For added security, we recommend it with a zip-top for $10 more.
Although you might be able to sling the 6-inch handles over your shoulders, you may be more comfortable buying the Boat and Tote with longer handles than on the version we tested. Photo: Sarah Kobos
Textbook tote bags are textbook for a reason, and the L.L.Bean Boat and Tote is no different. You’ve probably seen this bag before—if not in your city’s hip neighborhood, seated next to cool 20-somethings, then maybe at the beach, where parents are secretly packing negronis in their thermos.
The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote looks timeless. Its structured design means it sits upright, and its open top lets you easily reach in and grab something. Even when it’s not full, the bag sits mostly upright, ready to go when you’re grabbing it from the backseat or hurrying to get off the bus. The Boat and Tote is the answer.
The medium Boat and Tote bag is 13 by 12 inches, so it’s slightly wider than it is tall. It also has an open top, so you don’t have the same privacy that the Baggu affords to you (though for $10 more you can get a zip-top version). It’s ideal for grocery shopping; its openness allows you to take stock of the things on your list that you’ve grabbed and then beeline for what’s left.
Whereas the Duck Bag comes in one size, the Boat and Tote offers a range of options: It comes in small, medium, large, and extra-large, and two handle lengths. The standard 6-inch handles allow for better control, while the 11-inch handles accommodate carrying larger objects or slinging the bag comfortably over your shoulder.
The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote bag is rated to hold up to 500 pounds. We didn’t test that claim, but the bag’s heavy construction leads us to believe it to be true. Photo: Sarah Kobos
The tote is made of heavy-duty cotton canvas and overlapped seams double-stitched with nylon. Thanks to its colored bottom, we didn’t spot any blemishes over the few weeks we tested it. The Baggu Duck Bag is canvas, too, and can tolerate machine washing, but L.L.Bean recommends spot-cleaning this tote. It’s especially structured, which makes it difficult to fold up and put away in a dresser. L.L.Bean claims that the bag’s straps are rated to hold up to 500 pounds; as I am unable to hold more than 150 pounds without crying, we were not able to test this claim.
The people in my life who love the Boat and Tote are adamant that it is the best tote bag you can buy, to the point of annoyance. Admittedly, it is that good. Although L.L.Bean no longer offers a lifetime warranty, its guarantee is solid: You can return the tote within one year of purchase, and after that, L.L.Bean will consider returns due to defective materials.
The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote doesn’t have any pockets, but its large base and simple, sturdy construction make it the Choose Your Own Adventure of tote bags. Photo: Sarah Kobos
Flaws but not dealbreakers:
As we mentioned above, the L.L.Bean’s sturdy, upright construction may qualify as a flaw to some people, since you won't be able to fold it up to stick it in a drawer. It also doesn’t have any pockets, which may be annoying. As a result, it leans on your ability to organize (though we can help with that).
Size: 13 by 12 by 6 inches
Weight: 1 pound 8 ounces
Strap length: 6 inches
Closure type: none (optional zippered version for $10 more)
Colors: 10 colors, including black, blue, dark green, red, “natural”