The 12 Best Tote Bags For Serious Schleppers

From brands like Baggu, Madewell, Longchamp, and more.

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Best Tote Bags

InStyle / Jaclyn Mastropasqua

There is no bag more universal — nor more practical — than the humble tote bag. Its construction is deceptively simple: two or three sides are stitched together with one or two top handles, which are designed for shoulder or crossbody carry. 

Its simplicity, however, is exactly what makes it ideal for just about any errand: Made from cotton, leather, canvas, or even nylon, its unstructured, expandable shape offers a foolproof option for those with lots to schlep. In the right size and in the right material (ideally with an inner pocket or two), a tote bag can make carrying cumbersome contents across town — like groceries and running shoes — that much easier. 

There is no shortage of options, however, so we spoke to a handful of stylish women — including a style editor, clothing designer, and TikTok-ordained tote expert — to find the very best ones for work, the beach, and beyond. 

Best Overall

Baggu Horizontal Duck Bag



What We Love
  • The long, adjustable strap — which can be worn over the shoulder or as a crossbody — stays in place, and the top interior pocket keeps keys and cards close at hand. Plus, it’s just $34. 

What We Don't Love
  • It could use another pocket or two.

With a roomy, laptop-friendly interior, an adjustable shoulder strap, zippered interior pocket, and under-$40 price tag, Baggu’s duck bag is our go-to tote for work, school, and everything in between. The canvas is lightweight yet substantial (ideal for carrying heavy books and groceries), and the lightly structured shape keeps items organized and secure when on the go. And while tote bag straps tend to slide off of your shoulder — especially when wearing a thick winter coat — the Duck Bag’s adjustable crossbody strap stays put. Plus, because it’s made from easy-to-clean cotton, mine has withstood dozens of washes (and stood up to several stains) in the washing machine. Even after years of daily use, it still looks new. 

Price at time of publish: $39

Colors: 14 | Material: Recycled cotton canvas | Straps and Handles: Top handles, adjustable crossbody strap | Closure: Open

Best Value

Baggu Standard Baggu Nylon Ripstop Tote

Baggu Standard Baggu Nylon Ripstop Tote


What We Love
  • BAGGU’s reusable bags are lightweight and virtually indestructible.

What We Don’t Love
  • The straps slide down your shoulder. 

Perhaps the most ubiquitous tote on this list, Baggu’s under-$15 nylon bags are ideal for carrying items you wouldn’t necessarily want in your purse, like fresh produce, sandy beach gear, or dirty running shoes. They’re machine washable and lightweight — and even fold up into an accompanying carrying pouch — making them exceptionally easy to throw into your car or suitcase. And unlike most totes on this list, the in-stock prints and colorways are vast: Baggu releases new patterns every season, like trippy checkerboard, nautical stripes, and bright florals, plus extra-large and mini sizes. 

It’s worth noting that the bag was modeled after a standard take-out bag, which, while charming, is also the Baggu’s greatest downfall. The short, thick straps and lack of structure will have it sliding down your arm, especially when wearing a thick winter coat. If you’re going to be carrying your items long distances, you’re better off with a traditional tote bag. 

Price at time of publish: $14

Colors: 50+ | Material: Ripstop nylon | Straps and Handles: Top handles | Closure: Open

Best Splurge

Freja New York Lafayette Tote Cappuccino

Freja New York Lafayette Tote Cappuccino


What We Love
  • The vegan leather looks and feels real, and it’s generously sized. 

What We Don’t Love
  • Given the size, it could use an interior divider to keep contents more organized.

If you’re in the market for something more polished than a canvas shopper, genuine and vegan leather totes are more durable than cotton, meaning they can hold up for decades with proper care. The only problem with leather bags, however, is that they can often feel heavy — especially for those who walk or take the subway to work. But according to InStyle Senior Fashion Commerce Editor Chloe Anello, that isn’t the case with Freja’s generously-sized NY Lafayette tote. 

It’s made from a lightweight vegan leather — the “best looking (and feeling) faux leather I’ve ever seen,” she says — that never feels “far too heavy” when full. It holds “everything” she needs for work, including a 16-inch laptop, various chargers, and a water bottle, and even has a double magnetic snap closure that stays put while on the move. When you consider the four interior pockets and detachable key leash (and the three luxe colorways), we think it’s a worthy splurge. 

Price at time of publish: $378

Colors: 3 | Material: PU leather | Straps and Handles: Top handles | Closure: Magnetic

Best Canvas

Utility Canvas Mini Field Tote

Utility Canvas Mini Field Tote

Utility Canvas

What We Love
  • The structured bottom and interior pockets keep contents organized.

What We Don’t Love
  • It doesn’t have a crossbody strap.

When I set out to find the very best canvas tote bag, I had very strict criteria in mind; It needed to have a structured bottom, inside pockets, long-ish straps, and some sort of closure to keep contents secure and organized. It also — I hoped — wouldn’t be exorbitantly priced, given that canvas totes are so often free. When I asked Hayley Cavagnolo, interior designer and founder of petites clothing line Hayley Bridget, about her work bag, it was clear Utility Canvas’s Mini Field Bag really couldn’t be beat. 

“It’s my go-to everyday tote — People stop me on the street to ask me about or compliment on the bag,” Cavagnolo says. Despite the “Mini” in its name, it’s the “perfect size for my laptop, lunch, and coffee mug,” she assures, while the side pockets are “super useful” for keeping everyday essentials close at hand. It’s made in the US from durable 18-ounce cotton canvas, which is easy to clean and durable enough for heavy use. (For reference, the BAGGU Duck Bag is made from 16 ounce cotton canvas.) 

The thin, rounded straps are long enough to stay put, and the structured bottom keeps items in place, meaning you won’t have to dig around to find your wallet or keys. Its one and only flaw is that it lacks a detachable crossbody strap — which is why I gave first place to the Duck Bag — but it does tick all of the other boxes.

Price at time of publish: $100

Colors: 4 | Material: Cotton canvas | Straps and Handles: Top handles | Closure: Snap

Best Extra Large

L.L. Bean Boat and Tote

L.L. Bean Boat and Tote, Open-Top

L.L. Bean

What We Love
  • It holds up to 500 pounds and can last decades. Plus, it’s monogrammable.

What We Don’t Love
  • When full, the 24-ounce cotton canvas gets heavy.

At the peak of prep, L.L. Bean’s virtually indestructible Boat & Totes were carried by just about every coastal New Englander. “My parents have been using L.L. Bean totes since before I was born,” says Gracie Wiener, who runs @ironicboatandtote, an Instagram dedicated to ironically monogrammed Boat & Totes. “They are the most durable bags in the world, they’ll outlive all of us.” Wiener owns several, including the extra-large size, which, she recently found out on a post office run, can hold 10 medium-sized packages. 

“I use them everywhere, [whether] as a carry-on or my everyday bag. I’ve gone to a black tie event with my Boat & Tote. They’re just truly so reliable,” she says. All sizes come in two handle lengths, though Wiener prefers the longer straps for more versatile carrying, and the medium size for everyday wear. But if you have some serious stuff to schlep, the extra-large, which measures 17” high, 19” wide, and 10” deep, can fit just about any cumbersome item. (While moving, I once fit two table lamps into my own with room to spare.) 

Another part of the bag’s appeal are the customization options, for which Wiener’s Instagram account is dedicated. After monogramming several with her name and initials, she started trying out words and phrases, like “PRADA” and “stfu,” which then blew up on Instagram and TikTok. (If a WASP-y monogram isn’t quite your thing either, there’s no shortage of inspiration on the account, including “flop era” and “PRENUP.”) Note that because the totes are made from 24-ounce cotton canvas — the thickest on this list — they aren’t exactly lightweight to begin with, and will only get heavier when full. 

Price at time of publish: $35

Colors: 10 | Material: Cotton canvas | Straps and Handles: Top handles | Closure: Open or zip

Best Leather

Madewell The Zip-Top Medium Transport Tote

Madewell The Zip-Top Medium Transport Tote


What We Love
  • The durable leather can last decades.

What We Don’t Love
  • It can feel heavy when full.

“I’ve had this bag for nearly a decade now, and while I can’t say it looks brand new — it definitely looks worn in — it has held up over the year, even through a substantial amount of abuse,” says Anello of Madewell’s no-frills leather tote, one of the brand’s longtime bestsellers. It has an interior and exterior pocket to keep essentials close at hand, and a zippered closure that makes it excellent for travel. It does tend to get heavy when overfilled, she notes, and recommends using the crossbody strap for more comfortable carrying. 

Price at time of publish: $188

Colors: 3 | Material: Leather | Straps and Handles: Top handles | Closure: Zipper

Best Mini

Everlane The Italian Leather Mini Studio Bag

Everlane The Italian Leather Mini Studio Bag


What We Love
  • It’s small yet functional, and the crossbody strap is comfortable. 

What We Don’t Love
  • The suede lining is difficult to clean.

Similar to Madewell's Transport tote, Everlane's leather tote is basically the same thing — but mini. This teeny bag won't fit a ton, but for those days out when you don't need lots of things or for those who tend to keep your bag rather clean — a.k.a. you're leaving the house without 30 receipts, five lip balms, two bottles of hand sanitizer, and whatever else you leave in your bag for way too long — this will be just enough room. With one inside pocket and one outside, you can easily compartmentalize your items, and ensure your phone will be within easy reach. We like the shoulder strap to wear it in a crossbody fashion, But be careful of what you put inside the bag because the suede lining won't be easy to clean.

Price at time of publish: $198

Colors: 2 | Material: Leather | Straps and Handles: Crossbody | Closure: Snap

Best for the Beach

Junes The Everyday Tote

 Junes The Everyday Tote


What We Love
  • The lightweight mesh — made from recycled plastic — is excellent for carrying sandy swimsuits or fresh fruit. 

What We Don’t Love
  • It isn’t structured.

Baggu’s mesh, longer-handled cousin, June totes are ideal for anything that needs to breathe — think sweaty gym clothes or wet swimsuits. The straps are longer and thinner than Baggu’s, and (mercifully) doesn’t slide down my shoulder every 30 seconds while walking. I like to bring mine to the beach, since sand falls right through the mesh and I don’t have to throw it in the washing machine right after. (Though I certainly could if I wanted to.) The bag does have two interior pockets, but because it’s entirely unstructured, it isn’t necessarily useful; I think whatever I put inside would still end up in the main compartment. Nonetheless, it’s sturdy and has held up exceptionally well for something so lightweight. I’ve had mine for three years now and it’s still going strong. 

Price at time of publish: $38

Colors: 9 | Material: Biodegradable Recycled Plastic | Straps and Handles: Top handles | Closure: Open

Best for Travel

Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Tote

Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Tote Bag


What We Love
  • It’s lightweight and packs into itself for seamless travel. 

What We Don’t Love
  • Black aside, the available colorways aren’t exactly enticing.

The best travel totes are the ones that you don’t even remember you’re carrying. They’re made from something weightless like nylon, but are strong enough to carry all of your travel essentials, like a laptop and a change of clothes. If it can be worn as a backpack — even better: You want your arms unencumbered, ready to juggle your wallet, passport, and a last-minute airport snack. Ideally, you’d be carrying Patagonia’s Ultralight Black Hole Tote Bag, a favorite of footwear designer Kitty Shukman, who previously worked for Yeezy. “My all time favorite tote bag is the Patagonia Black Hole bag,” she says. “[You can] wear it as a backpack if you’re going on a day trip, and it packs down into itself as a little zip pouch, which is perfect if you’re traveling.” When on vacation, Shukman says she “fills the side pockets with shells I collect on the beach,” but day-to-day in London, “it’s the perfect fit for a laptop and whatever else I need.” Plus, it’s water- and rip-resistant.

Price at time of publish: $99

Colors: 3 | Material: Ripstop nylon | Straps and Handles: Backpack straps, shoulder straps | Closure: Zipper

Best for Work

Dagne Dover Vida Cotton Tote Bag

Dagne Dover Vida Cotton Tote Bag

Dagne Dover

What We Love
  • The plethora of pockets make it excellent for work and travel. 

What We Don’t Love
  • It’s expensive for a cotton tote.

I don’t own Dagne Dover’s bestselling Vida Cotton Tote, but I did test one in-store — and nearly walked out with one myself. It’s not cheap, but it certainly isn’t lacking in features; The tote has a total of seven (seven!) pockets, two sets of straps, an interior keyring, and a neoprene water bottle holder, making it by far the most sophisticated canvas tote on this list. And while some might prefer a leather tote for work, I find canvas totes lighter and easier to maneuver when commuting, especially when taking the subway or bus. The large size can comfortably accommodate a 16-inch laptop, and is spacious enough to even be used as a weekender or carry-on. (Though if you don’t have much to pack, the small will fit a 13-inch laptop.) I was particularly impressed by the shoulder straps, which are a touch thicker and longer — and therefore easier to wear — than those on most totes, and the weight felt distributed evenly when full. Most surprising, however, was the bottom of the bag, which appeared to be treated with a dirt-resistant coating — an excellent feature for city commuters.  

Price at time of publish: $175

Colors: 3 | Material: Cotton canvas | Straps and Handles: Top handles | Closure: Open

Best with a Zipper

Longchamp Large Le Pliage Tote

Longchamp Le Pliage Large Shoulder Tote Bag


What We Love
  • It’s roomy, lightweight, and can be packed up for easy carrying.

What We Don’t Love
  • The straps aren’t adjustable.

The runner-up to our best travel tote, Longchamp’s long-beloved Pliage tote is a classic for a reason. It’s roomy enough to use as a carry-on, it folds flat with both a snap and zippered closure, and even has a water-resistant lining to combat spills. Made from durable nylon and embossed leather — both of which are easy to clean — Longchamp’s totes can last decades even with everyday wear. (A friend of mine’s new-looking Pliage tote, I recently found out, is actually her mom’s from the ‘90s.) The bag holds up so well, in part, due to its sturdy YKK zippers: Each one is finished with leather tabs to ensure longevity and seal out moisture. Its one and only drawback, however, is its lack of adjustable straps, or hardware to add one yourself. You’re stuck with two (albeit long) shoulder straps, which may or may not slide down your shoulder.

Price at time of publish: $155

Colors: 7  | Material: Nylon, leather | Straps and Handles: Top handles | Closure: Zipper, snap

Best Straw

Terrain Leather Handle Market Tote

Anthropologie Terrain Leather Handle Market Tote


What We Love
  • The leather handle will be more comfortable to hold than straw.

What We Don’t Love
  • It won't be easy to clean, especially if you get sand in it.

For the summer or beachy vacation, we recommend adding a straw tote bag into the mix. We named this our best straw bag before, thanks to its versatility and high-quality construction. With a leather handle, instead of straw, the tote looks a bit more elevated than a traditional bag, and it will also be more comfortable to hold, especially when filled with necessities, making it a bit heavier than it is on its own. Hand-woven in Morocco, the bag is also sustainable, giving us an even better feeling about this back. We love how on top of being functional, it also looks particularly stylish. It will make a welcome addition to any vacation look. But to clean it, you need to hand wash it with the tiniest bit of vinegar and reshape it clean, which might be a pain.

Price at time of publish: $88

Colors: 1 | Material: Palm, leather | Straps and Handles: Top handles | Closure: Open

What to Keep In Mind


While leather bags can provide more structure than relaxed nylon or cotton, they’re also much (much) heavier. If you’re going to be carrying your tote long distances — such as through the airport or to and from the subway — you may want to invest in something lighter. 


Anyone looking to carry a whole lot of stuff should consider opting for an extra large size — like the aforementioned L.L.Bean tote or Freja bag — because it will prevent you from needing multiple bags, especially if you plan to use it for work. And for those looking to go to the beach or use for workouts, look for something that can air out and breathe to keep the sand and sweat from sticking around forever.

Your Questions, Answered

What's the most durable material for a tote bag?

The durability of your bag will depend on several factors, including frequency of wear, the material, and how the bag is stored when not in use. Generally, leather and canvas are the most durable, and can withstand several years (if not decades) with proper care. Of the two, canvas totes are easier to repair should the bag become ripped, stained, or torn. 

How do you wash a tote bag?

No matter the material, it’s best to first check the care tag on your tote before washing. Most leather bags will require professional cleaning, and should not be wiped with or submerged in water. (If you’re just trying to buff out scuffs, however, you can try a leather conditioner.) Cotton and nylon totes are generally easy to care for, and can be hand-washed with a gentle detergent. Machine-drying totes is not recommended, as this can weaken the fabric and cause shrinkage. 

Why Shop With Us

Leah Muncy is an accomplished journalist with bylines in New York Magazine, InStyle, Architectural Digest, and more. For this story, she spoke with numerous stylists and tote bag experts for their advice on what to buy (and what to look for), on top of trying out a bunch on her own.

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