The 6 Best Tote Bags | Reviews by Wirecutter

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One of our previous picks, the Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag, has been discontinued. Extra Large Handbags

The 6 Best Tote Bags | Reviews by Wirecutter

A good tote is for the schlep.

One day your trusty tote bag transports your laptop and a couple of books, and the next it holds three bunches of celery and a melon from the farmers market.

No matter its size or composition, a tote should be easy to pack and unpack, useful whether you’re heading to a coffee shop or an office, and attractive and versatile enough to bring to dinner afterward.

We found five terrific tote bags that will suit a variety of tastes, carrying needs, and budgets. Our picks include a practical canvas carrier, a luxurious open-top leather bag, a super-sturdy structured canvas tote, a refined twill tote with leather handles, and an unstructured, effortlessly elegant full-grain leather tote.

This durable tote comes with a 40-inch adjustable strap as well as top handles, giving you multiple carrying options. However, due to its thin canvas material, you may feel—and get poked by—the contents of the bag.

Have you been searching for a canvas bag that’s simple but good-looking? Soft and unstructured? Versatile and long-lasting? Consider the Baggu Duck Bag.

It’s a utility player. We can’t pin the Duck Bag’s excellence on a single feature, and that’s where its genius lies: Its practical simplicity makes it a more universal choice than any other tote bag we tested.

The entire Wirecutter staff seems to have used a Duck Bag at some point, and during our testing we received a lot of positive feedback about its style. Overall, the Duck Bag was the most well-liked canvas bag we tested because of its understated yet pleasing aesthetic.

The Duck Bag is 11 inches wide by nearly 16 inches tall, and thanks to its flexible seams, it can accommodate a large volume of contents. “I can stick my whole yoga mat in there,” one tester told us.

Notably, its shoulder strap extends to 40 inches, double the strap length of most totes we tested. You can wear the strap on one shoulder or across your body like a messenger bag, or you can carry the tote by its short top handles.

However, if you are using the long strap, and the Duck Bag is resting close against your body, be aware that the canvas material does not offer much protection against the items inside. (Some of our testers who were around 5-foot-3 complained that when they carried the tote hoisted over their shoulders with a laptop inside, it would hit them at an uncomfortable spot.)

It’s tougher than it looks. This tote felt sturdy over weeks of testing and didn’t pick up much dirt—and in our experience, these bags have held up extremely well. Lesley Stockton, senior staff writer on the kitchen team and our food stylist, has owned a Duck Bag for over a decade and has used it for everything from lugging knife rolls and heavy clogs to hauling a giant food processor across New York City. The bag is still functional and has remained mostly intact, showing its age with some minor thinning in spots and one small hole on the seam that Lesley says would be easily mendable (she just hasn’t gotten to it yet).

Baggu recommends machine-washing the Duck Bag—most canvas bags have to be hand-washed or spot-cleaned—and line-drying it, though you can also wash it by hand. According to Lesley, after countless washings, the bag’s canvas is buttery soft.

The Duck Bag comes with a one-year warranty against defects in material and workmanship, which is common for tote bags, and 65% of the 100% cotton canvas construction comes from recycled sources.

It snaps closed and keeps your stuff secure. The Duck Bag’s large main compartment snaps together at the top, and a zippered pouch sewn into its inside is a good spot for your keys, sunglasses, and wallet. “Throw some tampons in there,” said a tester. “No one ever has to know because you don’t ever have to see it!”

Size: 11 by 15.75 by 4.75 inches Weight: 13 ounces Strap length: 40 inches Closure type: snap button Colors: over a dozen patterns and colors, including natural grid, wavy gingham brown, and embroidered ditsy floral

This unstructured tote—made from supple Italian leather—is refined, lightweight, and generously spacious. But with just one small inside pocket, it isn’t easy to keep organized.

The Cuyana Classic Easy Tote is an elegant and lightweight leather bag. We’d wear it just about anywhere (barring rugged outdoor adventures), as its soft, supple leather and unstructured shape give it a relaxed and subtly luxurious vibe that can easily transition from casual outings to more formal settings. It’s large enough to fit everything you could need for a long day, and it has two sets of different-length handles, so you can comfortably sling the bag over your shoulder or carry it by hand.

We like the easy access of this open-top design, but if you prefer the security that a closed-top bag provides, Cuyana also sells a zippered model of this tote, for around $30 more.

It’s a long-term investment. The Easy Tote is a beautiful, spacious leather bag that retails for about $270. Although it’s the most expensive tote we recommend here, we’ve concluded that it’s well worth the money. The soft, pebbled texture of the Italian leather feels luxurious, but it’s not too fancy to use every day—the bag’s unstructured, slightly slouchy shape makes it cool and casually elegant.

The Easy Tote has a two-year warranty, longer than the coverage on any tote we recommend aside from our Filson pick, which is covered for its lifetime.

It’s supersized. At 21.5 inches wide by 12.25 inches tall, the Easy Tote is big—we’re talking hiding-an-actress’s-pregnancy-for-TV big—and seriously roomy.

The appeal of a big, open-top tote is the ability to throw a lot of stuff in it and carry it everywhere. Aside from its spacious main compartment, the Easy Tote has just one internal open pocket that’s large enough for the fundamentals, such as a small wallet, a phone, and a set of keys. But this is not a bag for someone who wants to be hyper-organized, though if you do want that, Cuyana makes a cool yet pricey $100 bag organizer sized exactly for this tote.

You can carry it multiple ways. The Easy Tote is equipped with two sets of handles in different lengths. The longer set, with a 10-inch drop, is well-proportioned for wearing the bag on your shoulder. The other, with a 6.25-inch drop, is ideal for carrying the bag by hand or sliding it over your forearm. The straps are soft and flexible, and they’re pretty cushy and comfortable to wear and carry, without looking bulky.

Size: 12.25 by 21.5 by 5 inches Weight: 1 pound 10 ounces Strap length: 10 inches Closure type: none (also offered in a zippered version, for around $30 more) Colors: black, caramel, cappuccino, stone, dark olive, assorted seasonal colors

This timeless structured bag is made from durable, long-lasting canvas, and it’s available in multiple colors, sizes, and handle lengths.

The iconic L.L.Bean Boat and Tote Open-Top is a structured and ridiculously sturdy tote bag, well suited to handling the abuse of regular trips to the beach or the grocery store. The Boat and Tote also offers more customizability than any other tote bag we found in terms of size and handle-length options.

It’ll never go out of style. The Boat and Tote looks timeless. You’ve likely seen this bag before—if not in your city’s hip neighborhood, seated next to cool 20-somethings, then maybe at the beach, where parents are using it to secretly smuggle in thermoses full of negronis.

Its structured design allows it to sit upright, and its open top lets you easily reach in and grab something. Even when it’s not full, the bag sits mostly upright, ready to go when you’re grabbing it from the backseat or hurrying to get off the bus.

It’s ultra-customizable. The Boat and Tote offers a slew of options to make it your own. Aside from 13 colors, it comes in small, medium, large, and extra-large sizes and two handle lengths. The standard 6-inch handles allow for better control, while the 11-inch handles accommodate carrying larger objects or slinging the bag comfortably over your shoulder.

The medium Boat and Tote Open-Top, which is the model we tested, is 13 by 12 inches, so it’s slightly wider than it is tall. As advertised, it’s open at the top, so there’s nothing to keep your belongings in place—though for $10 more you can get a zip-top version of the Boat and Tote, with or without a pocket. The open-top style is ideal for grocery shopping and other activities where easy access and visibility are a plus.

It’s especially sturdy and built to last. The Boat and Tote is made of heavy-duty cotton canvas; its overlapped seams are double-stitched with nylon. Thanks to its colored bottom, we didn’t spot any blemishes over the few weeks we tested it. (L.L.Bean recommends spot-cleaning.) The fabric is stiff and structured, which makes it difficult to fold up and put away in a dresser.

L.L.Bean claims that the bag’s straps are rated to hold up to 500 pounds; as we are unable to hold more than 150 pounds without crying, we could not confirm.

People we know who love the Boat and Tote are adamant that it is the best tote bag you can buy, to the point of annoyance. Admittedly, it is very good. Although L.L.Bean no longer offers a lifetime warranty, its guarantee is solid: You can return the tote within one year of purchase, and after that, the company will consider returns due to defects.

Size: 13 by 12 by 6 inches Weight: 1 pound 8 ounces Strap length: 6 inches Closure type: none (also offered in a zippered version, for around $10 more) Colors: 13 colors, including black, blue, dark green, red, natural

This roomy bag offers all the sturdiness and practicality of a canvas tote—and even a lifetime warranty—but with elegant leather handles and a more refined look. Plus, it has lots of handy external pockets.

Although inexpensive canvas totes do have their place—like the trunk of the car, for impromptu grocery trips—when you need the utilitarian qualities of a canvas tote and want to look stylish, polished, and like you’ve got it all together, turn to the Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag. The simple but elevated design of this leather-handled twill bag makes it an equally appropriate companion for a day of running errands or a nice evening out.

It’s sharp-looking. The Filson Tote has a clean, unfussy design and sleek handles, made from bridle leather, that give it more sophistication than the average canvas bag. “I feel like I could take this tote bag anywhere," said one tester.

It can help keep you organized. The Filson Tote is 14 inches wide by 14 inches tall, wider than our other canvas picks, with four expansive outer pockets: two large ones on its longer sides that are big enough for a 13-inch laptop and a pair of smaller pockets suited to a water bottle or umbrella on each end. One of its larger pockets also contains a key-clip lanyard.

It’s as tough as it is refined. “Rugged” is right there in its name, and it actually delivers: This bag is made from 100% cotton abrasion-resistant and water-repellent twill. The canvas is stiff enough that the bag can stand up on its own, and the inner seams are bound to protect them from fraying. It has a reinforced base, too. Filson recommends cleaning the bag by wiping it or brushing it.

The Filson Tote is well built and feels like it could last for years; plus, it’s the only one of our picks that’s covered by a lifetime warranty.

Size: 14 by 14 by 5.25 inches Weight: 1 pound 12 ounces Strap length: 29.5 inches Closure type: none Colors: tan, otter green, navy

This slouchy, minimalist bag feels simultaneously polished and effortless, and its ridiculously soft full-grain leather is a joy to touch. Plus, it has useful internal pockets—including a zippered one.

The Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote is an attractive and versatile unstructured full-grain leather bag; it has a relaxed, bohemian elegance that makes it easier to dress up than similarly drapey canvas bags. Perhaps most notably, it looks and feels like butt-ah.

Folks flip for this bag. When it came time for our testers to vote, the Uptown Vertical Tote handily beat every other leather tote bag option we tested—people loved this bag. One panelist couldn’t stop spouting effusive compliments: “My favorite; I love her so much. She feels buttery-soft! Beautiful texture.” Another agreed: “I want to touch this forever. It feels so supple.”

The interior has a black cotton-twill lining that works as a protective barrier against spills or messes. Leatherology recommends wiping the leather exterior clean if it gets dirty.

The Uptown Vertical Tote comes with a one-year warranty.

It’s sized just right. The Uptown Vertical Tote is 14.75 inches wide by 15.5 inches tall. “It's the perfect length,” said one tester. “I could fit my laptop in here without anyone knowing.”

The bag’s shoulder straps put it at an ideal height underneath our arms, and other testers—of varying heights—liked them, too.

It has plenty of internal organization. Inside the bag, you’ll find two open pockets and one zippered pocket—an unusual amount of organization for a leather tote. The two deep, open pockets have leather trim along their tops, while the zippered pocket on the other side is shorter and wider, well suited for storing a wallet or keys.

Size: 14.75 by 15.5 by 3.5 inches Weight: 2 pounds 4 ounces Strap length: 9.5 inches Closure type: none Colors: black, Bordeaux, navy, tan

To begin our research, we put together a list of more than 40 tote bags from manufacturers that were well known and respected (such as Baggu, Cuyana, Filson, and L.L.Bean) and from smaller brands with outstanding editorial and customer reviews (like Leatherology, Linjer, and Steele Canvas), along with a handful of highly rated totes sold on Amazon.

We wanted to recommend totes that would be large enough to hold a 12-inch laptop along with a book, a notebook, an umbrella, pens, a USB battery pack, a pair of headphones, and some charging cables.

With that in mind, we then further narrowed our list down to 20 totes based on specifications, aesthetics, materials, and price.

When we received the bags, we spent a few weeks testing the contenders before assembling a panel of nine Wirecutter employees—all with different tastes, wants, and needs—to test the final 10 totes and share their feedback. Our panelists rated the bags on looks, feel, size, weight, usefulness, material, and durability.

If you want a tote that's particularly well suited for carrying your laptop: The Bellroy Tokyo Tote Second Edition 15L, one of the picks from our guide to the best laptop tote bags, is a fantastic tote for commuting to the office. It has copious internal organization, a protective laptop area, and a durable zip-top closure. But it’s stiffer and not as deep as our picks in this guide, which is why we're not recommending it as a universal carryall.

If you want a tote that’s beach-ready: The Steele Canvas Steeletex Beach Tote is chic, black, and utilitarian. Our testing panel was confounded by this bag’s nylon material and the brass grommets on its bottom (which are meant to help shake out unwanted sand from the beach), preferring our L.L.Bean Boat and Tote Open-Top pick overall. Still, if the look of the Steele Canvas tote appeals to you, it could be a great beach bag.

The Dalix Heavy Duty Cotton Canvas Tote had notably weak stitching, despite being one of the most popular tote bags sold on Amazon.

Multiple testers described the pricey Leatherology Belmont Structured Tote as “not for them,” prompting us to wonder who, exactly, it would be for. The slightly less expensive Leatherology Zippered Downtown Tote faced even more withering criticism from the panelists, as they didn’t like the look of its pebbled leather—or the bag itself.

We found the leather Madewell Transport Tote and Nisolo Canvas Tote much too narrow to use every day.

The Nodykka Tote Bag is an affordable vegan leather tote bag, but not one tester liked it. The straps were too thin and flimsy for some, and the feel of the bag itself was too wobbly for others.

The Patagonia Market Tote was cute but felt too much like a free printed tote—and not worth its $45 asking price. We did appreciate the small internal pocket, though.

This article was edited by Ingela Ratledge Amundson and Jennifer Hunter.

Zoe Vanderweide is a staff writer reporting on style and accessories at Wirecutter. She has been wearing things for over three decades, and she has spent years covering streetwear, luxury, art, and design. Off the clock, you can find her painting the town rainbow with her (devastatingly stylish) daughter.

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The 6 Best Tote Bags | Reviews by Wirecutter

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