Help Me Decide on a New Laptop Bag

I’ve had the perfect one for my needs for years. It’s a cheap American Tourister that I was issued by my IT shop once upon a time. Unfortunately after years of faithful service the canvas is beginning to tear. I’d hate for it to completely open up in the middle of a two week trip.

I carry a Lenovo Thinkpad X200s with the extra light casing, it’s a small machine but works for me as my main machine and for travel. So I like a laptop bag that itself is rather light.

The biggest non-negotiatiable is that it has to have the pouch that’s open on top and bottom for easily slipping onto the handles of a carryon.

My current bag has a front pouch with netted/zippered pouch inside of it, I’ll throw my keys and my airport parking stub inside, along with SIM cards and various other cards that I don’t put into my wallet or elite card/travel wallet. The main front pouch includes my travel wallet, pens, digital camera, and some loose (wrapped) cough drops at the bottom. Hah!

It also has a zippered area behing the laptop pouch, and I throw all the papers I’m working on in it along with perhaps a book and a magazine and a folder with itinerary and other papers related to my current trip.

All in all pretty basic, I suppose, but since I haven’t been in the market for a laptop bag in a long time and even the one that’s beginning to fail me was given to me by IT. So I don’t know current educated opinions on laptop bags.

Any thoughts or suggestions out there for me? Thanks in advance!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I really like Rick Steves’ Autobahn Messenger Bag. I think it has everything you’re looking for, but you can review the details at the Rick Steves travel store

  2. Gary, I swear by the bags from the guys at Booq ( They have something for everyone from what I think is the best ultralight travel backpack for any size laptop (the Boa Squeeze, key part of my “tactical travel gear”) to really great messenger bags with all the right pockets in the right places. They just came out with a specific air travel friendly bag that looks great too. I’ve been a fan of their bags for years and I can speak from experience that they handle 100k+ miles a year with grace. Great customer service too, I would check them out.

  3. I have a stylish and functional Tumi laptop bag that I love. I travel with it each week for work and have never had a problem with it. The Tumi Outlet has great deals and usually has a great selection of laptop bags. I would absolutely recommend checking it out. Good luck.

  4. I’ve been using a Timbuk2 bag for a while and really love it. Good laptop protection, well built, comfortable to carry. The only complaint is that there isn’t enough room in the medium bag for all I’d like to stuff in, but maybe I should be happy to have the constraint on my packing. Mine doesn’t have the slot, but the newer ones do.

  5. I know you want to stack it on your carry-on (rollaboard, I presume), but how about a backpack? I always use one for my laptop and my assorted other things, and it serves as my day-pack or beach bag or whatever when I am at my destination.

  6. I second the Tumi recommendation. I bought one last year on sale – probably thanks to you! o:) It wasn’t cheap even at half-off but I really do love it. Super functional, great construction, and good padding. And I got some miles in the process. I expect it to last most of my lifetime and, while using it, I’ll feel very comfortable indeed.

  7. Gary

    I carry the same laptop. Found the Samsonite Opto Expandable laptop brief to be incredible. Allows me to carry lots of files, the laptop, phone/Blackberry chargers, personal stuff

    Very robust construction – for all those TSA briefcase shredders I seem to encounter

  8. Take a look at WaterField ( ), I have three that I rotate depending upon my travel plans, and I appreciate their durabilty and the thought that goes into each design. My first, and favorite, uses an airplane seatbelt buckle for the clasp. If you have a special feature that you’d like to have, I’m sure they’ll work to satisfy your request.

  9. Can’t recommend the Briggs & Riley line of computer briefs highly enough. Bought mine in maybe 2001 and have used it heavily, yet it still looks like it’s only maybe a month old. Well-constructed and organized, good protection for laptop, plenty of room for files and a few thin books in the accordian area. [yes, it has your req’d zip pocket on back to allow it to slip securely over your carryon telescoped handle] Fits under seat in front of you on flights (though not if you’re using the expanded storage). Very helpful for carrying essentials for short biz trips, esp in scenarios where security limits to one item. Lifetime warranty, which I have heard is honored with excellent service by the company.

    I think this is mine: Seems there are a variety of options if you’re looking for something lighter, etc. Looks like several closeout options around the web if you prefer better deal.

    Oh, I don’t have any affiliation / interest in B&R, just love their products and regularly receive compliments and inquiries about them. Absolutely reliable and well-designed.

  10. I second the backpack appraisal. These have so many options (water bottle carrier, Ipod, etc). I slip it over one shoulder for short bursts and strap it on properly for longer hikes through the airport.

  11. “The biggest non-negotiatiable is that it has to have the pouch that’s open on top and bottom for easily slipping onto the handles of a carryon.” So that’s what that thing is for on my laptop bag!

    I use a backpack while traveling, and carry the laptop bag with netbook only for use in my home town.

  12. I’m a fan of the Shaun Jackson bags – I’ve used the Big Back Office for a few years now and it makes trips through the TSA’s funland easy. I also used a messenger type bag from REI along with a neoprene sleeve for my Sony laptop, and that served me well through Europe. Good luck on picking a new bag.

  13. Thanks for this article – helpful info. as I have been searching for ‘the perfect’ bag. I’ve tried three or four and want to let you know that I tried one of the bags above and it was a disaster – very poorly made and very disappointing. my advice – stay away from Booq – it lasted maybe a dozen domestic flights before ripping @ two seams.

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