Back to School for Adults: Work Bag Edition

Aug 17, 2022

A new backpack was always one of the highlights of going back to school.  So if the workbag you bought pre-COVID is looking a little rough, here are some suggestions for a new one.

This is the OG Laptop Bag from Lo & Sons.  I’ve owned a lot of laptop bags in my life, but this is the one I go back to for daily use over-and-over again.  It’s light, even when fully packed.  It’s sturdy, thanks to the nylon construction.  It has amazing storage.  It comes in several colorways. And did I mention it’s 40% off right now?

Need to travel light, but prefer the look of leather?  Let me introduce you to the System Tote from Cuyana.  

First, you buy the tote in the color of your choosing.  Then, you buy the interior storage you need — zippered pockets, a laptop sleeve (in 13″ or 16″), etc.  It’s a great work bag for the woman who wants flexibility and doesn’t need to own a bag that’s only good for one purpose.  Plus, it’s pretty to look at.

This CALPAK bag is the best one I’ve seen for under-$200.  I love the wide strap, the removable internal storage bag, and the fact that it’s designed for travel without looking like a travel bag.  It’s also big, but not too big.  Definitely check this one out.

The truth is, I don’t know much about backpacks for work.  The only backpack I own is a Mystery Ranch backpack that I use as a hiking pack and go-bag.  Luckily, Wired magazine has a list of what they determined were the best laptop backpacks.  And from that list came this cool-looking Rains backpack.

I dig the buckle.  The color is a cool Slate hue.  My only complaint is that it doesn’t seem to hold very much.  So if you need more space (which you likely will), I would recommend this Tumi backpack and this Cole Haan backpack.

Own a bag you want to promote?  Sign its praises in the comments.

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  1. ST says:

    If you are looking for a backpack, check out the Lo & Sons Rowledge backpack. It is similar in style to the OG Laptop bag above — lightweight, great storage, and mine has been surprisingly durable. I love it!

    • Kate says:

      Was just going to recommend the Rowledge as well. I tried buying a bunch of others in order to avoid the pricepoint of the Rowledge or a Tumi (including the Everlane someone else has recommended but which looked shabby for me after a year or so). But nothing else has compared to the Rowledge, which I should have just bought in the first place.

      • NM says:

        Thirding the Rowledge – former OG owner, and the Rowledge has been life changing (particularly for walking/biking to work, and for travel).

  2. Stefanie S. says:

    Hybrid work + young children + COVID means that I basically have to carry around my laptop, files, binders, etc. in my bag at all times in case I have to work remotely. I’m struggling to find a bag that looks professional enough to bring to court but will hold everything. I have the Lo & Sons large OG bag (10+ years and going strong), but it’s not big enough to hold everything.

    Any suggestions for other options? I was looking at the Cuyana Weekend bag, but it’s pricey. Is it worth it?

    • LIndsey says:

      I don’t have that exact bag (although it is on my wishlist), but wanted to chime in to say that I have bought many things from Cuyana over the years and the quality of their bags and clothing is top notch. I have a structured leather tote from them that I’ve used for five years and it still looks new.

    • Bri says:

      I have never regretted a Cuyana purchase. My oldest piece is now about 5 years old and looks fantastic. I have one of their zip totes for work for the past four years and I needs a little wipe down, but is otherwise like new.

  3. Lucy says:

    I use the Everlane ReNew Transit Backpack when I have to commute into the office. It holds a lot, has a minimalist style, and is water resistant. I used to own the Rains backpack and I agree, it doesn’t hold much and the straps are too thin/flimsy.

  4. Meredith says:

    I recently purchased the Calpak Luka backpack in the oatmeal color and I’m really enjoying it. The laptop sleeve is very sturdy and it has lots of internal pockets and storage spaces. I looked at several options and didn’t want a black bag; also my office is quite casual. I resisted using a backpack for years, but now I’m glad I made the switch.

  5. Shannon says:

    I work on a college campus, so a backpack works great for me. I love my Dagne Dover backpack, which I have had for years.

  6. Erin says:

    I bought the Dagne Dover Dakota backpack for an internship with a public transit commute and it worked great until COVID hit. Looks adult, sturdy, well-designed, and water resistant. I mostly use it for work now but if I ever go back to metro commuting I’ll probably use it for that (though will stick to a purse if the only walking I’m doing is from my car to the door of my office).

  7. The Beagle Has Landed says:

    I have had a Michael Kors nylon tote bag for several years and it still looks brand new. I got it on Poshmark new with tags. Unfortunately, I just checked the MK site and they don’t seem to offer nylon totes anymore, which is disappointing. If you can get one at a resale store I highly recommend it. It fits everything I need for the day, including a 13-inch laptop, it is tough, and it has all the appropriate pockets for my stuff. I use a nylon bag insert to be able to move my stuff all out at once to switch bags (my current bag organizing system — I used to use clear plastic make-up/pencil bags in assorted sizes.)

  8. Nadine says:

    After years of looking, I finally found a Lo & Sons bag in decent shape secondhand and I will never look back. Now to find the strap that it didn’t come with…

    • Anna says:

      Have you tried contacting the company directly to see if they’ll sell you the strap alone? Maybe say you got the bag from a friend. At least a few years back, their customer service was super responsive and helpful.

  9. Kate says:

    My Poppy Barley backpack has stood the test of time for 5 years – it’s a small Canadian company, ethically made, and such good quality. It doubled as my hospital bag when I had my baby, too. It’s been with me on the weekly travel grind as a consultant, to Asia and Europe on trips, and around town with my toddler. I could sing its praises forever!

  10. e says:

    I have Dagne Dover Indi Diaper backpack. It’s really just a backpack with a different design and I like that it looks more grown up. It still has plenty of pockets and space and you just take the changing pad out. I use it for traveling, which I do quite a lot, but think it would work well for a less formal workplace. I’ve taken it on less formal work trips and it’s held a laptop and files fine. Can’t recommend it enough!

  11. Meghan says:

    I have an older version of the Tumi Ruby backpack in a luxe gray leather and I LOVE it. I used to travel 4 days a week for work and this thing was a lifesaver. Now that I have a local job I still use the backpack to carry my work essentials and every time we travel, it’s our go-to bag. I was anti backpack for a long time but carrying a laptop plus other essentials on my shoulder was killing me. This backpack is both practical and chic.

  12. caitlin says:

    Does anyone have recommendations for sturdy straps? I have a Madewell leather tote that looks quite nice, but the strap it came with is annoyingly thin and uncomfortable. I think the loops connecting to the bag can handle a different strap, they just cheaped out a little with the included strap.

    • Anna says:

      I have the older version of the Lo & Sons bag and the straps are pretty sturdy, and the weight is distributed well. I’ve packed that thing to the point I thought it was going to burst, and it’s held up really well.

  13. CLSDC says:

    I actually just had this dilemma – While I work from home, I have our own Annual Meeting to attend in September, and I’m attending an industry conference next week and need something for my laptop, and other personal items. I have a beautiful leather shoulder bag, but I’m finally giving in that it wreaks havoc on my back and is way too heavy. Backpacks started calling my name. I wanted something I could use in a variety of situations – that would hold enough, but not too big, so a slim profile. But it needed a water bottle holder, as at conferences it’s always so dry and water is never available when you’re actually thirsty. I also wanted to spend <$100 because I wouldn't really use it every day. I found this one (the company, Solo, got great reviews) and love the way it looks and feels. Only con so far is that there aren't any fun colors, which was something I was looking for, but wasn't a deal breaker.

    Solo Re:Claim 15.6 Inch Laptop Backpack

    We'll see how it holds up after these next few trips. But at $50 and made from recycled materials, it was a feel good purchase and I'm optimistic.

  14. Connie says:

    I’ve used this Knomo backpack for sevral years now (, and while it’s not huge, it fits everything I need, including a slim laptop. I get asked about it every time I use, and it’s held up really well, including with international travel.

    • Cheryl says:

      Second the knomo recommendation. I have two sizes (beauchamp and Beaufort) and they are so well organized, have clever pleating to make them bigger without being bulky, and fit everything I need, which is a lot.

  15. Nora S says:

    The Tumi Gemma backpack in a light grey is the best. Great, storage, functionality and style. I always get so many compliments on it.

  16. Kayla says:

    I recently got the TimBuk2 especial shadow commuter backpack and I will sing the praises of it from the mountain tops:

  17. s-p-c says:

    Another vote for Lo & Sons – I’ve had the OMG and swapped to the OG 2.0, and really like the new laptop compartment. It’s the only bag I use for travel and it served me well during a trial last week.

  18. Jenn says:

    I suggest La Flore’s Bobobark. Fits a clunky 15”, has a great side pocket for your phone, and holds paperwork, water bottle, and workout clothes. It doesn’t look like it at first glance, but it’s amazing. Made of cork too! Obsessed with it.

  19. Sienna says:

    HIGHLY recommend the Zoe and Little Zoe backpacks by Lux & Nyx. Truly the most universal laptop bags I’ve ever owned. Good for the office, travel, and everything in between. Pockets for shoes, hidden utility straps for yoga mat or umbrella, and detachable front pouch convertible to crossbody bag or clutch… This backpack is everything!

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