How to Pack Your Commuter Bag (or Bags) For The Work Day

work commute pack list

I’ve been taking public transit to work for over a year now, and I’ve learned a thing or two about how to pack for the commute.

Although I’m a pro now, I didn’t start out that way. Packing for my commute in college used to be a disaster. My lack of organization often led to lunch spills, torn papers, damaged technology, and misplacing my items.

It took some trial and error, but I’m wiser now, and I’d like to impart some of my commuting wisdom. Since my college days, I’ve learned to reduce how much I carry and systematize my daily packing routine.

So if you’re someone who needs some tips for packing for the work commute, stick around!

Ways to Reduce How Much You Carry on Your Work Commute

Even though I pride myself on my commute packing skills, I still try to cut down my travel load wherever I can. In my search for efficient ways to lighten my load, I came across a few suggestions. Some of these may or may not work for you, but the important thing is to try them out!

Suggestions You Might Like To Try…

  • Leave the laptop at work. I’m actually on the fence about this one, and here’s why. I carry a 13” MacBook Pro to and from work every day, mainly because I email with people after work and I need quick access to all my files, which happen to be on my computer. 
  • Make use of office space. Some people recommend leaving things such as an umbrella, extra clothes, and sundries at the office instead of taking it with you during the commute. 
  • Carry travel size versions. This is actually a good idea because you can bring more items without worrying so much about being weighed down. Just remember to keep everything together!
  • Cut out unnecessary clutter. My biggest weakness is that I tend to over pack with things I don’t end up using. But I’ve gotten better about this, thank goodness!

These are just a few general ideas that I read and heard about. A lot of suggestions on Reddit were predominantly about downsizing and eliminating unnecessary items.

Additional Essentials That’ll Make Commuting to Work Easier

Besides downsizing, here are some effective tools for an easy commute that you probably haven’t considered.

Phone adhesive wallet

One of my bigger anxieties is holding up the bus line because I can’t find my wallet. An easy away around this dilemma is to use a phone adhesive wallet, instead of a wallet.

This attachable tool allows you to keep your important cards, like your bus card, credit card, and I.D., right on the back of your phone. Neat, huh?

The adhesive wallet not only lightens up my load but also help speed up boarding transportation.

Rain Poncho

In the past, I would carry a small umbrella in case of rain, but it didn’t do that good of a job when it came to protecting my clothes and backpack. Plus, my umbrella would fold back. All. The. Time.

A rain poncho pretty much does the job of both the umbrella and rain jacket. And I have aziploc bag to store it in, while keeping the inside of my bag dry. Genius!

Proper lunch box

News flash: there is a proper way to store and transport your food to and from work, without looking like a kid.

Proper tupperware containers do the job just fine. You just have to ensure that it’s spill proof, or you can do what I do and bring it in a separate paper bag.

My Essential Commuting Packing List for the Day

In order to manage how much I carry on my commute, I first start with a list of everything that I want to bring with me. I encourage you to do the same!

Below you’ll find a list of items I carry with me every day. My list includes things that are for work, for entertainment, and personal needs.

And don’t worry, you don’t have to carry everything in one bag. I’ll show you how I manage to pack everything soon enough. Creating a list will force you to make better judgments about what you really need to bring.

  • Laptop
  • Laptop charger
  • Wireless Mouse
  • iPad Mini
  • iPad charger
  • iPhone
  • Headphones
  • Portable phone charger
  • Hand Lotion & Chapstick
  • Mints & Cough drops
  • 2 packs of Kleenex
  • Planner
  • 1 padfolio 
  • One 1-inch binder
  • Pencil pouch 
  • Sunglasses
  • Wallet
  • A book
  • Food: Morning snack, lunch, and two more snacks to last me till dinner
  • Filled canteen
  • Coffee thermos
  • Medication: Advil and Allegra
  • Workout shoes and clothes (soon)
  • Extra T-shirt
  • Poncho
  • Gloves, earmuffs, & scarf (in the winter)

How I Pack For My Work Commute

In order for me to tackle the daily commute, I start off by having the right equipment for the job. This includes two main items: a commuter backpack for big items and a crossbody bag for smaller things I’d rather have at hand. This makes it easier for me to locate things that I need quick access to like my transportation card and phone. Plus, it’s lighter on my shoulders and back.

First, I’ll share what I usually pack inside my commuter backpack. I would like to mention that I plan on buying another commuter backpack soon, and I’ll share why that is. It boils down to the fact that I think the new one will be better suited for my needs.

For now, here is the packing list for my commute backpack.

Work Commute Bag #1: Packing My Laptop Commuter Backpack

In this backpack, I pack the main things: my laptop, chargers, and most of my electronics. I also use it to carry sweaters, extra clothing that I might have, and an emergency pair of comfortable shoes.

Once I get a new bag, I also plan to bring my gym shoes and clothes, saving me the hassle of bringing a separate duffle bag.

Commuter Backpack Packing List of Essentials That I Carry

  • Laptop 
  • Laptop charger
  • Wireless mouse
  • iPad
  • iPad charger
  • Moleskin
  • Planner
  • 1 Padfolio
  • One 1-inch binder
  • Pencil case
  • Makeup bag
  • Poncho
  • Flats
  • Small cardigan
  • Medication: Advil and Allegra

It doesn’t seem like a lot of items to carry, but my current backpack has close to no support, which makes this list feel heavier.

For this reason, I’m planning to upgrade to a high-quality commuting backpack. I have a sad, old Jansport bag that’s this close to falling apart. The straps are already fraying, and the bottom is chipped; it’s only a matter of time. And though it technically has a laptop pocket, it’s not nearly enough protection as I would hope.

But, hey, I got it for free at a convention and it’s been held up…so far. It’s a $20 bag so I didn’t really expect it to last long.

That in mind, I already have the perfect replacement in mind.

If you’re also on the hunt for a train commuter backpack, here are some guiding tips to help you choose the perfect bag.

Choosing a Commuter Laptop Backpack That’ll Last

While looking for a backpack for my commute, I decided to make a list of the things I was looking for.

Here’s how my list turned out. As you already guessed, your preferences and needs might differ from mine, but you get the idea.

This list seriously helped because as I came across many commuter backpacks, all from different brands, it became difficult to make a decision. I weighed my choices and decided on this waterproof commuter bag, costing $152.


This commuter laptop backpack includes the following features:

  • A padded laptop pocket for up to a 16″ Macbook (I have a 15″)
  • It claims to have three layers of water protection: taurpalin, ripstop lining, and grosgrain tape
  • A magnetic front strap (WHAT?!?)
  • Free shipping
  • Lifetime Warranty

Clearly, I can’t wait to get this bag!

Work Commute Bag #2: My Medium Crossbody Bag

I carry smaller items that I want instant access to in my small crossbody. There are some things that I want instant access to, like my headphones, phone, and bus card. This crossbody bag is slim, which is perfect for boarding and un-boarding in public transportation.

My Crossbody Must Haves

  • iPhone/Wallet
  • Portable phone charger
  • Headphones
  • Small canteen
  • Hand Lotion & Chapstick
  • Mints & Cough drops
  • 1 pack of Kleenex
  • Baby wipes
  • Sunglasses
  • Breakfast bars
  • Gloves, earmuffs, & scarf (in the winter)

Bonus! Work Commute Bag #3: A Medium Paper or Plastic Bag

Sometimes I like to pack my lunch in a separate disposable bag instead of packing in my backpack.

The reason I keep my lunch in a separate bag is for convenience. My bento box is leak proof, actually, but I just get tired of digging through my backpack to find my food. So a mid-sized paper or plastic bag works well for me:

  • Monbento Box at bottom of bag – This is my favorite tupperware set ever! It’s leak-proof, microwave and dishwasher safe, and super compact. You can fit it at the bottom of any backpack, it’s crazy.

monbento monbento

  • 3-4 small ziplock bags of snacks in one large gallon Ziploc bag – I like to bring plenty of small snacks with me: pouches of almonds, carrots, grapes, peanut butter packets–and I keep everything together in one gallon sized bag. 
  • 16 oz coffee thermos – I’m an avid coffee drinker, which is why I like to either keep my coffee in hand, or I just slip it in with my lunch.

 Now You Too Can Commute to Work with Ease

There’s very little we can control on our commute to work. We can’t control the rude drivers, the noisy people, the smells, or the random gum on the bus. But hey, at least you can pack the heck out of your bag 🙂

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