Now that most of us are traveling around again — to work, to the movies, to friends, or just to get outside and experience the summer — we are pulling our favorite backpacks and bags from our closets and filling them up with laptops, phones, cameras, clothes, groceries, and other stuff. (Not to mention trying to figure out if they might suit any kids of our acquaintance for back-to-school purposes.)
Here are some of the carry-alls that we here at The Verge have been using. As you will read, most of these have gotten months or even years of good use — which is what you want in a good backpack or bag.
A colorful fanny pack
Victoria Song, senior reviewer
I’ve always been stymied by the need for a bag smaller than a backpack or knapsack but larger than a dinky clutch. I was wary of the whole “wear a fanny pack as a mini crossbody bag” trend, but earlier this summer, I caved and bought the Baboon to the Moon 3L Fannypack.
Now, I cannot go back. This bag easily fits my wallet, phone, house keys, car keys, hand sanitizer, and chapstick — everything I need when I take walks or run errands. It’s also got a quick-release buckle, so I can stick a carabiner on it and schlepp around a water bottle on hot days. The material is also incredibly durable, spill-proof, and easy to clean. The inside has some dividers but nothing too complicated.
But what I probably like most about this fanny pack (and this brand in general) is how colorful their bags are. I got one in lavender, stuck some enamel pins on it, and now there’s absolutely no mistaking this is mine. I can see it easily from a distance, which also makes it harder to lose. The mix between colorful whimsy and practical functionality is something I wish I saw more often. All I’m saying is that two of my friends went out and bought the same bag in different colors as soon as they saw me wearing it. And we’re all immensely happy with our purchases.
A handbag for clumsy ghouls
Jess Weatherbed, news writer
Okay, look. There are plenty of sensible folks in this article who can point you toward genuinely useful (and certainly more palatable) bags to keep your gadgets safe, but I’ll personally remain married to my Killstar Grave Digger Skull handbag until it joins me in my burial plot. Is it practical? Not in the slightest — outside of simply having the space to accommodate a large smartphone, you’ll get absolutely zero features designed specifically to make your life easier. But do you really care when you could be pulling your belongings from a colorful ensemble of scalped skulls instead? (For my own mental health, please don’t answer that.)
Luckily, the build quality is actually impressive for such a gimmicky accessory. A hard plastic internal shell is what gives the bag its shape as well as provides some protection for its contents. My clumsy ass has genuinely dropped this down a flight of concrete stairs, and not only did my iPhone 14 Pro Max come out completely unscathed, but the bag itself only suffered the weeniest of blemishes. There’s also a selection of colors and finishes to choose from. The flocked versions (that fuzzy, velvet-like finish) hold up surprisingly well — I have one in the shade “blood” that looks almost immaculate despite the near-daily beating it takes.
A tapestry backpack
Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor
In our previous roundup of The Verge’s favorite backpacks and other bags, I talked about my combination shoulder bag / backpack that was manufactured by a small company called Danny K. Made from a tapestry-like cloth, and full of pockets, zipped and otherwise, this has been my go-to bag for any occasion where I’m not carrying a laptop (which is the only thing that it doesn’t hold).
However, that bag is a bit large, especially for times when I really don’t need quite as much space, which is why I was delighted when somebody gifted me a smaller version of my bag called the Luna Backpack. With outside pockets on the back and front, a side opening that takes in more stuff than you’d think, and a pocket for a bottle or a small umbrella, my new bag (which I wear over my shoulder more often than I wear it on my back) still carries everything I need but is a lot more discreet for those times when I don’t want to look like I’m leaving on an urban day hike.
A sling for daily use
Kaitlin Hatton, audience manager
I’ve previously written about my love for my inexpensive Lumesner travel backpack in our roundup about travel gear. That love still holds true, especially as I’ve used this travel backpack far more since first writing about it. The bag has held up through many short and long trips and even a cross-country move.
However, I’ve found a daily-use bag that I love just as much. I recently purchased Dagne Dover’s Mara Phone Sling because I needed something simple to stash my phone and keys in when walking my dog or running a quick errand. After a couple of weeks of use, I can confidently say that this small bag is worth the price tag. The size took some getting used to, as the bag really can’t fit much else aside from my phone, but it also keeps me from carrying anything but the essentials. The product is incredibly high quality and very durable while also looking a little nicer than most phone slings I’ve come across.
Baggu Reusable Bags
Like almost every other young woman in New York City, I am a Baggu girlie. I’ve been using its reusable, collapsible bags for years and don’t see that ending anytime soon.
The bags come in a variety of sizes and patterns that fold up into a small pouch, making them the perfect addition to my everyday handbag. Stopping by the grocery store for a few dinner items on your way home from work? Suddenly remember you’re out of toilet paper while out? You’ll always have a spare bag tucked away in your primary carry to help you to pack away those goodies.
They also make wonderful last-minute gift bags!
A bag for the cycling set
Andrew J. Hawkins, transportation editor
If you’re like me and you like to bike most places, you’ll need a bag that’s both versatile and stylish. I recently came into possession of a bag that meets both these qualifications: the Alpha Pannier Backpack by Two Wheel Gear. It’s a backpack! It’s a pannier! It’s a laptop bag with a padded pocket for an external battery! This bag really checks a lot of boxes, and it’s easy on the eyes as well. The ability to convert to a pannier is really the clincher for me: unclip the backpack straps and tuck them away inside an interior flap. The top latch fits most rear bike racks. The ability to show up at your destination without the dreaded back sweat is really priceless. And if you’re diehard about biking in all weather conditions, the Alpha Pannier Backpack’s waterproof material will certainly impress. You can even attach your bike helmet using the various straps.
A completely customized backpack
–Jay Peters, news editor
I asked for the Timbuk2 Custom Prospect Backpack as a gift in 2015 and have been using it ever since. It’s been my companion to work, coffee shops, the grocery store, vacations — so many other places that I can’t remember them all.
The small front pocket is great for storing little things that I may need easy access to. The main compartment is great for bigger items, and with its included laptop pocket, I’ve never felt the need to get a separate laptop case for my bag. And the water bottle pockets are handy for carrying around a Hydro Flask or two.
Perhaps best of all, there are a ton of customization options available when you order, so you can deck out your bag in whatever style best suits you.
The de facto tech journalist bag keeps pulling me back in
I’ve been lugging Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack around for at least five or six years now. We’ve covered it regularly at The Verge. And at any tech press event or conference, you’re guaranteed to see quite a few of them. I’ve stuck with the Everyday Backpack over the long haul largely out of familiarity; I’ve got my organization system down, and I instinctively know where everything goes among the bag’s many dividers and pockets. Peak Design’s anchor connectors are attached to all of my cameras and my keys. At this stage, it’d be an unnecessary hassle to start anew with a different backpack.
I wouldn’t say it’s the most comfortable bag I’ve worn — especially when it’s nearing maximum capacity and loaded with tech. But it’s versatile when I need it to be, and I still love having such quick side access to the main compartment. Plus, the waterproof exterior does an admirable job fending off even heavy rain so long as I’ve remembered to close everything up tightly.
I also appreciate the way Peak Design stands behind its products. The Everyday Backpack has a lifetime warranty that actually means something. After one of the zippers on my 30L V2 bag started giving me some trouble a few weeks ago, I stopped by the company’s SoHo retail store. Within 15 minutes, I walked out with a brand new Everyday Backpack free of charge. (And no, the employees didn’t know I’m a journalist.) If I were to really dive into the hunt for a new bag, I’m sure I could land upon several new contenders that I’d like just as much (or even better). Maybe I’ll do that eventually, but for now, I’ve got a new bag to break in. Familiarity counts for a lot with me.
A smaller Peak backpack
Antonio Di Benedetto, writer, commerce
I finally did it. I started using a more normal-sized backpack. One that’s big enough to carry a laptop, my average accessories, and a very selective amount of camera gear. I specifically chose the 15L size of the Peak Design Everyday Backpack Zip — as opposed to the massive 30L of the other Peak pack I used to tote around — to force myself to carry less. I have a tendency to bring way more gear than I end up really needing, and even though my naive subconscious still tries to pack in a camera and multiple lenses, this version of the Everyday Backpack Zip physically prevents me from going overboard.
It also helps that I really like the all-around zipper design of this Peak Design bag compared to the separated compartment access of its bigger sibling — though they’re obviously similar. While it’s taken a little adjustment to get used to a much smaller bag, I’ve made it work and been a little more thoughtful about what I’m carrying on the rare occasions I head into the city to go to our office. And once I figured out that I can still fit my Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch into this small-ish backpack by simply adjusting some dividers and packing in one of those handhelds vertically, I knew I had no regrets.
Tech bag choice fatigue made me buy this
When you’re into tech, you’ve gotta have the perfect tech bag for every situation. I’ve written about my desire to have a minimalist backpack that can carry most of my daily cables, chargers, and gadgets, as opposed to a complete-solution one that’s unreasonable to lug around everywhere in New York City.
My choices for a lightweight backpack were so high that I erased all of my research. Instead, I’ve found a bag that didn’t advertise itself as a tech bag at all and has a couple of features that I really like. I bought the Chrome Semantics Backpack, which, unfortunately, is now discontinued.
The Semantics has mesh pockets on the outside so that even my short arms can reach around and grab items like a water bottle without sliding the bag off my shoulder. It’s got one no-gimmicks zipper pocket on the upper back where I carry a multi-device charger and cables, and the interior has two can-sized separators where I can roll up some extra clothes or add a folded pair of headphones in a pouch. It also has a (not very padded) laptop compartment, some areas on the shoulder straps to add carabiners, and a chest strap that doesn’t seem to ever get in the way when not in use.
I’ll be very sad once this bag wears out — it’s already got tears on the mesh pockets from snags. Once it does, perhaps this Chrome Hondo bag would be the next closest thing I could get.
Repeating a classic
Kate Cox, senior producer, Decoder
It’s been roughly a thousand years since I was in high school, but I remember very clearly that pretty much every kid in my school had the same backpack: the classic L.L.Bean Deluxe Book Pack — big enough for 40 pounds of textbooks and a crushed lunch. I used to say that the company should film a commercial at the main entrance to our building, so many kids with that bag came pouring through every day. It only came in four colors back then — red, blue, green, and black — and so everyone had their initials embroidered on because otherwise, the odds of leaving the language lab with the wrong bag were pretty high.
I definitely don’t have to schlep school gear anymore — but I have kids who do. Luckily, there are way more colors to choose from now. Last year, my older child picked a floral pattern for her smaller version, with her initials embroidered on it in dark pink. My younger kid can choose his own pattern when he starts first grade next year, and while he’s welcome to pick the crocodiles or dinosaurs if he really wants to, I hope he picks something he won’t mind still using when he starts middle school because it’s an indestructible workhorse that should last at least that long if not longer.