The Best Urban Commuter Backpack for Everyday

Best Urban Commuter Backpack

Urban commuting is a modern reality that most people will encounter at some point in their work life. From 9-5 executives to university students, one requirement all urban commuters have in common is something to carry the items they need with ease as well as comfort and style. So, what’s the solution? Well, we think it’s a backpack of course! 

The best urban commuter backpack should have all the bells and whistles to easily handle whatever your workday throws at you. From style to durability to laptop and tech protection, your backpack should feature dedicated storage pockets, be water-resistant to protect it from the rain, and be comfortable enough for day-long journeys. It might sound like an impossible mission, but we’re here to help you understand exactly which features to look for in an urban commuter backpack.


What to Look for in a Commuter Backpack

  • Style
  • Size 
  • Weight
  • Durability
  • Water resistance
  • Lots of organization pockets
  • Laptop access and protection
  • Comfort

Commuter Backpack FAQ’s

  • Is it unprofessional to use a backpack?
  • How do I keep my backpack safe on my commute?
  • Which Knack Pack is best for daily commuters?

What to Look for in a Commuter Backpack?

Best Urban Commuter Backpack


You want the convenience of a backpack but that doesn't mean you want to walk into a business meeting looking like a hiker. When selecting a commuter backpack, choose an aesthetic that will look appropriate in any professional setting and relaxed enough to meet friends after work for happy hour. Avoid exterior mesh pockets, dangling straps, huge logos, and water bottles peeking out of their pockets. 

Knack backpacks are designed to enhance your personal professional style. With a minimal aesthetic and a conscious lack of external buckles, and mesh pockets, you’ll look great for that big client meeting. Dangling straps are a thing of the past with Knack’s elastic keeper loops on the shoulder straps.  And, when your work day is done, look cool at the gym with your water bottle tucked neatly into Knack’s hidden water bottle pocket. 

"They gave you everything with this bag. Quality, comfort, organization, style. Well done Knack” 

- Ryan K. | Large Series 1


Picking the right size backpack for urban commuting seems to be an impossible problem. You want the smallest backpack possible to make it easy to navigate a crowded subway or bus but you need to easily fit all the gear you need for the day. So to make sense out of all these conflicting goals, start simple: size your backpack around the item almost every urban commuter needs: their laptop. Ensure that your commuter backpack has a dedicated laptop pocket that is big enough to carry, and protect your laptop. Once you check off that box, you can then look at how much you typically carry every day. If it’s just your laptop and a lunch and some papers, you probably can get by with a 20-25 liter bag. If you are taking all of those items plus workout clothes, you should look at bags around 30 liters.

One of Knack’s many features is the separate, dedicated, padded laptop pocket that zips closed to carry a 13”, 15”, or 17” laptop (but, more on that later). What really sets Knack apart from any other commuter backpack is its patented 2-in-1 function: every Knack backpack has a hidden, expandable travel compartment. When unexpanded, the travel compartment can serve as another main compartment for an additional laptop or any other items you want to keep separate from your work stuff. Expanded, you get up to 50% more carrying capacity. This lets you pack what you need for your afternoon workout or a spontaneous overnight trip in the same bag that you take to the office.

To help you choose the best urban commuter backpack for your needs, we have created this handy sizing chart with the dimensions and volumes of each Knack Pack.

Best Urban Commuter Backpack

"This bag has changed my ability to get all I need back and forth to work and home each day. The design and all the pockets of different sizes are so well thought out." 

Mary B. (Missouri, US) | Medium Series 2 


You’ve got enough on your shoulders without adding a heavy backpack. So it’s obvious that the best urban commuter backpack should be as light as possible. However, you also want durable fabrics, quality construction and hardware, ample padding for your tech, lots of pockets and comfortable shoulder straps and back panels. These things all add weight to any commuter backpack. Typically, an empty 30 liter bag in the 3 pound range will check off all the quality and function boxes you need without weighing you down.

Knack’s lightweight, high-quality components and quality construction result in spacious, strong, and durable commuter backpacks that weigh in the range of 2 pounds 4 ounces to 3 pounds 4 ounces when empty. When we designed our Knack Packs, we focused on keeping them as light as possible while having enough internal pockets and padding to keep your technology safe and your things organized.  

In addition, we have designed each Knack Pack to help evenly distribute the weight of your load. For example, the dedicated laptop pocket is located at the back of the bag (i.e. closest to your back) so that when you carry your laptop, it doesn't pull the bag away from your body, adding strain to your shoulders and back. 


Don’t skimp when it comes to quality in a backpack for urban commuting! Plastic hardware breaks; cheap zippers become jammed or tear out; inexpensive, lightweight fabrics tear and abrade; poorly constructed shoulder straps are uncomfortable and can tear out; the list goes on and on. It’s just not worth saving a few extra dollars and then living through your bag failing on a subway, train or bus. Look for bags with high-quality hardware manufacturers (like YKK zippers or Duraflex buckles); quality, water-resistant nylon or polyester body fabrics; and comfortable, well-constructed shoulder straps attached with double bar tacks or, better yet, box stitching.

Best Urban Commuter Backpack

All of our Knack Packs are made of high-quality, high-performance materials that are abrasion-resistant, puncture-resistant, and tear-resistant 1200 denier polyester (Series 1) or 420 denier and 840 denier ballistic nylon (Series 2) fabrics to keep your clothes and tech safe. And because you want your city commuter backpack to look as clean as it is sturdy, we’ve also made them stain and water-resistant so they can be wiped clean in the case of accidental spills. 

Additionally, we only use hardware that has passed our demanding quality testing for breakage and load-bearing abilities. From Duraflex buckles to YKK zippers, your Knack Pack won’t give out on you when you need it the most. 

“The back pack is well made and has great fit and function with the expandability.”

- Michael B. (PA, United States) | Series 1 Large

Water Resistance

You only need to get caught out in the rain with your laptop once to understand the value of a water-resistance commuter backpack. And when commuting in the city, you’ll need a backpack that can stand up to the elements and keep your tech dry. Make sure you look for a bag that has water-resistant, or water-proof, body fabrics and construction that doesn’t cover openings with just flaps.

Knack Pack’s water-resistant exterior fabrics and reverse-coil zippers keep liquids on the outside of your bag, protecting your belongings from the ever-changing environment and making for a great urban commuter backpack, especially in rainy cities. And no need to scramble to find your umbrella at the bottom of your bag. As a bonus, the side water bottle pocket doubles as storage for a small umbrella. 

Lots of Organization Pockets

Best Urban Commuter Backpack

When you’re commuting back and forth to the city, there’s a lot to carry - a laptop, important papers, phone, charger, keys, wallet, snacks, water bottle... the list goes on and on. When choosing the best urban commuter backpack, having easy-access organizational pockets for your daily essentials is a must. 

Look for commuter backpacks that have the following pockets to help keep you organized:

  • Separate, padded laptop pocket to protect your computer
  • A water bottle pocket
  • A tablet pocket
  • Easy-access pockets for things like phones, sunglasses, wallets or chargers
  • Specific pockets for work items such as batteries, pens, business cards, etc so that these small items don’t fall to the bottom of the bag

In addition to specific types of pockets, you should look for specific pocket construction and materials to make your daily carry safer and more efficient:

  • Mesh pockets so you can easily see pocket contents
  • Zip closures to ensure everything stays in its place
  • Antimicrobial lining to keep any moisture that gets in your bag from creating mold or mildew
  • Anti-RFID lining to protect credit cards from skimming

At Knack, we didn’t skimp on the pockets. In fact, we designed our bags around them. Each Knack Pack has tons of separate pockets to organize and carry your commuting essentials so you don’t have to dig to the bottom of a big black hole to find that one item you need. Wondering what each Knack pocket does? Check out this blog for helpful tips on packing each pocket.

“A pocket for every purpose provides a way through your pack without unpacking the whole darned thing. Exceeded my expectations.” 

- Mark O. (Illinois, US) | Series 1 Large

Laptop Access and Protection


Best Urban Commuter Backpack

As we said earlier, most people start narrowing down possible commuter backpack options based on whether their laptop can fit in it or not. So it’s important that you properly measure the laptop pocket opening as well as your computer to ensure you have the correct fit for your device. This chart will help you select the perfect size Knack for your 13”, 15” or 17” laptop. In addition to proper sizing, you should also think about how your commuter backpack will protect your laptop and provide easy access to it during your commute.

Padded computer pockets or compartments are a must. Bags with non-padded tech sleeves or pockets are simply non-starters. Additionally, your commuter bag’s laptop pocket should also keep your laptop relatively snug: too much room for jostling is not ideal. 

Finally, you want to ensure that you have easy access to your laptop to and from work. Main compartment pockets are less ideal than computer pockets that can be accessed from the outside of your backpack. 

All Knack Packs have a separate, padded, zip laptop pocket with a sling bottom to protect your tech from accidental drops and bumps. Want to get a little work done on the train? Not a problem. Knack’s dedicated laptop pocket unzips from the side of the bag making it easily accessible during your commute. 

“I often carry two laptops and this bag seems to gobble them up and still has plenty of room for power adapters, files, other cables, and a notebook. That's without even expanding the clothing compartment.” - Michael

Carrying multiple laptops? Check out this post.


Best Urban Commuter Backpack

Whether your commute involves standing, sitting, biking, walking - or all four, you need a comfortable commuter backpack. 

Knack’s ergonomically-designed, padded, adjustable shoulder straps were developed for comfortable carry for men and women alike. Each Knack also has a specially designed Comfort-Cool back panel to increase airflow between your back and the bag.  Finally, to help the shoulder straps keep weight properly balanced on your back and shoulders, larger Knack backpacks sport an adjustable sternum strap. If you don’t carry too much, the sternum strap is removable for a clean shoulder strap look. 

“I am amazed at how comfortable this pack is on my back loaded with my work essentials and bike EDC.” - Ray

Commuter Backpack FAQ’s

Is It Unprofessional To Use A Backpack?

Definitely not! Today’s professionals are opting for backpacks over briefcases or shoulder bags due to greater ease of carry versus shoulder bags or briefcases. And, with Knack’s minimal, professional design, there is no need to sacrifice style for comfort.  

How Do I Keep My Backpack Safe On My Commute?

For commuters who take public transportation, look for lockable zippers on the main compartments to safeguard your belongings from sneaky pickpockets. 

Commuting with expensive tech can be nerve-racking. We’ve all had that “Oh no!” experience after fumbling with our phone or hearing the thud when we drop our laptop bag. Luckily, the sling bottom in the laptop sleeve pads your laptop from accidental drops.

Best Urban Commuter Backpack

“The 2 locking zippered compartments are very important to me since I travel crowded NYC subways.”  - John C.

Which Knack Is Best For Urban Commuters?

Now that we’ve gone over all of the requirements for the best commuter backpack and what makes Knack stand out above the rest, it’s time to choose which Knack is best for you. 

Small Knack Pack

The Series 1 Small is the best Knack for lightweight or minimalist packers. Although the Small can still hold a lot of stuff - especially when the travel compartment is expanded - it works best as an “around town” bag. As the Small is 17” tall, it’s an excellent option for shorter people, or for those with smaller frames.

Keep in mind that the laptop pocket in the Small is designed for a 13” laptop. However, many Small Knackpack users store a larger laptop in the expandable travel compartment or the main compartment.

Series 1 Small Knack Pack Specs for Commuters:

  • 15L unexpanded, 27L when expanded
  • Fits a 13” laptop
  • Holds a 17 oz S’well or 18oz Hydro Flask water bottle
  • Can pack 1-2 outfit changes

Shop the Series 1 Small Knack Pack here.

Medium Knack Pack

For most commuters, the Medium Knack has plenty of space for all of your work and personal activities and is the best option for workers whose commute involves overnight travel. With up to 39 Liters of space when expanded, the Medium is the perfect commuter-to-travel backpack. 

Series 1 Medium Knack Pack Specs for Commuters:

  • 27L unexpanded, 39L expanded
  • Fits a 15” laptop
  • Holds a 17 oz S’well or a 24 oz Hydro Flask
  • Can pack 2-3 outfit changes

Shop the Series 1 Medium Knack Pack here.

Series 2 Medium Knack Pack Specs for Commuters

  • 24L unexpanded, 35L expanded
  • Fits a 15” laptop
  • Holds a 17 oz S’well or a 24 oz Hydro Flask
  • Packs 2-3 outfit changes

Shop the Series 2 Medium Knack Pack here.

Large Knack Pack

As a commuter bag, the Large Knack is best for those who like to be sure they’ve packed it all. “Just in case” packers love that even with the extra capacity, comfort isn’t sacrificed. Get more organization out of your main compartment and the expandable travel compartment by using Knack Packing Cubes. 

Series 1 Large Knack Pack Specs for Commuters

  • 30L unexpanded, 46L expanded
  • Fits a 17” laptop
  • Holds a 25oz S’well or a 24oz Hydro Flask
  • Can pack 3-4 outfit changes

Shop the Large Series 1 Knack Pack here.

Series 2 Large Knack Pack Specs for Commuters

  • 30L unexpanded, 46L expanded
  • Fits a 17” laptop
  • Holds a 25oz S’well or a 24oz Hydro Flask
  • Can pack 3-4 outfit changes

Shop the Large Series 2 Knack Pack here

Still not sure which Knack is best for your daily commute, take a look at our Knack Pack Comparison Page.

We Want to Hear From You

We’d love to hear about your favorite experiences using a Knack Pack. Drop us a line at and we’ll share your comments with fellow Knackpackers in a future blog. Don’t forget to tag @knackbags and use #knackbags on social media!

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