Even though I never intend to go rucking (learned what it is just now) and I imagine all this americanism drives the price up, I will keep this on the radar for a time when I have more money :)
Cons: it's expensive.
I have the Western Flyer travel bag (the lightweight Halcyon variant, not ballistic nylon) rather than a backpack: https://www.tombihn.com/collections/travel-bags/products/wes...
A present for myself when I scored my first big internship in college. It was amazingly handy when I was in school, and after school when I was traveling a lot for work. Now that I'm not traveling as much and only really take my laptop and a notepad on my daily commute, it's a bit oversized for my needs. But I still love it and use it every day (even with the empty space in it).
The ability to switch between backpack format and messenger bag format is my single most favorite feature. It seems like a gimmick, but there are certain situations or environments where one format is superior or more appropriate than the other, and being able to switch in 30 seconds is really useful in those cases.
I'm harsh on my daily drivers like bags and shoes, and am used to them wearing out quickly because of that. But this bag is still as good as new after 5+ years of being mishandled. Will definitely splurge for another Tom Bihn when I decide to get a more appropriate bag for my current work style/needs.
It fits everything I could possibly need for travel and it's comfortable enough to use most places I go. Works fantastic for going grocery shopping. Finish is amazing and it's by far the most durable pack I've ever had. Pricy, but absolutely worth it.
It's a good backpack and I'm happy with it. It's a bit different from regular backpacks and the sweet spot is really people carrying tech around.
If you need a backpack for clothes and large books etc I'd get the 30L or maybe another backpack altogether.
Also I think it's kinda of expensive for what it is.
I now carry this Patagonia Refugio 28L . Smaller, less heavier, and more suited to my needs than the previous backpack.
It's been through three rucks and has been my daily partner for three years now.
As a bike commuting New Yorker, I'm frequently carrying my whole life around plus laptop, and it's been perfect. It looks as new as the day I purchased it.
A truly buy it for life item.
Not as rugged as some of the other models discussed here, but very stylish IMHO.
I love it. It's great.
(And this strapped on to your front as well, which is sadly a much more popular choice)
I put my MacBook Air in this case  (which also fits MBP) and then put the case in the bag. When I'm flying, I put the case in the "middle" of the bag and surround it with clothes on either side. This makes it easy to unzip the bag, pop the laptop out of the case for security screening, then put it right back in the case after security without disturbing the packed clothes.
Very expensive (~$450) but looks great and is extremely well made, I plan to carry it for many years to come.
It's simple. No overt branding (that can't be seam-ripped out quite easily). Lots of pockets and chambers and expandability. And perhaps most significantly, only $30.
I've considered buying a backup backpack since they're so cheap and also since backpacks aren't likely to be a mainstay product category for Ikea.
Laptop pocket, which fits my 15" macbook and an ipad no problem. Also is roomy enough for a small drybag for the gym.
Its accessory infrastructure is nice and thought out well. has a handle and a strap so you can carry it as a briefcase or a messenger bag, and the backpack straps zip out of the way when you want to do that
Also, customer service is top notch.
I've had a number of bags, backpacks. I think this is my last. I've had North Face Recon's (the older models are much higher quality), Osprey, Timbuk2 (before they got popular), Waterfield Muzetto, Waterfield Cargo.
I think I'm content and this is my last one.
A few months ago, though, I switched back to a backpack: the Cannae Legion Elite Day Pack (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01C05CRI0). It's a little much around the edges (there's a LOT of MOLLE on there!), and I'm still figuring out the best use for the helmet flap, although I think it'll work well for a jacket when traveling. Lots of pluses, though: the laptop slot perfectly fits my 15" MBP, and the interior is large and roomy with just enough straps and pockets to fit the few small items I have so they don't rattle around and just enough open space to let the rest of my stuff fit without having to play Tetris to get something in or out. There's a small zipper pocket on the upper flap that fits headphones and other important small items, too, and the design of the pack means I can just open the top and slide things in and out without impedance, or open it a lot wider for packing.
I use it for my daily bike commute, as well as for hiking, skiing and as day pack for traveling. It combines (almost) all of the features I'm looking for in a daypack:
Mesh ventilation keeps my back dry when riding my bike in summer.
Phone, key and wallet fit in the waist strap pockets for fast reach.
Rain cover keeps my stuff dry for the occasional downpour.
26l is large enough to fit in a 11" MacBook and basic climbing gear, small enough to not be bulky.
CamelPak fits in to keep me hydrated when in the mountains.
The only feature I miss is being able to remove the waist straps, if I so wish. Larger backpacks, e.g. from Deuter, support this.
If I would use my backpack solely for bike commuting, I'd buy a Deuter Giga Bike 
I second the removable waist straps. This would change the character of the backpack entirely.
I've been using it for about 5 years now, and it's a great backpack, but the straps drive me nuts. They are great when on a bike, but they get in the way a lot in other situations.
The other thing is that the vent on the back makes the main compartment a bit difficult to store things in. The back isn't flat, so the main compartment is kind of curved. The back panel is basically a really flat peak, like the roof of a house. I like to keep things in the top pockets, but they make it really hard to get stuff out of the main pocket once they get a bit of stuff in them.
Also, the side pockets don't work particularly well with water bottles. They are tilted a bit toward the wearer, and I've found that this tends to cause them to eject water bottles if you are leaning forward at all while running/jogging/riding a bike.
It looks like bag has been substantially redesigned in the past 5 years though, so they may have fixed these issues.
On the plus side, the bag is very durable, and it is very comfortable when using the straps. The integrated rain cover is nice if you are using it as a commuting bag, since I'd never consciously pack my own rain cover.
The venting on the back does help keep a bit cool, but it's not enough to prevent my back from getting all sweaty if I wear it on a hotter day. It's nice if you want a frame in a small backpack, but I'd avoid it myself next time because it makes the backpack pretty large for a given amount of storage, adds weight, and makes the main compartment harder to use.
I have a similar experience with water bottles: a typical 1 litre aluminium bottle (e.g. Sigg) hardly fits in the side pocket, so it's always a struggle to squeeze it. Once it's in the pocket, though, the risk of falling out is nil :)
I bought the current model but I'm not very happy with it, so I'm still using the old one.
On a side note, i was in a class where the subject of backpacks came up with the girl next to me, I noted to her that everyone adjacent from her had the model bag. Tried and Tested. :)
Nice laptop sleeve, roomy main area, a couple pockets, it behaves exactly like a day pack should, I never notice it's part of a set.
When I travel, the main pack is my luggage. Three continents and a dozen countries, it's a great bag. The way the day pack can attach either to the back of the main pack or clip to the front for a chest carry is fantastic. Build quality is completely solid. Last set of travel gear I ever expect to purchase.
Edited to add: the way the straps on the main pack can be zipped up into a panel to make the outside shape sleek and duffel-like is a godsend when the main pack goes under a bus or gets checked on an airline. It even has a side handle that gets a lot of use for lifting and carrying. Really well thought-out design.
Everki stopped making it a few years ago and have replaced it with the Beacon https://www.amazon.com/Everki-Backpack-Console-18-Inch-EKP11... which I'm considering seeing as how my bag is finally starting to fall apart.
Or maybe I'll go big and get the GoRuck GR1 that was suggested in this thread :)
Bought my first one in 2007 and the zipper only gave out last year. Bought the current version soon thereafter.
I ride the bus and I love the side pockets that give me easy access to my pass. I pack a laptop, two books on average and a lunch. There are all kinds of isolated compartments for things like legal documents, battery packs, and e-readers without opening the main two compartments. The laptop has its own compartment. There's little pocket on the very top for your phone.
I don't think this bag can compete with others when it comes to storage space, but it will take the best of them when it comes to user experience. The placement of some of these pockets/ compartments is very well thought out.
My main concerns with purchasing it were the price, I believe I paid $245 plus an additional $60 for the OP1 pouch to go along with it, which I find quite expensive. Another concern was whether it would look too "tacticool" but I can say that in all black and without a bunch of patches all over it I think it just looks like a normal backpack. I was also originally concerned with the weight, its quite heavy empty, but after having used it for years I can say it isn't an issue at all. The padding on both the back area and the straps, combined with a design that seems to fit my body perfectly along with good adjustability, results in it being extremely conformable carrying even heavy loads (40-50lbs) over long periods of time (7-8 hours). Overall, its just a great backpack.
I've also used some of the larger Osprey camping packs and those have been great too but are too big for my everyday needs.
GoRuck and Mystery Ranch make great packs as well.
However, if you don't care then there's nothing wrong with it. My normal backpack finally wore out, so I've been carrying my Mystery Ranch Assault Pack to work.
I'll probably find something a little more civilian looking, but until then it's a great backpack.
I wouldn't mind getting a more minimalist backpack but I've gotten so used to the comfort my current one offers. Many of the more stylish backpacks I see don't seem particularly well made or durable and the strap systems don't seem nearly as comfortable.
As a Mainer I have been using LL Bean bags of various types all my life, and have several which are great, but they tend to be roomy "bookbags" and it made me nervous that my laptop and things were flopping back and forth in that big space. I'll still use the LL Bean bags for hiking, the gym, and so on.
It is not fancy - just literally a bag with two almost stringy straps. No fancy compartments except a small pocket type thing inside and a small zip-up pocket outside. The straps also double as a drawstring to close it. I like it because it expands easily to fit everything I need - laptop + charger, synth, gym clothes, lunch, whatever. The strap is also attached in such a way as to let you easily switch carry mode - eg it can quickly go from a backpack to a tote bag.
I also walk alot, and use it for errands. I often fit a weeks worth of groceries in there. Have brought it traveling etc. I've had it since 08 and still in good condition.
One large one which I bought for Scouting almost 25 years ago. It still works. I don't know what brand it is. It cost about 150 EUR.
I got two smaller ones. Both can easily hold a 2-3 kg MBP, and a lot more. Ones an Eastpak with lifelong warranty. It cost nearly 100 EUR. Another ones a ThinkPad backpad from around 2007 or so, also cost similar price. Both are awesome. The only disadvantage the ThinkPad one has, it screams 'I contain a laptop' ie. 'rob me!' My gf uses the ThinkPad one.
I bought an e-reader raecently cause I CBA to carry large books around anymore.
For walking around, I am disappointed that so many backpacks are so damned heavy!
- Large multi-compartment backpack with a padded sleeve for laptops
- Holds up to 15.6 inch laptop and some ultra-slim 17 inch laptop
- Mesh water bottle pockets at side
- Organizational compartments for pens, keys, and cell phone
Internal Dimensions: 12" x 4.5" x 17.5" (LxWxH); External dimensions: 15" x 7" x 19" (LxWxH)
- Organizational compartments for pens, keys, and cell phone
Their lifelong warranty is excellent. They sent me a new waist strap, free of charge, after I had lost the original one. They also sent me new buckles a couple of times. Of course quality could be better -- why do these buckles keep breaking? But communication with their repair shop was always excellent. The guy quickly managed to find fitting straps and buckles despite the backpack being out of production. Probably they discontinued the pack because of its flawed design that leads to broken buckles.
I wonder if they still create backpacks of the same quality with lifetime guarantee. Could be bad for business :)
My backpack looks quite a bit like this one: http://www.digitalrendezvous.net/2008/06/08/urban-roaming/
I currently use a GORUCK GR1 and it is bombproof. It is my work and play backpack. I drag it through literally mud and over rocks on weekend climbs/hikes/trail runs, wash and dry it in front of a fan in time for the work week. But I do wish it had more affordable organizational options.
1. Because I often have to climb through tight places for work, and the Swissgear was pretty bulky and didn't compress well.
- Compartment for laptop
- Loads of room for chargers and Macbook Pro dongles :-)
- Lots of zippy bits and stretchy cargo nets for sorting stuff
I find the messenger bag config is better for my back. I always used to wear a backpack with the strap on one shoulder, and it was definitely affecting my back & shoulders. This is much better and pretty comfortable, and I carry a ton of stuff in my bag.
This bag doesn't do that (~covert~ gives that away I guess but still!)
Great for subway commuting, and great for casual situations too. Both bags give me good options to fit my 13" and 15" MBPs. No lifetime warranty, but they're well built.
I do have a GoRuck that I use when I need something more robust.
The build quality is above average, but for the price it is great.
Spacious, water-resistant, separate laptop compartment with plenty of padding.
Can't find the exact model since I purchased it a while ago, but this one comes close:
This is the most comfortable bag I ever had and I can carry my 10" tablet and 15" laptop easily.
I carry a boreas bolinas around most days. It works. It's a bit overbuilt for going to and from the office but super comfy when I have to walk across town with a laptop.
Bought a new hiking ruck/daysack so this one is now my daily laptop bag / carry on for travelling.
Special things I found
1. Lot of compartments
2. Shock absorbers at bottom part to protect laptop
3. Color highlighting and design
I got it mid 2011 when I got my Alienware M11X.
Best backpack I've owned in my life PERIOD
It's still going strong.
Would highly recommend.
I don't use it to carry my laptop though....
That is relegated to an old school thinkpad laptop bag. This thing must be 10+ years old now and still in great condition.
Can fit a lot of stuff in this and has very few straps and zippers. The liner is great - I can keep my wet rain gear separate from the stuff in the main bag. I use it for daily use and travel.
I have a large Grid-It inside so smaller items don't get lost:
Flap-top with side-access zippers. Carries my 15" rMBP in a padded pocket, has a decent selection of mesh pockets, rubber hooks for attaching a bicycle rear-light, and fits under an airplane seat.
I've been using this daily, traveling abroad and short commutes for the last 3 years and still looks like new and even been complimented by the design which is weird for a backpack.
Using it every day.
Just out of curiosity... how do you pack yours? I've tried repeatedly to get used to this bag, and I just can't find a way to use it that works for me. The main compartment is so tight that any sort of jacket or sweater gets wrinkled instantly. God help you if you ever want to throw in a sandwich that isn't in a steel box.
Looks cool though.
It's still in good shape, I just had have the zippers fixed. I guess fixing was more expansive than backpack. :)
I'm now bagless, and looking for a replacement.
The Tom Bihn Synapse 25 is at the top of my list.
Also have another laptop bag that I've replaced 3 times in 10 years - at no additional cost. Definitely never paid attention to the warranty before.
Also have an Eddie Bauer backpack that I got at Target 10 years ago. Still going strong (not used for laptop)/
These are pretty good bags. They seem to have become ubiquitous in Vancouver.
They custom-made one for me for my laptop, external monitor, cables and peripherals, cannabis paraphernalia, etc.
They were really, truly awesome. If you live anywhere near Portland (or even if you don't), they're worth checking out.
Slimmer, much more manageable. Course all I throw in there is a Dell XPS 13 and a book.
Use it for:
- city use,
- "pack dad" use (carry extra jackets for my children),
- day hikes,
- carry on bag
- ski bag (carry stuff on downhill ski trips)
Have thought about trying to do an UL overnight backpack
trip with it for kicks.
Have taken it back once to Patagonia for free repairs, and
another time for a free replacement of some plastic gizmo
that fell off.
- The elastic shockcord doesn't work right for me - it seems
more cosmetic and doesn't really cover the rare use case of wanting
to, say, quickly strap on some sandals on the back and know they
don't fall off (they did..).
The only complaint I have is that it wants to fall forward instead of sitting up rigid/straight.
It feels like they will last a lifetime.
Fits what I need into it.
I was pretty set on a Chrome Bag, but I stumbled upon Mission's bags (iirc they are founded by the same people)
They're all great though!
68g, 20L, silnylon
Possibly my favourite of my many backpacks. It scrunches up to the size of a clementine, making it an ideal secondary bag to keep in one's main bag when travelling. It can be worn under a jacket to inconspicuously carry a laptop in areas with pickpockets.
or possibly this:
p.s. one of the reason I like them because of their 'ethos':
GoRuck GR1 $128 http://amzn.to/2ies4lj
The Frye Logan $332 http://amzn.to/2j98jLJ
Lenovo GX40L16533 Y $69 http://amzn.to/2j9dXgF
Peak Design backpack $289 http://amzn.to/2ilwPrN
Patagonia Refugio 28L $125 http://amzn.to/2jl0Ar9
Ibagbar Canvas Backpack $36 http://amzn.to/2j8hkUL
Osprey Strato $105 http://amzn.to/2j9k2tm
Deute $119 Giga Bike http://amzn.to/2j9ggQW
JanSport Hatchet Backpack $69 http://amzn.to/2j9kNms
Thule Covert DSLR Rolltop $194 http://amzn.to/2j9djQs
Filson Rucksack $350 http://amzn.to/2ilNNWH
Cannae Legion Elite Day Pack $140 http://amzn.to/2j2qr7j
Cote & Ciel $435 http://amzn.to/2jx7f0D
Alienware Orion $70 http://amzn.to/2j9lrQO
Timbuk2 messenger $69 http://amzn.to/2jl2QPc
Ogio Renegade RSS $149 http://amzn.to/2j9nHYt
FAST Pack Litespeed from TAD $149 http://amzn.to/2j9gqYG
Northface Recon $89 http://amzn.to/2ii3ZVJ
Everki Titan $169 http://amzn.to/2j9ulxX
Victorinox backpack $120 http://amzn.to/2jx4tZp
For travel, I use carry-on packs that would allow for, say, a 2-week trip to Europe or SE Asia.
1. Osprey Farpoint 40. All-around favorite. It does everything well, although having slightly less volume. I don't mind because it overpacks well and helps keep total weight in check. Give me a 45L pack and I tend to overpack it and push carry-on limits. Great straps, good suspension, good hip belt (but not quite as good as Tortuga and certainly not better than the MEI).
2. Tortuga Pack v2 (v3 out now, but think v2 was much better). Until the Farpoint, this was my clear favorite for me. Very comfortable. Not flashy or good-looking, but really effective. v3 is considerably heavier and looks very nice (maybe too nice). I don't want my pack to look like I bought it from a Prada store. I prefer the rugged utility look of Osprey. Best at having quick-access pockets.
3. PacSafe VentureSafe 45L. If you're going somewhere where there is no safe in your room or you worry about pack slashers, this is the pack. Its basically like carrying an emergency safe that will protect valuables while you're out of your room. Not as supportive as Osprey or Tortuga, though (weaker straps, no suspension, and weak hip belt). Really good pack in every way but a little lacking in comfort and quick-access pockets.
4. Minaal v1. I hate saying anything bad about this company because I love upstart companies like Minaal and Tortuga. The pack is better IMO than the Patagonia Headway for comfort and support, but its not very stiff. You have to pack it carefully. Put a tablet in the back when overpacked, and you'll worry the tablet is bending. I don't use mine anymore. Totally ineffective hip belt BTW.
5. I've tried Patagonia's Headway carry-on and the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. While they are nice packs, they don't distribute weight very well and can become uncomfortable pretty quickly. No suspension. Weak straps and hip belts. I wouldn't want to walk long distances with them. Bought both and returned them.
6. Haven't tried the GoRuck, but I understand they're quite heavy (good materials, well-built). I don't see better storage options than the Osprey. People love them, however. Or at least, they seem to love the company. I place a premium on added weight, so I probably won't ever buy one.
7. I have an MEI Voyageur, and its without a doubt the most cushioned pack I've used, but its so close to exceeding carry-on limits, you risk overpacking it and having it checked. And if you underpack it, the pack tends to sag and support diminishes. I don't use it anymore.
8. Timbuk2 Aviator. This pack is so close to excellence. Unfortunately, way too small for me (35L or something), but its a good stiff pack, good straps, good pockets, and extremely well-built. All makes for a very comfortable pack. If this pack was, say, 42L, it would be a very close competitor to #1 and #2.