Though your average backpack is plenty capable of taking on most EDC uses, certain carry and storage solutions do a markedly better job of lending themselves to specific applications, and when it comes to carrying shopping, nothing beats a quality tote bag. Whether browsing your local bodega or a flea or farmer’s market, modern totes not only provide ample storage space but also make it incredibly easy to add or remove items from the bag while shopping. And while traditionally, most tote bags followed the same basic design and blueprint, more recent years have given way to a host of evolved takes on the segment, with today’s brands equipping these minimalistic bags with a variety of clever features and amenities. With so many legitimately stellar options on the market, however, it can be difficult even knowing where to start one’s search, so with this in mind we’ve thoroughly scoured the sector to deliver this handpicked guide to the best men’s tote bags for everyday carry.
The Best Tote Bags At A Glance
Best All-Weather Tote
RAINS Waterproof Classic Tote Bag
Best Tote For Travel
Aer Go Tote 2
Best Eco-Friendly Tote
Bellroy Tokyo Tote Compact
Best Backpack Replacement/Standalone Use Tote
Peak Design Everyday Tote
Best Ultra-Tough Tote
Mission Workshop Drift Tote VX
Why Did Tote Bags Become Popular Again?
Minimalistic, general-purpose carry solutions have existed for centuries, though it wasn’t until the mid-1940s that the term “tote” would be coined with the introduction of L.L.Bean’s “Boat and Tote” bags. Equal parts lightweight, packable, and utilitarian, tote bags would gain prominence in the decades following their release, though would eventually fall back out of popularity until experiencing a resurgence in recent years — a phenomenon spurred on by both a more eco-friendly societal shift and the introduction of single-use bag-bans. Additionally, factors such as the rise in popularity of farmer’s markets have also played a role in tote bags seeing a major rise in popularity. The same goes for the fact that totes are generally affordable, very easy to clean, lightweight, and easy to carry.
Ideal Qualities For Carrying Shopping Storage Solutions
The 10 Most Important Areas To Consider When Buying A New Tote Bag
A decade ago, practically every tote on the market was extremely similar, all sporting the same minimalistic design and only really varying in dimensions and construction. This reality has drastically changed in recent times as more and more of today’s most reputable carry solution companies have begun delivering their own elevated takes on the classic tote, with each boasting its own unique design elements and features. As such, shopping for a modern tote requires having an at least a tenuous grasp on the product space’s finer points — ten of the most important of which we’ll be breaking down directly below.
Video Review: The Best Tote Bags For EDC
Want to get a more in-depth hands-on look at our favorite EDC totes? Then be sure to check out our 4K video review for a deeper dive into our top picks.
Dimensions & Volume: One of the first areas to take into account when shopping for a modern tote is its size. This includes both the physical dimensions of the bag and the total amount of storage space (i.e. volume) offered — as well as if the tote’s volume is expandable. Typically advertised in liters, most modern totes offer anywhere from 15 to 30 liters, though there are some exceptions that are slightly smaller or larger.
Primary Construction: Just like with any regular duffel bag or backpack, an enormous part of what determines a tote bag’s overall quality and durability is the material used to craft its shell (i.e. its primary construction). Often fortified via DWR and/or polyurethane coatings, some of the most common constructions used for tote shells include high-denier nylons and polys, as well as ultra-hardwearing proprietary materials like CORDURA or Dimension-Polyant X-Pac sailcloth.
Secondary Materials: Though not as important as a tote’s shell material, secondary constructions can still play a major role in determining a model’s quality and durability. In addition to the liner material used, it’s also worth exploring other secondary materials such as the construction used to make a tote bag’s carrying handles, trim, or external webbing. Quite a few totes on the market also feature double-walled/lined or otherwise reinforced bottoms. What’s more, several of the bags on the market are also offered in more than one size.
Construction Technique(s): Alongside the material used to make a tote’s shell, it’s also crucial to explore how that material has been pieced together (i.e. the construction techniques used). This can include everything from regular stitching to reinforced threading setups to advanced laser welding.
Hardware: Another factor that separates modern totes from their older predecessors is the later models’ addition of external hardware. This can include everything from zipper tracks to buckles.
Closure: Traditionally, totes have largely been comprised of square or rectangular bags with a set of carry handles and an open top. More recently, however, many of today’s most lauded bag makers have started bestowing totes with zipper-secured main closures in order to better protect the bag’s contents. Some modern tote bags also employ roll-top closures for even more robust protection from the elements.
Weather Resistance: A tote bag’s ability to withstand the elements will primarily boil down to its shell construction, closure type, and hardware. This can be a crucial area to consider, especially if you happen to reside in the Pacific Northwest or any other region that’s prone to receiving ample rain and/or snowfall.
Supplementary Pockets & Features: Another significant way in which tote bags have evolved over the last few years is through the addition of numerous supplementary features that are designed to increase versatility and utility. Often borrowing features and design elements from everyday carry and travel backpacks, this can include everything from quick-access compartments to padded laptop and device sleeves to stealth pockets to pop-up pockets for housing water bottles or umbrellas.
Manufacturer: One way to ensure that you’re getting your hands on a high-quality tote is to purchase from a proven brand with a reputation and track record for producing high-end, well-designed, and well-crafted carry solutions. Taking this route does often cost a bit more, but it’s a pretty surefire way of ensuring that you’re making a quality purchase.
Color & Style: Though tote bags are engineered with a focus on function over form, they can nonetheless vary pretty significantly in terms of style and aesthetics, with some brands taking a more minimalistic approach while others employ markedly more involved configurations. What’s more, quite a few of the tote bags currently on the market are offered in a myriad of different color options.
Selection & Testing Process
How & Why We Got Hands-On With These Particular Tote Bags
Our search for the best tote bags began with us first setting out to compile a list of what we believed to be the latest and greatest totes on the market. This shortlist was generated by reviewing the materials of each tote, along with its construction technique(s), features and amenities, and overall design and style. Using these traits and characteristics, we then proceeded to get hands-on with every tote bag that we hypothesized would stand as one of the best on the market.
We accomplished this by utilizing these totes at grocery stores and farmers markets, swap meets, and flea markets, and even used them to stash some smaller parts while at the junkyard or pick-and-pull. The highly packable nature of these bags also allowed us to always carry a spare tote in our pack, duffel, or sling and utilize said item at any chance we got — something that massively shined a light on the unparalleled versatility of these affordable yet thorough utilitarian carry solutions.
RAINS WATERPROOF CLASSIC TOTE BAG
- Sports ultra-clean minimalistic monochrome design w/ matte finish
- Weatherproof zippers & PU-coated shell afford great water resistance
- Offers 24 liters of space yet is highly packable & weighs only 1lb
- Comes w/ removable crossbody strap
- Lacks organizational amenities & features of other more premium bags
Best All-Weather Tote: Boasting an incredibly minimalistic design complemented via a matte finish, the RAINS Waterproof Classic Tote Bag features a polyurethane-coated polyester fabric construction. Completely impervious to the elements, this fully-lined tote has been outfitted with a coated waterproof zipper, as well as a detachable crossbody webbing strap and a pair of outer webbing straps.
Tipping the scales at less than one pound, this tote can withstand water column pressure of up to 4,000mm. Protected by a multi-year warranty, RAINS’ Waterproof Classic Tote Bag also features a main compartment that offers 24 liters of internal real estate plus sports an internal zipper-secured pocket.
Primary Construction: PU-Coated Polyester
Volume: 24 Liters
AER GO TOTE 2
- 2nd-gen take on modern EDC tote made using eco-friendly shell material
- Equipped w/ Duraflex hardware & YKK zippers w/ Hypalon pulls
- Has quick-access front pocket w/ magnetic fastener
- Loaded w/ EDC bag features like 16” laptop compartment & expandable water bottle pocket
- Pack & lay flat design & luggage handle pass-through make it great for travel
- Shape of bag makes it difficult to dig through/find contents when fully loaded
Best Tote For Travel: Cut from bluesign-approved lightweight 210-denier CORDURA crinkle nylon, the Aer Go Tote 2 is a second-generation tote bag that’s absolutely brimming with features and amenities. On top of a main compartment with over 17 liters of storage space, the Go Tote 2 also boasts a laptop pocket that can accommodate notebooks of up to 16”, a quick-access back pocket, an external water bottle pocket, and an easy-access front pocket that’s held down via magnetic fastener.
Other noteworthy details include YKK zippers with Hypalon pulls, Duraflex hardware, and a soft woven liner. The fact this tote is designed to pack and lay flat — coupled with its luggage handle pass-through — also makes it a stellar choice for travel use.
Primary Construction: 210D CORDURA Crinkle Nylon
Volume: 17.5 Liters
BELLROY TOKYO TOTE COMPACT
- Full-length zipper & wide mouth opening make finding internal contents a breeze
- Equipped w/ 13” laptop sleeve
- Has pop pockets designed to hold shoes, water bottles, umbrellas, etc
- Great craftsmanship & build quality
- Made from material derived from recycled water bottles
- Accented w/ eco-tanned leather trim
- Not as durable as some of the other bags on this list
Best Eco-Friendly Tote: Despite closely resembling a traditional tote, the Bellroy Tokyo Tote Compact conceals a wealth of modern features and elements that collectively earn it a spot on this list. Backed by a three-year warranty, the entire bag is also crafted from Fine Weave — a proprietary, eco-friendly, water-resistant, woven fabric construction that’s derived from recycled bottles.
Outfitted with a wide-mouth opening that’s secured via a full-width zipper, the Tokyo Tote Compact sports redesigned pop pockets for stashing water bottles, umbrellas, or shoes, a quick-access zipper-secured front pocket, a built-in key clip with a ribbon loop, soft padded webbing traps with a non-slip backing, and an internal 13” laptop sleeve that’s cleverly been positioned outside of the tote’s “crush zone.”
Primary Construction: Fine Weave
Volume: 12 Liters
PEAK DESIGN EVERYDAY TOTE
- Cut from weatherproof, DWR-impregnated & 2x PU-coated, recycled 400D nylon canvas
- Interior has removable modular FlexFold dividers
- Absolutely stellar organizational features
- Includes padded 13” laptop sleeve & sunglasses pocket
- Features magnetic-assisted main closure w/ UltraZip zippers
- Sold w/ padded removable shoulder strap
- Bevy of pockets & dividers can make it difficult to fit larger items
- Side pocket’s ultra-shallow depth greatly limits its use/utility
Best Backpack Replacement/Standalone Use Tote: A 15-liter vessel engineered from the ground up specifically for EDC use, the Peak Design Everyday Tote is one of the most feature-laden models currently on the market. Crafted around a weatherproof, DWR-impregnated and double PU-coated, recycled 400-denier nylon canvas shell, the Everyday Tote packs a padded 13” laptop sleeve plus a supplementary dedicated compartment for housing a tablet or vital documents that’s separated via a magnetic seal.
Peak Design has also bestowed this tote with a quick access closure with a magnetic clasp, a weatherproof main top zipper, removable padded shoulder straps that can convert to a crossbody sling, a stretchy internal pocket for sunglasses, smartphones, and other sensitive items, UltraZip zippers crafted with abrasion-resistant threading, hand carry straps that can double as a luggage handle pass-through, and FlexFold dividers that allow the tote’s main compartment to be custom-configured to the user’s exact needs.
Primary Construction: DWR & Double PU-Coated Recycled 400D Nylon Canvas
Volume: 15 Liters
MISSION WORKSHOP DRIFT TOTE VX
- Cut from ultra-rugged, utra-lightweight, & ultra-waterproof VX-21 sailcloth
- Features oversized 28-liter design
- Made in America in small batches
- Has dedicated padded 16” laptop pocket, tablet pocket, & zippered tricot-lined smartphone pocket
- Sold w/ adjustable shoulder strap
- Also offered in slightly more affordable HT500 high-tenacity nylon shell version
- Expensive price
Best Ultra-Tough Tote: Developed from the ground up to be as versatile as possible — all without sacrificing on durability or utility — the Mission Workshop Drift Tote VX is a premium bag that’s crafted in America in small batches to ensure exacting craftsmanship and quality control standards. One of the larger totes on this list with 28 liters of storage volume, this Mission Workshop bag also comes with a luggage handle pass-through and an adjustable shoulder strap.
Loaded with features that are typically reserved for EDC and work backpacks, the Drift Tote VX is made from ultra-rugged X-Pac VX-21 sailcloth and boasts a dedicated 16” laptop pocket (that can be accessed from the exterior of the bag), a zipper-secured tricot-lined smartphone pocket, a flat interior pocket for documents and magazines, and a second device sleeve for housing tablets and e-readers.
Primary Construction: X-Pac VX21 Sailcloth
Volume: 28 Liters
Stellar Supplementary Selections
A Few More Terrific EDC Tote Bags To Consider
While they didn’t quite have what it took to make the cut for our list of the absolute best EDC totes, there is nonetheless a handful of additional bags that are well worth considering if you’re shopping for a tote. Below, we’ll explore our picks for seven more terrific tote options.
DEUS EX MACHINA HINTERLANDS TOTE
Designed and field-tested at the custom motorcycle and lifestyle brand’s House Of Simple Pleasures store in, Camperdown, Sydney, the Deus Hinterlands Tote is a more traditional interpretation of a tote bag that still boasts a zippered main compartment and robust weatherproofing. Decorated via a custom “DEUS Adventure Gear” logo patch, the tote also features an external back mesh pocket that runs the entire width of the bag and massively bolsters its storage and carrying potential.
Primary Construction: Heavy-Duty Nylon
ARC’TERYX HELIAD 12 TOTE
Sold in five color options, the Arc’teryx Heliad 12 Tote is a compact yet utilitarian bag with an adjustable sling-style crossbody breathable mesh carrying strap. Weighing only 6.3oz (0.39lbs), the Heliad 12 Tote features a DWR-coated 100-denier ripstop shell and a main zipper-secured compartment that’s supplemented via another quick-access zippered pocket on the bag’s face.
Primary Construction: DWR-Coated 100D Ripstop
Volume: 12 Liters
PROMETHEUS DESIGN WERX CAB-2 TOTE
Made in California, the Prometheus Design Werx CaB-2 Tote sees the San Francisco company put its signature rugged, military-inspired spin on the product space. This 30-liter bag is crafted around an ultra-hardwearing ballistic-grade 1,000-denier CORDURA shell with nylon edge binding, an external water bottle pocket, MIL-SPEC nylon webbing short and long carry straps, and a 4″ x 4″ loop panel for morale patches. Inside, the tote sports a dedicated tablet pocket, a magazine pocket, and a side organizer compartment with a trio of dividers.
Primary Construction: 1,000D CORDURA Nylon
Volume: 30 Liters+
PATAGONIA BLACK HOLE TOTE 25L
Made with sustainability in mind, the Patagonia Black Hole Tote 25L is constructed around a weather-resistant 8.7oz, 300-denier TPU-film-laminated polyester ripstop shell that’s been derived entirely from post-consumer products — before being paired with recycled nylon webbing. Fair Trade Certified-sewn, this packable tote also sports comfort grab handles and a zipper-secured interior pocket.
Primary Construction: Recycled TPU-Coated 300D Polyester Ripstop
Volume: 25 Liters
HYPERLITE MOUNTAIN GEAR G.O.A.T. TOTE
Sporting a freestanding design that provides a light structure while still being able to fold and pack completely flat, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear G.O.A.T. Tote is unequivocally one of the most rugged totes on the market, with this 31-liter vessel having been crafted from an insanely-durable and completely waterproof 150-denier Dyneema Composite Hybrid fabric. The outside of this tote also features webbing handles with anchored loops for attaching additional gear while the inside of the bag has been bestowed with an internal zippered pocket.
Primary Construction: 150D Dyneema Composite Hybrid
Volume: 31 Liters
Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag
Made in America, the Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag is one of the most premium and meticulously-designed totes on the market. Alongside a durable water-resistant Rugged Twill primary construction, a double-layered reinforced bottom, and open-stow pockets at all four sides, this bag also features vegetable-tanned bridle leather handles that are long enough to allow for shoulder carrying, plus custom sand-cast solid brass hardware, and Tin Cloth binding on the tote’s interior seams.
Primary Construction: Cotton Rugged Twill
Volume: 20 Liters
KILLSPENCER MEGA TOTE 2.0
Another unquestionably top-shelf pick, the KILLSPENCER Mega Tote 2.0 is made by hand in Los Angeles and features a structured premium bull hide leather shell that’s mated to double-sided front-facing 0.75″ leather handles that slowly mold to the contours of its wearer’s shoulder over time with regular use. Available with an optional three-letter monogram, this KILLSPENCER tote is also sold in four different color options.
Primary Construction: Bull Hide Leather
Volume: 28 Liters
The Best Packable Backpacks for Travel
Interested in checking out another selection of highly utilitarian and versatile carry solutions? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best packable backpacks for another curated selection of compact bags that open up to provide ample storage.