best leather tote bags

What are the Best Leather Tote Bags? Our team has researched and reviewed the best designer tote bags 2020 and best tote bags 2020 to help you come up with a better decision. We’ve also put up a shopping guide with the features you can consider when buying a genuine leather tote bag

A good tote is for the schlep. One day your tote bag holds 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, helpful whether you’re heading to a coffee shop or an office, and attractive and versatile enough for you to drag it to dinner afterward. With eight Wirecutter staffers giving opinions on our top 10 bags, we found the six tote bags we loved that covered a variety of looks, carrying needs, and budgets. And best of all: They made great schlepping partners.

best tote bags 2020

Best Leather Tote Bags

Two people with different tote bags on their shoulders

We take our tote bag choices seriously, considering that we stuff them with our various supplies for work and play. And we want you to, as well. Photo: Sarah Kobos

“If I was Sarah Snook on Succession, I would have this bag,” said Anna Perling, a staff writer on the Wirecutter kitchen team, during testing. She was contemplating the $200 Leatherology Belmont Structured Tote while referring to the impossibly chic-yet-corporate wardrobe of character Shiv Roy on HBO’s satirical comedy-drama about the owners of a global media empire.

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. Maybe we aren’t all Siobhan “Shiv” Roy on Succession—but maybe, with the right tote bag, we could look like we are.

Add a tote to your wardrobe if you need a fashionable way to cram all of your supplies into a bag for work, the gym, or the beach and want to be able to grab them easily. Whether you get one tote bag or two, a tote is an accessory that should make you feel prepared, no matter where you are. 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.

Casual, unstructured canvas tote: Baggu Duck Bag

A grid-patterned Baggu duck bag.
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Our pick

Baggu Duck Bag

Baggu Duck Bag

Our favorite all-purpose canvas tote

The Baggu Duck Bag is a casual, durable, and comfortable tote bag that comes in a variety of colors for added personalization.$32 from Amazon

What we’d use it for:

If your greatest wish is for a simple but good-looking, soft and unstructured, versatile canvas bag that lets you carry it multiple ways and will last for years, we recommend the Baggu Duck Bag.

We love the Baggu Duck Bag because you can wear it in a variety of ways thanks to its dual straps. Photo: Sarah Kobos

We love the Baggu Duck Bag because you can wear it in a variety of ways thanks to its dual straps. Photo: Sarah Kobos

We love the Baggu Duck Bag because you can wear it in a variety of ways thanks to its dual straps. Photo: Sarah Kobos

We love the Baggu Duck Bag because you can wear it in a variety of ways thanks to its dual straps. Photo: Sarah Kobos

  • We love the Baggu Duck Bag because you can wear it in a variety of ways thanks to its dual straps. Photo: Sarah Kobos

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Why it’s great:

It’s hard to pin the Baggu Duck Bag’s excellence on a single feature, but that’s where its genius lies: Its practical simplicity makes it a more universal choice than any other tote bag we tested. 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.

The Duck Bag is 11 inches wide by nearly 16 inches tall, and its flexible seams mean it can accommodate a large volume of contents. “I can stick my whole yoga mat in there,” one tester told us. And its shoulder strap extends to 40 inches, double the strap length of most totes we tested. You can adjust it to use the bag over your shoulder or carry it on your back, or you can use the short handles to carry it like a briefcase.

“It’s a good, unisex tote bag,” said Sarah Kobos, senior photo editor, during testing. Overall, the Duck Bag was the most well-liked canvas bag we tested because of its utilitarian shape and understated appearance.

The Baggu felt sturdy over weeks of testing and didn’t pick up much dirt—and in our experience, the bags have lasted extremely well. Lesley Stockton, our food stylist and senior staff writer on the kitchen team, has owned a Duck Bag for 10 years and has used it for everything from lugging knife rolls and heavy clogs to hauling a giant food processor across New York City. Besides the expected amount of wear and tear, the bag has remained intact without developing any major rips or thin spots. In contrast to the care instructions for our other picks, Baggu recommends machine washing the Duck Bag and line drying it, though you can also wash it by hand.

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

The inside of the Baggu duck bag
The Baggu Duck Bag has a large main compartment that snaps shut, as well as a smaller zippered pocket sewn inside. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Pockets and organization:

The Duck Bag’s large main compartment snaps together, and the zippered pouch sewn into its inside is good 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!”

A view of the handles of the Baggu duck bag
The Baggu Duck Bag has two handles for you to hold it a few different ways, but be careful not to carry anything pointy inside that might stick out and poke you in the ribs.
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

Staff writer Kaitlyn Wells, who is 5-foot-3, noted that the Baggu hit her body in the wrong place when she was carrying her laptop inside of it. A few of our testers who stood around Kaitlyn’s height also noted this issue, but they found that extending its straps and turning the bag into a crossbody bag helped resolve the problem. We also discovered that items you put into the Duck Bag can poke you through the fabric when you have it slung over your back. In addition, the Baggu is an unconstructed tote, which means that it’s floppy when it’s empty, and it can’t stand on its own until it’s filled with stuff.

Size: 11 by 15¾ by 4¾ inches
Weight: 13 ounces
Strap length: 40 inches
Closure type: snap button
Colors: indigo, nutmeg, eucalyptus, punch red, kelp, leopard, washed black, natural canvas, natural grid, sailor stripe, black

Structured tote made from heavier canvas: L.L.Bean Boat and Tote

The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Also great

L.L.Bean Boat and Tote

L.L.Bean Boat and Tote

A customizable, pocket-less, canvas tote bag

The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote is made from heavy canvas that will last you a lifetime, but it doesn’t have any pockets for storage. It comes in four bag sizes, with a variety of handle-size options and colors to choose from.$30 from L.L.Bean
(medium)

What we’d use it for:

The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote 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 allows you more customizability than any other tote bag we found in size and handle length.

For added security, we recommend it with a zip-top for $10 more.

The Boat and Tote on a person's shoulder
Although you might be able to sling the 6-inch handles over your shoulders, you may be more comfortable buying the Boat and Tote with longer handles than on the version we tested. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Why it’s great:

Textbook tote bags are textbook for a reason, and the L.L.Bean Boat and Tote is no different. You’ve probably 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 secretly packing negronis in their thermos.

The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote looks timeless. Its structured design means it sits 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. The Boat and Tote is the answer.

The medium Boat and Tote bag is 13 by 12 inches, so it’s slightly wider than it is tall. It also has an open top, so you don’t have the same privacy that the Baggu affords to you (though for $10 more you can get a zip-top version). 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.

Whereas the Duck Bag comes in one size, the Boat and Tote offers a range of options: It comes in small, medium, large, and extra-large, 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 handles of the Boat and Tote
The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote bag is rated to hold up to 500 pounds. We didn’t test that claim, but the bag’s heavy construction leads us to believe it to be true. Photo: Sarah Kobos

The tote is made of heavy-duty cotton canvas and overlapped seams double-stitched with nylon. Thanks to its colored bottom, we didn’t spot any blemishes over the few weeks we tested it. The Baggu Duck Bag is canvas, too, and can tolerate machine washing, but L.L.Bean recommends spot-cleaning this tote. It’s especially 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 I am unable to hold more than 150 pounds without crying, we were not able to test this claim.

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. Admittedly, it is that 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, L.L.Bean will consider returns due to defective materials.

The inside of the Boat and Tote
The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote doesn’t have any pockets, but its large base and simple, sturdy construction make it the Choose Your Own Adventure of tote bags. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

As we mentioned above, the L.L.Bean’s sturdy, upright construction may qualify as a flaw to some people, since you won’t be able to fold it up to stick it in a drawer. It also doesn’t have any pockets, which may be annoying. As a result, it leans on your ability to organize (though we can help with that).

Size: 13 by 12 by 6 inches
Weight: 1 pound 8 ounces
Strap length: 6 inches
Closure type: none (optional zippered version for $10 more)
Colors: black, blue, dark green, fossil brown, red, regatta blue, aqua, green camouflage

Sophisticated and structured tote bag: Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag

The Filson Rugged Twill Tote
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Upgrade pick

Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag

Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag

A chicer, sleeker canvas tote

A higher-end canvas tote, Filson’s Rugged Twill is lightweight, well constructed, and equipped with leather handles and an excellent warranty.$195 from Filson

What we’d use it for:

If you’ve been searching for a lightweight, well-constructed tote that will suit any occasion, whether you’re working at the office or planning to take your bag along on a romantic lakeside weekend away, grab the more refined Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag.

A person wearing the Filson tote on their shoulder.
The Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag lives up to the promise of its name with tough construction and a lifetime warranty. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Why it’s great:

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. Its simple but elevated design means that it can come with you to a prix fixe dinner out but also for a day of running errands and doing chores.

The Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag is 14 inches wide by 14 inches tall, wider than our other canvas picks. 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. One of its bigger outside pockets also contains a key-clip lanyard. The bag’s sleek handles, made from bridle leather, give it a touch more sophistication than its competition offers, too. Editor Tim Barribeau described the look as “farmers market goth.”

Our staff panel ranked the Rugged Twill Tote Bag second among all the tote bags we tried, even above more refined leather options. “I feel like I could take this tote bag anywhere,” said one tester. Another appreciated the Rugged Twill Tote Bag for its side pockets, comparing it favorably to the Bellroy Tokyo Tote, saying, “The Bellroy and the Filson are artsy PTA moms, but the Filson signifies a coolness that the Bellroy doesn’t. She reads Sally Rooney; she does pottery.”

The Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag is made from 100 percent 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 bag is well built and feels like it could last for years. If you’re not convinced by the bag’s added charisma vis-à-vis its outer pockets and leather handles, the Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag comes with a lifetime warranty (the only bag to do so among our recommendations).

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. Photo: Sarah Kobos

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. Photo: Sarah Kobos

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. Photo: Sarah Kobos

  • 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. Photo: Sarah Kobos

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Pockets and organization:

You get a main compartment with four side pockets; two are about the same width as the bag and can fit a 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the other two are about the size of a stylish water bottle.

A close up of a black Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

The handles on the Filson Tote were stiff at first, but they softened over a few weeks. Some of our testers expressed wishes for an inside pocket, too.

Size: 14 by 14 by 5¼ inches
Weight: 1 pound 12 ounces
Strap length: 29½ inches
Closure type: none
Colors: navy, otter green, tan

Smooth, unstructured leather tote bag: Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote

The Leatherology tote
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Our pick

Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote

Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote

A refined leather tote for every day

The simply designed Leatherology Uptown is enveloped in a rich, full-grain leather and has a surprising number of pockets inside.$150 from Leatherology

What we’d use it for:

The Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote is an attractive, versatile, and unstructured leather bag whose bohemian elegance makes it easier to dress up than similarly drapey canvas bags.

A person wearing the Leatherology tote on their shoulder
The Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote is at its best when you’re headed to a place where you need to impress. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Why it’s great:

This leather tote is one of a more expensive breed of bag that allows for a sophisticated take on the everyday canvas tote. In many ways it’s an elevated version of the similarly unstructured Baggu bag. It could come along on a picnic, sure, but we think a simple, sleek tote like the Uptown Vertical Tote will do its best work when you’re headed to a spot where you need to impress, such as at a job interview, or if you need to carry a few things to a Valentine’s Day dinner after work.

The Uptown Vertical Tote is 14¾ inches wide by 15½ inches tall. “It’s the perfect length,” said one tester. “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. Its shoulder straps put it at an ideal height underneath my arms, and other testers—of varying heights—liked them, too.

When it came time for staff votes, the Uptown Vertical Tote handily beat every other leather tote bag option we tested—people loved this bag. It landed near the top slot on everyone’s list.

One staff writer, Anna Perling, couldn’t stop spouting effusive compliments when she finally got her hands on the tote. A snippet: “My favorite; I love her so much. She feels buttery-soft! Beautiful texture.” Our photographer agreed: “I want to touch this one forever. 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 Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote is a joy to touch in part because it’s made from full-grain leather. It has a black cotton-twill lining that works as a protective barrier against any spills or messes that might plague it. Leatherology recommends simply wiping the bag clean if you get its exterior dirty.

The Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote comes with a one-year warranty, which is standard among the tote bags we tested.

A person pulling a laptop out of the Leatherology tote.
The Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote is the perfect length for you to slip a laptop inside without telling a soul. (Disclaimer: Someone snuck a potato into CES 2020, and now I have a laptop sticker about it.) Photo: Sarah Kobos

Pockets and organization:

Inside the Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote, you’ll find two open pockets and one zippered pocket. (A surprising amount of organization for a leather tote.) While its two open pockets start around a quarter of the way down and extend to the bottom, its zippered pocket starts about a quarter of the way down and extends about halfway.

The inside of the Leatherology.
Leather tote bags require more care and consideration than their canvas counterparts, but the Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote has a practical number of pockets. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

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. Although some Wirecutter testers liked that it didn’t button or zip on the outside, other testers wished they had a way to close the bag at its top. One tester said, “I would like a button so that if you drop it, your belongings don’t go flying everywhere.”

Size: 14¾ by 15½ by 3½ inches
Weight: 2 pounds 4 ounces
Strap length: 9½ inches
Closure type: none
Colors: black onyx, Bordeaux, navy, cognac, scarlet, charcoal, rose

A luxurious structured leather bag: Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote

The Cuyana tote
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Also great

Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote

Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote

An open-top leather tote

The Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote is a wide, gorgeous tote that can account for all your belongings, though with just one small pocket, it isn’t easy to organize.$195 from Cuyana

What we’d use it for:

The Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote is a sturdy, open-top leather bag that’s big enough to carry everything you could need for a long day, but it’s so elegant that no one will know if you’re secretly packing your kid’s lunch box, three apples in various stages of decay, and a change of clothes for dinner under your arm.

A person wearing the Cuyana tote on their shoulder
The Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote is huge. But it looks great. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Why it’s great:

The Classic Structured Leather Tote is a beautiful, humongous leather bag that retails for about $200. The soft, pebbled texture of the Italian leather gives it a classic look, and its structure gives it a certain dignity, but it’s not too fancy to use every day. It’s less practical than the other totes we recommend due to its size (it’s more than 6 inches wider than the medium version of the L.L.Bean). As for organization, you should be able to throw a bunch of your work and play things inside—it has a slim zippered pocket for the really important stuff—and bring it on your journey.

Measuring 19½ inches wide by 13¼ inches tall, the Classic Structured Leather Tote is plenty roomy. It has one zipped pocket and one open pocket, though neither is particularly deep—just enough for the fundamentals, such as a small wallet, phone, or notebook. “I like the length and width of its straps,” noted one tester. We found that the broadness of the straps, too, made it so that they didn’t dig into our shoulders.

One tester’s journey of reactions was humorously representative of others: “This bag is huge…. No, actually, it’s gorgeous. I’ll take it.” Many of our panelists appreciated the Italian leather on the outside of the bag and found it striking upon first glance. One of our photo editors liked its structure, which kept the bag upright without being stiff. “You can still fold it up,” he explained. “It’s that perfect mix of structured yet unstructured.”

The Cuyana tote seems well made and long-lasting. It has a two-year warranty, longer than the coverage on any other tote bag we recommend aside from the Filson, which is covered for its lifetime.

The inside of the Cuyana tote
The Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote isn’t for the hyper-organized, but it is a good option if you want to toss some supplies in and head out. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Pockets and organization:

The appeal of a big, open-top, structured tote is the ability to throw a lot of stuff in it and carry it everywhere. It’s not a bag for someone who wants to be hyper-organized (Cuyana makes a bag organizer sized exactly for this tote, if you do). 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.

The knotted side straps of the Cuyana tote
The Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote has two internal straps whose only function is to tie the two sides of the bag together. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

The Cuyana has an internal leather strap on either end, meant to hold the bag together, but the design mystified us. When the straps are tied together, the bag’s size becomes more limited. So why would you use the ties? We couldn’t answer this question during testing; we received lots of “Why?” and “What are these?” reactions from our panelists.

Size: 19½ by 13¼ by 6 inches
Weight: 2 pounds 2 ounces
Strap length: 8⅞ inches
Closure type: two straps to tie together, one on either side of the tote
Colors: black/blush, black/caramel, burgundy/blush, cappuccino, caramel/blush, chocolate/blush, cognac/blush, ecru, perla/blush, stone/blush, textured black

Vegan leather tote bag with lots of pockets and structure: Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag

The Universal Thread tote from Target.
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Budget pick

Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag

Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag

A vegan leather option for a fraction of the cost

The Universal Hayden Tote Bag is a great choice for anyone who doesn’t want to drop their entire paycheck on a genuine leather tote bag.$30 from Target

What we’d use it for:

Target’s Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag is the bag we’d bring to a fellowship straight out of college—its faux leather belies its affordable price.

a person wearing the Universal Thread tote on their shoulder
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Why it’s great:

The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag is a vegan leather bag, and it’s a great leather-style option if you avoid leather goods or want the leather look but don’t have the money to spend on real leather made from cowhide. It has more pockets than many of the totes we tested: If the Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote is the most impractical pocket design, the Hayden may be the most organizationally practical—and reasonably priced—leather-style tote we tested. Its size allows it to sit comfortably on the shoulder, and it can fit a variety of goods underneath its top zipper, too.

The Hayden Tote Handbag is 11¼ inches wide and 13½ inches tall. Both of its leather-style brethren in this guide are much wider and taller, but they typically cost at least five times as much. It has one open pocket on the outside and three interior pockets hidden below a top zipper, an added-security feature that we liked.

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.

On one hand, many Wirecutter testers immediately identified it as being cheaper than the other leather and leather-style options on the table. (“I freaking hate this bag.”) On the other hand, many other testers found it at the very least “fine,” and we think that if you’re spending $30, “fine” is an okay way to feel.

The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag’s exterior is made from polyurethane, and its inside is lined with polyester. It doesn’t feel outstandingly constructed; its straps didn’t seem strong during testing, and its stitching threatened to come loose more than once. Although it may last a only year or so, it generally costs a sixth the price of leather totes we liked. Target offers a one-year warranty for its Universal Thread items.

The inside of the Universal Thread tote
The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag has a bunch of pockets inside and out for organizing your things as you see fit. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Pockets and organization:

The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag has lots of pockets and organization: one slip on the outside and three inner pockets (one zippered). The cherry on top is its zip closure, which keeps everything inside protected—the bag remains open on the sides, though, so it isn’t weather resistant.

The zipper closure on the Universal Thread tote.
Many Wirecutter testers took issue with its zipper top, which doesn’t go all the way across. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag isn’t the cutest we tested: Its one outside pocket was the most divisive feature on any of the bags we tested. People hated it. A pocket on the exterior of a bag is a nice perk, though, and you can easily turn the bag so that the pocket is toward your body and hidden out of sight, both because it’s kind of eyesore and because your possessions are safer that way.

Many Wirecutter testers took issue with the Hayden’s zipper top, which doesn’t cover all the way across. That’s true—if it starts raining, water can easily sneak past the zipper top and into your bag—but the added security is nice.

We tested the Hayden in light brown, which proved to be a pleasant and multipurpose color. 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.

Testers noted that its straps weren’t strong, its stitching threatened to come loose, and it might wear out after a year of use. Thankfully, Target has a one-year warranty that should cover those problems, and these are passable issues for a budget pick.

Size: 11¼ by 13½ by 5¼ inches
Weight: 1 pound 8 ounces
Strap length: 23¼ inches
Closure type: zipper
Colors: black, light brown, deep olive, tan, black/white, beige, peach, dark brown, rust, cognac, brown

Why you should trust me

I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching and testing for various Wirecutter guides over the past three years, including those for laptop backpacks and touchscreen winter gloves, so I’m well equipped to take on a guide that integrates utility with style. I looked at reviews from outlets such as The Strategist and Business Insider while browsing best-seller listings for popular online retailers like Amazon and well-worn favorites from Baggu to Linjer.

How we picked and tested

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 looked at totes that were 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. We didn’t universally look for total enclosures, laptop slots, or waterproofing, as we did for our guides to laptop totes and purse organizers. We then narrowed our list of bags down to 20 totes based on specifications, aesthetics, materials, and a variety of prices.

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. Our testers rated the bags on look, feel, size, weight, usefulness, material, and durability.

The competition

a stack of totes we tested.
We tested a lot of tote bags. This is the prettiest way we could show them all. The Leatherology Belmont is the extremely chunky one. Photo: Sarah Kobos

best designer tote bags 2020

Tote bags we liked

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. Some testers also took issue with its rounded straps, though I personally liked them. The more expensive leather tote bags we recommend here were just as good as the Soft Tote was in our tests, so we passed.

Although I had high hopes for the Steele Canvas Steeletex Beach Tote going into testing (it’s cute, it’s black, and it’s even utilitarian), our Wirecutter panel did not like the look or feel of it, preferring the L.L.Bean overall. Testers were confounded by this bag’s nylon material and the brass grommets on its bottom (which were meant to help shake out unwanted sand from the beach). I think the Steele Canvas looks chic, and though it may not be as useful as the L.L.Bean, it deserves credit for being a great beach bag.

Tote bags we didn’t like

Though I truly thought the Baggu Giant Pocket Tote would be a hit when we ordered it, this tote was hilariously big and baggy and had not even a wisp of structure, so it crumpled as soon as we emptied it. The Giant Pocket denim tote looked as if a pair of very large jeans had been torn apart, restitched, and sold under a guise of usefulness. It was not useful.

We found it hard to fit anything inside the Bellroy Classic Tote, as its interior was too cramped and tight with pockets. With so much interior organization, it was just too difficult to use.

The exterior material of the Bellroy Tokyo Tote was too thick—it didn’t feel breathable at all—and the bag was too thin in width. It seemed like it would be good for carting a laptop but not as a general-use tote bag, and at the time of our testing it cost nearly as much as the Filson.

The Dalix Heavy Duty Cotton Canvas Tote had notably weak stitching, despite being one of the most popular tote bags sold on Amazon. It was structurally similar to the L.L.Bean Boat and Tote, at just a third of the price. But if you want something that will last for a while, we recommend saving up for the L.L.Bean instead. One of our writers and testers told us, “I know that L.L.Bean has really high quality standards, and a great warranty policy. I can tell, touching the Dalix, that it’s not as nice.”

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.

Multiple testers described the Leatherology Belmont Structured Tote as “matronly.” Many people said that they liked it but that it was not for them. When you have a group of people saying that, you begin to realize that the Belmont may not be for anybody. And it usually costs $200. Although it’s a nice tote, it didn’t fit for any situation we could find.

Like the Belmont, the Leatherology Zippered Downtown Tote is quite expensive, and it faced more criticism in our initial rounds of testing than the other leather bags. It was ugly to look at, according to testers, and its pebbled material was a mark against it rather than for it.

The Lululemon Pack the Pocket Tote was baggy and had no structure, and it’s discontinued now.

We found the Madewell Transport Tote too narrow compared with our other leather bag picks.

Although we expected the Nisolo Canvas Tote to be smaller compared with its competition, it was much too narrow and thin to use every day, like the Madewell bag. The Baggu, which we found infinitely more useful, was half its price; the Filson, while double its price, was sturdier and offered an improved warranty, too.

The Nodykka Tote Bag is an affordable vegan leather tote bag from Amazon, but absolutely no one in our initial tests liked it. The straps were too thin and flimsy for some testers, and the feel of the bag itself was too wobbly for others.

The Patagonia Market Tote felt too much like a free printed tote, even though it offered a small inside pocket for added storage. It was cute but not comparable to its competition, and not worth its $30 asking price. But if this is something you’re looking for, it’s otherwise fine.

Every woman knows the importance of a good tote. These super practical handbags are a wardrobe essential, especially for commuters and travelers who need to carry around more than just the daily necessities. The roomy silhouette of totes makes it so easy to throw all your stuff in the bag and go. Plus, the style has a way of making you look polished and pulled together.

While there are thousands of tote bags available in stores, it can be difficult to find one that is equal parts fashionable and functional. So to help you find the best options out there, I tested multiple tote bags to see which ones live up to the hype—and which ones don’t. During my search, I tried over 20 different bags but managed to find just seven sturdy totes that are not only built to last, but are also stylish enough to wear practically anywhere.

Related: 7 Stunning Winter-to-Spring Wardrobe Staples Your Closet Needs

These versatile carryalls, outlined below, were all spacious enough to carry a variety of items including my laptop, books, a change of shoes, gym clothes, and water bottles. Some even feature high-tech components—like portable charging ports—while another has  a hidden compartment that, when unzipped, expands the bag to offer an additional four inches of space.

No matter what type of tote you’re looking for, you’re sure to find an option that works on this list. From sleek designer tote bags to bags with extra compartments that’ll keep your belongings organized to reversible totes that allow you to customize your look, keep reading to shop our top seven picks that are definitely worth buying. Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

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Best Everyday Option: Everlane The Day Market Tote

Everlane The Day Market Tote

Everlane

This classic tote by Everlane is a perfect option for everyday use. It’s made from 100 percent Italian leather and was big enough to fit all my daily essentials, along with my laptop, a change of shoes, and more. The bag is super sturdy and didn’t slip off my shoulder while I walked like many bags tend to do.

It definitely feels very well-made, so it makes sense that it has such a cult following. Not only has this best-selling tote sold out several times, but stylish stars like Meghan Markle have even been spotted carrying it. The sleek tote comes in seven pretty colors—I opted for the cognac brown shade, and it matched perfectly with practically everything in my wardrobe. I would definitely recommend this for anyone looking for a comfortable tote with a simple and roomy silhouette.

To buy: $175; everlane.com.

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Best Option for Work: Dagne Dover Legend Signature Tote

Dagne Dover Legend Signature Tote

Dagne Dover

If you tend to avoid totes because you can never find what you’re looking for in the spacious main compartment, try this option by Dagne Dover. The practical work bag has a compartment for just about everything imaginable, so you won’t waste time searching for your keys or wallet. The super roomy tote even features a padded area for a laptop or tablet, a slot for your cell phone, and spots for your lipstick and pens.  

It also has plenty of side pockets and zippered pockets for added storage, along with  a water bottle holder that keeps bottles upright—so you never have to worry about spills in your bag again. Even with all the pockets and compartments filled with my necessities, the bag was still big enough to carry gym clothes and a change of sneakers. My final verdict: This is a great commuter bag for women who need help staying organized.

To buy: $265; dagnedover.com

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Best Durable Option: L.L.BEAN Open-Top Boat Tote

L.L.BEAN Open-Top Boat Tote

L.L.BEAN

L.L.Bean has been a go-to source for stylish and durable accessories for decades, and the quality of the brand is made clear in its open-top boat tote. The cute carryall is made from a heavy-duty cotton canvas that’ll last for years to come. Each bag is handcrafted in Maine and features a reinforced bottom and sturdy handles that have been proven to hold up to 500 pounds at a time.

Available in five different colorways, the tote is designed in a timeless silhouette that will never go out of style There are four sizes to choose from, and you can even choose to add a monogram for a personal touch. I tested out the extra-large option (linked below) and found it to be the perfect bag for day trips and weekend getaways. The size is big enough to fit everything you would need for an overnight excursion, a picnic, or a day at the beach.

To buy: $40; llbean.com.

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Best Designer Option: Coach Charlie Carryall 40

Coach Charlie Carryall 40

Coach

It doesn’t get more luxe than a sleek designer tote bag. Case in point: this beautiful option from Coach. Made with top-quality pebbled leather, it has comfortable 8 ¾-inch drop handles that stay put on your shoulders and also includes three different compartments to keep your belongings organized and separate. The middle compartment even has a zipper, so you can keep expensive items like laptops, tablets, cell phones, and wallets safe and protected.

The other two compartments were spacious enough to hold everything I use on a day-to-day basis, in addition to extras like work files, shoes, and a sweater. It was definitely the most stylish bag that I tested out, and it helped me feel more polished and fashionable every time I carried it.  

To buy: $425; coach.com.

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Best Chargeable Option: UncommonGoods Smartphone Charging Reversible Tote

UncommonGoods Smartphone Charging Reversible Tote

UncommonGoods

Looking for a bag that gives you more bang for your buck? Check out this cute option from UncommonGoods. The bag is fully reversible, so you basically get two totes for the price of one. You can choose between a black and tan option or a navy and white color. The best part? This sleek bag also comes with a charging port.

Inside each tote is a detachable pouch with a built-in charging station. It has a USB plug on one side that allows you to charge the port and a micro-USB plug on the other that fits most Androids, Kindles, and other tablets. It also comes with a micro-USB-C adapter and an iPhone adapter so you can charge practically any electronic device from inside your bag. What’s more, the charging port has an LED power indicator that’ll let you know when it’s running low on battery. The charging feature came in handy when my phone died on my commute home and, for that reason, I’d definitely recommend this innovative tote.

To buy: $120; uncommongoods.com.

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Best Expanding Option: LeSportsac Collette Expandable Tote

LeSportsac Collette Expandable Tote

Shopbop

If you’ve ever run out of space in your bag while out and about, you’ll love this tote by LeSportsac. It features a hidden bottom that, when unzipped, expands to give you an additional four inches of room. Even better, this cute and sporty tote is made from a durable ripstop nylon fabric that’s built to least.

The bag is great for shopping trips and traveling since you can easily expand it to fit all your new goodies and souvenirs. The tote comes in a sleek black option or a bright neon green color. I found it to be very spacious and comfortable on my shoulder, and the three deep pockets on the outside of the bag came in handy and offered easy access to my essentials. Not only was it perfect for carrying new purchases, but it would also make a great gym bag.

To buy: $150, shopbop.com.

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Best Travel Option: Mark & Graham Ripstop Backpack

Mark & Graham Ripstop Backpack

Mark & Graham

If you are looking for a cute tote bag to travel with, check out this option from Mark & Graham. The handy bag can be worn as both a tote and a backpack, making it totally versatile and super easy to switch up your travel looks. But the best part has to be how portable the tote is.

The lightweight nylon bag can completely fold up into a small compact pouch, so it’s insanely easy to pack. I also loved that the bag was monogrammable, spacious, and had plenty of side pockets and a front zip pocket that helped keep my belongings safe.

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