Whether you’re taking everything from your trusty laptop to your makeup bag to your gym clothes on a multi-hour commute on public transportation or simply walking from your apartment to your local coffee shop with a notebook and a dream, a good work bag is a non-negotiable item for most of us. But when it comes to getting all of those essentials from place to place unscathed, that canvas bag you’ve been lugging your groceries around in may not cut it.
If you’re looking for an upgraded work bag that’s sure to keep all of your day-to-day must-haves protected, we’ve got you covered. From chic totes that won’t look out of place with upscale attire to comfortable backpacks that will keep you comfortable, no matter what you’re hauling, we’ve rounded up the best of the best, whether you’re headed back to work or school. No matter your budget or style, read on for our top picks from R29 reader-favorite brands like Calpak, Quince, and Lululemon.
Mlouye Business Bag, $575
Whoever said work couldn’t be fun must meet the Istanbul-based leather shoes and accessories brand Mlouye. The Business Bag is the perfect intersection of workwear and style with its sleek art-deco style and monochromatic gradient coloring. While it doesn’t hold a lot, what more should you be bringing to the office other than your laptop, a few papers, and a notebook or two?
Cariuma JJ Backpack, $89
Who says backpacks have to be boring? This Bordeaux-hued bag from Cariuma looks as unassuming as the Jansports we casually tossed over our shoulders in middle school but is loaded with work-friendly details, like a central compartment that fits laptops ranging from 13 to 17 inches. It’s also a great choice for anyone eager to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, thanks to the recycled materials it’s made from.
If you’re looking for a more casual work bag, this puffy tote bag is a fun option. Whether you’re bringing it to the office or taking care of business while traveling, this lightweight bag has multiple pockets, a padded laptop sleeve, and a luggage sleeve. But the most unique part is its expandable bottom, which gives you extra space when you need it and less when you don’t.
This slouchy carryall will carry you from work to dinner and drinks (or even on a weekend getaway) with its spacious interior space, abundant pockets, and funky quilted exterior. If this beige isn’t colorful enough for you, there are eleven other cheery shades to brighten your day.
If you are looking for versatile and long-lasting, this 3-Way Expandable Briefcase is your bag. It can be worn three ways: as a backpack, on your shoulder, or as a briefcase. However you carry it, it fits loads of stuff with the many pockets and compartments as well as 5 extra liters of expandable space. According to Mystery Ranch’s site, these bags are “built for the mission” and are even beloved by soldiers for their durability.
Baggu Duck Bag, $38
For those of you who need your laptop, a water bottle, a snack, and some miscellaneous bobs and bits, this is the perfect tote for you. Baggu’s Duck Bag is a cool-casual canvas tote that has a deep main compartment for any sized laptop with a built-in zippered bag for all the small things. We love this pastel blue gingham that can easily go from the office to happy hour (or even a date!). The Duck Bag comes in 10 other fun colors/patterns as well as in a horizontal format.
Personally, I love a classic tote, and nothing is more classic than Longchamp’s Le Pliage. From the silhouette to the material to the colors, it’s a chef’s kiss that still packs a punch. Whether you’re a soccer mom in the making or just a carrier of snacks and papers, this bag is a stylish, refined solution.
Bellroy Tokyo Tote, $129
This Australian brand has once again done it with a great personal item, but instead of a backpack, it’s the Tokyo Tote, which is made of durable, water-resistant recycled fabric with enough compartments to make your head spin. The organization, the space, and the pockets make sure that at the office you will be equipped with (and able to find) everything that you need from your laptop to hand sanitizer. Thank you Bellroy and thank you Australia.
While this backpack from Dagne Dover is technically a diaper bag, it still has all the makings of a great work bag with pockets and compartments for space galore. Not only does it boast a velcro laptop pocket, multiple in-bag pockets, and a bottle holder (for adults and children alike), but it also includes a shoe bag, dust bag, and little pouches, too. Talk about being ready for anything!
Béis The Work Tote, $128
You may know Shay Mitchell’s brand for its luggage, but it also makes work-appropriate bags. This tote makes a statement while still being suitable for everyday activities. It’s meant to be worn from work to cocktails without looking out of place, and its removable strap helps achieve that. And never straying too far from travel, Béis added a luggage sleeve to make working on the go easier.
Quince Revive Nylon Large Tote, $89.90
This Quince tote bag for work is the perfect blend of spaciousness and sophistication. There are plenty of inner and outer pockets as well as a laptop sleeve for all your essentials. It’s also an eco-friendly option since the nylon was made from recycled water bottles, and the trim on the handles and bottom were made from recycled leather.
Samsonite Women’s Executive Leather Convertible Brief,
This all-in-one work bag is truly versatile, thanks to what Samsonite calls its “desk-to-dinner silhouette.” The durable leather bag has a detachable and adjustable strap that can be worn as a crossbody, shoulder bag, or briefcase. Plus, there’s plenty of storage inside, including a laptop sleeve and accessory pockets. Chic, elevated, and functional.
Dagne Dover Signature Tote,
This large vegan tote bag is a best seller on Dagne Dover’s site, and for good reason. It’s refined on the outside, but wow, there’s a lot going on inside. The bag features pockets in varying sizes, allowing you to separate your lipsticks and pens from your laptop and notebooks while keeping your water bottle upright. Go for the Classic size for 13-inch laptops or the Legend for 15-inch laptops.
For those who commute via public transportation, a work backpack may be the most suitable option. This sleek Lululemon backpack offers plenty of room and organization on the inside and a handy water bottle holder on the outside. And when you get caught in the rain, don’t fret because this backpack’s nylon fabric is water-repellent.
To channel the true boss that you are, a luxurious leather tote bag is a pretty good route to go. This medium-size tote is a new arrival for Everlane, and it’s the perfect size to carry all your work staples. Not too big, not too small. And while this work bag may look very minimal and no frills, it still features slip pockets and a snap button to help keep your belongings secure.
Back-to-work backpacks — this one may be a splurge, but it’s worth it, thanks to its super-roomy interior with multiple pockets, a detachable pouch, and a quilted exterior with leather details. This lightweight backpack made from recycled water bottles is perfect for the office (there’s a backpack sleeve) and the airplane (there’s a luggage sleeve, too).
If you like yourself some work-bag accessories, consider going for this versatile two-in-one tote bag. It comes with a separate laptop sleeve in your choice of a matching or contrasting color, depending on how playful you want to be, and a detachable striped crossbody strap for extra comfort. Plus, the bag can be monogrammed (with a $12.50 fee) for a personalized touch.
If you want a retro-looking women’s work bag, an intricate leather briefcase is the way to go. This large briefcase will no doubt fit all of your work/life essentials, and its durable fabric and details, like metal feet, will last you. Wear it as a top-handle or crossbody bag, and take on the day.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy or click on something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
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