Backpacks offer one of the best ways to carry laptops around.
Unlike a briefcase, they distribute the weight evenly. Ergonomically sound backpacks will allow you to carry a decent amount of weight without too much effort. They also tend to be spacious enough to carry other tech equipment and necessities.
In short, I’m a fan of backpacks. Having lost my Everki to the arson fire, I recently found myself itching to get a new laptop backpack.
Backpacks are awesome but dorky
Now, here is the thing about backpacks. They are incredibly useful but they are also quite utilitarian. Being less charitable, you could say that backpacks are downright dorky.
It can be argued — and has been (to death) — that backpacks make you look like a student. In fairness, CEOs have historically carried briefcases, not backpacks.
I think this perception is shifting as we become more causal in our attire and attitudes towards business. Still, there is no denying that showing up for an important business meeting in a suit and your average backpack may make you stand out and not in a good way.
I’m not an executive, but I still wanted a backpack that looked stylish while wearing a suit or meeting with clients. I’m also a fan of good style and design. (I live in Canada but I’m still Italian, after all.)
So I concentrated my research on so-called executive laptop backpacks.
What is an executive laptop backpack?
The best definition I can come up with for executive laptop backpack is, a laptop backpack that looks stylish and isn’t out of place in the boardroom.
In practice, executive laptop backpacks tend to have the following characteristics:
Relatively small. Say, in the 15-25 liter range. You’re not climbing a mountain, you don’t need a 60 L backpack.
Sleek, streamlined, minimalistic designs with easy to access pockets. You don’t want to spend five minutes rummaging through your backpack to get a pen out.
High-quality materials, such as leather and ballistic nylon.
Good hardware such as zippers that don’t break easily, for example, the excellent YKK self-healing zippers.
Somber colors. A dash or accent of color can fit in, but nothing too extravagant. You don’t need to be rescued by a helicopter in the middle of the woods, so there is generally no need for fluorescent yellow.
There appears to be a shift towards modernizing laptop backpacks. While researching which one to buy, I came across a large number of Kickstarter projects for super fancy tech backpacks. They’ll often have built-in power banks to recharge your phone on the go, security measures to curb theft, and even solar panels.
The trouble is that they usually do not have the refined style I was looking for. More often than not, they look super techy and futuristic. They belong on the set of the IT Crowd, not on Suits.
It’s all subjective, of course. Executive backpacks are a bit of an I know it when I see it case. So I’m going to list several executive backpacks I encountered while doing my research and ultimately tell you which one I ordered for myself.
My top 5 executive laptop backpack choices
I don’t claim these to be the only executive backpack choices. There are a huge number of backpacks available on the market. It’s quite overwhelming actually.
These five are simply the ones that I most considered up until the moment I pulled the trigger and bought one of them. They all meet my requirements and wouldn’t look half bad in a more formal setting.
Waterfield is one of the most respected brands for high-end laptop backpacks and bags;
Lifetime of the product warranty;
Professional and distinguished-looking;
Gorgeous full-grain leather, available in several colors;
Lightweight for a relatively large backpack (2.9 lbs at 25.5 Liters).
Expensive (US $350), particularly when shipped to Canada (i.e., an extra US $60). The cheaper alternative is their Sutter Slim option which is arguably sleeker, but too small for my needs (11 L capacity).
Slightly bulkier than the rest on this list (sitting at 25.5 liters) with 7″ of depth.
My executive laptop backpack choice
Can you guess which one I picked?
All things considered, I ended up choosing a Briggs & Riley @work Medium Backpack. I liked the look, features, lightweight nature, and the legendary brand that offers a lifetime warranty.
Which one would you pick? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.
I also ordered a tablet messenger bag
One more thing, as Steve Jobs used to say. I was also in the market for a crossbody messenger bag (aka a man bag).
Not because I’m jealous of my wife’s purses (okay, a little) but because I’m one of those people who are into EDC (everyday carry).
Between wallet, keys, pocket knife or multitool, flashlight, extra-large phone, tissues, etc, my pockets are overloaded.
Plus, I like the idea of being able to have my eReader (a Boox Nova Pro) or the new iPad Pro (when it comes out) with me at all times when I head out sans laptop. (If I’m taking the laptop, then it’s backpack time.)
As you can imagine, I also had many choices for tablet messenger bags. Waterfield Muzetto was quite tempting but with shipping and the conversion rate, it was a little too rich for my blood (more than CDN $500 for a satchel).
Spend good money on items you use every day. If they are a delight, they’ll delight you daily. If they are a disappointment, they’ll disappoint you daily. You don’t want the latter. Small disappointments compound and end up affecting the quality of your life.
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Antonio Cangiano is a Software Developer and AI Evangelist at IBM. He authored Ruby on Rails for Microsoft Developers (Wrox, 2009) and Technical Blogging ( The Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2012, 2019). He is also the Marketing Lead for Cognitive Class, an educational initiative which he helped grow from zero to over 1 Million students. You can follow him on Twitter.