To discover the best briefcases for all styles of dress and types of people, we experienced 19 bags over two years by walking, running, commuting, biking, and flying with them throughout our regular workdays. Though a briefcase won’t be as ergonomically responsive as a backpack or messenger bag, it is the most stylish option if you regularly wear a suit or blazer, and it’s a lot easier on your outfit’s shoulders. as no one briefcase will perfectly match every person’s wants, we’ve made recommendations that should work by many different looks, carrying needs, and budgets.
Who should find a briefcase
A briefcase projects a feeling that signifies you’re a professional in a serious field. And it’s at rest the gift people buy when their kid graduates from law school or finishes an MBA.
nearly, it’s a holdover from the days when most office jobs required more formal dress, so if you’re in an industry where you do wear a suit (or at least a jacket or coat) to work every day, a backpack or messenger bag will do a improved job of distributing the contents’ weight, saving your shoulder and spine from some grief.
You can differentiate a briefcase from a satchel or messenger bag in that it’s designed to be carried chiefly by a hand strap or handle. Carrying a bag by its shoulder strap can damage the shoulder of your coat, as it puts a large amount of pressure on the garment, which can crumple or obliterate the underlying structure. Although most modern briefcases come with shoulder straps, they’re meant for provisional use—while you’re running for the train, for instance—not for lugging about your entire office.
If you plan to get a briefcase, you’ll be happiest and most comfy if you keep in mind that these bags are designed for short trips among car, office, and boardroom, or for commuters who can travel light. If you attempt to load one up with a water bottle, your gym clothes, and a bunch of extras, you’ll be very displeased.
A chic choice with a smaller capacity: Knomo Hanover
Who this is for: Someone looking for a smooth and stylish bag—and who needs to carry only a light load.
Why it’s great: For a small briefcase the Knomo Hanover has an remarkable capacity. The light bag holds a 15-inch laptop, an e-reader, a notebook, a portable USB battery pack, pens, pencils, and some cables. Even when filled with all of this stuff, the bag keeps a thin profile that accentuates its striking detailing.
The water-resistant nylon external of the black model we tested features a leather accent band and golden zippers. This fashion pairs well with a more formal outfit—like a simple wool suit or black dress—or can be used to dress up a additional casual look.
The Hanover’s handles are very comfy to hold, especially if you have smaller hands. Even though they’re a little thin, they have rounded edges that won’t nibble into your hand. The bag also has a easy shoulder strap that lacks padding (which would be more of an issue if it was likely to overload this small bag).
At less than $200, the Hanover is one of the more reasonable briefcases we tested, and comes with a two-year repair and replacement guarantee. through our testing, the pull tab on one of the front zippers fell off. A representative of Knomo confirmed with us that anyone who had purchased the bag by means of this issue would simply have to send the bag back to the company to get a replacement.
The bag also comes with a unique Knomo ID, which allows the company to locate and track a lost registered bag. A couple of companies beyond Knomo and Tumi offer alike bag registrations—like Victoriana and Delsey—but it’s a alternative of manufacturers that do.
Pockets and organization: The Hanover is a small light on organization. It has a single main middle zippered compartment that has a divider to stay your laptop secure and separate from the rest of your things. On the outside, there is a tinny closure that opens to a flat pocket for a few documents, cables, or pens. It also has two zippered pockets with RFID protection in the front, sized for a passport or little electronic device.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: We like the aesthetics of the Hanover, except they might clash with your personal style, especially if you tend to dress more carelessly. And while this bag has a good capacity for how little it is, once you hit that capacity adding anything more makes it look bulgy and misshapen—and the thin handles aren’t intended for heavy weights. We don’t advocate a briefcase for anyone who tends to overpack; this bag in particular has almost no flexibility to lodge extras.
For instance, if you pack carefully and strategically, it’s likely to pack an umbrella in the bottom bucket of the main pocket, but it’ll be at the expense of the bag’s slim silhouette. one time you’ve packed a laptop, a notebook, something to read, and wireless cherger for your workday, you might locate it challenging to add even a small snack to the Hanover.
- Size and weight: 11 by 14.5 by 2.5 inches; 1 pound, 8 ounces
- Colors: black (both 14- and 15-inch sizes), cherry, gray, off-white (planned by the manufacturer as Canvas, which is a dissimilar fabric from the one we tested)
A more organized but less fashionable small bag: Incase Reform 15? Brief with Tensaerlite
Who this is for: Someone who needs a light and slim briefcase, but prioritizes affordable and well-organized over chic and fashionable.
Why it’s great: Of all the reasonable bags we looked at, the Incase Reform 15? Brief with Tensaerlite was the most impressive. It’s a slim bag with a well-designed interior layout that holds much more than it might appear. happily, the bag is comfortable to wear even when packed to the brim. This is due mainly to the bag’s 300-weight polyester fabric exterior, which won’t oppose abrasion as well as nylon or waxed canvas, but feels light and soft.
It’s also obliging that both the bag’s shoulder bag and handle are padded, making it more comfortable for long days than other small briefcases we’ve looked at, particularly if you overpack. You’ll have no trouble carrying this bag in either deal.
Pockets and organization: Incase has a reputation for excellent interior layouts, and that holds true for the Reform. This bag has a dedicated hard-shell inside case for your laptop that shuts with a magnetic-closure flap, and it can open to lie flat for TSA compliance. The second sector has more pockets in one place than any of the other bags we looked at—a strip of nine in dissimilar sizes and shapes, one of which has a Velcro closure.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: though the shoulder strap is comfortable, it attaches to the top corners of the bag rather than the sides; such a plan is okay most of the time, but the zipper track deforms if the bag is heavily loaded, making it tricky to close. The Reform’s design reads “techie” rather than “stylish”—while it’s not a bad-looking bag, it may seem out of place in a more formal office environment. Incase offers a slight one-year warranty, so you shouldn’t expect this bag to last as extended as the Tumi Alpha 2 T-Pass or the Stuart & Lau—but at its price, that’s no surprise.
- Size and weight: 11.5 by 15 by 2.5 inches; 1 pound, 10 ounces
- Colors: heather black, heather gray, black, nylon black (which uses a dissimilar tougher exterior fabric than the model we reviewed)
A clean-looking leather briefcase: Fossil Haskell Double Zip Briefcase
Why it’s great: The Fossil Haskell Double Zip Briefcase packs all of your basics and stays comfortable to carry. The sleek bag holds a 15-inch laptop, a tablet or paperback book, a separate e-reader, a notebook, an umbrella, a USB battery pack, 3D pens, pencils, and all related charging cables with further room to spare. except even when it’s full, the Haskell maintains its silhouette, because its canopy is separated into two zippered sections that encourage organized packing.
Though it’s made of leather, the Haskell is comparatively lightweight, barely more than 2½ pounds, considerably less than any other leather bag we looked at. It’s comfy to carry with either the soft leather handle or the shoulder strap.
Pockets and organization: The Haskell’s two zippered pockets are well planned: One of them has a 15-inch laptop sleeve and a well-built canopy; the other pocket features a few smaller sleeves for slim books, e-readers, or incidental cables.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Fossil isn’t likely to turn heads or draw notice to itself with its understated aesthetics. And its leather handle is a slight more rigid than that on many of the other bags we considered. We suppose that it will soften with a bit more use, but the existence of a break-in period is a tad annoying. unluckily, the bag has only a limited, one-year warranty that covers “defects in material or workmanship.”
- Size and weight: 13 by 16 by 3.5 inches; 2 pounds, 10 ounces
- Color: brown
How we picked and tested
We assembled a list of more than 50 briefcases from manufacturers that were either awfully well-known or respected (such as Jack Spade, L.L.Bean, and Tumi) or smaller boutique brands with tough editorial and customer reviews. though, since briefcases serve more as status symbols than, say, backpacks and messenger bags, and as they tend to be popular among higher-income professions, they carry price tags to match.
By that in mind, we set our price ceiling to $500—not for everybody, but to allow for bags ranging from the sensibly affordable to the approachably aspirational. You can find well-known brands whose whole product lines sit above that ceiling, but we’ve seen sufficient great bags for less than $500 to be confident that spending more than that is more of a style option than something we can test for pure utility—chances are, you’ll get a little good.
We required bags that were large enough to hold a 13-inch laptop along with an e-reader, a book, a notebook, an umbrella, pens, a USB battery pack, a pair of headphones, and associated charging cables—except weren’t more than 5 inches thick. Anything larger than that would be too tempting to load up with too many extras (lunch, gym clothes, and the like) and would be irrationally heavy when full.
We then pointed the list down to 19 bags based on specifications, aesthetics, materials, and a variety of prices, four of which we were able to dismiss out of hand when we inward them. We loaded the remaining bags with the above-mentioned gear and carried them as walking for anywhere between 30 minutes and four hours, alternating among the top handle and the carry strap.
Timbuk2 Smith Briefcase: We were underwhelmed by Timbuk2’s follow-up to our earlier top pick, the Hudson Briefcase. while it features a similar number of internal pockets and we appreciate the inclusion of a zippered pocket for a water bottle or thermos, the waxed canvas bag’s lack of internal formation and rugged, bulky design would make it look out of place in a more formal office setting. Plus, neither its handle nor its shoulder strap are mostly comfy to carry—the shoulder strap has no padding whatsoever.
Timbuk2 Transit Briefcase: It’s true that briefcases are hypothetical to be slim, but this relatively new offering from the manufacturer of our earlier top pick is too slim for its own good. We struggled to fit anything away from a laptop and a tablet in its single compartment. If you only want to carry a laptop and its charger, this bag strength work, but we don’t think you should spend this much money on a glorified laptop folder with a strap.
Timbuk2 Hudson Laptop Briefcase 2015: This briefcase was our earlier top pick in this guide. We refreshing its high capacity, robust organizational system, how comfortable it was, and that it could be simply dressed up or down. Unfortunately, Timbuk2 has informed us that the Hudson is being discontinued. but you can still find it, it’s a good briefcase, but we expect that it will soon become hard to track down.
Bellroy Classic Brief: We pleasing the robust interior organization system of this briefcase, which we experienced in early 2019, but found that its shoulder strap and handle were painful. The bag also lost its clean, rectangular shape when loaded with our daily work essentials—its lack of external formation allows it to balloon if full. If you want a briefcase with a similar look and price, we believe the InCase Reform is a better option.
Bellroy Slim Work Bag: The Bellroy’s canvas outside seemed hearty, and it appeared to have decent organization. unluckily, once we began testing the Slim Work Bag we missed the structure and relieve of the other bags we reviewed. After adding only a few items, this bag took on a balloonlike shape that made it a modest unappealing to lug around. We believe you’d be better served by our other options.
Topo Commuter Briefcase: in spite of this bag’s name, it has backpack straps that add unnecessary bulk and make it harder to carry at your side. And although we appreciate the bag’s playful colorway, it’s a little bit too thick to supply as a good briefcase.
Knomo Blake: This canvas bag has outstanding organization and was extremely comfortable to carry with its handles. But its shoulder straps connect to the spots in the middle of the bag, rather than the ends. This is a little problem, but one that makes the Blake a bit harder to put on and take off and less comfy to carry over your shoulder, especially since the strap is light on padding.
Jack Spade Waxwear Commuter Brief: If you plan to take only the bare least of gear with you on short trips, we once consideration this bag was an excellent option—it’s still the most refined and minimalist of the canvas bags we’ve careful .Unfortunately, it’s constantly discontinued and revitalized and doesn’t have a particularly good warranty. We think you’d be improved served by one of our other picks.