A laptop bag isn’t just a fashion accessory; it’s your office away from the office, a mobile desk that needs to provide comfortable, convenient, and safe storage for your most prized office possession.
First and foremost, your bag needs to protect your laptop from jostling and other mishaps that can happen on the road. It also needs to not carve a dent in your shoulder every time you pick it up. You should be able to quickly grab what you need, but items shouldn’t be so accessible that someone standing behind you in a crowded airport can also grab those things. And finally, there is the fashion aspect; the pattern and style you choose to represent you while you work is a way to let your personality shine through.
Determine Your Needs
When deciding upon a new laptop bag, think about your laptop use. Do you travel extensively, or do you just pop into Starbucks for an afternoon away from the office? Are you outside in inclement weather often? Are you looking to just carry the necessary accessories (charger, cords, etc.), or do you need to carry a replication of your desk, with folders, pens, and all? Can you deal with the weight of the laptop bag on your shoulder, or do you need an alternative?
Perhaps most importantly, what size is your laptop? Measure all three dimensions of your laptop and allow about an inch of clearance on the sides and top. If your bag is too big, your laptop will rattle around. If it’s too small, you’ll have a hard time getting it in and out of the bag.
Basics of a Good Bag
While there are many types of laptop bags, there are several key features you should look for. A laptop bag should be weather-resistant and lightweight. If a bag feels heavy when empty, you’ll despise it when full.
Your bag should be padded on all sides to prevent damage to your laptop. Zippers and clasps should be sturdy but not easily opened by would-be thieves. If you travel a good deal, you might also want a laptop bag that doesn’t look like a laptop bag to deter those same thieves. And finally, pockets and dividers can make your office-on-the-run an easier place to work out of.
Types of Bags
There are several different types of laptop bags. Your choice will depend on how you use the bag and what’s aesthetically pleasing to you:
- Top load bags: These are the type of bags where you load the laptop in from the top and it fits snugly inside. These provide easy access to your computer and usually feature a number of pockets on the exterior of the bag as well.
- Backpacks: If you travel a great deal or wish to spread the weight of your mobile office across both shoulders, a backpack-style bag might be the best fit for you. There’s the added benefit that people won’t know you have an expensive computer on your person; you could just be hauling dirty laundry and textbooks.
- Briefcase bags: These bags look exactly as you imagine, like a professional, corporate briefcase. They offer storage for your accessories and may include special features such as cell-phone pockets. If you’re in a traditional field, this may be the laptop bag for you.
- Messenger-style bags: Another good choice when you’re constantly on the go, even on a bicycle, these bags are a casual and stylish choice. With one strap that goes over the shoulder and across the chest, the weight of your laptop isn’t concentrated on one shoulder and your hands are free to help you maneuver around whatever lies in your path.
- Roller-style bags: For frequent travelers who don’t wish to lug their laptops on their shoulders or backs, a wheeled bag is a good choice. Most of these bags are attached to a small cart and can be detached easily.
- Tote bags: These bags look like a typical tote bag and come in attractive fabrics and colors. They usually include plenty of pockets and extra space so you can ditch your purse and use this tote for all your daily needs.
- Laptop sleeves: Not really bags, laptop sleeves are thin padded cases that may or may not have a strap. They’re not quite enough protection on their own but are often used in conjunction with a laptop bag to ensure extra padding while traveling.
Sometimes a laptop bag isn’t just a bag. One recent huge leap in the laptop bag industry came when the Transportation Security Administration approved “checkpoint-friendly bags,” meaning travelers don’t have to remove laptops for screening, saving quite a bit of hassle and laptop jostling in the security line. When shopping for one of these laptop bags, search for “checkpoint-friendly” or “TSA-approved” bags.
Another interesting bag feature is solar panels, which Voltaic Systems offers. If you’re away from outlets often, work outdoors, or just want to be eco-friendly, this is a good feature to consider.
And if you’re really rough on your laptop bag, consider Laptop Armor from Matias. Available in black leatherette or aluminum, you’ll feel like a secret agent with this hard-shelled case; and your laptop will be safe and snug.
Where to Buy
While you can find laptop bags in some office supply and computer stores, you’ll get the best selection online. Peruse sites such as eBags and even Target, but be sure to check dimensions to make sure your laptop will fit snugly and securely.