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The tote is the junk drawer of bags. While the best backpacks have plenty of pockets for organizing your essentials and duffle bags are built for travel and road trips, totes are ideal for just throwing some stuff in and heading out the door. If you don’t know what your day will bring, carry a tote. The best tote bags for men are the perfect companion for grocery runs and bookstore visits, but they can also make great work bags and travel bags, too.
But in terms of carrying a bag to work, briefcases can be too formal and messenger bags feel too “Temple of Doom.” And while there are plenty of stylish backpacks out there, some of them just look school-adjacent or overly technical. A tote is the Goldilocks option: neither too formal nor too casual. But tote bags for men are wildly underappreciated, so we wanted to change that.
That’s why we set out to find the best tote bags for men, hauling them to and from work and taking them on road trips. We looked for features like pockets and zippers, and we tested whether they could be comfortably carried over the shoulder and in hand. We also tested whether these tote bags could stand up on their own and if they were laptop friendly. So after weeks of work, or at least going to the office, here are the best tote bags for men to carry in 2023.
Frankly, we thought way too much about tote bags, all in the interest of finding the best bags to withstand commutes, flights, trips to the record store, beach days, or whatever else your day brings. After all, if you’re going to actually pay for a tote, it has to be able to do what your freebie can’t. These are the ones to get.
But Wait — Are Tote Bags for Men?
Of course, tote bags for men do carry their own baggage (pun very much intended). Totes can feel kind of purse-y, and opinion is divided on whether men can or can’t carry totes. In 2017, Vogue was ambivalent but leaned toward no. The number of articles and forums titled something along the lines of “Is it okay for men to carry totes?” suggests a full-blown crisis.
We’d argue that yes, men can definitely carry tote bags, and honestly, men can carry purses for all we care. But for guys new to the concept, many tote bags for men come with a rugged look that is pretty far removed from the standard woman’s purse. After all, the OG tote, the LL Bean’s Boat and Tote, was built as a tough task for hauling blocks of ice — ain’t getting more rugged than that. More importantly, a tote is used for carrying stuff, and sometimes men need to carry stuff. What it all boils down to is this: the best tote bags are gender-neutral accessories that anyone can and should carry. Some may see them as unmanly, but toxic masculinity is the one thing we’re not packing in our totes.
Before we tote-ally get off track, let’s dive into the best tote bags for men.
Carhartt Vertical Snap Tote
Best For: Anyone looking for a unisex, everyday bag.
Why We Chose It: Carhartt’s tote is affordable, stands upright, and has a light lining that makes it easy to see what’s inside.
Given that this is one of the more value-oriented totes on this list, Carhartt’s Vertical Snap tote checks off a surprising number of boxes. It’s simple, stylish, rugged, and works well for men and women. There’s a snap button on top that easily keeps your essentials fairly secure.
The bag is lightweight but constructed from 600 denier polyester that should withstand day-to-day use. It’s water resistant, too; when we poured water on it, most of it beaded up and rolled off. However, the mostly open top compromises the water resistance on a rainy day.
The roomy internal compartment should fit most laptops stored horizontally or vertically. The inside of the bag has a sleeve that’s good for notebooks, tablets, or small laptops, plus two pockets for pens, keys, and small accessories. There are two water bottle pouches on the outside of the bag. The inside of the bag has a hickory stripe pattern. It’s a stylish detail, but one that serves the practical purpose of making it easier to see what’s inside of the bag.
There’s also a strange sideways pocket on the front of the bag, which is billed as a
“keycard pocket.” The awkward shape and small but deep size make it not the most useful, but it doesn’t detract from the rest of the bag.
The bag easily stands up on its own, including when it’s empty. It’s comfortable to wear over the shoulder, though the straps may be too long to carry in the hand for some.
- Water-resistant fabric
- Easy to see interior lining
- Stands upright
- Some may prefer a zipper
- Straps may be too long for carrying in hand.
BEST WORK TOTE
Bellroy Tokyo Tote II
Best for: Anyone looking for a professional work bag that’s more casual than a briefcase.
Why We Chose It: Like most of Bellroy’s products, the Tokyo Tote II is stylish and has clever pockets.
Bellroy’s Tokyo Tote is built with the office commute in mind; it’s stylish and professional looking, but won’t look out of place with a casual outfit. It’s not the best bag for hitting the farmer’s market, but it’s well-suited for work and packing for travel. The top has a full zip and the fabric is water-resistant. When we poured water on it, it beaded up and rolled off, so you won’t have to worry about your tech getting wet on a rainy commute.
For laptops, there’s an internal 13-inch laptop sleeve. Given how many laptops are 14-inch and 15-inch, the sleeve leaves out many laptops. But if you’re a MacBook Air-carrying creative, the sleeve will fit your laptop perfectly. Larger laptops can be easily stored in the main compartment, and you can use the laptop sleeve for items like books, notebooks, and tablets.
True to Bellroy’s penchant for clever pockets, internal pockets pop out for stashing water bottles upright and pop back in when not in use, though these pockets cut into the rest of the bag’s space when in use. The shoulder straps have a clever grip for sitting more securely on your shoulder. There are two more pockets on the inside, plus an external zip pocket and an internal key clip.
It’s well organized, stylish and secure, but there are a few drawbacks when it comes to this bag. We must admit, however, it’s fairly pricey, and the shoulder strap is slightly too long to comfortably carry in the hand. It also can’t stand upright, making it harder to easily reach in the bag when you want to grab something.
- Stylish design
- Zip top
- Doesn’t stand upright
BEST CARRYALL TOTE
LL Bean Hunter's Tote
Best For: The road tripper with a lot to haul.
Why We Chose It: What it lacks in pockets it makes up for in beefy construction and great value.
You’re probably already familiar with LL Bean’s iconic Boat and Tote, so we decided to give another style a shot. LL Bean’s Hunter’s Tote is a great alternative for anyone looking for a more substantial, zippered bag. It has a lightweight but sturdy construction, with a 1,200-denier polyester shell. There’s a short handle for carrying in the hand and a longer strap for carrying on the shoulder. It’s comfortable hanging off the shoulder, but the strap is long enough to wear as a crossbody. Plus, the shoulder strap has an adjustable padded grip for comfort.
The inside has a coating that’s water-resistant, making this bag easy to rinse out. That makes sense, given that this hunter’s tote can be used for, well, hunting. Even if you’re not a hunter, the water-resistant coating is great for pool and beach days, hauling gym clothes, or traveling. There’s a heavy-duty zipper for keeping everything in place.
The main drawback of this bag is the lack of pockets. It’s just one large compartment, with no internal organizers. The large size, which is the one we tested, is almost the size of a duffel, so it’s too big for everyday use. For that reason, this isn’t the best option for a work bag, unless your line of work is decidedly more outdoorsy. The medium size might be better as a daily bag, though it might be somewhat small.
LL Bean’s Hunter Tote is a great alternative to a duffle bag for travel thanks to the secure zip-top and water-resistant lining. Plus, given the fact that this bag is very heavy-duty in construction and much larger than other bags on this list, it’s easily one of the best values for tote bags. If LL Bean had a size between medium and large, it would be a nearly perfect bag.
- Great value for a large bag
- Waterproof lining and full zip
- Stylish look
- Large size is too big for a work bag
- No internal pockets
BEST CANVAS TOTE
Baggu Duck Bag
Best For: Anyone looking for an upgraded version of a market tote.
Why We Chose It: Baggu’s duck bag excels in simplicity, and it has some of the best-designed straps of any bag on this list.
Baggu’s Duck Bag is an upgraded version of your average market tote. It’s made from cotton canvas and is unstructured, so it’s not as heavy-duty as the other bags on this list. That said, it’s an affordable bag that ticks off a lot of our wishlists.
There’s an internal zip compartment that’s great for your phone, wallet, and other small daily essentials. Because it’s a lightweight market-style tote, it easily rolls up when not in use. Because of the light canvas construction and casual style, it’s not necessarily the best pick for a laptop, especially not one that isn’t in a case. But if you’re hauling groceries or carrying a few loose essentials, it’s an excellent option.
The short handles prevent the bag from dangling too low when carrying it in the hand, while the longer shoulder strap can be adjusted for comfortable hands-free carrying. The shoulder strap is long enough to wear as a crossbody bag, though probably not for larger people. There’s also a snap-button closure that keeps it all together.
Baggu’s bag also comes in the most colors of any bag on our list, including muted neutrals and colorful prints. The prints may be too cutesy for some, but cedar green, black, and khaki are tasteful options if you like neutrals.
- Plenty of color options
- Shoulder and hand straps
- Snap closure
- Not as heavy-duty as other options
- Doesn’t stand upright
BEST OUTDOOR BAG
The North Face Explore Utility Tote
Best For: Anyone who needs a water-resistant daily tote.
We Chose It: With a water-resistant lining and multiple ways to carry it, the North Face tote works just about anywhere you take it.
Unfortunately, the all-black version of this tote has sold out on The North Face’s website, although purple and yellow are still available. Given that it’s the North Face, this tote has a utilitarian look that’s stylish given the trend toward technical outdoors gear brands like Arc’Teryx and Salomon. This bag also has technical features that make it ideal for the great outdoors; the inside of the bag has a water-resistant lining, and the bag is made from a durable synthetic fabric.
There are plenty of pockets for easy organization. There’s one small mesh pocket on the inside, while the outside of the bag has three slip pockets. There’s also a key clip. If you want to add even more storage, the daisy chain straps allow you to clip on carabiners.
It’s very comfortable to carry, too. That’s because there’s a short strap for carrying it in hand or over the shoulder, plus a longer strap for wearing across the chest or over the shoulder.
One of the main complaints about this bag online is the lack of a zipper; there’s no snap or zip to secure the inside of the bag. That said, the bag sits upright, even when empty, so you can set it down without worrying about it tipping over.
- Water-resistant fabric
- Stands upright
- Handle and shoulder strap
- No closure
- Somewhat small
BEST TRAVEL TOTE
Solo RE:STORE TOTE
Best For: The frequent flyer.
Why We Chose It: Solo’s bag has plenty of pockets and fits around the handles of a rolling suitcase. Plus, it’s made from recycled plastic bottles.
This bag is the best option on our list for travel. It has a cleverly designed sleeve on the back that allows it to slot over the handle of a rolling suitcase. If you’re not traveling, simply zip the bottom and use the sleeve as an extra pocket. Not that this bag needs extra pockets; there are two zip pockets on the front of the bag, plus an accessory organizer on the inside for items like pens. There’s also a laptop sleeve and a key clip. The entire bag is secured with a zipper on top. As an added bonus, the fabric is constructed from recycled polyester from plastic bottles.
This bag is also reasonably water resistant, so it can handle the average spill. However, the zipper has gaps on the edges, so it won’t be completely impervious to falling rain.
The handles are somewhat short, but the bag is flat enough to comfortably carry on the shoulder. A trade-off is that the slim design of this bag prevents it from easily standing upright on its own.
The bag is available in heather gray, and has a design that’s not particularly exciting, but is neutral enough to work with most wardrobes. The inside of the bag has a black camo lining. It would be improved with a lighter color lining, which would make it easier to see what’s inside the bag.
- Zip top
- Slides on handle of a rolling suitcase
- Laptop sleeve and plenty of pockets
- Plain color
- Doesn’t stand upright
J Crew Seaport Tote
Best For: The preppy guy with a lot to carry.
Why We Chose It: J Crew’s tote is made from heavy-duty canvas, and it has a total of seven pockets.
J Crew’s Seaport tote is unsurprisingly pretty preppy looking, drawing inspiration from classic LL Bean totes. It’s made from canvas and comes in white and blue. The version we got for testing was a stylish green shade, which seems to have sold out on J. Crew’s website.
Like freebie totes, this one is made from cotton canvas, but J Crew’s Seaport tote easily stands up on its own, even without anything inside of it, and the fabric is very thick and durable feeling. However, there’s no way to close the top of the bag, which may reduce its usefulness as a travel bag. That said, given that it easily stands on its own, you won’t have to worry about things falling out.
The star of the show with J Crew’s Seaport tote is the pockets. There are six pockets on the outside of the bag, which are good for small accessories like umbrellas, thin water bottles, and whatever else you want to carry. There’s also an internal pocket and a key clip.
If there’s a department this bag is lacking in, it’s the straps. They’re heavy-duty, but they’re slightly too short to comfortably carry around the shoulder.
- Heavy duty fabric
- Six external and one internal pocket
- Stands upright
- No closure
- Straps are too short for comfortable shoulder carrying
BEST 2-IN-1 TOTE
Eddie Bauer Bygone Backpack Tote
Best For: The commuter who needs versatility.
Why We Chose It: Though the design isn’t the most exciting, Eddie Bauer’s tote is the only one on this list that converts into a backpack.
Eddie Bauer’s Bygone Backpack has some handy features that make it great for a commuter. There’s an internal sleeve for laptops, an internal accessory pocket, a key clip, two outer water bottle pockets, and another outer zip pocket.
The standout feature of the Eddie Bauer tote is the hidden backpack straps. The straps are completely hidden when not in use, but pop out and clip into place in a few seconds. The straps are adjustable as well, so they should comfortably fit most people.
The bag has a zipper on top, meaning your essentials will be safely stashed away. The bag doesn’t easily stand up on its own, but it can sit upright if filled. Though it doesn’t have the most premium-feeling construction or stylish look, it’s sturdy enough to use as an everyday bag without it falling apart.
- Internal laptop sleeve
- Converts to a backpack
- Reasonably priced
- Doesn’t stand upright on its own
- Not the most stylish
Men’s Tote Bags: Honorable Mentions
- LL Bean’s Boat and Tote is the classic mom-on-the-go tote, and though we opted to test the brand’s Hunter tote instead, LL Bean’s USA-made tote is still an excellent bag. Plus, you can get it monogrammed.
- Ikea Frakta: Ikea’s famous blue bag is perfect for laundry and whatever else you can throw in there. And at $1, they’re an incredible value, considering they’re basically indestructible.
- Madewell Transport Carryall Tote Bag was one our favorite bags; it’s stylish, has handles and a shoulder strap, and has internal pockets for small accessories. Unfortunately, it has sold out completely. If Madewell restocks it, we recommend it.
How We Found the Best Tote Bags for Men
What we found is that, unsurprisingly, different totes are good for different situations. Bellroy’s Tokyo tote is great for work, LL Bean’s tote is great for beach days and to use as luggage, and Baggu makes a great shopping tote. That means it may well be worth having a few different options for different settings. But if you want a bag that can do it all, we have a few in that category, too. We hauled all of these bags around town, and considered a few key factors.
Shoulder Straps — We looked at whether the bags could be carried comfortably in hand and on the shoulder, and bonus points were awarded for bags that could also be worn as a crossbody.
Sturdy base — We looked for bags that you can set down without them tipping over.
Closure — We gave points to bags that had some kind of closure on top, such as a snap or a zipper. Unsurprisingly, there are some tradeoffs, as bags with zippers are more likely to be narrow and unable to stand upright.
Pockets — Having lots of pockets is less important than having pockets that are intuitive and easy to use, but we prioritized bags that had some kind of internal organization.
Style — Taste is subjective, but we looked for bags that were stylish and could suit multiple situations, like work, grocery runs and travel.
Why Trust SPY When Picking the Best Men’s Tote Bag
In addition to tech and grooming, SPY has extensively tested and written about men’s accessories and style. We talked to students to find the best college backpacks and did an exhaustive search to find the best t-shirts, testing over 60 tees in the pursuit of the best of the best. For this piece, we called in a wide range of totes, carrying them every day for several weeks to find the ones that can handle most commutes, errands and trips.