- The best backpacks help you stay organized and are comfortable to carry. It’s not too much to ask for them to look nice, too.
- Whether you need a bag for school, work, travel, or everyday use, there’s a backpack for you here. They all boast thoughtful design, durable construction, and many color options to make you stand out in a crowd.
- Our top pick is the Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack, a versatile bag with smart organization features.
The search for a nice backpack often lands you squarely in two camps. On the one hand, you can choose to look like you’ve stumbled into an 8 a.m. lecture with a large coffee in hand. On the other hand, you have a cute accessory to go along with your outfit, but you still don’t have enough space to store your phone, much less a laptop.
Tote bags and other types of bags that go over one shoulder are one solution, but let’s face it. It’s simply more comfortable to carry a backpack and distribute the weight across your back and both shoulders.
And that’s how you end up here, in our guide for the best backpacks for women. You want a bag that’s practical and can carry your work, gym, or everyday essentials – or all of the above. You also want a bag with style and personality, an accessory that doesn’t look like all the other backpacks in the market.
Below, you’ll find our favorite picks for a backpack you’ll be excited to both pack and show off. Important factors to consider are fabric construction, interior organization, and price. Do you like synthetic and more rugged materials like neoprene, nylon, and polyester? Or do you want the rich feel of leather? How many compartments do you prefer, and will you need to fit a laptop in the backpack? Do you want to spend less than $200, or is price no object?
Read on to learn why each women’s backpack is the best in its category and weigh the pros and cons of each bag.
Here are the best backpacks for women:
- Best backpack overall: Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack
- Best packable backpack: Everlane Packable Backpack
- Best leather backpack: Cuyana Leather Backpack
- Best convertible backpack: Lo & Sons Edgemont
- Best luxury backpack: Senreve Maestra Bag
- Best backpack for work: Calpak Kaya Laptop Backpack
The best backpack overall
- Dagne Dover/Instagram
No backpack has taken over the scene more than the Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack. The easily recognizable neoprene bag seamlessly transitions from office to gym thanks to its organization features and versatile look.
“Fusing fashion with athlete-caliber function” is what drives design at online bag startup Dagne Dover. While the brand makes a variety of bags, including laptop bags and weekenders, the best representation of form and function is in its Dakota Backpack (11.5 inches wide, 5 inches deep, 17 inches high).
The Dakota Backpack is the bag you put on in the morning when you’re not exactly sure where the rest of the day will take you. What you do know is that you don’t want it to look out of place, and it needs to keep your essentials organized.
It’s made from a high-performance premium neoprene that’s water-resistant, dries quickly, and is shock-absorbent, effectively protecting your bag’s contents. The neoprene also makes an otherwise simple backpack look more sporty, tapping into a strong-as-ever athleisure trend. Dagne Dover’s color curation for the backpack adds further appeal – colors rotate out, but they often lean toward dusky, muted colors, soft pastels, or bright jewel tones.
Unzip the backpack and you’ll find pockets and pouches galore. There’s an air mesh laptop sleeve that can fit a 13-inch laptop, three zippered pockets on the interior panel, a shoe bag, and a small zip-top pouch. The front pocket has two loops and a key leash, while there are four additional side pockets (two zippered and two open).
Insider Picks first reviewed the Dakota Backpack more than two years ago, and it’s still one of our all-time favorite women’s backpacks. Online reviewers are big fans of this combination of organization and style, and they carry it for a variety of uses. Students, teachers, businesswomen, and travelers all love the bag.
Pros: Soft and practical performance fabric, smart organization system
Cons: Some reviewers report that the fabric can run hot
The best leather backpack
Cuyana’s Leather Backpack, like all of the brand’s Italian leather goods, sits at the perfect intersection of durability, sophistication, and accessibility.
The backpack (12.75 inches height, 10.5 inches width, 7.75 inches depth) is made in Italy with soft and supple pebbled leather. Available in five subtle, neutral colors, it’s the type of bag that can go with any outfit effortlessly.
I’ve owned the Blush version of the backpack for two years now and watched it weather into a bag that I appreciate even more than when I first got it. Though the leather initially feels a little stiff, it loosens up and gets softer as you wear it. The light Blush color requires more care to maintain, but if you’re worried about keeping your bag clean, you also have black, burgundy, caramel, and stone to choose from.
There are two pockets on the outside, where I usually keep my work ID and subway card. The pockets are secured by strong magnetic snaps and I’ve never had anything fall out, but if you want to be super-cautious, I suggest keeping your belongings in the main compartment. It has a zip pocket inside and is covered by a flap top with a magnetic closure.
The straps are on the thinner side, and they can dig into your shoulders if you load the bag with heavy items. However, you’ll ultimately like the thin straps because they look more put-together and sophisticated than thick straps. Two parts of the bag are adjustable, the cinch belt and the shoulder straps. By adjusting these parts, you can get a feel that’s most comfortable for you.
Pros: Soft and durable leather, secure pockets
Cons: Thin straps may be uncomfortable
The best packable backpack
The Everlane Packable Backpack saves space without sacrificing style, versatility, and durability. It’s made from lightweight nylon twill and available in three attractive colors.
A packable backpack is a smart accessory to bring on your travels. Since it folds into its own pocket, you won’t waste valuable luggage space, but it still expands into a full-size backpack so you can carry all your day’s essentials comfortably.
In order to allow them to fold, most packable backpacks are made from nylon, which can look and feel cheap. Everlane’s Packable Backpack (16 inches height, 4 inches depth, 9 inches width) manages to avoid this common problem by virtue of its simple design and eye-catching color options (pink, burgundy, and sage).
It has a small front zip pocket for those accessories you need to access most often and a main compartment that can fit a 13-inch laptop. You shouldn’t expect to stuff it to the brim with things, but it is a good “Goldilocks” size for carrying an assortment of accessories including a wallet, pair of headphones, water bottle, light jacket, and the like.
The slick nylon actually feels thick and surprisingly substantial, meaning it’s also comfortable to carry. At the same time, it’s more lightweight than a canvas or leather backpack, so you won’t feel bogged down by your bag. This material is water-resistant and easy to spot clean.
Reviewers love that the backpack looks sleek enough to go basically anywhere, from a day hike to a nice sit-down dinner. Whenever you need to pack it back up, you simply turn it inside out, fold the edges in, and stuff it into the interior pocket.
Priced at $35, this versatile and convenient backpack is a great deal, but if you’re looking for a slightly more luxe (but equally simple) packable bag, we also like Paravel’s Fold-Up Backpack ($65).
Pros: Affordable, versatile, simple design, saves space
Cons: Unpadded, so it may not be suitable for tech devices; may be too small depending on your needs
The best luxury backpack
The distinctive Senreve Maestra Bag costs a pretty penny, but you won’t regret investing – it looks sharp, has a well-designed organization system, can be worn four different ways, and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: The Maestra Bag costs $895. As you can tell, it’s certainly a nice-looking backpack, but is it really worth nearly $900? According to everyone who has ever made the plunge and entrusted Senreve with this commitment, the answer is an enthusiastic yes.
Senreve even managed to win over one of our editors who initially thought the price of the bag was “ridiculous.” It did this by making a bag that’s as practical as it is beautiful. There are eight interior compartments, including a padded tech compartment that can fit up to a 13-inch laptop and a main compartment that can fit up to a 15-inch laptop. There are also smaller, individual pockets for everything from your AirPods case to your sunglasses. The bag has a zippered top, covered by a flap top with a collar stud belt, so everything inside stays secure.
Another big draw of the bag is that it’s convertible. Simply by pulling the shoulder straps up, you can turn it into a shoulder bag, crossbody, or satchel. Whether you want to switch configurations out of desire or plain necessity (e.g., when you’re squeezing into a tight elevator or subway car and need to free up space), the Maestra can quickly adapt.
The original Pebbled Leather version of the bag comes in 13 colors. You can choose from a wide range, from classic black to a bright coral. Just keep an eye on availability – some colors aren’t available forever. There are also different types of leather you can choose, but they’re more expensive and can make the bag cost more than $1,000. Regardless of which type you opt for, all the bags are made with 100% Italian leather by craftsmen who work with top luxury brands.
In addition to the Maestra (10.25 inches height, 12.25 inches width at base, 16 inches width at top, 6.75 inches depth), there are smaller sizes, the Mini and Midi, but if you intend on carrying this bag for everyday use, the largest size, the Maestra will be the most useful for your needs.
While $900 is a lot to pay for a single bag, Senreve works with Quadpay so you can pay for your bag in four interest-free installments. Plus, it offers a lifetime warranty and will repair your bag for free in case it’s ever damaged.
Pros: Sleek design, organized, convertible, many color options, comes with a lifetime warranty
Cons: Pricey, may feel bulky
The best backpack for work
The Calpak Kaya Leather Laptop Backpack is the more sleek and stylish cousin to a traditional laptop bag. The structured backpack has its own space for your laptop, with plenty of room to spare.
Sometimes you need a backpack that’s designed for a specific purpose. While all the backpacks mentioned in this guide can fit laptops, the Calpak Kaya Laptop Backpack (15.5 inches height, 11.5 inches width, 4.5 inches depth) is the only one with a completely separate zippered compartment for it.
In the front pocket of the rectangular bag, you can keep things like your wallet, notebooks, and a change of clothes, while in the back pocket, you can store your laptop. By separating your work life and personal life in these compartments, you’ll know exactly where everything is and feel more physically and mentally organized.
With its whipstitched trim, knotted zipper pulls, and gold hardware, it’s more attractive than a traditional laptop bag but equally functional. The stiff and structured frame looks composed but also protects its contents from accidental bumps. The backpack is made from a scratch-resistant, water-resistant faux leather and comes in four colors. I own another one of the brand’s backpacks and can say that this synthetic fabric holds up to the grind of regular use. That the sturdy bag also looks great is a major plus and why many women use it for work.
If and when you have to travel for work, the Kaya Laptop Laptop Backpack is ready with a back sleeve to slip over luggage handles. This sleeve feels a little tight, so it might not be easy slipping it over the handles. However, this design also means that once it is on, your backpack isn’t going anywhere.
Anyone who commutes to work will find this laptop backpack useful. Since it’s likely your day consists of more than just going to and from the office, you’ll also appreciate its fashionable style.
Pros: Separate laptop compartment, affordable
Cons: Some reviewers report quality issues
The best convertible backpack
- Lo & Sons
A practical, travel-friendly solution to your organization and comfort woes is the Lo & Sons Edgemont backpack. Carry it as a tote or backpack, to work, the airport, and beyond.
The designers at Lo & Sons, a brand known for its travel-friendly bags, seem to have thought of everything when making the Edgemont backpack (13 inches width, 14.5 inches height, 5 inches depth).
The backpack converts into a tote when you unbuckle the straps and stash them in the back pocket. Inside, there’s a padded compartment that can fit a 13-inch laptop, a water bottle pocket, and other small pockets to keep your belongings organized. Best of all, this entire compartment insert is removable. Instead of rummaging in the depths of a large bag, you can take the insert out to make packing a little easier.
On the outside of each side, there are stash pockets for those accessories you need the most often, and they include a key leash. This bag is perfect for traveling, both because of these organization details and because it has an adjustable sleeve on the back to let you slip the bag onto your luggage handles.
Don’t be afraid of packing the backpack to the brim. To my delight when I tested it myself, it remains comfortable to carry and feels lighter than expected. Since founder Helen Lo originally launched the company because she wanted a bag that alleviated her back pain, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the backpack is comfortable enough to carry all day. The shoulder straps are padded with memory foam for extra comfort and layered with mesh so they won’t slip off your shoulders.
The bag is also eco-friendly. The polyester exterior is made from recycled plastic bottles and is water-resistant. It is lightweight and feels like canvas. Currently, it’s available in two solid colors, which are fairly innocuous, and three camo prints, which have a bit more flair.
Pros: Easy to convert between backpack and tote, removable insert, water-resistant exterior, comfortable to carry
Cons: Style is more plain than other backpacks
What else we considered
- Caraa Sport/Instagram
- Caraa Sport Small Studio Bag ($395): The internet loves Caraa’s all-in-one backpack, which looks like a mini duffel and can be carried three different ways. The mix of materials – waterproof nylon, leather, and metal hardware – gives the bag a cool, sporty look. However, it is expensive, and you might be equally happy with another convertible bag half its price.
- MZ Wallace Metro Backpack ($245): The quilted backpack feels light and fluffy as a cloud, and it comes in cool colors and prints. The brand is better known for its totes, but its backpacks are also worth checking out.
- State Bags Kane Backpack ($80): The Kane is the signature backpack from State Bags, a startup that supports students and families by donating fully packed backpacks and partnering with charities and schools on social and educational initiatives. There are 21 colors to choose from and you can personalize it with symbols, patches, and pins. We also love that it costs under $100.