Aer City Tote Review
The Aer City Tote is a well-organized, durable, and structured travel tote for all your adventures, whether that's every day or on vacation.
- Structured and stands on its own
- Built-in keeper holds tall handles together
- Tons of organization
- Gear can fall out of gaps at the end of the zipped top
- Small, loose items could slip from vertical front pocket
- Stiff rim occasionally blocks side pockets
1.8 lb (0.8 kg)
13.5 in x 16 in x 7 in (34.3 x 40.6 x 17.8 cm)
CORDURA® Ballistic Nylon, Nylon, YKK Zippers
Laptop Compartment Size
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Ah, Aer. We need it to live, we love it—especially when it’s fresh—and it can run hot or cold, depending on the season. Oh, wait, wrong air.
All punning aside, we do love testing out new bags from the San Francisco-based company and were excited to get our hands on the new City Tote. With a 22L capacity, tons of extra organization, and excellent structure, it seems like it should be a good companion to use every day and take on the road.
Does it live up to our high hopes? Let’s find out.
There’s no mistaking the City Tote’s roots. This is clearly an Aer bag, from the durable 1680D CORDURA® ballistic nylon exterior—which is bluesign® approved, a good note for sustainable travelers—to the prominent vertical zipper on the front. It’s a design we’ve seen on the Aer Gym Duffel 3 and the Aer Duffel Pack 3, and is a counterpart to the horizontal zipper bisecting a lot of other Aer bags, including the Travel Pack 3.
Something a little different is the plethora of attachment points scattered outside the bag. There are four around the top—two in front and two in the back—and a tab at the bottom of the bag’s front, which mainly acts as something to grab to close that vertical zipper but also is a loop so you could, theoretically, hang something from it. We didn’t find much use for these in testing, but we think they could come in handy, depending on the trip. Say you want to take the City Tote outside the city and head to the beach. You could hang a portable Bluetooth speaker on one. You could also clip hand sanitizer, a flashlight, or a travel umbrella to the loops, although there are plenty of other pockets that you might find more convenient to stash them.
You might be surprised to hear that there are tons of pockets in a tote, but the tote portion of “City Tote” seems to be more about how you carry the bag than how you pack it. More on organization later, but first, the handles. These nice, long handles allow you to carry the bag comfortably over your shoulder. They include a built-in strap keeper on the rear handle that snaps around the front handle, keeping them together effectively when you want to and easy enough to part when you don’t. They lack padding; instead, they’re folded-over webbing that mirrors the structure and texture of the exterior fabric.
Branding is subtle, again to reflect Aer’s sleek style. A simple Hypalon tab with the brand name is attached to the bottom right corner of the front. The brand is also on the rubbery plastic pulls attached to cords threaded through the metal pulls of the YKK zippers. Most of the zippers are standard models, but the vertical one on the front is a water-resistant fastener that ends in a zipper garage at the top to resist moisture. Of course, the top of the bag does not feature a water-resistant zipper, so your gear in the main compartment is unprotected from the elements. The zipper and the material it’s connected to also end a couple of inches from each side of the bag, so anything can get in—or out—of those spaces, too.
There isn’t any other hardware on this bag—after all, there aren’t any backpack straps to adjust—but there is a luggage pass-through on the back panel. That’s super convenient for those who like to use a travel tote as a personal item bag or carry on with rolling luggage, although this one may be a smidge too tall to slide under the seat, depending on your airline. Luckily, there are overhead bins.
Both the front and back panels include padding to provide structure to the bag (it stands on its own for easy packing and daily use) and for laptop protection. What? Didn’t you know this is a laptop bag? Well, keep reading for all the other tricks the City Tote has up its sleeve.
The Aer City Tote is a sleek and stylish, all-black tote bag. With a 22L capacity, this is a fairly large bag, but we don’t mind carrying it around when visiting a friend for the weekend or catching a flight. Obviously, you can switch shoulders if it gets to be too much on one side, and you can always slide it over the handle of your suitcase if you’re traveling with rolling luggage.
The handles are long enough to carry it comfortably over the shoulder but not so long that most users can’t carry it by hand. We think that’s the sweet spot, but your mileage may vary.
Inside The Tote
This isn’t your standard market tote or beach bag. There is plenty of organization in and outside this bag, so let’s start with the front.
As we mentioned, a vertical zipper splits the front panel in half. While it’s really spacious, we feel pretty much the same about this pocket as we did about the one on the Gym Duffel 3. To reiterate what we said there (and still feel here), “It feels a bit strange putting your items off to either side, so they aren’t in front of the zipper.”
Obviously, we’re not putting small gear that can easily slip out in this pocket, so a phone, wallet, and keys are going somewhere more secure. It’s a decent place for a travel journal, a book, or maybe an extra layer. There’s plenty of room in the main compartment for all of that gear, but if you want a dedicated spot for one or the other, this could work. Otherwise, we’re chalking it up to an aesthetically pleasing design choice that doesn’t add a whole lot of value to an already chock-full-of-features bag.
On the back, there’s a smaller zip quick-access pocket right above the luggage strap. That’s where we put a minimalist wallet and travel documents since they’re slim and arguably a little more secure when situated against your body.
Then on either side are two large travel water bottle pockets that work best for standard mouth bottles. They’re very deep, but if the main compartment is already packed full, width-wise, you may have some difficulty sliding in your hydration or umbrella. We got stymied by the extremely stiff webbing material running around the top of the bag at one point and had difficulty bending it to access the pocket. It worked again just fine after removing a few things from the bag, but if you’re packing it up for a day’s worth of adventures, you may want to slide gear into these pockets first before filling the inside of the bag.
Let’s get into the main compartment, shall we? Like the Aer Go Tote 2, a wide piece of fabric that fastens with a zipper keeps large items contained. However, there is a large gap on either side between it and the bag edges, so small gear can still fall out. Keep that in mind when laying it down under an airplane seat or overhead compartment.
Of course, you lose some, and you win some. Again, like the Go Tote 2, the City Tote is easy to open, thanks to the extended zipper track on one side and a thin webbing loop on the other. Whether you’re zipping or unzipping the tote, there is something to grab to hold the floppy fabric taut. It does tend to flip down when undone and partially obscures the main compartment organization, but it’s easy enough to hold out of the way.
Inside the bag, against the front panel, there’s another zipper pocket about the same size as the exterior quick-access pocket. That means it’s also good for a phone, wallet, keys, and other such travel essentials, or travel sunglasses in a case. It’s near the top of the bag, so unlikely to be crushed by a lot of gear, but we’re using a hard case just in case.
Below that pocket are two large slip pockets topped with elastic. Use these for over-the-ear, noise-canceling headphones, a toiletry bag, wall chargers, and battery banks; basically, whatever rather large gear you want to carry but don’t want to fall to the bottom of the bag. What you slip in will vary depending on your use of the tote.
Two padded sleeves are on the opposite side, against the back panel. The back of the rear sleeve is lined with a soft microfiber material to prevent scratches to your device. It can accommodate up to a 16-inch laptop and is very slightly suspended from the bottom of the bag, though we think your computer may still bounce if you set the tote down heavily enough. In front of that is another sleeve for a tablet or documents, and there’s a webbing strip that attaches with hook-and-loop closure to the front of both sleeves to hold your devices in place. Beware, it also sticks easily to the microfiber lining when you pull out your laptop.
The rest of the bag is like your typical large tote. Fill it with travel towels, packing cubes, travel jackets, potato chips and pretzels, your lunch—whatever your heart desires. There’s plenty of room to pack what you’d need throughout the day, whether it’s clothing for the gym or a few outfits for the first days of your vacation. It’s easy to fill up since it stands so nicely and has great organization if you need it that lays flat if you don’t, so it can easily become your go-to travel tote for your next adventure.
- Interesting vertical front pocket opening
- Digging how the Aer style translates to this tote
- Lots of organization for this type of bag
- Straps pretty comfortable even on bare shoulders
- Holds quite a bit inside
- Structure makes it easy to pack