Tom Bihn made the list twice.
#2 the Brain Bag:
Tom Bihn Brain Bag
Tom Bihn backpacks aren't cheap--the Brain Bag costs a hefty $140--but they're huge, multipurpose, and come with a lifetime guarantee on their workmanship. This bag's bigger on the inside than it appears: two panels spread open to accommodate a laptop up to 17 inches in screen size, along with a few large textbooks.
One word of warning: you'll need to buy an additional "Brain Cell" ($60) or other Tom Bihn accessories to make the most of the two large interior compartments (no laptop sleeve is sewn in), but that could be great for regular travelers: the noncompartmentalized space is perfect for weekend packing. In case things get too bulky, side buckles adjust to compress the backpack. A variety of basic colors and a rugged construction give the bag a very outdoorsy feel.
Several deep outer zippered compartments are great for commuting or airline travel, and buckles running down the middle are even thoughtfully placed to lock an umbrella or jacket in place. The more we spend time with the Brain Bag, the more we like it. Enough to justify its $200 effective cost? Actually, yes.
#8 the Smart Alec:
Tom Bihn Smart Alec
Bags from Tom Bihn operate on a system of modular functionality rather than offering built-in pockets: roomy and weather-resistant, their backpacks do good double-duty as outdoor/travel gear. Unfortunately, that also means you'll have to invest in one of a variety of clip-in sleeves or organizers, upping the total "real" price of the backpack.
Those expecting multiple pockets and plenty of zippers might be thrown by the Smart Alec ($120), which has one deep chamber and two long outer zippered pouches, but not much else. On the other hand, fewer zippers mean fewer openings for rain to seep in. The raincoat-esque lightweight fabric and weather-protected zipper linings make for a minimalist backpack, but one that actual backpackers heading to school might prefer.
But we already knew this about our favorite company.