The travel tote bag formula is very simple. It’s a large bag with two long handles, usually carried on one shoulder. This no-nonsense design makes it a very popular option for those just looking to haul a lot of gear around without having to deal with different compartments, lack of space, and fancy buckles and straps. Of course, this simplicity and lack of extra features can be a weakness. Fortunately, lots of brands have taken the concept of a travel tote and have spun off different and interesting designs. The question now is, which one is right for your needs?
We’ve teamed up with REI to bring you this roundup because it’s a great place to start your search for new gear. From bags and travel accessories to clothing for your next trip, they can help you get ready for any adventure. You get even more perks when you become an REI Co-op member, including free shipping, a generous return policy, and rewards worth an average of 10% back annually. Members can also shop the Re/Supply Store for access to returned gear that’s been thoroughly inspected and to trade in used items for other members to enjoy.
So, without further ado, let’s jump into the world of travel tote bags!
- Cotopaxi Taal Convertible Tote (Del Dia)
- REI Co-op Stuff Travel Pack (20L)
- Osprey Arcane Tote Pack
- Fjallraven Kanken Totepack
- The North Face Borealis Tote
- Patagonia Black Hole Gear Tote 61L
- YETI Camino 35 Carryall Tote Bag
- Herschel Supply Co. Strand Duffle
- Aer Go Tote 2
- Peak Design Packable Tote
- BAGGU Standard Baggu Tote
- Bellroy Market Tote
- Mission Workshop The Drift Tote
- Nanobag Reusable Shopping Bag
- RUX Waterproof Bag
- Bellroy Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L
- Aer City Tote
- Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Tote Pack
Best for: Sustainable Travelers
A travel tote bag is probably the most utilitarian kind of bag out there, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look fun. Cotopaxi’s Taal Convertible Tote features a colorful design courtesy of recycled fabric and we like that they let the employees choose which ones to use per bag. Don’t mistake its environmental friendliness for lack of quality, either. Its zippers are from YKK, while the adjusters are from Woojin; both are well-regarded for their quality hardware. Bonus points: those adjusters from Woojin are colored as well to match the tote’s general vibe.
The basic tote formula still applies. You get a spacious main compartment and a front pocket, and you get a few nice extras. The former has a divider in the middle, a large water bottle pocket, and a small zippered pocket at the back. An underrated feature is its bright interior. We think this is the best travel tote bag if you carry a lot of dark-colored tech gear; it’s easy to see inside, thanks to the colorful fabric. We also welcome the backpack mode option, though we don’t always find it the most comfortable due to the Taal’s Tote’s thin composition and lack of padding.Why We Like It
- It’s made with unused materials from manufacturers that would otherwise be discarded
- We can fit larger bottles in the travel water bottle pocket
- The lack of structure makes it awkward to carry in backpack mode
- There’s no padding on the straps or back panel for added comfort
Since totes have the luxury of a simple design at their core, they make for great compressible bags you can have in reserve. Case in point: REI Co-op’s Stuff Travel Tote. Its key feature is the ability to compress from a 20-liter travel tote bag and down to a smartphone-sized pouch. To put that into perspective, that’s smaller than the 32-ounce Nalgene bottle we like to travel with. Even in its uncompressed form, tight dimensions are a key focus, as REI keenly points out that its linear dimensions comply with airport requirements (though that’s subject to change depending on the regulations).
As you can imagine, it doesn’t have a ton of luxuries to keep the design simple. Inside the main compartment is the lone zippered pocket where the whole Stuff Travel Tote packs into, which we like to use as a quick-stash pocket for small gear. However, we find it hard to see your gear inside the dark interior. Plus, the relatively thin fabric wrinkles when you compress the bag.Why We Like It
- It packs down to be smaller than your Nalgene water bottle
- This bag is made with bluesign®-approved materials
- It looks a bit wrinkly when you unpack it
- This carries more like a backpack
The Arcane Tote Pack from Osprey is technically a travel tote, but it wouldn't be out of place in a backpack roundup, either. This one's for those looking for the grab-and-go convenience of travel tote handles on a backpack. The handles themselves are relatively short, so our testers with bigger builds find them a bit tight. Fortunately, the backpack straps are well-padded in case you get tired of tote-style carrying.
Unlike open-top or zipped-up tote bags, the Arcane Tote Pack uses a rolltop closure and a zipper for its main compartment. It's not exactly fast access, but it is quite secure, which is great if that's a trade-off you're willing to make. We find it easy to find what we need inside thanks to the organization, including a padded laptop sleeve (with a false bottom) that can fit a 15-inch device, an additional sleeve for a smaller device, a key clip, plus smaller pen and mesh pockets.Why We Like It
- This rolltop bag includes amply padded shoulder straps if you’d rather carry it as a backpack
- It’s a travel tote that has simple yet effective organization that’s easy to use
- It’s inconvenient to access the key clip since it’s in the main compartment
- There are no water bottle pockets
Fans of Fjallraven will be delighted to know that we have found the best travel tote for you. The Kanken Totepack features the brand’s signature G-1000 fabric that’s coated with Greenland Wax for water resistance. The downside? Well, we find that the fabric attracts pet hair quite effectively, and the boxy styling and large logo can be polarizing, depending on who you ask. Apart from the long travel tote bag handles, there are also the usual Kanken grab handles. Plus, you can convert one-half of the tote handles to a pair of shoulder straps, though they are relatively thin.
The interior is rather barren, lacking any dividers or pockets for organizing gear, save for a 13-inch laptop sleeve at the back. To make up for it, there is a water bottle pocket on the outside and a front pocket with a bit of independent volume. On the plus side, this leaves most of the 14-liter capacity unobstructed and, therefore, maximized. The biggest con here is the dark interior (at least, of the black colorway), which we find makes sorting through gear quite tricky under poor lighting.Why We Like It
- It brings the Kanken style we like to a travel tote that can also be carried as a backpack
- The materials are durable and weather-resistant
- The material attracts lint and pet hair
- Its harness system makes this the best travel tote bag for smaller users
Best for: Relaxed Travelers
The North Face’s Borealis Tote is just as versatile as the other Borealis bags. Much more than a plain travel tote, we like the inclusion of a 13-inch laptop sleeve, an internal mesh pouch, and a pocket at the front for quick-grab items. It’s also fairly robust, with 300-denier and 600-denier recycled polyester options, plus 210-denier ripstop nylon if you choose to go for a solid-color design. There’s also a non-PFC durable water-repellent coating to keep water from soaking.
Oh, and have we mentioned that it could be used as a backpack as well? Yep, the tote handles, as thin-looking as they may seem, can be converted to a pair of shoulder straps, and they’re surprisingly comfortable, too. That said, the conversion isn’t perfect, as the back handle can catch against the back. Plus, you’ll want to learn from our mistakes and be careful to avoid grabbing the handle with the main compartment open because that can cause the whole bag to tilt and spill your gear.Why We Like It
- The external water bottle pockets and external bungees allow us to carry extra gear
- While the straps are minimal, they’re surprisingly comfortable to carry
- It can upend if you grab the rear handle on its own
- Seeing inside the front quick-access pocket is difficult
Even though Patagonia hasn’t stretched the limits of physics (yet), their Black Hole Gear Tote makes it seem like they’re close. With a rated capacity of 61 liters, you’ll have the freedom to fit just about anything that doesn’t require a forklift—including those bulky beach towels after they’ve picked up sand. Although its capacity is impressive, take note that it’s relatively bare bones, too. It has an open-top design secured only by two straps. The outside is lined with two daisy-chained loops, and there’s also a small front pocket for your everyday carry items. Other than that, you get very few frills and more features that matter.
The main compartment is a big empty space, unobstructed by dividers or small pockets. We like to use pouches or packing cubes to organize your gear, but you can also toss everything in willy-nilly if you don't feel like it. We really find the two compression straps at the top handy for locking gear into place when we pack it to the max. Regardless of how much you decide to carry, the Black Hole Gear Tote is tough as nails despite its simple design. The thick handles are bartack-stitched to the recycled polyester ripstop body. We also dig the glossy finish the TPU-film laminate provides, as well as the weather resistance it gives.Why We Like It
- The huge capacity will allow you to bring a ton or to use it for beach towels at the lake
- TPU-film laminate on the recycled polyester ripstop makes this bag extremely durable and weather-resistant
- Webbing handles could dig into your shoulders if you pack the 61L full of heavy gear
- You can also get it in a 25L capacity if you like the style but find the size just too much to fit on the plane or your car trunk
If you’re looking for the best travel tote for rugged adventures, then consider YETI’s Camino 35 Carryall Tote Bag. From its ThickSkin Shell, which you can easily clean by hosing it down with water, to its molded EVA bottom, it’s a tote that can take the rough and tumble of outdoor adventures. Because of its sturdy construction, the Camino also stands well on its own, making packing just that tiny bit easier. Other goodies include daisy-chained loops at the front, two zippered pockets in the main compartment, and collapsible dividers to keep gear organized. They work really great with various types of YETI bottles, so if you’re as big of a fan as we are, you’ll like this feature.
And we think you’ll want to use nicely insulated bottles like those because the only let-down about the 35-liter Camino is that it’s not a cooler bag. Despite its shared aesthetic with other YETI bags like the Hopper Flip 18 and Hopper M30, there is no insulation, nor is there a zippered closure for the main compartment. There’s only a single strap to hold the opening together, and it's secured by a simple G-hook. Still, it’s a tote that’s spacious and well-appointed with features with toughness as its headlining feature.Why We Like It
- Its waterproof and puncture-resistant ThickSkin™ Shell is very resilient against abrasions in outdoor use
- Loops on the front are great places to clip extra gear, like a Bluetooth speaker or a damp travel towel
- Although it’s a YETI, it’s not a cooler
- While it has waterproof construction on the bottom and sides, allowing us to set it in the damp bottom of the boat, the top is open to the elements if it starts to rain
Herschel Supply Co.'s Strand Duffle may not strictly be a tote, but it has the hallmarks of one. We're particularly digging the padded handles on this tote/duffle hybrid. These are cushy enough that they remind us more of backpack shoulder straps than the minimalist strips other basic totes tout. Unfortunately, this isn't one of those sets of tote handles that magically convert to backpack straps, but at least we still get to enjoy them. However, it’s worth noting that they’re a little stiff at first and take some time to break in.
At 28.5 liters, space isn't an issue, especially when you unfasten the sides for expansion, but organization and interior visibility can still be tricky. Even though there are slip pockets on the outside for quick-grab items and travel water bottles, we wish there were at least one zippered pocket in the main compartment for small valuables you don't want in an open exterior pocket. That said, our Ivy Green colorway has a red and white pinstripe pattern, so visibility is pretty solid. We can’t vouch for other liner colors, though.Why We Like It
- It has nicely padded carry handles more reminiscent of a backpack than a travel tote bag
- If you prefer this style for one-bag travel, this is the best travel tote bag for weekend getaways
- There are no pockets on the inside for small gear
- Some of our testers would like to have the option of adding a longer crossbody strap, but there’s nowhere to clip one
Despite being touted as a packable tote, Aer's Go Tote 2 doesn't feel all that compact. It folds flat or can be rolled to roughly the size of two t-shirts; quite the footprint when you're trying to be space-efficient with your travel bag. That said, it's a feature-packed tote, as expected of a bag from Aer. The most notable of these features is the magnetic buckle of the front pocket. We find it fast and easy to use when you're trying to stuff museum brochures and maps while you're exploring a new city.
You get not one but two water bottle pockets on the Go Tote 2's sides. Mind you, we find that filling both of these takes away space from the main compartment. At the back, there's a small zippered pocket for valuables you'd want to keep close to you, such as your passport and wallet. The main compartment is guarded by a zippered closure that, unfortunately, has gaps on either end of the track that can still let rain and dirt inside. In terms of organization, there’s a laptop sleeve that can fit a 16-inch MacBook Pro, but we wish it had some padding to protect your device. The size is impressive, but we'd suggest using a dedicated laptop sleeve if you're putting a device that large inside.Why We Like It
- The front pocket closes with a magnetic buckle you can open one-handed
- A snapped loop helps hold the handles together on this travel tote bag
- It has a large footprint for a packable tote
- There’s no padding on the laptop sleeve, so you’ll want extra protection
The Peak Design Packable Tote has two things going for it. Firstly, it's a lightweight and compressible travel tote bag that you can stash away in your travel bag. Who wants to carry a 40-liter backpack to the beach just to bring a few towels and sandwiches? No one! We find that a tote like this will fill that role perfectly. Its lack of structure or liner does make it a bit too minimal for heavier duties, but for clothes, beach towels, and toiletries, it'll get the job done. But what if it snags on a seashell or—if you're really unlucky—a beach umbrella? Well, that's where its second headlining feature comes in.
Three words (and a hyphen): self-healing nylon. Although it won't survive getting torn to shreds, the fabric is able to heal small abrasions. Think of scratches from setting the travel tote on rough pavement or getting stepped on by careless beachgoers. It's worth noting that the handles are quite thin, and comfort is noticeably affected despite having light padding.Why We Like It
- Self-healing nylon takes care of light damage to the material
- This is the best travel tote if you’re looking for something compressible that works well as a secondary bag
- There’s no structure or liner material
- It has minimal organization, so pouches and cubes are handy to have
The Standard Baggu Tote is about as barebones as it gets, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Its super lightweight and thin construction makes it super easy to slip between packing cubes or even in tight security pockets, so we can have it handy when we need it. Compressibility like this comes courtesy of its plain ripstop nylon construction, though that means you'll have to handle this quite gently. Ripstop nylon will stop small rips from deteriorating, but even those minor ones can happen easily.
However, our biggest gripe about the Standard Baggu Tote is the way it carries. Unlike typical totes, which sit perpendicular to your torso, this one sits parallel. This means you have to sling it over your shoulder or carry it like a shopping bag—which makes sense given their similar designs. That said, this raw simplicity is sometimes all you need. It's a reusable shopping bag you can easily take with you on trips.Why We Like It
- It’s a market tote that’s lightweight and folds down small in case you need it
- There are tons of fun colorways and prints to choose from
- It’s awkward to carry over your shoulder
- There’s no structure, so it can’t stand on its own
Best for: Professional Travelers
Even though we like travel totes for how spacious and uncomplicated they are, sometimes there are amenities worth having. For totes that are designed for grocery runs, we're specifically looking for some organization, although not so much that it ruins the truckbed-like openness we like. That's what the Bellroy Market Tote feels like. It's lightweight, has three wine bottle-sized pockets, and is easy to clean in case the juice from our produce leaks inside. One subtle design choice we dig is the gusseted floor, which allows the tote to stand fairly well, provided it's sufficiently packed.
The pocket layout is a bit one-sided, however. With that in mind, packing strategically should be considered to avoid weight imbalance. The Market Tote's relatively thin handles don't have much in the way of cushioning (read: no padding), so you wouldn't want to put too much stress on them more than what's necessary.Why We Like It
- It’s a travel tote with internal organization to keep items protected
- The inside is easy to clean
- The pockets are designed for specific items, so you need to pack smart
- While it can pack up, it doesn’t include a carry case
Mission Workshop's take on a travel tote design is a bit more techy and urbanized. Don't think that's limited to its gray and black styling, though. There's a front pocket that's laden with smaller organization for everyday items ranging from battery banks to snacks. Plus, there's independent access to the laptop compartment, which, by the way, can fit a 16-inch laptop, is padded, and has a false bottom for added protection.
Apart from fitting a laptop in that compartment, you can still get a ton of gear in the main compartment. The 28-liter capacity is spacious enough for organizers and clothing, and we have an easy time packing them in because of the Drift Tote's structured body. Mind you, a fully packed out Drift Tote can get quite hefty, and, unfortunately, the thin shoulder strap lacks the padding for comfortable extended carrying.Why We Like It
- It’s spacious enough to double as a daily driver and weekend bag
- Laptop compartment is floating, well-padded, and is accessed separately from the main compartment
- The shoulder strap lacks padding for comfort during extended carry
- Its rugged materials won’t suit all styles
Best for: Frugal Travelers
When traveling the world, you never know when you may need another bag. That’s why we like the Nanobag Reusable Shopping Bag. It comes in four styles: two standard grocery-style bags, one crossbody, and one drawstring bag. So pick the one that speaks to you, depending on if you’re heading to the market, the beach, or exploring the city. They all pack up into a package that fits in the palm of your hand, so it’s easy to find space for one in your travel backpack, and the ultralight materials include a waterproof coating, which is more than you can say for a grocery bag.
These are packable bags, so they are a bit wrinkly, and they sacrifice shoulder padding for size. That can make carrying heavier items uncomfortable, though, for the most part, they feel fine. We like that the stuff sack is attached since those are so easy to lose on the road. Overall, these bags are great travel companions for those who like to travel lightly and want to prepare for different situations in an unfamiliar city.Why We Like It
- It has surprisingly good water-resistance
- Each of the four styles fit into the palm of your hand when packed
- The lack of padding can be uncomfortable
- While it’s nice that the stuff sack is attached, it can occasionally get in the way
When we’re heading out for a day on the boat, there are always things we want to bring along. Snacks, primarily, but also extra sunscreen, a hat, towel, and maybe an extra layer if the wind picks up while we’re on the water; you get the idea. While you could toss all that in a standard travel tote bag, you’ll want something more water-resistant in case the pilot steers your vessel right into the wake of the yacht in front of you or the skies open up on a previously cloudless day. That’s why we like to bring the RUX Waterproof Bag along, whether we’re hitting the lake on a pontoon or exploring a local river in a kayak. The 840-denier nylon fabric is coated with TPU, making it extra water-resistant, and all of the seams are RF-welded to close any gaps. Plus, you can seal the top’s rolltop design.
We like that it’s so tall because it means we can bring along more gear without taking up precious floor space. Despite its thin appearance, the shoulder strap is surprisingly comfortable, although your mileage may vary as to how long you find that to be true. On the other hand, the tote handles are best carried by hand, as they feel too tight to sling over your shoulder.
If you need more space, you can pair it with the RUX 70L to create some waterproof organization in that big bag, and if you’re looking for something in a similar size with more flexibility, you may want to check out the RUX Bag 25L.Why We Like It
- The rolltop stows away easily when you don’t need it
- It’s nice being able to bring such a high-capacity bag along during water activities
- Its bulky size makes the rolltop difficult to use
- The included handles are very thin
The Bellroy Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L takes the concept of a tote—a simple, open bag with large handles—and adds a lot of features you want in a daily carry, like a laptop sleeve, a bottle pocket, pen slots, and a key leash. But even with all of that segmentation, there’s minimal clutter to get in the way of your gear, and the fairly rigid structure of the tote makes it easy to pack.
There’s a gusseted front zipper pocket that’s split in two for everyday carry essentials like pens, a phone, wallet, and keys, plus there’s an external document sleeve that closes with a snap on a loop so you can grab what you need quickly, or have a space to slide your travel journal. The main compartment is where you’ll find space for your 14-inch laptop (or 16-inch if you go with the larger size tote), a zippered mesh pocket for tech accessories or other travel essentials, and a bottle pocket. We find it great to carry to and from the office and use on the plane since it zips up to keep your gear from rolling a few rows back during takeoff.Why We Like It
- The rubber liners on the tote handles give them good grip so they don’t slip off your shoulder
- It offers a good amount of organization for a tote
- The internal bottle pocket is rather shallow, so you may not be able to zip it up with a taller bottle inside
- The 12L capacity feels small when fully loaded, so it’s more of a daily carry bag than a gear hauler
Aer is pretty much made for city life, so it’s no surprise that we love the Aer City Tote for exploring a new metropolis and hitting a store or market, as well as for commuting to and from the office in style. The 1680D CORDURA® ballistic nylon on this travel tote bag gives it a sleek structure that makes it easy to pack as it sits upright. It has long enough handles to carry comfortably over your shoulder and a keeper to hold them together, which we really like since there’s nothing more annoying than having one handle continually slip off your shoulder.
The front panel features a large pocket that opens with a vertical zipper in the center. That can make it awkward to pack, but it’s good for larger, flat items like a travel journal, a book, or an extra layer. There’s a smaller quick-grab pocket on the back for your phone, plus a luggage pass-through to make it easier to carry through the airport with your rolling carry on luggage. Even though it’s a tote, the inside has padded sleeves for both a 16-inch laptop and a tablet so that you can be productive throughout the day. There’s also a zipper pocket that’s the right size for a phone, wallet, keys, and other such travel essentials, and two large slip pockets where we like to slip over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones, wall chargers, and battery banks. However, you may want to opt for another bag when it rains since there are gaps at either end of the zipper tracks where moisture can get inside your bag.Why We Like It
- It’s structured to stand on its own next to your chair
- A built-in keeper holding the straps together is attached so you can’t accidentally lose it
- Gear can fall out of gaps at the end of the zipped top
- The front vertical pocket is awkward to use without spilling your gear
Sometimes, you want a bag; sometimes, you don’t. Sometimes, you want a tote; sometimes, you want a backpack. Patagonia has created a packable tote pack for the wishy-washy among us, and for those travelers who like to be ready for everything. It’s small enough to toss in the bottom of your travel backpack when you’re unsure if you’ll need an extra bag or not, and the ripstop nylon material is super lightweight, so it won’t drag you down.When you pull it out of its pocket (which turns into the lone pocket in the main compartment), you’ll find a travel tote with short handles that are pretty comfortable to hold and backpack straps that hide in a rear pocket when you don’t need them. There are large stretchy travel water bottle pockets on each side that can hold rather large bottles, a zippered front pocket for things like your phone, wallet, and gym, and a main compartment that gives you options for closing it, depending on how much you’re bringing along. If we overpack it, the compression straps do well to hold things together, and we use the drawstring closure when we know we’ll be going in and out of it a lot—like to grab snacks, a travel towel, and a Bluetooth speaker at the beach. There’s also a zipper closure when you want to ensure that nothing escapes. Why We Like It
- You can pack it away in a compression pocket when you don’t need it
- Sometimes you feel like a tote, sometimes you don’t, so it’s nice to have backpack straps, too
- It looks a little wrinkly when unpacked
- There’s minimal padding on the harness system since it’s a packable bag
In conclusion, you can haul a lot of gear with a tote, and it’s just a matter of the extra features you want on top of that. Whether it’s additional organization, compressibility, or super sturdy construction, there’s bound to be a flavor of tote to suit your needs. Did any of the totes above pique your interest? Let us know, and be sure to check out even more totes at REI.