Packing all your EDC gear into your pockets is difficult enough. Add your work materials into the mix, and you’re as likely to end up looking like a pack mule as a professional. This makes a work bag or case a necessity, but getting something that can keep everything you need and manage to avoid looking like a purse is a challenge as old as business. With textiles and men’s fashion finally catching up to the needs of the modern shark or business wolf on the prowl, you’ll be overrun with options when you start trying to select a professional satchel.
Picking a package for the tools of your toils is as personal as choosing your career itself. We wouldn’t presume to dictate what would be the best bag for you, but we do know something about the available options. There’s bags that will enhance your look, and add gravitas to your acumen, as well as several styles that will leave you looking like a bumpkin showing up to the board meeting with his rucksack. When you’re ready to get out of the bush leagues, one of the 8 best work bags for men will carry you and your gear onward and upward.
The modern messenger bag is the place that most guys start, and many guys end in the quest for the ideal case. They can come with as many pockets and divisions as you need, will almost always fit under the seat in front of you, and can be padded for hauling around whatever electronics you require. The messenger is identified by its customary over-the-top flap, which is usually locked down securely to reduce pickpocketing and keep your gear from spilling out. Typically covered with straps and handles galore, you can carry it in your fist or sling it over your shoulder, making it capable of going from business to casual as quickly as taking off your tie. You can’t usually go wrong with a messenger bag, unless the bottom isn’t reinforced. Then it’s a messy spill waiting to happen.
- Aer SF Duffel Pack ($150)
- Mission Workshop VX Sanction Rucksack ($285)
- Herschel Supply Co. Heritage Backpack ($59)
The bag of a thousand names, the backpack is also a rucksack, a student bag, or a book bag. Traditionally dropped for more formal bags once a true pro leaves his collegiate career behind, modern versions can be every bit as suave and slick as any item on this list. They can also be used as mobile filing cabinets, increasing their utility. Backpacks carry a long-term advantage that others lack: They distribute weight evenly. No matter how nice another style of bag looks, they almost all hang over one shoulder or must be hauled around in your hand, which will make you lopsided. OSHA and your maligned spine agree that having a backpack that puts the bulk of your supplies over your center of gravity is safer, and prevents injury better than anything else.
Briefcase / Attaché Case
- Killspencer Attache Briefcase ($375)
- Ernest Alexander Watson Wax Twill ($425)
- Want Les Essentiels Trudeau ($1,395)
The difference between a briefcase and attaché is mostly in the pronunciation these days. Traditionalists will argue that a briefcase has soft sides, while an attaché is the standard hard-sided lawyer’s luggage of choice. That line has been blurred in recent years, so whether you want to go soft or hard, you could end up with a case bearing either name on the tag. Typically carried by a single handle at the top, and bearing a more boxy, suitcase-esque build, even more than messenger bags, the briefcase is defined by being able to close tightly so that sensitive documents won’t slip free. Often bearing clasps with combination locks or complicated straps that weave through clips, security is the feature that is most notable about these cases, whatever you want to call them.
- Timbuk2 Commute Laptop Bag ($119)
- Whipping Post Vintage Messenger Bag ($295)
- Filson Briefcase Computer Bag ($345)
Laptop bags or general gadget bags can look like anything, with their major identifying mark being padding and organization. The more tiny thumb drive pockets and memory foam a bag has to help stash and protect its cargo, the more closely it resembles a laptop bag. Additional cord organizers, built-in batteries, and other bells and whistles are often added to laptop bags so that you can work harder, longer while carrying around your office like a Colombian donkey. Similar to briefcases, you’ll also find that true laptop bags opt for security features such as interwoven GPS, since they’re meant to safely let you take thousands of dollars worth of equipment out into the field. Water and weatherproofing are not uncommon on laptop bags. Like padding, the whole point is to allow your electronics to arrive alive.
- Herschel Supply Co. Novel ($79)
- Outdoor Research Rangefinder Duffel ($96)
- Head Porter Black Beauty ($329)
In the past, duffel bags were relegated to use by military personnel, or for guys who sweated for a living as personal trainers or sponsored cyclists. While there’s still plenty of options if those are your chosen vocations, the modern duffel is meant for the unorthodox workplace where you might be burning a few calories on a treadmill desk while you type up expense reports; or need to carry more gear to your outdoor presentation with a granola naturalist client. Toughness is generally the defining characteristic of any duffel, no matter how natty it looks, and they’re supposed to be with you for years. The expanded space and the high capacity for organization and customization have allowed duffel bags to make a resurgence as more than just places to put your body armor or sneakers.
Choosing a slingbag is all about speed and accessibility. Meant to fit in tight to your body and move as you do, the slingbag combines tactical utility with a style that takes the most functional parts of women’s handbags and leaves out the cute little clutch that matches your Manolo Blahnik shoes. Slings are often used to replace smaller waist bags for guys who don’t dig the reemergence of fanny pack culture, but still want a small, lightweight, tightly organized pouch for a few added accessories. Minimalists and bike commuters have also found that sling packs give them just enough space for the barest necessities, without the bulk of a bigger sack.
- 5.11 Tactical Rush Delivery Xray ($109)
- GoRuck GR1 Backpack ($295)
- Triple Aught Design Meridian Transport Case ($425)
The container into which all other bags may fit, tactical bags are exceptional for the workaday warrior out peddling wares in the trenches, hitting trade shows, or going into court. Tactical bags have become more popular for consumers as the life of the average person now requires an increasing number of technological accoutrements. Built with a place for everything, and everything in its place, having a well-organized tactical backpack, sling, or even a briefcase allows you to spend less time digging for a pen and more time hitting selling points. The efficiency of tactical gear is apparent in life-and-death situations, but it’s just as helpful for saving time, saving energy, and preventing mishaps during the average hectic day.
- DSPTCH Gym/Work Bag ($184)
- Oliver Spencer Leather-Trimmed Suede Holdall ($585)
- Hard Graft Double Take Holdall ($990)
When the European carryall came to the United States, it came with an ugly moniker: The Man Purse. Once it had been around a few years, being roundly mocked, many designers managed to flip the script and add more messenger or sling components to these bags. Built to be more of a “business casual” knapsack, these can operate equally well as weekender bags for overnight trips, or be fluffed out and locked down for taking along some technical gear. As the name implies, the carryall is meant to fill in all the cracks around other bags, becoming a repository for your workout clothes, a quick tote for a business lunch, or a dopp kit for crashing at a seedy motel when your private jet won’t be ready for wheels up until the next day. It’s the professional must-have for all “Just in case” scenarios.