Bellroy Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L Review
Far from the typical minimalist tote, the Bellroy Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L packs a lot of secondary pockets that make it a viable and convenient everyday carry.
- Tote handles have rubberized liners for better grip
- Packed with unexpected organization for a tote
- Just the right size and shape for a comfortable fit
- Water bottles can clash with main compartment’s closure
- Not the most spacious 12-liter tote we’ve tested
- Thin ribbon-like key leash is less premium than overall build quality
1.4 lb (0.6 kg)
9.65 in x 13.78 in x 3.94 in (24.5 x 35 x 10 cm)
Polyester, Nylon, Ripstop, Leather, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware, Woojin Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
We’ve looked at a lot of travel totes, and most of them have a very general-purpose vibe and design. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, as they excel at that task. It’s a big sack you dump gear in, and there’s a pair of handles you sling over one shoulder—simple, effective, and convenient. Push the concept into an everyday carry orientation, though, and what do you get? It’s probably something like the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L.
Featuring a pair of beefy rubberized handles, exterior pockets, and more organization inside, the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L is less of a heavy gear hauler and more of a daypack alternative. Day-to-day conveniences aside, there’s a risk of potentially losing the versatility totes usually provide, so let’s see if that’s the case.
Let’s settle a debate first: brown colorways, yay or nay? We’re asking because the Pack Hacker crew is split on the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L’s looks. Its Deep Plum colorway isn’t exactly brown (it’s really more of a deep purple), but it can appear brown when the light hits it at just the right angle—and that’s what’s driving the split of opinion here. Some think it looks quite classy and almost velvety, while others find it too vintage. Fortunately, you and your wallet will have other colorway options, including Raven and Storm Gray—neutral colors that win people over most of the time.
Subjective aspects aside, we’ve observed the fabric pick up dirt easier than expected. Though none of the markups are serious or permanent in nature, you’ll have to be mindful if you want to keep the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L looking pristine. On the plus side, the Deep Plum colorway does a decent job disguising most of the markups, saving us the effort of wiping them off (though even that’s not too hard to do). Mind you, totes are generally used for a lot of day-to-day bulky-gear-hauling, more so than other bag types, so some blemishes wouldn’t be out of character.
Make no mistake, the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L is far from the freebie totes that grocery stores hand out (or charge extra for, depending on the store and the country). That’s immediately clear once you have your hands on the nylon fabric and feel its thickness. Bellroy’s fabrics have, for the most part, felt reassuringly high quality and stylish, and it’s no different with the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L. Additionally, it has reliable hardware to back it up from the well-known brands YKK, Duraflex, and Woojin.
The Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L’s front profile looks like a typical tote: trapezoidal with a wider top. However, and more importantly, its side profile is triangular with a broad base that tapers off at the top. The main compartment’s zipper closure holds the top together, which helps keep most of the weight low and centered. All of these design choices let the tote stand freely without too much risk of it tilting or collapsing to one side.
The luggage pass-through at the back is a feature we mostly see on backpacks and messengers. Seeing one on a tote is a bit of a surprise, though it’s a welcome one because it lets us pair it with a roller or spinner luggage. Yes, you can slot most totes on roller luggage with the large tote handles, but you won’t get a snug fit, unlike with an actual pass-through. Overall, it’s a welcome addition if you’re looking for a travel-oriented tote.
Most of the time, though, you will carry the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L by its large handles. These are pretty beefy ones, too. Unlike the simple straps of the Bellroy Market Tote, these have enough thickness to cushion the tote’s weight, albeit limitedly—it’s still only folded over fabric instead of actual padding. Tote handles tend to be less fancy than backpack straps or even messenger crossbody straps, so that’s to be expected. That said, the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L’s handles do feature a rubberized liner. Clearly, someone over at Bellroy wants to use a tote with a silky smooth-sleeved top, and this helps stop it from slipping off—an issue we often encounter with totes.
As simple as slapping a pair of large handles on a tote is, it still requires a balance of sorts. That’s why one of the first aspects we check out with tote bags is how big the handles are. Large handles offer a lot of room to move your arm around, and such is the case with the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L. Despite the handles’ thickness, they don’t feel encumbering, and they’re wide enough that we can still reach for eye-level gear on shelves without too much of a hassle. At the same time, though, tote handles also have to be small enough so they don’t drag on the floor if you carry them by hand. Your mileage may vary depending on your stature and arm length, but the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L’s handles are also short enough to avoid that.
The shape also plays a role here. With that tapered shape, the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L doesn’t feel too bulky under the arm. We’ve seen totes that have a more uniform and boxier shape, and this is where they struggle a lot. Carrying those kinds of totes feels more like clutching a box beside you, while tapered totes like the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L feel like a very hefty throw pillow.
Inside The Tote
Despite the general-purpose nature of a tote, you get a fair amount of organization with the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L. There are secondary pockets on the outside, which are always handy when using a bag for day-to-day purposes. The first of these pockets is at the back near the luggage pass-through. Bellroy explicitly calls it a document slip pocket, though you’ll probably want to use a folder to keep them from getting wrinkled. That said, we mostly use this pocket for quick grab items like a passport and a power bank.
One small detail we dig about this pocket is its snap fastener. Often, brands settle by just putting one without much fanfare, but some try to make closure easier. In this case, the male side of the fastener is mounted to a loop, which makes it easier to pinch the two sides and lock them in place. Without this, you would have to push the female side, hoping it meets the other half, making the process needlessly tricky.
Up at the front is a zippered pocket. The front appears split by a gusset, and, indeed, the inside of the pocket is divided in the middle. This gives you some means to organize everyday carry items, like separating your smartphone from your keys. On that note, the right side has a rather long key leash. Though we like how long it is (we could unlock doors without detaching the keys), the thin ribbon-like strap could use some beefing up. There are also two pen slots and a small drop pocket in the pocket’s left split if you need additional organization.
The front pocket’s gusset grants it volume independent of the main compartment. Totes generally excel at packing bulky gear, causing them to expand and rob space from adjacent pockets. The gusset mitigates that potential issue, so kudos to Bellroy for that foresight.
Moving on to the main compartment, it’s surprisingly well-organized for a tote. There’s some compartmentalization, with a water bottle pocket on one side, a zippered mesh pocket on the front, and a laptop sleeve at the back. In contrast, other totes would have a completely empty space or just one zippered pocket, and that’s it.
This amount of organization is nice to see in a tote. We’re particularly fond of the zippered mesh pocket since it’s raised near the top, moving it away from the “crush zone” of other tightly packed gear. On the other hand, the water bottle pocket is a bit too shallow for our liking. Fairly small bottles like an 18-ounce Hydro Flask Standard Mouth stick out far enough to clash with the main compartment’s zipper closure. We even have a 17-ounce Owala that sticks out far enough to stop the zipper from closing.
Packing the Tokyo Wonder Tote 12L is easy, thanks to its wide opening and fairly rigid structure. Packing cubes and pouches insert easily, though you’ll only fit two or three, depending on the size you use. We had some initial apprehension since Bellroy loaded the interior with pockets. However, most of the space remains open to use and unobstructed. The laptop sleeve’s thick padding takes up substantial space, but the protection it provides is worth it. Without it, we would recommend using a separate laptop sleeve anyway.
The space is enough if you plan to make this into an overnight bag or a professional-looking daily carry to and from the office—a good alternative if you’re averse to daypacks. Does it lose the general-purpose-ness of the tote? The capacity isn’t maximized as much as other thinner and minimalist totes. Still, the tradeoff is worth it if you want the extra convenience the added features give you—none of which feel excessive.
- Deep Plum colorway seems closer to brown than purple
- Excited to see how the organization comes together
- Interesting grippy texture on carry handles
- Developed a few blemishes over the course of testing, though they’re easy to wipe off and are hidden well by the dark fabric
- Super comfortably carry straps
- Decent amount of storage space, though the main compartment is difficult to zip closed if the tote is too full