Style, Wardrobe

Which Boat & Tote Should You Buy?

As a lifelong boat & tote user*, I feel very strongly about the value of this versatile and useful bag. I’ve used them as school bags, diaper bags, bags for the car, for commuting, for traveling, for storage, even as a laundry hamper. The sky is the limit for their uses, and which boat & tote* you should buy is only determined by its intended use. (And for additional insight, don’t miss Salt Water New England’s guide!)

What size should I buy?
Small: A great size for a purse or a bag for your child! Not able to fit much but it’s fun.

Medium: Perfect for daily use as a work bag, a diaper bag, or a school bag if you’re taking a reasonable number of classes.

Large: A great size for an overnight bag, a school bag if you have a heavy courseload, or a travel bag for a long road-trip.

Extra-large: Enough room to cart around your child, or meeting packets for a board meeting of fifty, or huge numbers of mailings, or a week’s worth of laundry, or enough clothes for a ten-day trip to Europe. This size is NOT messing around. It’s super-practical but GIANT.

Open-top or zipper?
Open-top: Ideal for a car bag (easy access as long as you keep it somewhere secure but convenient to reach), a stroller bag, or if you’re using it as a laundry hamper like I once did! I used an open-top bag in boarding school for my classes. It’s also ideal for carrying items short distances.

Zipper: Ideal for traveling, storage, a city bag, or as a diaper bag. I find the zipper gives me added peace of mind if I’m carry in around things like my laptop or wallet.

Long or short straps?
Short straps: I like short straps for a storage bag, a bag for the car, and a bag I don’t use for anything heavy or bulky. I can technically slip the short straps over my shoulders, but only if I’m not wearing a jacket or a thick sweater.

Long straps: I generally prefer long straps as I use the bulk of my boat & totes for carrying a lot of things around. They’re great for that, but the long straps can be inconvenient if you’re primarily using the bag for storage.

I hope you found this boat & tote guide helpful! Let me know if I can answer any questions in the comments below.

20 thoughts on “Which Boat & Tote Should You Buy?

  1. We have a few of the boat & totes that we use for camping. However, I gave my husband the extra large with zipper so that he could bring board games to his gaming evenings. I chose the short straps because it is really too big to carry as a shoulder bag. It is perfect and he loves it. Having his name on it helps as he is a little absent-minded. I’m contemplating getting a medium tote with long straps as a summer purse, but I’m also contemplating the Kanken backpack. I commute on light rail to work. Sometimes it’s nice to have a backpack when waiting for the train, but it’s also good to be able slide your bag off easily as you sit down. I’m one of those people who would love to carry my whole world in my bag, but my back and my chiropractor have objected!

    Also, I love how often you are posting and the thoughtfulness of your posts. They are helping me consider my own purchases.

    1. I have used both the medium Boat and Tote, and the Kanken backpack, for a work bag (I’m a teacher, so it sees heavy daily use.)

      I love Boat and Totes, and have had many in all different sizes throughout the years, but I actually like my Kanken better for a work bag. It holds my laptop, book, lunch, papers, umbrella, pen case, small toiletry bag, and a water bottle – all hands-free, and in a water-resistant bag. If you go with the Kanken, I highly recommend the add-on of the water bottle carrier for the side pocket.

      I carry a small size Boat and Tote as my purse in the summer!

      1. Hi Kim! I’m glad you could weigh in on the backpack question, as I said above I haven’t used a backpack in years. But you and Melanie are prompting me to re-think that! Love that you use a small boat & tote in the summer as a purse 🙂 A classic look!

    2. I can’t weigh in on the backpack issue as I haven’t used one since middle school (though I still have it somewhere, it’s the LL Bean one they still make!) I’m definitely someone who carries more rather than less in my bag… need to adopt my blog name as my work bag mantra 😂

      Thank you so much! I try to post three times a week and write the posts I want to read. I’m so glad you’re enjoying so far!

  2. I have a medium boat tote, which I found at the thrift store in my early 20’s. I used to work in the public library and it was the perfect “library book bag” – now I’m in my 30’s and it’s my “everything bag.” Ideal for throwing everything I need for the day in!

  3. Small, medium and large open top – for years, make that decades. They’re a standard in our family – extremely vacation friendly and uses evolved as years rolled on; we’ve now equipped both children with their own collections. So very pleased to see these totes be featured in their own post. Well deserved!.

    1. Thank you so much, LD! They are definitely a staple in our household as well and it was about time they got their due here 😊 I’m glad they’re getting the widespread recognition they deserve, though I hope that won’t lead to a decrease in quality to keep up with the demand! Fingers crossed!

  4. Having initially purchased LL Bean, I found I preferred Lands End, because of its internal zipped pockets. I don’t just want to throw everything in. I want things like keys in an easy to find place, not among clutter and damp towels! Having internal pockets is now a requirement for my totes.

  5. I would love if LL Bean made a zippered tote with a trolley sleeve, don’t you? It would make the PERFECT travel addition! If you have any sway, please share! = )

  6. What a fun article. I agree that each size of bag has its uses. My son took one of our extra large bags to university to use as a laundry bag and it has worked out well. The handles are so sturdy that he is easily able to carry a full load down to the laundry room. I have also seen someone use them to carry groceries.

  7. what size laptop do you have? im trying to decide between the large or XL because i have a 16in mac! thank you!!

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