Packing light feels refreshing. In the face of EDC, do-it-all duffles and big, bulky backpacks, those that carry simple laptop bags look like minimalists — and the good, tranquil kind, not the trendy type. Plus, to be fair, you can do just about anything on a laptop nowadays: make music, record videos or vlogs, work remotely, file homework for your college classes or waste your small cash fortune on crypto.
Briefcase vs. Laptop Bag vs. Messenger
Laptop bags leave little room for anything else, but prove easier to carry than a briefcase. That’s the real separator between briefcases and laptop bags: the strap. In order to be laptop bag, it must have a strap. You wear a laptop bag, whereas you carra briefcase. Some laptop bags can double as briefcases, though, because their bodies come with loops for a detachable strap. In fact, most laptop bags are made this way, with the versatility to be both.
The messenger bag is the biggest. If it looks like the bag could fit a water bottle, umbrella or a pair of shoes, it’s a messenger bag. A laptop bag should fit a laptop, perhaps a few computer accessories (like a charger), some pens and pencils, your own accessories (phone, wallet keys, etc) and a short stack of papers but nothing more. You can also tell a messenger from a laptop bag by the former’s strap. Laptop bags tend to have thinner, less padded straps because they support less weight. Messengers are modeled after what mail carriers wear, which explains why the straps are typically so pronounced.
The Best Laptop Bags for Men
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Best Overall Laptop Bag
Billykirk No. 508 Standard Issue Slim Briefcase
Billykirk’s waxed canvas No. 508 Slim Briefcase is made in New Jersey and doubles as either an easy-to-carry laptop bag or a durable briefcase. The fabric strap detaches at both ends of the bag, and looped straps at the center form a handle. Inside, there’s room for a 16 inch laptop, some books and paperwork — plus your cords, too. It’s finished with a leather trim and YKK hardware.
Best Upgrade Laptop Bag
Filson Original Briefcase
Made in the US using heavyweight waterproof cotton twill, Filson’s Original Briefcase features an attachable handle that transforms it into a laptop bag. But this handle is no joke. It isn’t a flimsy piece of fabric but rather an adjustable leather strap with a padded center. There’s a flap that folds over the zipper compartment to protect your laptop from the elements — even if you forget to zip it. There also pockets within for storing business cards, keys and other small items.
Best Affordable Laptop Bag
Incase City Market Tote
Although this isn’t technically a laptop bag, it’s a tote with a laptop sleeve. To be honest, this is probably the easiest bag to carry because it’s the weight distribution we’re all most used to — beside that of a backpack. There’s a padded, flap closure sleeve within, plus a zipper pocket for your phone or wallet.
This laptop bag from venerable luggage disruptor Away opens like a book, giving you easy access to whatever is inside. Nylon webbing prevents it from opening all of the way, though, so you don’t loose smaller items tucked inside the bag’s numerous pockets and sleeves. There’s one big one, pressed up against the bag’s exterior wall, for your laptop, which comes with a button snap to keep the machine locked in place.
Leatherology Knox Slim Laptop Bag
This is probably the slimmest bag on this list. There’s enough room for your laptop, necessary paperwork and your laptop’s accessories (like a charger, dongles and even a mouse or extra keyboard. But its slender frame makes it the quintessential laptop bag. This is what I imagine when I hear “laptop bag,” because it has a simple, two-sided interior, with one pocket for your laptop and one for the rest, and a single exterior zipper pocket for a phone and other slim essentials.
Eastpak Acton CNNCT Briefcase
Although Eastpak’s Acton CNNCT Briefcase offers plenty of internal organizers for thin items like a laptop, folder or files, there’s very little lateral space, so things like an umbrella or a water bottle will have to stay home. What you do pack will be protected by the bag’s cordura exterior, which proves rip and rain resistant.
Barbour Wax Leather Briefcase
Barbour carries its love for waxed leather over to laptop bags with these briefcase hybrid. It features detachable straps, luxe leather components and fancy brass hardware. In true Barbour fashion, the interior is tartan-lined, and the whole thing is waterproof.
This is a prime example of a laptop bag that makes a better briefcase than bag, but will pass for either nonetheless. Because of its rectangular shape, this polyurethane bag doesn’t quite mesh with the natural curvature of our bodies. That makes it difficult to wear with the strap across your chest. Instead, try a single shoulder or without the strap altogether (although that’d just make it a briefcase).
Laptop bags make a ton of sense for both commuters and business people who travel for work. When you travel, especially for only a few days at a time, bags can quickly become cumbersome. Having a slimmer laptop bag over a bulky messenger or even a full-on backpack ensures you can attend meeting and conferences without worrying about the added weight dragging you down. Tumi’s trusty laptop bag comes with a rear sleeve for sliding this over a suitcase trolley and a pocket for your passport and other travel documents.
Shinola’s premium leather messenger is far slimmer than your traditional crossbody mail bag, but that’s because it only has dedicated space for a laptop and your other work essentials. Plus, unlike the rest of these laptop bags, the Slim Messenger’s strap does not come off.
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