The Best Briefcases

(However, it will not be as ergonomically friendly as a forklift for heavy loads.) A briefcase can help you get into the work mindset, even if your commute to work these days is from your bed to the kitchen table. (For the time being, you can just use it to put your laptop in when it’s time to eat.) A briefcase is a stylish and professional way to carry your belongings to an office. backpack or messenger bag.) Over the last three years, we’ve put 25 briefcases to the test, loading them up and then walking, running, commuting, biking, and flying with them. These six should suit a wide range of carrying needs, styles, and budgets.

Who should get a briefcase

Unless you work in an industry that requires you to wear a suit jacket, consider investing in a blazer. A briefcase is often associated with professionalism, and it’s still a popular gift for law school or MBA graduates. In practice, it’s a holdover from the days when more-formal attire was required for office jobs. backpack or a messenger bag, both of which will distribute the weight of their contents more evenly, saving your shoulders and spine some pain.

A briefcase is distinguished from other bags by the fact that it is designed to be carried primarily by hand strap or handle. Although most modern briefcases have shoulder straps, they’re designed for temporary use—for example, when you’re running for the train—not for lugging around your entire office. Carrying a bag by its shoulder strap can cause damage to your coat’s shoulder because it puts a lot of pressure on it, which can crumple or destroy the underlying structure.

A briefcase strap resting on a jacketed shoulder.
A shoulder strap puts pressure on the shoulder of your coat, which can damage the structure of the garment.Photo: Tim Barribeau

You’ll be disappointed if you try to stuff one with a water bottle, your gym clothes, and a hardback novel. If you’re considering purchasing a briefcase, keep in mind that these bags are intended for short trips between the car, office, and boardroom, or for commuters who travel light.

Single Briefcase by Stuart & Lau Cary The best all-around large briefcase is:

A blue briefcase with tan leather straps and handles being held by one of the writers.
Photo: Michael Hession

Our pick

An all-purpose case that holds a lot

The Cary is a stylish bag that is easy to wear, has a large capacity, and can be dressed up or down.

Buying Options

Who this is for: Someone who requires a stylish briefcase with plenty of storage that can be worn with nearly any outfit, from a suit to jeans and a bomber jacket.

Why it’s great: The Stuart & Lau Cary Single Briefcase provides an unrivaled blend of style, capacity, and comfort. The bag’s aesthetic flexibility comes from the combination of nylon and leather. The Cary’s fully waterproof exterior, despite being made of nylon, looks more luxurious than utilitarian thanks to the refined leather handles, straps, and detailing. The Cary will go with any outfit, whether it’s a pinstripe navy suit or a pair of dark jeans and a printed button-up shirt. In 2019, the Single bag was updated and renamed after the original bag we tested in 2018.

Even if you fill the bag to capacity (the Cary fits a laptop, an e-reader, a notebook, a pair of over-ear headphones, an umbrella, a portable USB charger, several charging cables, and a pen and pencil, and still has room for more), the shoulder strap is padded enough that you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable carrying it. Even before it’s broken in, the Cary’s leather handle is soft and comfortable to hold and won’t irritate your skin.

An umbrella tucked into the tan straps of the Cary briefcase.
Special straps on the Cary allow you to tuck cylindrical objects like an umbrella or a newspaper away.Photo: Michael Hession

Furthermore, all Stuart & Lau bags are backed by a lifetime guarantee. A magnetic dock for keys and a sleeve that slides over a rolling suitcase’s handle for easier travel are among the bag’s many extras. lifetime limited warranty against manufacturer’s defects.

Pockets and organization:The Cary has enough pockets and sleeves to hold everything you’ll need for a full day at work—and then some. The bag has leather straps on the front through which you can slide an umbrella and a few pockets for small items. A lightly padded 15-inch laptop sleeve, four small pockets (one sized to fit a paperback book or an e-reader), a narrow pocket for pens and pencils, and two zippered mesh pockets are all found inside the main zippered compartment. The Cary has a large sleeve with a magnetic closure on the back, as well as an easy-to-access but discreet zippered pouch for your phone.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Its large capacity may tempt you to stuff it with anything you can think of—clothes, lunches, textbooks, etc. The Cary’s well-organized structure can feel like too much of a good thing at times. This is a problem with all briefcases of this size, though. This may appear to be a more efficient use of space, but it will only make walking around with the already heavy Cary more difficult. You should have no trouble holding the briefcase by its handles as long as you’re aware of what you’re packing.

Size and weight: 3 pounds, 3 ounces; 12 by 16 by 3.9 inches

Colors: navy/tan, navy/black, olive/black, black/black, brown/dark brown, brown/tan, navy/dark brown, navy/dark brown, navy/dark brown, navy/dark brown, navy/dark brown, navy/d

Best small, inexpensive briefcase: Knomo Princeton

The Knomo Princeton briefcase
Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Budget pick

A stylish briefcase for less

The Knomo Princeton is a good choice for light loads if you don’t want to spend a lot of money and want a small bag with a nice layout.

Buying Options

Who this is for: Someone looking for a lightweight, slim briefcase with a good balance of organization and style at a low cost.

Why it’s great: The well-priced Knomo Princeton It has a well-designed layout that holds more than its size and shape would suggest. The bag’s appearance is unaffected by its organizational capabilities: It’s almost as slim as the smaller version. is our go-to slim briefcase for lugging around small items. Knomo Hanover (An identical, but dressier—and more expensive—case) we likedDespite the fact that the Princeton’s removable strap is unpadded, it was still a comfortable bag to carry.

Although its polyester exterior does not withstand abrasion as well as nylon or waxed canvas, it felt light, soft, and comfortable in our testing—even if you have a habit of overpacking. The Princeton’s herringbone pattern and leather accents set it apart from the other budget-friendly bags we tested.

The Princeton also includes a unique Knomo ID, which allows the company to locate and track a lost registered bag—a feature that only a few manufacturers provide. The Knomo Princeton is one of the most affordable briefcases we tested, and it comes with a two-year guarantee on repairs and replacements. During our testing, we spoke with a Knomo representative, who confirmed that any defective bag would be replaced at no cost to the company.

The Knomo Princeton isn’t big, but it has a clever layout that allows it to hold enough.Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Pockets and organization: A front pouch with one large, two medium, and three small pockets, as well as pen pockets, is zippered. There’s also a larger zippered compartment with folds that can fit your 15-inch laptop or iPad, as well as two medium-size pockets for your favorite items. There are two large compartments in the Knomo Princeton. power banksA second outer pocket on the back of the Princeton bag holds a wallet or passport.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The shoulder strap is adequate in terms of comfort, but there is no padding to cushion your shoulder. Knomo only has a few options. two-year warranty(as well as the Hanover) for the Princeton. At this price, you shouldn’t expect the Princeton to last as long as the other briefcases we recommend.

Size and weight: 2 pounds, 3 ounces; 11.4 by 16.1 by 3 inches

Colors: black, gray

Best tough briefcase: Filson Original Briefcase

A person shown sitting on a set of stairs outside, while holding the Filson Original Briefcase
Photo: Tim Barribeau

Our pick

Not as dressy, but bombproof

The Filson has less structure than other briefcases, but it has a rugged appeal and comes with a lifetime wear and tear warranty.

Buying Options

*The price was $260 at the time of publication.

Who this is for: Someone looking for a durable briefcase for a casual setting.

Why it’s great: Filson has long been associated with rugged, high-quality items, and the Filson Original BriefcaseThis bag is water-resistant and has a storm flap to protect your laptop from getting wet. is a part of that history. Its straps are made of bridle leather, which is created by treating the leather with chemicals. Although it’s on the more casual end of the briefcase spectrum, it’s still good-looking enough—with a certain rustic charm—to go with a tweed coat or blazer. oils and then wax on both sides; this creates a stiffer leather that takes longer to break in That, on the other hand, is smooth, hard-wearing, and traditionally has a darker color.

Filson’s lifetime warrantyCovers normal wear and tear, so if anything goes wrong with the bag—even if it’s been used a lot—the company will pay for repair or replacement. The internet is a powerful tool. littered with stories of people’s excellent interactions with Filson repairs.

Pockets and organization:The Filson Original has two full-length laptop or folder pockets inside the main section, as well as a series of smaller internal pockets for miscellaneous items. It also has a large outer pocket on both sides for tucking in small flat items like newspapers.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: However, you can make that decision based on the occasion and location. With its massive metal fixtures and thick, waxed-canvas exterior, the Filson Original may be too rugged and casual for more formal occasions.

We’ve heard of people returning their bags because they were unable to use them. You can feel the high quality of the leather strap and handles as soon as you pick it up, but they’re also extremely stiff and can hurt when carrying heavier loads. This leather will soften and become more comfortable to hold as it ages, but it will initially feel rough on your hands. ermThe shoulder strap is also quite long: , take care of it. Even at its shortest length, a 5-foot-2 tester found it too long for her. Fortunately, because the strap and buckle are made of leather, you can easily add more holes to customize the length.

There are no closures on any of the internal pockets, and if you’ve ever upended an open bag, you know how useful a snap or zip can be. This briefcase is also difficult to attach to a roller bag, so frequent flyers might prefer a bag like the. Stuart & Lau Cary Single Briefcase.

Size and weight: 3 pounds, 6 ounces; 13 by 16 by 312 inches

Colors: tan, olive, black

For daily use, the most refined leather briefcase is: Palissy, Carl Friedrik

The Carl Friedrik Palkissy
Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Upgrade pick

A gorgeous leather investment piece

The Carl Friedrik Palissy will handle day-to-day loads with unrivaled sophistication if you’re looking to invest in a beautiful leather bag that will develop a lovely patina over time.

Buying Options

Who is this for: Someone looking for a refined leather briefcase that looks as good as bags costing thousands of dollars in a formal or business setting.

Why it’s great: The Carl Friedrik PalissyThe Palissy also has a unique design that makes loading and unloading a breeze, with zippers running the length of three of its sides (the front, back, and sides). For a more formal office, this is a functional and beautiful briefcase. It’s sturdy and well-made, with feet that add stability and elevate the bottom off the ground. The Palissy’s symmetrical design and smooth, deep tone of leather immediately stood out during testing. LinjerAnd instead of sticking straight up like rabbit ears when you set this bag down, its comfortable handles fall to the side. This makes it a little more difficult to sweep up the Palissy in one motion, but it also makes it look more elegant and neat when not in use. , which resembles the Palissy the most but only has a zipped opening across the top).

This bag lacks the bulky pockets and softness of other bags. It’ll also look great with a pair of jeans if you like to mix high and low. The Palissy is a distinguished bag that goes well with a suit. the more-casual Fossil bagWe also suggest. In some cases, such as the Linjer and Fossil models we tested, chrome-tanned leather is used, which is softer and more forgiving. The Palissy is made of vegetable-tanned leather, which is tougher and more prone to scratches, but also develops a pleasing patina over time.

For an additional $35, you can personalize the bag with your initials (either inside the main compartment or on the shoulder strap). The Palissy is also available in a variety of colors and with two different linings, so you can show off your unique style wherever you go. These are two excellent features that other leather briefcases in this price range lack. The handles on this briefcase are firm but not uncomfortable, and they didn’t pinch our hands. You can also add a pass-through attachment for an extra $65 to secure the bag to luggage.

Other minimalist briefcases we tested had an overly soft structure, a limited zip, or uneven leather, but the Palissy delivers in all of these areas for less than $600. Given everything the Palissy has to offer, we believe it is a reasonably priced bag—even if it isn’t cheap. Its quality and style, in our opinion, are comparable to other bags costing hundreds of dollars more. You’d have to spend a lot more money on brands like The Palissy’s price is easier to swallow thanks to its precise stitching, firm structure, wide zipper pattern, comfortable handles, customization options, and attractive leather. Berluti, Mulberry, or BurberryCarl Friedrik makes a suggestion. , to see what kind of style and extras the Palissy comes with. lifetime warranty that covers repairs or replacements for functional damages.

There is only one storage compartment in the Palissy bag. However, the briefcase zips all the way down on both sides, making it simple to open and close. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Pockets and organization: The Palissy has fewer organizational features than the other briefcases we tested, with only one main storage pocket that zips all the way down on both sides for easy loading and unloading. It also has two pen pockets and a small external pocket that isn’t much use for anything other than your keys or an office key card. A large laptop sleeve, a medium zippered sleeve, and three smaller, open pockets for accessories like a small battery pack, phone, or stack of business cards are all included on the inside. Because the pocket is flat but deep, you may have to reach into it with your entire hand to retrieve anything.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Carl Friedrik Palissy is a small bag with limited organizational features. You won’t be able to fit much more than a laptop, a tablet, and a few extra accessories in it.

Size and weight: 3 pounds, 2 ounces; 11.7 by 15.4 by 2.4 inches

Colors: Cognac, chocolate, navy, and black with a gray or orange lining are all options.

Vallance, Carl Friedrik For light loads, the best minimal leather briefcase is:

The Carl Friedrik Vallance
Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Our pick

More minimal, more gorgeous

However, it will look fantastic on your arm. The Carl Friedrik Vallance is a sleek leather briefcase that won’t hold much more than a laptop if you’re on a budget.

Buying Options

Who is this for: Those looking for a slim leather briefcase that is less practical but more beautiful than the Carl Friedrik Palissy bag for a few hundred dollars less.

Why it’s great: The Carl Friedrik Vallance is, in a word, chic. Whereas the Palissy As long as you’re carrying only the essentials—a laptop, your wallet, and a road map for your glamorous, wind-swept road trip along the coast—the Vallance looks pristine and is easy to open and close. It also stands tall without any support due to its tough sides. The handles on the Vallance only touch the top of the bag, rather than the heavier-duty straps that line the sides of the Palissy briefcase. The Vallance is made of vegetable-tanned leather, just like the Palissy bag, and we expect it to look just as good with a blazer as it does with a puffy jacket. Carl Friedrik proposes a Vallance for the Vallance. The Palissy also has a longer zipper than the Vallance, which only zips across the top. The Vallance could be marketed by its spotlessness, which uses clean lines and symmetry to sell itself. lifetime warranty that covers repairs or replacements for functional damages.

The handles on the Vallance are attached to the top of the bag, and the zipper ends just short of the sides. This bag won’t hold as much or open as wide as some of our favorite briefcases. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Pockets:The Vallance has one full-length laptop pocket (a 15-inch laptop can fit in the center of the briefcase, as shown above), two pen pockets, and two medium-size pockets. There’s also a small pocket on the outside of the briefcase for items like a wallet or a passport that you’ll want to grab quickly.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: In addition, this bag lacks a shoulder strap. But, if the size and zipper opening of the Vallance are any indication, we don’t think you’ll be carrying as much, that’s less of a concern. Although the Vallance’s shorter zipper does not open as wide as the zippers on other briefcases we recommend, it does contribute to the bag’s slim and sleek appearance.

Size and weight: 1 pound, 13 ounces; 11 by 15.4 by 2.6 inches

Colors: Cognac, chocolate, and black with a gray or red lining are all options.

Fossil Haskell Double Zip Briefcase is the best low-cost leather briefcase.

The brown Fossil briefcase hanging form it's strap on the shoulder of one of our writers.
Photo: Michael Hession

Our pick

A workhorse leather bag

This plain-looking leather case has a large capacity and plenty of organization, and it’s much lighter than other leather bags of similar size.

Buying Options

*The price was $300 at the time of publication.

Who this is for: Someone who wants a lightweight, high-capacity leather bag with a simple design.

Why it’s great: The Fossil Haskell Double Zip BriefcaseThe Haskell’s canopy is divided into two zippered sections that encourage organized packing, so even when it’s full, it maintains its silhouette. Despite being made of leather, the Haskell is relatively light: it weighs just over 212 pounds, which is significantly less than any other leather bag we looked at. will be able to hold all of your essentials while remaining comfortable to carry. With plenty of room to spare, the leather bag can fit a 15-inch laptop, a tablet or paperback book, a separate e-reader, a notebook, an umbrella, a USB battery pack, pens, pencils, and all necessary charging cables. With either the soft leather handle or the shoulder strap, it’s easy to carry.

The Haskell’s double-zip design aids in keeping your belongings organized. Photo: Michael Hession

Pockets and organization: The Haskell has two zippered pockets, one with a 15-inch laptop sleeve and a larger canopy, and the other with a few smaller sleeves for slim books, e-readers, or incidental cables.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The leather handle on this bag is also a little more rigid than the handles on many of the other bags we looked at. Regrettably, the bag only has The Fossil’s understated aesthetics aren’t likely to turn heads or attract attention. We expect this handle to soften with more use, but the fact that it requires a break-in period is a little irritating. a limited, one-year warranty that covers “defects in material or workmanship.”

Size and weight: 2 pounds, 10 ounces; 13 by 16 by 312 inches

Color: brown

How we picked and tested

You can locate Briefcases are more expensive than backpacks and messenger bags because they serve as status symbols. They are also more popular among those in higher-paying professions. With this in mind, we set the price ceiling at $600 to allow for bags ranging from reasonably priced to aspirationally accessible. We compiled a list of over 70 briefcases from brands that were either well-known and well-respected (like Jack Spade, L.L.Bean, and Tumi) or smaller boutique brands with positive editorial and customer reviews (like Carl Friedrik, Linjer, and Custom Hide). well-known brands whose entire product lines are priced above that limit, but we’ve seen enough great bags for under $600 to know that spending more than that is more of a fashion statement.

A person shown in motion, running while holding a briefcase.
The “Can I Catch That Bus” test.Photo: Tim Barribeau

We looked for bags that were less than 5 inches thick and could fit a 13-inch laptop, an e-reader, a book, a notebook, an umbrella, pens, a USB battery pack, a pair of headphones, and their charging cables. Larger bags tempt you to pack too many extras (like your lunch or gym clothes), and they can become unreasonably heavy when fully loaded.

A 2017 Macbook Pro, charger, headphones, a mobile battery pack, two charge cords, an external trackpad, a book, notebook with pencils, and a travel umbrella.
The ten items we stuffed into each briefcase we tested are listed below.Photo: Michael Hession

We then reduced the list to 25 bags based on specifications, aesthetics, materials, and price; we were able to dismiss some of the bags outright when they arrived. We packed the remaining bags with the aforementioned items and walked with them for anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours, alternating between using the top handle and the carry strap as needed.

The competition

All-purpose briefcases

We were underwhelmed by the Timbuk2 Smith Briefcase, compared with the Stuart & Lau Cary Single Briefcase Though the Smith has a similar number of internal pockets and a zippered pocket for a water bottle or thermos, the waxed canvas bag’s lack of internal structure and rugged, bulky design would look out of place in a more formal office setting. Furthermore, neither the handle nor the shoulder strap are particularly comfortable (the shoulder strap is completely devoid of padding). We suggest it.

Despite the name of the Topo Commuter BriefcaseAnd, while we like the colors, the bag is a little too thick to be useful as a briefcase. It has backpack straps, which add bulk and make it difficult to carry at your side.

The Bellroy Slim Work BagUnfortunately, once we started testing, it became clear that the other bags we looked at had better structure and comfort than this one. The Slim Work Bag took on a balloon-like shape after only a few items were added, making it unappealing to carry around. ‘s canvas exterior appeared to be sturdy, and it appeared to be well-organized. Our other options, we believe, would be better for you.

The Timbuk2 Hudson Laptop Briefcase 2015was the previous winner of this guide’s top prize. It’s a good briefcase if you can still find it. However, we anticipate that tracking it down will become increasingly difficult. Regrettably, Timbuk2 has informed us that the Hudson will be phased out. We liked how spacious it was and how well organized it was, as well as how comfortable it was and how easily it could be dressed up or down.

Budget briefcases

Okay, the Amazon Basics 15.6-Inch Laptop Shoulder Bagis low-cost. The AmazonBasics’ handles were uncomfortable to wear, and the material felt scratchy, despite its reasonable price and size. Wait until you have the money to buy one of our more expensive—and higher-quality—recommendations if you want a briefcase that will stand the test of time and troubles. Over the course of the month that we tested it, some of the seams came undone. That’s all there is to it; that’s the hook.

We admired the company’s well-organized internal structure. Bellroy Classic Brief If you’re looking for a briefcase with a similar appearance and price, we recommend the When loaded with our daily work essentials, the bag also lost its clean, rectangular shape—the lack of external structure caused it to balloon when full. We liked the bag, but the shoulder strap and handle were uncomfortable. Knomo Princeton is a better option.

Even though we enjoy the previously recommended Knomo HanoverOur current budget recommendation, the Knomo Princeton, offers a similar vibe for around $40 less, thanks to its upscale aesthetics and small-but-comfortable size. Despite the fact that both bags are lacking in organization, the Princeton manages to walk the line between swanky and casual with greater ease than the Hanover, which is more likely to clash with a more casual look.

Leather briefcases

We love the minimal, chrome-tanned leather of the despite its ongoing stock issues. Linjer Soft Briefcase. But it didn’t hold up against the Carl Friedrik PalissyIt’s a lovely bag, but we prefer the It also lacks the same level of customization as the Palissy; the Linjer comes in fewer colors, you can’t customize the detailing, and you can’t add a pass-through for attaching to the handle of a carry-on bag. : The Linjer didn’t open as wide and had fewer organizational pockets. (The Linjer, however, has a larger interior.) Carl Friedrik Palissy briefcase instead.

The Frank Clegg Leather Computer Briefcase On the outside, it felt buttery-smooth—and that isn’t PR speak. actuallyIt collapses onto itself as soon as it touches the floor and you remove any belongings from it. It has a supple and soft feel to it. The Massachusetts-made briefcase, on the other hand, lacks an inner lining and was not designed to stand alone. Even though this bag appears to be luxurious, the Frank Clegg is a pain to set up on a regular basis. If you don’t mind, this is a lovely briefcase that comes in a variety of colors and is made in the United States. This makes loading and unloading a chore.

The Custom Hide Organizer Laptop Briefcase, a previous pick, is a high-quality, traditional leather bag with a lower price than many other bag manufacturers charge—and the Custom Hide bag comes with an additional bonus. impressive lifetime warrantyWe just don’t think the Custom Hide bag is designed to be carried for a long period of time; getting from your car to the office will be more difficult than if you used one of our other leather bags. It was, however, the heaviest bag we tested, weighing 4 pounds, 3 ounces empty. This bag will be extremely heavy once you’ve loaded it with all of your belongings. .. However, if you’re looking for a classic-looking briefcase, this is the one to go with.

About your guides

Tim Barribeau

Tim Barribeau

Tim Barribeau is the editor in charge of pet and carry coverage (which includes anything you might take with you on your way to work). He’s been with Wirecutter since 2012, and he used to be the editor of our cameras section. He’s a man with too many hobbies, and he’s currently engrossed in leatherwork, and if you ask nicely, he might make you a wallet.

Daniel Varghese

Daniel Varghese

Justin Krajeski

Justin Krajeski

Every day, he transports items. He previously worked at Wirecutter, where he wrote about technology. He’s an expert in the field of carrying. Justin Krajeski is a Wirecutter staff writer who covers everyday carry.