Bellroy City Tote Review
The Bellroy City Tote’s handles are just the right length for its size—short enough that it won’t touch the ground yet long enough to shoulder comfortably.
Save time. Get access to brief summaries of our reviews so you can browse and make decisions more efficiently.
- Minimal enough to pack with a rubber band
- Tote handles the right length for carrying either by shoulder or hand
- Slick interior finish easy to clean
- Lacks top closure
- Collapses as you take out the bulk of your gear
- Pockets’ fabric stains relatively easily
4.76 oz (134.9 g)
13.6 in x 13 in x 5.12 in (34.5 x 33 x 13 cm)
Ripstop, rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate)
The usefulness of a tote bag needs no explanation, but let’s not take it for granted. Simply put, it’s the raw simplicity of an empty bag and a pair of lengthy handles that makes it so handy. You don’t have to fuss around with thickly foamed straps, zippers, magnets, and buckles. If the interstellar hitchhiker’s most treasured tool is a towel because of its versatility, then we’d argue that the equally versatile tote bag should be their first pick for lugging it around.
Bellroy understands the concept of a tote bag, yet, they’ve spun it their own way with the City Tote. It has a stylish exterior, silky smooth handles, and a few pockets to play around with on the inside. Bellroy hasn’t turned the humble tote bag into a complicated mess; they’ve simply sprinkled it with their own flavor of style and a few quality-of-life improvements.
Despite being “just a tote,” Bellroy ensures the City Tote looks premium. The Copper colorway we’re testing may not be for everyone, though there are other options, such as the black colorway, where the beige tote handles contrast nicely—a perfect match, we’d daresay. Aesthetics aside, the polyester fabric is environmentally-friendly, being made from 100% recycled plastic water bottles.
The fabric is more durable than the complimentary totes they give out in some groceries but nowhere near as tough as something like the YETI Camino 35 Caryall Tote Bag. The quality holds up well in day-to-day use within the city, where it’s safe from the loose branches and shrubbery of the great outdoors. Its most formidable opponent is mostly pet hair, though it easily wipes away with the occasional pass of a lint roller. A handful of markups have cropped up, but nothing too serious.
At the time of writing, the City Tote still has the same new-purse smell it has had since we first got it. It’s not a foul odor per se, but it might put off those with sensitive noses. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to rub off on any of the gear we carry daily, and it has slowly but surely faded over time—it just hasn’t completely disappeared by this point.
Bellroy has kept the tote handles fairly simple, as they should. The pair is made of soft seat-belt-like material and stitched squarely on the body. There are no snap fasteners or VELCROs here, folks; they split apart if you don’t hold them together. That may be a deal-breaker for some, but it’s not a huge loss to us since fasteners would add a bump to the otherwise straight, smooth, and flat handles.
The bottom of the City Tote features a gusseted design that allows it to have a flat floor and stand up independently. To be clear, Bellroy is far from the first brand to use a gusset for the base of a tote. That said, it’s one of those seemingly trivial design choices that deserve a shout because not every tote bag has it. We’ll explain more in detail later on what exactly makes this important.
Other than that, though, there are no other external features on the City Tote. That said, we should point out that the interior pockets’ stitching is clearly visible on one side. Given the City Tote’s thin construction, this is perfectly understandable, and Bellroy did its best to make the stitching blend in with the fabric.
The best part about the City Tote’s handles is their length. They’re short enough that they don’t cause the bag to touch the floor when we’re carrying the City Tote by hand. On the flip side, they’re still long enough to comfortably hang on your shoulder. Some totes get this crucial aspect wrong, with the handles either too short or too long, or, in the case of the BAGGU Standard Baggu Tote, the wrong orientation.
Comfort is generally acceptable despite the thinness of the handles. You’ll definitely start to feel them dig in after a long day of carrying the City Tote. However, you shouldn’t have too much trouble if you only use it for grocery runs and casual strolls around the city. It’s worth noting that the City Tote and the bigger 15-liter Market Tote share similar handles, and we found the latter’s comfort also acceptable even when it’s fully packed with clothing.
Inside The Tote
The inside of the City Tote is as simple as you might imagine. It’s an ample open space unhindered by dividers or a zippered closure. The only organization is a pair of liner pockets on one side. In theory, this should be enough for the everyday carry items you don’t want to carry in your pockets. Items such as a set of house keys, a really bulky wallet, or a battery bank will fit inside without a fuss, and they’re fairly high up, so your larger gear won’t crush them.
The City Tote’s interior features the same slick finish as the Market Tote, and is very resistant to stains. However, the same isn’t true for the pockets, which have a more fabric-y texture that will absorb stains more easily. That said, the City Tote isn’t really designed to haul groceries that can spill since it doesn’t even have the bottomless bottle pockets the Market Tote has.
Those interested in the City Tote should remember that this is a 10-liter tote, so space can quickly feel constrained. For context, we could fit a 13-inch MacBook with a laptop sleeve and two packing cubes inside, and a few accessories in the pocket. We can also stash a hoodie on top of all of that, but it’ll be overflowing by that point. Thankfully, the handles are long enough to have enough clearance between your armpit and your hoodie should you choose to do so.
Packing the City Tote is also fairly easy. As mentioned earlier, the bottom gusset gives the City Tote a flat base, allowing it to stand by itself when it’s empty. Since the fabric has little to no structure, we recommend packing your bulky items before putting your smaller gear in the pockets.
The unpacking process is ideally done in reverse order, with the smaller gear going out first, followed by the bigger items. If you do it the other way around and unpack your large gear first, then the weight of your smaller gear can cause the City Tote to collapse in on itself. That said, this lack of structuredness is not isolated to the City Tote, as most totes of a similar thin construction fall victim to the same flaw.
Speaking of thin construction, even though Bellroy hasn’t pegged the City Tote as a packable tote, it’s certainly halfway there. Simply lay it flat, fold it into thirds, fold it into a square, and presto! You have a postcard-sized tote bag! Okay, the City Tote doesn’t come with a pouch where you can stuff it. However, a cheap rubber band or even an old scrunchie can hold it together. Regardless, the point stands: the City Tote is minimal enough to squeeze onto pretty much any packing list—you never know when you’ll need a spare bag.
- Has a “new purse smell” right out of the package—like fresh, unused fabric
- Digging the internal pockets
- Pretty packable despite not packing into itself
- A few loose threads, though nothing that causes longevity concerns
- Storage and capacity feels just right for a tote
- Dig that it packs small even without a dedicated pouch
Get your questions about the Bellroy City Tote answered from our team and the Pro Community right here on the page. Plus, join discussions with other members about gear, guides, and more.
Join Pack Hacker Pro or, Sign In