacks a look recently as we've carried around all sorts of tech we've been reviewing to and from the office, including a number of items on our best laptop or best tablet lists. Chances are good that we've not only put a bunch of backpacks through their paces, but we've done it with a lot of the same tech you're likely to stuff in there yourself.
So if you're in the market for a new backpack as you get ready to head back to the office or return to campus, you can rest assured that the backpacks on this list will get you and your essential tech around in comfort and style.
The best backpack of 2023
Why you can trust TechRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
The Hex Technical Backpack lives up to its name with an extensive number of compartments to store everything from hard drives to battery packs, including a top pocket for a wireless charging pack (Hex wireless power bank sold separately), though other wireless charging packs will fit as well, making it an excellent companion for traveling or long commutes when you might need some extra juice for a phone of tablet.
The number of compartments and organizing pockets is also impressive, though the actual interior compartment capacity is less so, coming in at just 17.5L. This can still hold the essentials, including a 16-inch laptop, but you'll need to use the space efficiently if you're going on a longer trip.
Fortunately, the material construction is very durable and features an antimicrobial exterior shell, so you don't need to worry too much about what it's picking up from sitting on the floor of a bus terminal or subway car.
If you're looking for something with more capacity though, check out the Solo NY Grand Travel TSA, which has nearly twice the space and a decent number of pockets and compartments.
Read the full Hex Technical Backpack review
The Solo NY Grand Travel TSA backpack isn't going to appear on a fashion runway anytime soon, but that's fine, since this backpack is meant for another kind of runway.
This has been our go-to backpack for traveling back and forth between major events in recent months thanks to its high capacity and it's durable and TSA checkpoint-friendly design for faster opening and access to clear an airport checkpoint faster.
This made out travels easier than ever, while the interior compression straps let us pack our tech and change of clothes nice and tight to cut down on bulk and save us the hassle of trying to squeeze it under the seat in front of us on a plane.
The 17.3-inch laptop sleeve is also one of the largest we've come across, so if you've got a beast of a mobile workstation, this bag can more than accommodate it. If you're looking for something less bulky (and more stylish), then definitely give the Hex Technical Backpack a look, as it does a lot of what the Solo Grand Travel TSA does in a tighter space.
The North St. Belmont is one of our favorite backpacks for the diversity of color and material options, but it has a lot more going for it than just its style. The interior compartment features a water-resistant material that will hold up against even the hardest downpours, and which also features a pair of velcro strips for optional compartment attachments that add some versatility and customization options.
The compartment can also fit up to a 15-inch laptop comfortably, though we managed to squeeze in a 17-inch laptop as well, but the fit isn't as great.
The backpacks are made by hand in Portland, Oregon, so these run a bit on the expensive side, especially considering that beyond the main compartment there is only a front pocket and two side pockets by default, none of which have the same water-resistant lining as the main compartment. Still, if you're looking for a light-duty commuting option with some great style and protection from the elements, then the North St. Belmont is one of the best backpacks you're going to find.
Read the full North St. Belmont review
Lo & Sons is known for making high quality, classic-looking bags of all kinds, and the Hanover Deluxe 2 definitely keeps this tradition alive. The back laptop compartment is roomy and well protected, and can fit up to a 15-inch laptop.
If you've got a bigger laptop though, we were able to fit a couple of 17.3-inch laptops in the main compartment fairly easily, and the removeable foam insert even helped us keep things nice and organized as well.
Fortunately, the padded straps are very comfortable on a long commute and the construction is solid enough to throw around a bit without worrying about sullying the pristine look of the backpack.
We didn't throw it around too much though, since this is not a cheap backpack by any means, so you'll want to take better care of it than your throwaway backpack from high school.
And while it does have some water-resistant construction, it isn't waterproof, so definitely make sure one of those convenient side pockets is holding an umbrella if the weather looks particularly iffy.
Read the full Lo & Sons Hanover Deluxe 2 review
If you ever need to go from work to the nearest hiking trail, the Lo & Sons Hakuba backpack might be just what you're looking for.
Easily the best backpack for a versatile transition from work to play (or more work in the gym), the Hakuba features a huge interior compartment with organizing insert, expandable water bottle pocket on the side, and a separate shoe compartment on the bottom to keep sweaty gym shoes and clothes apart from important work materials.
Like most other Lo & Sons products though, your color options are somewhat limited, though if you've ever wanted a navy blue camo backpack, Lo & Sons has you covered. While not the cheapest backpack going, you can still get a good deal with the occasional sale on the Lo & Sons website.
Read the full Lo & Sons Hakuba review
Tips for shopping for the best backpack in 2023
Which brand makes the best backpack?
While there is no one brand that is best for backpacks generally speaking, there are some brands that are known to make backpacks for more specific segments of the market.
Solo NY is well known for making more utilitarian, highly functional backpacks that aim for function over couture with a more reasonable price point.
Lo & Sons makes backpacks that are more classic in style but offer quality construction with excellent compartment options and spacious capacities that make them great commuter or travel bags.
Everlane definitely has a more couture appeal while also keeping things more reasonably priced, though their bags don't slouch when it comes to functionality.
North St. has a lot of style options while also being handmade with quality water-resistant materials, making them great commuter bags that you won't be embarrassed to bring to class or the office.
Able Carry and The North Face make backpacks that feature high capacities and highly durable materials that can handle the rigors of a long hike up a mountain as well as a long commute through an urban center.
There are as many different brands as there are needs, but with a little bit of research, you're sure to find the best backpacks for your needs.
What is the best backpack to get for school?
Depending on what you need to bring with you to class, the best backpacks are going to feature roomy compartments for books and a decent-sized laptop, while also having thick and comfortable straps for carrying to, from, and around campus.
We would be lying if we said that style didn't matter, so if you want to go for a more classic look, the Lo & Sons Hanover Deluxe 2 and the Everlane ReNew Transit backpacks might be more your speed. If you want a more eye-catching design, the North St. Belmont and Able Carry Thirteen Daybag backpacks have some bold colors to help your backpack stand out in a crowd.
What is the best backpack for commuting?
If you're commuting to the office, you're going to want a backpack that is comfortable, stylish, and able to carry everything you need for work and possibly more.
The Lo & Sons Hakuba has amble capacity for your work material and laptop, while also featuring a waterproof compartment on the bottom for gym shoes and other gear to help you get a workout in before or after work.
The North St. Belmont features high quality materials with some solid water-resistant construction, making it a fantastic option if you're worried about the weather damaging your work materials and laptop inside.
If you're looking for compartments galore to help keep everything organized, then the Hex Technical backpack is right up your alley, featuring high-quality materials, ample pockets (including an insulated water bottle sleeve on the side), and a pocket up top for a wireless battery pack to charge your phone while you hang out in an airport terminal or on the light rail into the city.