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The Ultimate Business Travel Backpack

Business travel is not for the faint of heart. Traveling for business includes all of the hassles of travel, like security lines, long flights, and packing, but is for work, not play.

A travel backpack should make your trip easier and more convenient. Travel is complicated enough. Your bag should be an asset, not a liability.

Most business travelers use a wheeled suitcase. So why would you carry a backpack?

  1. You need your laptop but don't want to carry a second bag.
  2. You plan on including personal travel during your business trip and need luggage that can handle both. (More on this later.)

If you're still reading, a travel backpack may be right for you and your travel style. Now, what should you look for in a business travel bag?

Laptop Compartment

If you can go on a business trip without a laptop or at least a tablet, I'm jealous. The rest of us need a secure place to store our computers.


Carrying a second laptop bag, along with a backpack, is difficult. Your backpack must do double duty by carrying your laptop and your clothes. If you're carrying a backpack, it must have a padded laptop compartment that you can access without opening the rest of your bag.

Here’s a protip to save a time in the harried security line (that is, if you aren’t a member of TSA PreCheck). If your backpack has a separate, lie-flat laptop compartment, you won’t have to remove your computer. Unzip the laptop compartment of your travel backpack and lie it flat on the conveyor belt.

Business Casual

Functionality is first. But a business backpack shouldn't look out of place in a work environment.

A simple, black bag without any strange colors or fabrics is low-profile and appropriate for any context, including business travel. Avoid large logos, bright colors, and anything made out of plastic.

The best case scenario is for no one to notice your bag.


A recent American Express survey asked business travelers for their number one tip for surviving business travel. The most common answer was "travel carry on only."

Anyone who has traveled extensively knows that checking a bag is for chumps. If you're traveling for business, your company will probably pay your baggage fees, which is a huge advantage as they can run over $50/roundtrip flight.

Fees aren't the only reason to pack light. Traveling with only a carry on simplifies your travel. You will have less stuff to worry about, you can move through security lines and airports faster, and you never have to worry about what happened to your luggage.

If you're on a business trip, you can't risk having your airline lose, or misroute, your luggage. Keep your business backpack in your hands and inside the plane where you can keep it safe.

Backpacks, unlike carry on suitcases, are rarely gate checked. On full flights, gate agents often ask travelers to check their luggage at the gate, even if it's carry-on-sized. They single out people with wheeled suitcases. Travelers with backpacks or duffel bags are usually exempt. I've traveled with a backpack on overbooked holiday flights and have never been asked to gate check my bag.

From Business to Pleasure

[T]wo-thirds of U.S. business travelers surveyed say they have extended a business trip in order to take a personal vacation in the past year.

Most travelers need luggage that can transition from business to personal travel and hold up on longer trips.

Luckily, on a personal vacation, your needs are very similar to what we've already discussed. You need a backpack that is carry-on-sized so that you can travel affordably and lightly.

For business or pleasure, you need a bag that packs like a suitcase. Large backpacks are usually top-loading and designed for hiking, not traveling. These bags are a nightmare to pack and unpack. They leave your clothes wrinkled and disorganized.

Choose a front-loading backpack to get the best features of suitcases and of backpacks in one piece of luggage. A front-loading backpack uses a clamshell-style opening, just like a suitcase, so that you can reach anything in your bag. This style of backpack packs like a suitcase so that you can stay organized and (relatively) wrinkle-free.

The Ultimate Business Travel Backpack

A well-designed travel backpack is carry-on-sized, loads from the front (not the top), and has a laptop compartment. For business travel, make sure your bag looks work appropriate.

We designed the Outbreaker travel backpack with all of these features (and more) after being unable to find the perfect luggage for a backpacking trip to Europe. Although we didn't originally intend the Outbreaker for business travel, we've found that it also works well for this purpose as we both travel frequently for work.

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