Last Updated May 2018: We’ve updated our guide to the best bags for commuting with all new picks as well as updated links and prices.
Bike commuting has become a culture in and of itself. And rightfully so — even though the journey from home to work may only last for a small fraction of the day, its ease and success or total failure can define everything that happens afterward.
It’s important to prepare for this crucial part of the day. Once you’ve got a bike (here’s some advice on that), and a helmet, the next most important piece of equipment to consider is the bag. It’ll have to hold everything you need to get you through the day — your phone and computer, notebooks, a tablet, a camera, spare clothing, your favorite pocket knife — and it should do so with optimized organization, on-the-go comfort, just-in-case weatherproofing and no shortage of style. The final choice is highly personal, and whether that means a backpack, messenger bag or briefcase, remember that by default the commuter bag will be the one you use most, and no concessions should be made in seeking perfection.
Best for Camera Owners: Peak Design Everyday Messenger
Peak Design began its dominance as a photography accessory maker with its Capture clip in 2011. In 2015, Peak Design jumped into the bag business and released the Everyday Messenger, which became Kickstarter’s most-funded bag, ever. For good reason too — the Everyday Messenger, although designed with photographers in mind, is geared to carry anything: laptops, tablets, books, a bike lock — anything. The key to this is smart, removable and customizable interior paneling and a selection of pockets and access points. The bag also allows for multiple carry styles and its soft-looking exterior is weather resistant, making it a solid choice for your commute.
Best Anti-Theft: Pacsafe Intasafe Anti-Theft 20L Laptop Backpack
Heedless pedestrians and open car doors aren’t the only hazards a commuter faces on the way to and from the office; theft can also be an issue. Pacsafe has made a mission of thwarting would-be thieves through the design of its bags. At surface level, the Instasafe Backpack is an attractive bag with a minimalist style that has all the requisite features of a commuter pack: laptop and tablet sleeves, a water bottle pocket, internal organizing pockets for keys, a wallet and more. The security factor is hidden, but present — the backpack has slash-resistant straps, a chainmail mesh front, pickpocket-proof zippers, RFID blocking pockets and a lockable security strap.
Best Minimal Backpack: Bellroy Classic Backpack
Bellroy can take a backbreaker of a wallet and make it smaller than a deck of cards, so it makes sense that it can also apply some thoughtful organization to the bag on your back. Its Classic Backpack calls back to what you might’ve carried on the school bus growing up, but it’s decidedly sophisticated. Inside, the Classic has padded sleeves for a laptop and tablet (or notebook) as well as a handily-placed holder for your favorite writing utensil. There are also two organizing pockets — one interior, one exterior — for your other daily essentials. Unlike the backpacks of memory though, the Classic is built with an ergonomic back panel that contours to and wraps around your body for an always-comfortable fit.
Best Cycling-Dedicated Backpack: Rapha Small Backpack
If you put a high premium on minimalism and style, Rapha’s aptly-named Small Backpack is a great carry option for the work week. The Backpack is designed with cyclists in mind and features padded back paneling that anticipates the hunched-over curve of a rider’s spine. Inside is a padded, 15-inch laptop sleeve as well as a removable padding. The main body of the backpack is made from Cordura nylon that will stand up to years of abuse and is water-resistant, and features a reflective stripe up its exterior.
Best for Unpredictable Weather: Mission Workshop The Monty VX
At 21 liters of volume, The Monty is Mission Workshop’s smaller messenger bag, but it packs plenty of storage for the necessities of daily urban travel. Those include two spots for a laptop, internal zippered pockets and two easy-access pockets underneath its main flap, which can be used to close the bag just so, or with a roll. The Monty VX also comes set up with Mission Workshop’s Arkiv closure system, a modular strap that lets you add additional pouches and pockets to the bag through the brand’s ecosystem of products.
Best Budget Option: Timbuk2 Mission Sling
Tyvek, flash spun high-density polyethylene fiber, is routinely used to create things like hazmat suits and those concert wristbands that are impossible to tear off. Timbuk2 recently used it to create a new line of bags, one of which is the Mission Sling. Tyvek makes the bag lightweight but keeps it durable and weather-resistant at the same time. It’s crushable, yet sturdy when packed. The Mission Sling’s main compartment is accessed with a zippered roll-top closure — this system also helps the bag expand to accommodate more stuff when necessary — and a rear-facing quick access zip.
Best Briefcase: Filson 24-Hour Tin Cloth Briefcase
In many ways, the briefcase has become outdated. Backpacks, now more widely accepted as an appropriate work bag, are more comfortable, more convenient and typically offer more capacity and organization. But there’s still something to be said for the briefcase; it offers slightly more refinement than a pack or shoulder bag, and some, like Filson’s 24-Hour Tin Cloth Briefcase, aren’t stuffy at all. Filson used its famous water-resistant canvas to give the case all-weather performance, and its fully-lined interior has all the organization a working man needs. Drop it into a bike basket or wear it across the body and get to your meeting.
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