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Over-Engineered Tote Bags – Five Plus One

Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.


A lot of folks think of tote bags as being flimsy and easily replaceable, and to be honest, most are. But like all the products we cover here at Heddels, we like our tote bags a bit beefier than what you get from a PBS pledge drive–to be so overly engineered that no amount of reasonable wear can break them down.

1) Filson: Zipper-Free Tote Bag

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Whenever heavy-duty bags are being discussed, it would be a bit unreasonable to leave out Filson. Their quality-to-price ratio is fantastic, and their designs are classics of the industry. Their Zipper-Free Tote Bag delivers exactly what consumers want: a heavy-duty bag with enough space for everything you need. It’s constructed from their oiled 20oz. cotton twill, bridle leather straps, and brass hardware.

Available for $140 from East Dane.

2) Railcar: Utility Tote Bag

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Some may think that Railcar Fine Goods went a bit overboard on the fabrics when designing their Utility Tote Bag, but to me it’s perfect. The exterior of the bag is constructed of two selvedge denims, one clocking in at 13.75Oz. and the other at 14.75Oz. The straps are also denim, but feature a canvas backing — and the interior of the bag is lined with cotton/poly fabric, but with a different canvas lining on the bottom. Finally, an interior lanyard is constructed using natural selvedge. It’s all put together with the same care and attention to detail that we would expect from Railcar.

Available for $148 from Railcar.

3) Joshu+Vela: Medium Boat Tote (Natural)

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Joshu+Vela isn’t a brand we get to talk about much but they come out with some fantastic stuff. This tote of theirs, coined the Boat Tote, is one such product. It’s constructed from ultra heavyweight 24oz. canvas, sturdy leather straps, copper rivets, and steel hardware. It’s quite a bit bigger than the other totes on this list, so if carrying capacity is an issue this may be the bag for you.

Available for $265 from Joshu+Vela.

4) Archival: Market Tote (Olive)

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For many consumers, “tote bags” are thought of as being taller than they are wide. While I may not necessarily agree that this must be the case, it is certainly a memorable style present for many totes. Archival’s Market Tote follows this design philosophy, with enough height to carry all of your groceries without having an excessive amount of bulkiness. It’s constructed of heavy-duty canvas and Horween leather straps, with a double-layered bottom to ensure it can hold everything you need and more.

Available for $90 from Archival.

5) The Hill-Side: Tb2-305: Heavyweight Covert Twill Heavy Duty Tote Bag (Black)

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The Hill-Side makes some wonderful products, but if there is one thing they are known for its their awesome fabrics. This version of their Heavy Duty Tote Bag comes in Covert Black Twill, a heavyweight twill that appears to have a very tight weave. The bag itself is a bit different from the others on this list: it has a more structured bottom than many of this list, and has an array of pockets both inside and out.

Available for $158 from Hickorees.

Plus One – Samurai: Heavy Selvedge Tote

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I’m going to be honest: I’ve cheated you, readers. There was one, true standout from Pure Blue Japan that should have been this week’s plus one, but sadly I could not find a stockist, nor if it was still being made. Several alternatives exist to the denim-pant tote bag, such as one made by Flat Head (available on Rakuten), but it just isn’t the same. Instead, I offer you something only slightly different from its competitors: the Samurai Heavy Selvedge Tote. And in all fairness, it is in no way less great than it’s PBJ counterpart, just a fair bit more attractive. The main difference between this bag and the others on this list is the full-length zipper, which gives this bag a bit more structure and security.

Available for $225 from Blue in Green SOHO.