Living in the city, totes are invaluable. They are versatile bags with infinite purposes and uses; the same tote can be your purse or briefcase one day and carry home your groceries the next. The simple cotton totes you get from magazines and public radio stations are always nice (especially when they're free), but having a heavier duty tote is a step up in every way. It's one of those things, just when you think you've maxed out the utility of a bag (or piece of clothing), acquiring a version that's built to last opens up entirely new possibilities.
There are a lot of shapes and sizes of totes available, and it was pretty difficult to limit this list to just five bags/manufacturers. I like a tote that can comfortably sit on my shoulder as well as be carried by my side, and will survive countless days of being stuffed with heavy loads. I'm confident that these bags will handle anything you can throw at them.
1. Makr A-Strap Tote
Makr's A-Strap design is appealing and functional, with a large compartment and interior pocket, and the A-strap construction will sit on your shoulder nicely and carry comfortably. The tote comes in several fabrics and colorways, and you couldn't go wrong with any of them. With the two-tone canvas and leather option, you get the great-looking contrast of leather straps against #8 cotton duck. The standard blue canvas handle and body is classic; the heathered cotton (pictured) is insanely soft. Chances are that the biggest problem with these bags is choosing one.
2. Parrott Canvas Rigger’s Tote
Parrott Canvas excels in making impressively durable and functional bags. They're based in Greenville, North Carolina, and have been making reliable bags, towels, blankets, and more for 20+ years. I've got one of their garment bags and have been so happy with it – for the price you pay (which is often not a lot), you get a top-quality bag that will last you a long time. These rigger's totes have 8 outside pockets, are built with tough cotton duck, have leather straps, and come in olive, khaki, and navy blue colorways. If you want it monogrammed, you can do that. If you want to pick the monogram thread color, you can do that. Not many bag manufacturers can boast all of the features and customization that Parrott Canvas can, which makes them pretty special.
3. Drifter Totes
I can't pick one tote from Drifter, so I have no choice but to endorse all of them. (I also couldn't resist listing Drifter bags here, even though I've already listed one of their duffels and have been trying to spread the wealth with manufacturers in these posts). The price point, quality, and variety of colors and styles that Drifter has make me really happy – it's rare that a manufacturer can tick all the boxes. Appealing product, strong pedigree, and enough styles to accommodate any need. Drifter does all that and much more, so have at it.
4. Utility Canvas Bucket Tote
Utility Canvas hails from the Catskills of New York, but it's doubtful that many people know that. Similar to Drifter, they have a strong customer base in Japan but are less well known in the United States. This bucket tote's style is based on their classic field bag, but with some updated features like additional pockets and shoulder strap. If you're looking for a bag that will hold papers for work, vinyl records, and your computer—and still snap closed—it's this one. And, if you're feeling like a project, grab the natural canvas option and dye it the color of your choice.
5. Stanley & Sons Waxed Canvas Tote
When I think of beautiful, tough-looking bags, I think of Stanley & Sons's waxed canvas tote. It's been great to see the duo behind the brand, Chris Grodzki and Lindsay Carver, grow their business in the past few years. They now offer a bevy of fabrics and styles of aprons, accessory bags, and totes, among other things. It's hard to beat this tote, though—with heavy 24 oz waxed canvas, hand-dyed leather straps, and hand-hammered copper rivets, you're getting a quality product. These are completely hand made. You can believe in this bag.