There’s no shortage of laptop bags out there: some are stylish, some have soft pockets for your phone, while others are camera-friendly or full of internal organizers for your stuff. But if you’re a serious gadget hound, you might be interested in a bag that takes tech-focused features to the next level.
Breeze Through TSA with a Butterfly-Style Bag
If you travel a lot, you know how much of a hassle it is to take out your laptop at every security checkpoint. Some bags get around this by allowing the laptop compartment to open butterfly-style, so you can lay it flat on the conveyor belt and zip it back up when you’re done. The $180 Incase EO is one of the most well-reviewed bags in this style, though the Timbuk2 Uptown backpack is a solid budget option for $75. If neither of those are quite your style, there are a ton of options on Amazon if you look at their Checkpoint-Friendly section. (And if you don’t use a laptop, you don’t need to worry about TSA, so check out the Osprey Pixel Port Daypack—it puts your tablet in a clear pocket under the flap so you can use it without taking it out of the bag.)
All that said: if you’re a frequent traveler, you’re better off getting TSA PreCheck and avoiding the laptop security hassle altogether. You’ll skip the long line, breeze through security without opening your bag, and leave everyone else in your dust. The butterfly-style bag is still handy at smaller airports that make you take your laptop out anyway, though.
Charge Your Tech In Style
Integrated charging is one of the most popular tech upgrades you’ll see in bags today. Even sub-$50 backpacks from Mark Ryden, Mancro, and Matein are starting to offer charging ports built in to the bag, so you can keep a sizeable battery pack inside and just plug your phone into the backpack itself while you stroll through the streets. All three bags are water resistant, and the latter two also have built-in combination locks to keep your stuff safe—doubly important if you’re carrying around a bunch of expensive tech inside.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more—and you spend a lot of time outdoors—solar-charging backpacks offer the same convenience, without the hassle of remembering to charge your battery pack. The $159 Lifepack is highly regarded and contains a number of anti-theft features, like a retractable cable lock on the bag and secret pockets for your passport and credit cards. If you want a bigger solar panel, ECEEN offers both backpacks and messenger bags for under $100.
Alternatively, the $70 MOS Pack takes the opposite approach: instead of plugging your devices into the outside of the bag, you keep them inside the bag and plug the bag itself into the wall to charge all your devices at once.
Organize Your Mess of Cables
Of course, not everyone needs to charge their gadgets every second of every day—but you will need to charge them when you get back to your hotel (or office, or wherever). So the challenge becomes: how do you keep those cables from becoming a rats nest in your bag?
Cocoon, makers of the infamous Grid-It, aim to solve that problem with bags that integrate their awesome cable organizers inside. Their Slim Backpack ranges from $50 to $80 depending on the color, while their $72 Brief aims to please the messenger bag/briefcase crowd. You could, of course, use another backpack with a Grid-It board or Grid-It tablet sleeve packed away inside, but the integrated nature of Cocoon’s own bags is a bit cleaner, and saves some space.
There are other bags that focus on cable organization, but they tend to be smaller, like the $28 Bagsmart cable organizer. These are great if you need something tiny to transport your tablet and associated accessories, but not necessarily ideal for real travel.
Keep Your Delicate Gadgets Protected
Lots of bags have padding to keep your phone, tablet, and laptop somewhat protected from scratches and drops. But if you have more delicate stuff in your bag, like a full-size pair of headphones, things get a bit more precarious. That’s why bags with hard-shell pockets like the $42 Solo Launch are handy: they keep your more delicate tech from getting squished and broken when you shove it under the seat in front of you. Thule has a similar option with their Accent Backpack, which provides a removable hard shell to protect your gear, and comes in multiple sizes (ranging from $90 to $130).
There aren’t many backpacks that have all of these features in one, so you’ll have to poke around and decide what’s most important—and, as always don’t forget to look at the backpack’s size, comfort, and number of pockets to make sure it works for you.
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