More versatile than a crossbody bag. Sleeker than a messenger bag. Better for daily life than a duffel bag. The humble tote backpack is the star of this expert gear guide. Offering the convenience of a backpack with the straps of a tote, these convenient bags have recently been added to the carry line-ups of several companies, becoming a category on their own. Though totepacks are relatively new to the market, look around and you’ll start noticing them everywhere. Some skew more tote, some skew more backpack, some are laden with features, and some keep it simple. Details aside, the versatile tote-bag-slash-backpack design is both clever and functional—and part of our EDC kit in town and for light travel.
To find the best for a range of uses, across a range of price points, we scoured the internet and asked our roster of pro athlete, journalist, gear obsessed contributors for references. The result is below, our top picks for 11 of the best tote backpacks from brands we know and trust (no sketchy Amazon deals of the day here, folks, sorry). Read on, dig in, then recycle that heaping pile of canvas totes clogging your closet.
The 11 Best Tote Backpacks for Everyday Carry
Best Convertible Backpack Tote for Commuting: Bellroy Tokyo Totepack
Bellroy is synonymous with commuting and travel. They do one thing: make bags and make them well. The Tokyo Totepack is no exception. The 20L main compartment capacity with 15” laptop sleeve, interior pockets, and comfortable convertible shoulder straps carries any and all gear you may need during the regular commute. The innovative pop pockets fold closed when not in use to maximize space, and two vertical front pockets stash any items you need handy. The laptop backpack straps also tuck away, making the Tokyo one of the slickest work bags on the market for when you want to tote it around (literally). This pack also comes in a pared-down 14L size for those nimble adventures.
Weight: 1 lb 14 oz
Best for Photographers: [Peak Design Everyday Totepack (https://peak-design.pxf.io/daK9qk)
Peak Design has a meticulous approach to every product it makes, so it's no surprise that their Everyday Totepack is feature-rich and burly enough for whatever comes its way, making it ideal for photographers on the move. The DWR-coated nylon canvas shell will repel most precipitation, and the waterproof lining on the bottom means you don’t have to worry about where you set it down. It has a larger volume than most tote backpacks, so it can fit gear and a change of clothes in addition to a camera, lenses, and accessories, and a zippered and magnetic top closure plus side-access zippers on both sides make it easy to access everything inside. Peak Design also gave the bag its custom removable dividers for incredible interior organization, while external carry straps and a key tether allow a wide range of set ups.
Weight: 2 lbs 5 oz
Best for Travel: Topo Designs River Bag
The River Bag is listed at only 12.8 liters but don’t let that volume fool you—this thing is loaded with functionality. The cinch top is expansive, and the wide mesh side pockets with adjustable straps can fit everything from a Nalgene water bottle to shoes to beach towels. The mesh also lines the side of the backpack itself, hence the River Bag moniker—wet gear can air out with ease regardless of where you stash it. Two zippered front pockets can also pack valuables, and there is an internal organization sleeve. The River Bag was my carry-on for a recent trip to Tucson, and it held my laptop, books, journals, water bottle, and all the snacks my ravenous toddler could ever want.
Best Lightweight Tote Backpack: Patagonia Ultralight Blackhole Tote Pack
The Blackhole Tote Pack is everything you’d expect from Patagonia’s legendary line of unbreakable bags, and a couple things you might not. It has the largest volume on this list, yet weighs a relatively minuscule 13 ounces—all while packing down into its own pocket for stowing in other travel bags when not in use. It also has multiple stretch water bottle pockets, an exterior zipper pocket, and the shoulder straps can connect with a chest strap, providing comfort all the way to the campsite and beyond. It might not have a laptop sleeve or some of the other organizational features for commuting, but it's a winner when it comes to travel and adventure.
Weight: 13 oz
Best Gear Bag: Klattermusen Urur Lightweight Packable Tote
The Urur Packable Tote is mini in weight and mighty in stowage space, thanks to the abundant webbing and mesh that line the exterior of the pack. The unique design from one of our favorite Nordic brands features impressively large capacity, ventilated shoulder straps, and a padded back panel, making it an ideal candidate for hitting the crag or bagging peaks. Easy access exterior pockets are perfect for stashing snacks, a charger and other personal items. The water-resistant exterior also increases versatility. Plus, it packs down into its own pocket when not in use.
Weight: 11 oz
Best for Urban Exploration: Fjällräven High Coast Totepack
It is possible that Fjällräven’s ubiquitous Kånken was the OG tote backpack, featuring those totally toteable top handles and a bevy of colorways, and it's no wonder the Kånken seems to be the casual bag du jour. Yet Fjällräven brought a little more tote to its High Coast Totepack—with a wider opening and interior laptop compartment, two different shoulder straps, and more understated colorways, this is like a grown-up Kånken fit more for the street of NYC than the classroom. The fabric is waterproof (but not the zippers and seams FYI), it comes with a laptop sleeve and water bottle holder, and can be worn as a shoulder bag, making the High Coast Totepack a great bet for the daily grind and urban exploration.
Weight: 14 oz
Best Light Carry Option: Cotopaxi Todo Convertible Tote
For those quick, minimalist jaunts when one is traveling light, the 100% recycled Todo Convertible Tote from Cotopaxi is a colorful choice. Cotopaxi is known for gear and apparel that is as environmentally conscious as it is bright and bold, and this pack certainly fits the mold. The Todo is a nimble offering that works well as an accompaniment to your luggage for those quick excursions when you just need a layer and a notebook and won’t be returning home with groceries. The shoulder straps also tuck away, creating a sleek travel tote-only option, and there's a laptop sleeve and a fleece-lined pocket for sunglasses too.
Weight: 15 oz
Best Gym Totepack: The North Face Borealis Tote
The Borealis isn’t the biggest pack on this list, but it certainly packs a punch. The wide opening and tall tote handle allow for one to pack this to the brim and carry it comfortably in hand, as a shoulder bag, backpack, maybe even a crossbody bag. Plus, the bungee style drawcords along each side make it easy to bring along a jacket or a couple items clipped to carabiners. The Borealis Tote comes in a ripstop nylon rugged enough for all manner of gear. For a tote backpack that skews more backpack than tote, North Face also offers the Commuter Laptop Pack.
Weight: 1 lb 4.5 oz
Best for Everyday Use: Osprey Arcane Tote Pack
It is clear that Osprey put a lot of thought into the Arcane Tote Pack, as it is the rare pack that offers the best of both a travel backpack and EDC tote without compromise. The internal organizing pockets make it suitable for those among us who like quick access to specific items—this is not a stash it and forget it bag. The hook closure helps keep valuables safe, and the tote straps tuck away for an extra clean look. The fact that the Arcane is made from recycled plastic bottles only adds to the appeal.
Weight: 1 lb 4 oz
Best for the Farmer’s Market: REI Co-op Beyonder Convertible Bag
Another bag made entirely from recycled materials, the Beyonder is made to carry gear simply and sustainably. It is like your favorite shopping tote but heartier and with backpack straps that make running errands around town a breeze.
Weight: 11.5 oz
Best on a Budget: L.L.Bean Mountain Classic Drawstring Pack
It doesn’t get more classic than the LL Bean Mountain Classic, a simple bag with a drawstring closure and totepack straps. At $40, the Mountain Pack is both affordable and functional, with plenty of style and versatility. Stash a couple of these in your trunk and you’ll be amazed at how often they come in handy.
Weight: 7 oz