It feels so supple.” (The amount of emphasis necessary to convey all of our testers’ general excitement over this bag is perhaps surprising but well deserved.). The Patagonia Market Tote felt too much like a free printed tote, even though it offered a small inside pocket for added storage. It’s ideal for grocery shopping; its openness allows you to take stock of the things on your list that you’ve grabbed and then beeline for what’s left. In a funny turn, our photo editor identified the bag without intending to, saying, “This is the kind of bag you would get at Target.” In fact, this is literally the kind of bag you would get at Target: Universal Thread is Target’s lifestyle brand. We then narrowed our list of bags down to 20 totes based on specifications, aesthetics, materials, and a variety of prices. The people in my life who love the Boat and Tote are adamant that it is the best tote bag you can buy, to the point of annoyance. Influenced by 2018's obsession with all things micro - think undersized sunglasses a la Bella Hadid, and the return of the stubby kitten heel - the new season's small bags may be petite, but they pack a significant style punch. It was an offhand comment about how an accessory can make you feel more deeply yourself, or help you dress up in the armor of someone else. The Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag is made from 100 percent cotton abrasion-resistant and water-repellent twill. We found that the Herschel Terrace Tote was too big and baggy for everyday use: Multiple times we smacked into people on the subway with it, and the material made what could’ve felt like a thinnish bag look puffy, bloated, and uncomfortable. We didn’t universally look for total enclosures, laptop slots, or waterproofing, as we did for our guides to laptop totes and purse organizers. With the variety of materials and styles available, there may not be a single best tote for everybody, but we did find a range of wonderful ones. It has four, expansive outer pockets: two large ones on its longer sides and smaller pockets suited to water bottles or umbrellas at its shorter ends. Almost the entire Wirecutter staff has used the Duck Bag before, and during our testing we received a lot of positive feedback about its style. He carries things every day. When we received the bags, we spent a few weeks testing the contenders before finally assembling a panel of nine Wirecutter employees—all with different bag uses and situations in mind as well as a variety of aesthetic sensibilities—to test the final 10 totes and see if we couldn’t come to some happy conclusions together. This Cuyana bag does have one moderately sized pocket sewn into the interior with a zippered section and a slip, which made it easy to stick keys or a wallet inside. Photo: Sarah Kobos. But if this is something you’re looking for, it’s otherwise fine. As a result, it leans on your ability to organize (though we can help with that). Although inexpensive canvas totes are great to have for a quick grocery trip, turn to the Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag when you want the catch-all qualities of a canvas tote and need to look like you’ve got it all together, too. Many of the other versions of the bag are aggressively unpleasant to look at—but as long as you stick to brown or black, you should be fine. It was structurally similar to the L.L.Bean Boat and Tote, at just a third of the price. The Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag has a bunch of outside pockets (none internally) and the two on its shorter sides are each perfect for an umbrella or a water bottle. “I could fit my laptop in here without anyone knowing.” It has three inner pockets; on one side it has two deep, open pockets with a gorgeous leather trim along their top, while on the other side it has a shorter, wider zippered pocket for storing a wallet or keys. We couldn’t answer this question during testing; we received lots of “Why?” and “What are these?” reactions from our panelists. 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. Reminiscent of the nineties’ love of tiny tote bags in clean minimalist lines and when coordinating your bag to your outfit was de rigueur - picture powder blue skirt suits and matching tiny satin bags à la Cher from Clueless - today’s designs are modern and versatile, but while they come with significant style credentials, the real draw of the tiny bag is its equally scaled-down price tag, with some luxury designers offering the opportunity to indulge in a high-end bag without the eye-watering cost. A higher-end canvas tote, Filson’s Rugged Twill is lightweight, well constructed, and equipped with leather handles and an excellent warranty. In testing, I loved the Linjer Soft Tote for its smooth texture and sturdy straps, but it costs nearly $400—at least double what our other leather-style tote bags cost—and we couldn’t justify its price. Like the Baggu Duck Bag, the Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote is an unstructured bag, which means that when you place it on the ground, it collapses onto the floor.
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