What Makes the Best Backpack for Work and Travel?

Women with Work and Travel Backpack

There are lots of backpacks that make great work bags. There are also lots of great travel backpacks out there. But finding a backpack for work and travel? That’s like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But don’t worry, today we’re going to tell you what to look for so you can find the best backpack for work and travel and not end up on a wild goose chase.

But first, what’s the big fuss over needing a backpack for both work and travel? Two reasons immediately come to mind: professionalism and convenience.

First, if you’ve tried to travel with a work bag that wasn’t also designed for travel, you’ve probably experienced the dreaded “underwear next to the laptop” syndrome (i.e., jamming all your clothes in the same compartment as your work stuff). It’s simply impossible to look professional when you open your backpack in an office and out spill your personal things.

Second, traveling for work is not easy. The idea of lugging two bags, a work bag and a travel bag, on a business trip when one bag could do is the definition of making life harder. One Bag living is ideal.

So now that you're intrigued about using one bag for work and travel, how do you find this ideal backpack? There are four key factors you need to consider when looking for the best backpacks for work and travel:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Organization
  • Styling


The Best Size for a Work and Travel Backpack

Although you will mostly use a work and travel backpack as an everyday bag, if it doesn’t do a good job holding and organizing your travel things, it is useless. So, start your screening with two criteria: does it have a separate compartment for travel items and how big is that compartment?

According to Zippia, 74% of all US business trips are over 1 day in length and the average US business trip is about 3 days. So, most people will be covered with a backpack that can hold between 1-3 days’ worth of clothing. Typically, that is a medium-sized backpack from 30-40 liters in total size with 10-20 liters reserved for the travel compartment. If you are traveling for 3-4 days on average, you will need a backpack that is 40-50 liters in total size.

It goes without saying that your work and travel backpack must always get onboard an airplane when you travel, so dimensions are important too. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule for carry-on sizing as airline restrictions vary widely as do plane overheads and seat configurations.

In general, any backpack under 45 inches in combined height, length and depth will probably get on most domestic flights and any bag that is under 10 inches deep has a good chance of fitting under the seat in front of you (and in that one-in-a-million chance that you have to gate check your Knack Pack, we’ve thought it through with lockable zipper sliders for security, easy-access laptop pocket for quick removal of your computer and tuck-away shoulder straps to ensure nothing gets snagged in the cargo hold).

Check out this handy sizing chart so you can see the dimensions and volumes of Knack Packs in everyday work mode and in expanded travel mode:

 Backpack for Work and Travel Sizing Chart


The Best Weight for a Work and Travel Backpack

Since you will mostly be using your work and travel backpack as an everyday commuter bag, weight is critical. A typical empty backpack weighs between 1 to 6 pounds. Typical 30-40 liter work-only laptop backpacks weigh from 2 to 3.5 pounds.  Typical 40-50 liter travel-only backpacks weigh from about 3.5 to 5.5 pounds. Anything 3 pounds or under is considered lightweight. However, the lighter the pack, the less padding for your technology, the less internal pockets and organization, and the less load it can carry before failure. Our belief is that a 3 to 4 pound work and travel backpack is light enough to not be a burden when loaded and will have quality components and construction that won't fail during use.

Keeping our Knack Packs as light as possible, while combining the best features of both a work backpack and a travel backpack, is one of our core mantras. Our lightweight, high-quality components and quality construction results in spacious, strong, and durable work and travel backpacks that weigh in the range of 2 pounds 4 ounces to 3 pounds 4 ounces when empty.  


The Best Organization for a Work and Travel Backpack

Everyday Organization Compartment for Work and Travel Backpack

As we noted earlier, it is important for a work and travel backpack to have two separate compartments: one for your everyday work items and one for your travel items. The everyday section should have all the functionality that a typical work laptop backpack should have:

  • Numerous internal pockets so your work items don’t fall to the bottom of the bag
  • Mesh pockets so you can easily see the contents
  • Zip pockets to ensure everything stays in its place
  • Easy-access pockets to quickly get to things like phones, sunglasses, or wallets
  • Padded laptop pocket to protect your computer
Backpack Travel Compartment

The travel section has two important areas to evaluate: pocketing and access. As in the everyday section, you want pockets in the travel section that keep you organized and can help keep dirty clothes separate from clean clothes. Also, tie-down straps are really useful to ensure that everything you packed stays in its place.

While pocketing is important, access to the travel compartment may be even more important. You want to avoid top-loading compartments in your work and travel backpack at all costs: it’s like packing items into a black hole and, invariably, the items you want are always on the bottom. We think a suitcase opening-access to the travel compartment is the easiest to pack and unpack, but some people may prefer a clamshell opening.

Knack solved the separate travel section need with a patent-pending hidden, expansion travel compartment that zips away when you don't need it and expands when you do need it. As a matter of fact, GQ loved this solution so much, they called Knack "The best travel backpack for business travelers."

The Best Styling for a Work and Travel Backpack

 Women with Best Work and Travel Backpack

Styling is the last, and probably the most subjective, factor in looking for the best backpack for work and travel. Since the bag will be primarily used in a work setting, it needs to look professional. Exterior mesh pockets, lots of dangling straps, huge logos, and a water bottle peeking out of its pocket all give the sense that you’ve just come to the office from a mountain or rushed in from your dorm room.

We designed Knack Packs with both a minimal and professional aesthetic. The bags' exterior fabrics are inspired by suiting fabrics in colors that are always appropriate to any work setting.

Knackpacker Todd G. appreciates the look of his Knack Pack and told us that he “Needed to upgrade my style to more professional. Very pleased so far. Already received several compliments.


Hopefully, you've discovered some useful criteria to help you select the best backpack for work and travel. While you're looking, don't forget that you can try out a Knack Pack and enjoy free shipping and 30 day returns. And once you get that perfect work and travel backpack, check out our Ultimate Guide to One Bag Business Travel

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