The 7 Best Work Tote Bags of 2020
Schlepping all your gym clothes and laptop to work doesn't have to be hard
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The casual tote bag has long since graduated from a quick tool for a grocery run or to carry swag at some convention. Today’s modern tote includes all sorts of business- and travel-friendly features, everything from padded protection for your electronics to smart fabric to keep you safe from pick-pockets. And they almost universally let you make a fashion statement, whether it be via bold graphics or simply opting for a one made of high-quality fashion-forward fabrics. They typically have higher storage capacity than your traditional backpack or suitcase, so it’s easy to fit legal-sized documents—and since most don’t have loads of internal organization, you can carry pretty much everything, from work stuff to post-work workout gear. Whatever you haul (or “tote,” a term used in the 17th century meaning to “carry”) the conventional handles let you hold the bag like a purse or simply by the hand.
When choosing the right bag, first consider your typical load — if you don’t often haul your laptop to and from the office, then a padded pouch for your computer may be overkill. But if you lug your computer home each day — along with gym clothes, food and water, opt for a pack that comes with a lot of storage and probably some internal organization to keep your items grouped together. Those who travel should also consider bags with secure closures and other security measures, while others may appreciate that the only technical element of the bag is that you can shove a whole bunch of stuff inside, whether heading to work or as a weekend warrior.
Best Overall: Tumi Voyageur Just in Case
Equally at home in the office, on a plane or just traipsing a load of groceries home after the gym, the Voyageur Just In Case doesn’t overdo the features — and is all the better because of it. The all-nylon bag comes with a 7.5-inch handle drop that’s deep enough to shoulder or carry by hand, with an upper zipper closure, contrast lining to help you locate things inside the cavernous pack and Tumi’s “Add a Bag” sleeve that lets you slide the tote down the telescoping handles of a rolling suitcase. Though it doesn’t come with a dedicated laptop compartment, the overall dimensions (14 x 23 inches) will accommodate a lot, and the bag also folds flat, making it completely packable.
Best Value: North St. Tabor (Large)
The Tabor delivers a lot for such a low price tag, including 48 liters of storage (enough for your gym kit, computer and groceries) and an internal zip pocket. Made to order in Portland, OR, and constructed with materials sourced from the United States, this tote carries North St’s commitment to braving the elements; the bag is made of 1000 denier Cordura nylon, with a pack cloth drop liner, for serious weather resistance. The variable colors (eight in total, including professional-leaning black and khaki as well as bright blue, light green and limited colors like pink) means you can go big and bold or keep things modest.
Best for the Altruistic Globe-Trotter: Oliberte Kobio
Oliberte brands itself as a sustainable company that’s focused on supporting workers’ rights in sub-Saharan Africa, making premium leather goods (bags and shoes) that come with lifetime warranties by partnering with suppliers and workers throughout Africa. This means that not only does the Kobio Tote delivers on the goods, but also supports sustainable initiatives and practices that lead to more jobs with employees who get fair wages and working conditions. Hand-crafted in Ethiopia, the leather bag boasts a large front pocket with detail stitching, along with a side pocket large enough to fit an iPad, a plush inner lining made of Ethiopian cotton, and two handles deep enough to easily shoulder the pack.
Best for Travelers: Pacsafe Slingsafe LX200
If work means braving the wilds of the open roads — as well as the chaos and unpredictability of the world’s airports — then the Slingsafe LX200 delivers both piece of mind and high performance. As with all of Pacsafe’s products, it has a lot of security features, including a dual-release security buckle, a zippered outer pocket that’s RFID-secure (meaning no one can scan your passport or credit cards remotely), a “cut-and-run” slash-resistant layer of steel wire mesh embedded into the fabric and the straps and pickpocket-resistant zip clips. Inside the zippered main compartment, you’ll find 12 liters of storage, including a dedicated sleeve for 11-inch laptops, attachments for your wallet and keys and space for other every essential, from a water bottle to an umbrella.
Best for Hauling Larger Loads: Lululemon Day Out Tote
Designed to carry everything you may need for a day at the office and then after-work activities, the aptly named Day Out Tote is suited to anyone with a lot to haul and the desire to do so in a stylish, organized fashion. The minimalist 16-liter bag comes with internal pockets to keep your water bottle and laptop isolated, as well as side cinches to keep everything in place. The all-polyester fabric is weather-resistant, and though the main compartment can’t be securely closed, it does have a handful of internal pockets to keep things organized and out of sight.
Best for Minimalists: Arc’teryx Blanca 19
The Blanca 19 looks deceptively simplistic: At first glance, the 19-liter pack appears to be another stuff sack, but each element of the tote has been tailor-made to accommodate various scenarios. One of the padded handles can extend to easily carry a jacket or yoga mat; the top zips closed, with another side zipper side pocket for quick-grab items like your phone or keys; the lining was chosen to reflect the ambient light to help illuminate the bag’s insides; and the discrete Arc’teryx logo is reflective for added safety in low light. Crafted from their proprietary AC2 construction, the Blanca proves to be both highly waterproof and lightweight and comes with the same taped seams and ripstop nylon used in the mountain company’s alpine packs, so it should handle any boardroom shenanigans with aplomb.
Best for the Road Warrior: Filson Rugged Twill with Zip
Two-way rust-proof brass zippers. Water-repellent, abrasion resistant rugged twill fabrics. Bridle leather handles. A reinforced base for heavy loads. If you need a tote for rough and tumble situations, the Rugged Twill knows no substitutes. It comes with 25 liters of storage, as well as four stow pockets, and easily matches the standards for permissible carry-ons. It does weigh a relatively hefty two pounds (all that durability comes at a cost), but it’s designed to last a lifetime, with an iconic aesthetic that’s become quintessential Filson, thanks to their 100-year-plus history of crafting high-quality products.