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Whether you’re hauling work stuff, kids’ stuff, holiday stuff or all-of-the-above stuff, sling a trusty tote bag over your shoulder and you’re good to go.
Handbags are something wise Mumsnetters are willing to invest in. Let’s face it: the last thing you want is one of your bag straps giving way while you’re running for the train or to the school gates. But with such a huge range of fabrics, brands and styles out there - from beachy canvas to office-friendly black leather to versatile tote packs - it’s difficult to know which to go for. That’s why we’ve rummaged through forums and reviews to bring you the best totes out there.
Here are the best tote bags to buy in 2021.
1. Best overall tote bag: Longchamp Le Pliage
Price: £99 | Buy now from Amazon
"I use mine for work because it is big and strong and not ugly. It wipes down easily. If you're someone who likes compartments you won't like it. It's perfect for me because I'm a chucker-of-everything-in kind of person" - CaptainJamesTKirk
"They are pretty strong actually. I've never had a concern about the handles fraying or giving up and I tend to use mine for commuting – shove my laptop in there sometimes, a pair of shoes, lunchbox. Looks so much smarter than even the slightly bashed paper bags with rope handles I used to go around with" - d0ttyne11
Chic, practical and strong, Le Pliage by Longchamp ticks all the boxes and Mumsnetters are huge fans. Great as an additional bag thanks to its ability to be folded up to the size of a paperback and tucked into a pocket or handbag, it’s sturdy enough to be your main bag too, thanks to the leather straps that won’t let you down.
It’s one of the most affordable designer bags, priced at around £90, and is big enough for a 13” laptop with room for plenty more besides. The nylon is wipe-clean and comes in a huge variety of colourways as well as a mini and maxi version. Fans of pockets might find it hard to get along with Le Pliage, as it only has one slim compartment.
- Size: 30 x 31 x 19cm
- Material: Nylon and leather
2. Best budget tote bag: Day ET Gweneth Tote Bag
Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon
"It's a really good size and easy to carry. I use it as my carry on now as it's easy to put under your seat if the overhead lockers are full. It's really hard-wearing though I treat my padded one a bit more carefully. Everyone needs a Gweneth (possibly several)" - Mercurial123
The Gweneth is a bit of a cult favourite among Mumsnetters. It’s light, spacious and comes with plenty of Scandi cool. Day ET is the sister brand of Danish fashion house Day Birger et Mikkelsen, launched off the back of the Gweneth’s popularity.
With a zip to keep everything secure, plenty of pockets and a bargain price, Gweneth is a great choice for a go-anywhere bag. Reviewers from Mumsnet to Vogue rave about its supernatural abilities to fit just about anything into it, while simultaneously tucking neatly under an airline seat.
- Size: 56 x 42cm
- Material: Nylon
3. Best Leather tote bag: Knomo Maddox
Price: £279 | Buy now from Amazon
"I have a Knomo Maddox and love it. It has a laptop compartment, RFID pouch, a secret pocket at the top which is useful for cards, key find etc. And there's lots of room for folders, chargers etc" - SorrelForbes
"Knomo bags are lovely and they have a good range of styles. Leather is beautifully soft too!" - Hoviscats
Designed with work in mind, Knomo has thought of everything with the Maddox. Large enough for a 15” laptop and boasting plenty of compartments and pockets – including a concealed one right at the top to save you rummaging for your essentials.
The leather is top-quality and each bag is made from a single piece, making it extra-sturdy. The styling is minimal and smart, so the Knomo Maddox would fit in just as well at a buttoned-up office meeting as a low-key lunch.
- Size: 33 x 37cm; strap: 54cm
- Material: Leather
4. Best canvas tote bag: Vanessa Bruno Cabas Tote Bag
Price: £135 | Buy now from Vanessa Bruno
"It's very very thick, like tent canvas" - homeanddry
"Great for slinging all the child related paraphernalia into" - AmberNectarine
Vanessa Bruno’s Cabas bag is perfect for holidays. It’s roomy enough for a day at the beach, and pretty enough for dinner out. Light, soft and slouchy, the Cabas is available in a rainbow of colours, as well as linen and raffia versions.
The Cabas has one inside pocket with a zip, and if it gets dirty the manufacturer recommends gently hand washing the area and leaving it to air dry, so it would be quite high-maintenance for an everyday bag. But if you’re looking for a fun tote that’ll get compliments wherever you go, this is a great option.
- Size: 52 x 35.5cm
- Material: Cotton
5. Best large tote bag: Superdry Elaina
Price: £51 | Buy now from Amazon
"I've got this which I love. It's very roomy" - Depress
Loved for its huge dimensions, the Superdry Elaina fits a multitude of stuff. Made from tough, sturdy synthetic material, this bag won’t let you down. Inside you’ll find a removable main compartment as well as a zip-up pocket.
It’s waterproof, with nice thick straps to keep your shoulders comfortable, whatever you’re carrying.
- Size: 37 x 38cm
- Material: Polyester
6. Best tote bag for families: Osprey Arcane
Price: £81 | Buy now from Amazon
"I have this bag and I absolutely love it. Super comfy even fully loaded with laptop, books etc" - ILOVEALLCAKES
For a super-practical everyday bag capable of carrying everybody’s paraphernalia, go for a tote pack. This one by Osprey has long handles for carrying it like a tote, but also backpack straps so you can fling it on your back if you need both arms free for child-wrangling.
It’s got a padded laptop compartment that fits up to 15” devices, and a front panel for keeping small items close at hand. Osprey is an outdoor adventure brand, so the Arcane is designed with comfort and durability in mind. We love the yellow, but you’ll also find it in more muted black or grey.
- Size: 46 x 28 x 23cm
- Material: Recycled polyester
7. Best tote bag for laptops: Vince Camuto Yulia
Price: £180 | Buy now from Amazon
"If you want a handbag that works for a laptop rather than a laptop bag that works as a handbag, I would definitely look at Vince Camuto bags as they're very well made and really do last well" - HundredMilesAnHour
If you’re after a work bag that doesn’t look too corporate, Vince Camuto is worth a look. We love the Yulia for its curvy design and lovely chunky leather. Inside, it’s lined with microsuede and has plenty of pockets, including a generous laptop compartment.
The bag’s strong and hardwearing, plus the choice of a single long strap or two shorter ones means it’s versatile and comfortable.
- Size: 39 x 30cm
- Material: Leather
8. Best designer tote bag: Mulberry Bayswater
Price: £695 | Buy now from Mulberry
"Yes, you do need one. It will hold everything you need it to - you can get nice soft leather pouches to hold the things you’d usually put in the pockets - and it will last for years. Break it down to a pence-per-use. If you use it for four years, it's less than 50p a day" - AgentProvocateur
Queen of the totes, the Mulberry Bayswater has a huge fanbase of celebrities and Mumsnetters alike. At just under £700, it’s the priciest bag on our list, but the quality is amazing so most agree the Bayswater’s worth splashing out on.
The bag is suede-lined with a removable leather envelope pocket and the iconic Mulberry postman’s lock. It comes in seven colours and the leather is responsibly sourced in Italy. However, Mumsnetters say the Bayswater is pretty heavy and the straps are on the short side, so it’s not the most practical option.
- Size: 28 x 46cm
- Material: Leather
9. Best tote bag for travel: Mia Tui Jennie
Price: £56 | Buy now from Mia Tui
"I have the Mia Tui Jennie bag. It's faux leather (fine by me) and comes in different colours, is huge, has different compartments" - WrongSideOfHistory
"Great, hardwearing, roomy (lots of pockets!) - and comes in lots of different colours" - beeyourself
The Mia Tui Jennie is a great choice if you’re looking for a tote that doubles as a changing bag or a carry-on bag. It comes with masses of accessories to keep all your things in order, including two insulated bottle holders and a clip for your keys.
Made of faux leather, the Jennie comes in 20 different colours. The bright turquoise lining does stain quite easily, but otherwise a lot of thought has been put into its design, and the manufacturers recommend the smaller Mini Jen if you’re under 5’5”.
- Size: 51 x 26cm
- Material: Faux leather
10. Best faux leather tote bag: Matt & Nat
Price: £132 | Buy now from Amazon
"Quality is amazing, I bought a tote bag for work 4 years ago and it still looks great - it withstands a heavy load every day and there is very little wear and tear on it. Thoroughly recommend" - Nemesia
The smallest of our tote haul, this ultra-stylish bag from vegan label Matt & Nat comes with a removable cross-body strap and a neat magnetic closure to keep your stuff safe.
While some faux leather can crack or have a plasticky appearance, Mumsnetters say Matt & Nat bags last and look good as new even after years of wear. This tote won’t fit a device much bigger than a tablet, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in looks.
- Size: 24 x 30cm
- Material: Faux leather
How to buy the best tote bag?
The first thing to consider is what you’re planning to put in it. Measure your laptop or changing mat to make sure the dimensions are going to work. Secondly, think about your wardrobe and what style might go with most of your outfits. Leather is usually a no-brainer for bags, but as totes are on the large side, a leather bag can be heavy, especially when you consider all the weight will be on one shoulder. Check out nylon styles for a lighter option that doesn’t skimp on quality.
It’s also worth considering strap length – long handles make a tote more versatile as you can carry it by hand, by elbow or on your shoulder, as well as fitting it over winter coats. Many totes don’t have more than a single small pocket, so to maximise space, consider a bag organiser like this one to save excess rummaging.
What’s the best material for a tote bag?
Nylon makes for the lightest, most comfortable tote bags, while remaining practical and stylish.
What’s the best tote bag to buy?
Longchamp’s Le Pliage is the tote we like best as it combines size, lightness, style and quality, all in one neat, foldable package. The Gweneth by Day ET comes a close second.
How we chose our recommendations
All of our tote bag recommendations came from Mumsnet users themselves. We searched the Mumsnet forums for posts about which brands and styles Mumsnetters really loved. We also looked at other review sites to see which tote bags performed well across the board.
Why you should trust us
We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.