This might be our new favourite commuter backpack

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There’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Incase by now, but that’s probably more likely to be because of their laptop and phone cases than by way of any of their other products. Which, by the looks of it, could very well be changing in the near future.

The company recently released their newest take on the backpack with the ICON Lite, and sent a few to our team to test out.

Let me begin by saying that as a student with an hour-long commute to and from work, I’ve spent much of the last four years in a backpack, regardless of whether or not I wanted to. I need to carry my books, pens, and tech for class alongside my work materials, and maybe a pair of sneakers and some clothes to change into for the gym. When I leave my house in the morning, it’s likely to be for the full day.

The problem with many backpacks is that it’s seemingly impossible to combine functional spaciousness with a design that doesn’t undercut itself by being bulky. Wearing a backpack can already feel less sophisticated in professional settings, and a sophisticated design goes a long way with me and my efforts to convey a qualified persona.

So I was really pleasantly surprised by the ICON Lite. It was designed to communicate refined mobility, simplicity, and a weightless appearance.

The design is definitely minimal, but for my purposes, the less flashy the better. And though minimal, I can’t say that the simple design lacks any forethought, since one of my favourite features is a convenient built-in faux-fur padded MacBook sleeve, as well as a smaller faux-fur pocket for any smaller tech. There aren’t bells, whistles, or lone rhinestones, but the basics that you’re actually looking for have been thoughtfully perfected with sleek compression in mind.

The pack itself is compact and slender, but holds everything my (much bigger) model did before it. I was able to transfer the same 13-inch MacBook, 1-litre water bottle, change of clothes, notebooks, chargers, pens, and sneakers to the ICON Lite for a humorously minimized silhouette. I don’t feel the same pressure to immediately take it off when I’m commuting on public transportation, and I’ve been able to easily stuff it under my desk during class.

When I was using my other backpack, I often ended the day feeling sore and achy, but due to the well-placed padding on the ICON, I haven’t had any noticeable discomfort in the last two weeks.

The backpack is listed at $A130, a comfortable price range in comparison with like products. And though it’s not always the most exciting thing to drop $A130 on, it will make small, hyper-useful improvements to your life as a student, commuter, or someone who just likes to ride their bike to work from the first day on.

I used to think I couldn’t have a backpack that was affordable, sleek, and spacious, and after using the ICON Lite for a few weeks, I’m a little concerned about all the other things I’m apparently wrong about. It’s compact, comfortable, and minimal.

So in terms of what most users are looking for, it’s pretty much right on the money.

You can read what the rest of the Insider Picks team had to say about Incase’s ICON Lite backpack below:

Breton Fischetti, senior director, commerce:

This is a great daily use backpack. It’s a good size in that it would be easy to manoeuvre around in crowded areas or tuck under a table at a restaurant. It holds a surprising amount of stuff, and I like that several pockets are fleece-lined to prevent things from scratching if I put my keys and phone in the same pocket (which I do all the time).

The straps are comfortable, and there’s just enough ventilation in the pads that touch my back to keep it from getting too hot. It definitely wins more points for function than design, but I like a backpack that looks minimal. The fewer people that notice that I’m wearing one, the better — and this blends in nicely.

Brandt Ranj, associate commerce editor:

I’ve always associated Incase with smartphone accessories, but I have to say they have actually made a very nice backpack.

It’s small enough to be commute-friendly, but large enough to hold more than just your daily essentials. I could easily fit a 13-inch laptop, water bottle, a couple of books, pens, cables, and headphones in the backpack with no problem.

My favourite part about this backpack, though, is how comfortable it is to wear; the shoulder straps have a nice layer of uniform padding, so you won’t ache after wearing it for an extended period of time. I’m also a fan of this backpack’s laptop slot, which is lined with a velvety-soft material that will keep your laptop free from scratching. That’s a small touch, but it shows that Incase put some extra time into their design. If your current school or commuting pack is looking a little long in the tooth, I highly suggest giving Incase’s serious consideration.

Tyler Lauletta, commerce reporter:

I’m a big believer in having a reliable backpack to get you to and from work — it’s an item worth investing in because, chances are, you’ll be trusting it to keep some of your most valuable possessions safe and secure. Incase’s backpack is a fantastic commuter backpack, with its soft and secure laptop sleeve immediately grabbing my attention. Beyond that, it has plenty of space for your odds and ends, whether they be books, art supplies, or a spare change of clothes. While I will probably continue using my Aer backpack for travel and long weekends, Incase’s is a great option if you’re looking for something sleek, simple, and secure.

Kelsey Mulvey, commerce reporter:

I’ve never been much of a backpack person, but toting around Incase’s slim backpack has turned me into a believer. It’s incredibly spacious, fitting my laptop, gym clothes, sneakers, and all my other daily essentials without it looking clunky. If you’re a student or bring your computer to work each day, this pack also features a heavily padded laptop compartment. While I always carry my laptop in a case, this slot is so well-made I would feel safe slipping my bare computer inside it. Available in a bunch of great colours, it’s is easy on the eyes, too.

If you want to try out Incase’s ICON Lite backpack for yourself, you can find your own here.

More from Insider Picks:

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