Whether you’re checking email over cappuccinos in a coffee shop, drafting a presentation on the plane, or editing photos of Everest from a hotel in Kathmandu, laptops make it easy to live on the move. Of course, having the right laptop bag makes it even easier.
Since you probably spent quite a bit of time and money choosing your laptop, it makes sense to give some serious thought to how you’ll carry it. Here’s how to choose the right laptop bag for you.
Remember the story of Goldilocks? You don’t want a bag that’s too big. Your laptop will slide around inside and could get damaged. Conversely, if the bag’s too small, you’ll spend ages trying to squeeze your laptop into it, or you won’t get it in at all. Like Goldilocks, you want a bag that’s just right.
Laptops come in a wide range of sizes, from tiny 10-inch netbooks to giant 18-inch desktops, Most laptop bags are designed to fit a specific range of sizes. Measure your laptop and the laptop compartment in the bag to check that it will fit. Ideally, you want a snug fit that still allows enough space for easy access.
Aside from having a special laptop compartment, a good laptop bag will also have room for your chargers, cables, cellphone, wallet, and even your lunchbox and water bottle. Make a list of all the things you expect to carry with your laptop and make sure that the bag you buy has enough room for them.
If you’re traveling with your laptop, you’ll want to use your laptop bag as carry-on luggage. Make sure your bag is well within the size standards for carry-on bags set by all the airlines. It should also be small enough to fit comfortably under the airplane seat in front of you if the overhead lockers are full.
Sudden impacts can dent your laptop, break the screen, or result in massive hard drive failure. Since damaging your laptop can be extremely inconvenient, not to mention expensive, one of the main purposes of a good laptop bag is to keep it safe.
Look for bags with well-padded laptop compartments lined with smooth, soft fabrics. A good laptop bag will have enough cushioning to absorb most of the impact if the bag is dropped or bumped. It will also be water-resistant so your laptop stays dry if you have to carry it short distances in the rain.
Another safety feature to look out for on a laptop bag is an Okoban tag. This global lost and found system helps you track your bag if it goes missing while you're traveling. (Read this blog post to find out how.)
The type of laptop bag you choose depends on your lifestyle, but, for most people, laptop backpacks are the most practical choice. Backpacks have a larger carrying capacity and are more comfortable than briefcases or messenger bags. They’re also great for getting through airports quickly and for trips where you might be doing a lot of walking. A laptop bag that looks like an ordinary backpack also makes a less tempting target for thieves.
Unless you never carry your laptop for more than a few minutes at a time, comfort is crucial, especially if you’re carrying lots of extra weight. Look for a bag with extra padding on both the back of the bag as well as the shoulder straps.
Also, check that shoulder straps are adjustable and properly shaped to match the curve of your shoulders. For heavy loads or long journeys, choose a bag with an additional waist belt to take more of the strain off your shoulders.
For a laptop bag that’s in continuous use, good build quality is crucial if you want it to last. To ensure superior durability, stick to proven outdoor luggage brands, such as K-Way, Thule, and Deuter.
Check that zips are good quality and that stitching is located on the inside of the bag. The bag’s exterior should be made of a hard-wearing, lightweight, water-resistant fabric like nylon. Nylon is usually rated in “deniers”, which indicates the thickness of the thread. Only nylon that’s rated 500 deniers (500D) or higher will provide sufficient durability for regular use.
A good laptop bag won’t just have a special pocket for your laptop. The best bags also have multiple separate pockets and compartments for all your other accessories, such as your cellphone, chargers and cables, sunglasses, external hard-drives, notebooks, etc. These not only protect your laptop from scratches but prevent your other items from being squashed by the laptop.
Internal compartments with zips are useful if your bag could be turned upside down (like getting it out of the overhead locker on a plane). Exterior compartments are great for easy access to frequently-used items and a concealed exterior pocket on the back of the bag is a convenient place to store travel documents securely.