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Best Overall: Baggallini Avenue Lightweight Tote Bag at Amazon "The exterior of the tote features a small, zipped pocket, two shoulder straps and one longer removable carry strap."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Zooeass Waterproof Tote at Amazon "On rainy days, tuck away an umbrella in the waterproof exterior pocket or use it for grab and go items – it zips shut."
Best Budget: A New Day Nylon Quilted Tote at Target "The bag’s double shoulder handles...offer the ultimate in easy-to-carry comfort."
Best for Beach: Codream Mesh Beach Bag with Cooler Insulated Picnic at Amazon "The top of the bag zips closed and features padded handles so it rests comfortably on the shoulder."
Best Convertible: Crest Design Convertible Multipurpose Backpack at Amazon "The exterior is made of water-resistant nylon and features a zipped pocket for smartphones and other small items."
Most Versatile: Crest Design Shoulder Briefcase at Amazon "The front exterior has four different pockets of various sizes for organizing, with even more pockets inside for a laptop, pens, wallet and cell phone."
Best for Business: Victorinox Werks Traveler 5.0 at Amazon "Thoughtful touches include a back pocket that can convert to a luggage sleeve...and oversized carry handles."
Best Design: Amolar Gym Bag, Water Resistant Gym Tote Bag at Amazon "Mesh side pockets are perfect for water bottles and wet clothing, making this a top choice for traveling or going to the gym."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Baggallini Avenue Lightweight Tote Bag
For a well-constructed tote that is built to last and holds a lot of items, the Baggalini is a top choice overall. The tote is available in 11 different colors ranging from bright magenta or apple red to more conservative shades such as “java” brown or charcoal gray. The exterior of the tote features a small, zipped pocket, two shoulder straps and one longer removable carry strap. Inside the fully-lined, polyester interior there’s plenty of useful organizational features such as a zipped pocket, pen, cell phone and wallet slots, as well as a padded sleeve for laptops with a Velcro closure. The bag measures 15.25 inches wide by 12 inches high and has a luggage handle sleeve to attach to a larger carry-on suitcase.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Zooeass Waterproof Tote
Those seeking a large, multi-functional tote should take a closer look at the Zooeass Waterproof Tote, an ideal bag to keep travelers organized on the go. The tote comes in four, earth-toned colors, is sleek and fashionable and measures 18.89 inches wide by 11.02 inches high. On rainy days, tuck away an umbrella in the waterproof exterior pocket or use it for grab and go items – it zips shut. The inside is loaded with pockets, including one for a cell phone, wallet and documents, plus there are additional small pouches and the main compartment that’s roomy enough for a laptop. Amazon buyers loved the size of the tote bag and the fact that it is very lightweight.
Best Budget: A New Day Nylon Quilted Tote
For budget-conscious travelers, A New Day's Nylon Quilted Tote is a perfectly lovely, functional bag that comes at a reasonable price point. This structured faux-leather tote measures 13.75 inches x 17 inches x 5 inches—it has a padded laptop sleeve, as well as multiple interior and exterior pockets—so it’s both sizeable and sleek, and able to fit all the important items you can’t leave home without. This tote’s shell material is made of hardy, durable polyester, while its intricate gold metal detail and quilted design make it a stylish addition to virtually any outfit. The bag’s double shoulder handles (with a maximum strap length of 10 inches) offer the ultimate in easy-to-carry comfort since you’re able to distribute weight appropriately. The tote is available in a variety of attractive colors: black/white, navy, olive, and multicolor (with shades of navy, khaki, and cream).
Best for Beach: Codream Mesh Beach Bag with Cooler Insulated Picnic
Whether heading to the park for a picnic or the beach for a day in the sun, this mesh bag has a brilliant design that helps make for a fun day outdoors. The nylon tote is water resistant and measures 20 x 16 x 7 inches and can fit four large beach towels and a few other items in the main compartment. The top of the bag zips closed and features padded handles so it rests comfortably on the shoulder, as well as two exterior side pockets are perfect for sunscreen, chapstick, smartphones and other grab-and-go items. The bottom of the bag has a self-contained, removable cooler that can hold up to 12 cans (or snacks and water bottles).
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best beach bags.
Best Convertible: Crest Design Convertible Multipurpose Backpack
For a tote that is multifunctional, the Crest Design convertible is both a backpack, tote bag and messenger bag. Measuring 12.6 x 18.5 x 5.1 inches, the zippered tote can comfortably fit a 17-inch laptop in the fabric-lined main compartment, as well as additional items in the two interior slots. The bag comes in seven different colors, including black, pink and various shades of blue and purple. The exterior is made of water-resistant nylon and features a zipped pocket for smartphones and other small items, as well as side pouches for umbrellas and water bottles and several straps that allow the bag to be used as a backpack, tote or even a large purse.
Most Versatile: Crest Design Shoulder Briefcase
For a tote that works as a handbag, briefcase, messenger bag or carry-on, the Crest Design Shoulder Briefcase is an excellent, versatile option. Constructed from water-repellent nylon, the tote has six color varieties and patterns to choose from ranging from a vintage, navy design to bright floral prints. The front exterior has four different pockets of various sizes for organizing, with even more pockets inside for a laptop, pens, wallet and cell phone. The large-sized bag measures 15 inches long by 11 inches high, has a zipped closure for the main compartment, a mesh pouch and includes a detachable shoulder strap and carry handles.
Best for Business: Victorinox Werks Traveler 5.0
If you don’t mind splurging a bit for a high-quality, business travel tote, the Victorinox Werks Traveler 5.0 is a sleek and functional necessity. Made from durable, ballistic nylon, the tote is available in black or olive green and has a gray or orange interior. Thoughtful touches include a back pocket that can convert to a luggage sleeve (to attach to the handle of a rolling carry-on ) and oversized carry handles that allow the bag to be worn over the shoulder. To keep items organized, there are two large exterior pockets, a key fob and four interior pouches, including two padded slots for eReaders and tablets, as well as one zipped pocket.
Best Design: Amolar Gym Bag, Water Resistant Gym Tote Bag
For those needing something more durable, the Amolar gym bag has a thoughtful design that can withstand heavy items. The large tote measures 23 x 15 x 8 inches and is lightweight. Mesh side pockets are perfect for water bottles and wet clothing, making this a top choice for traveling or going to the gym. The Amolar can hold a lot of gear, so the comfortable padded shoulder straps help to reduce the pressure. The interior has separate compartments for organization, while the zipped front pocket on the outside is ideal for sunglasses, wallets and keys. The high-quality bag is made from black nylon with pink zippers and gray mesh.
What to Look for in a Nylon Tote Bag
Size If you pick one that’s too small, you’ll have a hard time fitting everything you need for the day inside, but if you pick one that’s too big, you might be tempted to overpack for the day. Take a look at what bags have worked best for you in the past, assess your current needs if they’ve changed, and go from there.
Activity If you’re looking for a bag for work, what you choose might be different from what you pick for a day at the beach. Keep in mind what you will be using your bag for, whether it’s weekend errand-running and kid-schlepping or something that needs a bit more formality.
Cost This tote might very well be your new best friend, so if it’s going to be your reliable everyday carry, it’s worth spending a bit more for something that’s good quality and will last. If you just need something for an occasional day out at the beach—or something that might get stained and beat up with kids—going a bit more on the budget side of things might be the right call.