Life·8 min read

The Best Work Bags and Totes for All Your Lugging

Cuyana tote
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Cuyana
Sep 6, 2022

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Commuting to and from work probably isn’t your fave part of the day. Add in a heavy bag carrying your laptop, wallet, lunch, and other essentials…and the achy shoulder that follows doesn’t help matters. To help make your everyday travels a little better, we rounded up some of our favorite functional (but cute) totes and backpacks. They’re all super practical, protective, and elevated — so you can show up to your 9 to 5 looking and feeling good. 

Psst…this is part of our Relatable Fashion Week series. For more recs on what you should wear to your office, including comfy shoes that won’t kill your feet, click here.

A versatile leather tote to hold anything and everything…

Classics are classic for a reason. And this structured, lightweight option from Cuyana is just that. It’s got a double handle, which makes carrying all your necessities a breeze. The hardware-free design is made from a super-luxe Italian pebbled leather that will age well over time. (It’s even certified by the Leather Working Group to affirm that it's tanned in an environmentally responsible way.) Pick your color, add an optional monogram, and you’ll be able to store everything from a laptop and sunglasses to your wallet and water bottle. Tote-ally love it. ($248, Cuyana

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A super-sturdy canvas carryall…

Bag ladies, assemble. If you’re looking for a Mary Poppins-esque bag that can truly fit everything your heart desires, look no further. This one is incredibly durable and has a shoulder strap to make carrying your items comfortable and easy. No schlepping here. ($88, Madewell)

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A monogrammable tote that’ll set you apart from the crowd...

We thought the perfect bag didn’t exist…until we found this. This Paravel bag comes in three sizes and is part of their Cabana collection — so you can score the matching vanity cases, passport holder, and backpack. The tote has interior and exterior pockets, a water-resistant interior, a sturdy leather base, and a spill-proof canvas exterior. And if you’re unsure about the quality of the canvas, trust us when we say it genuinely feels (and looks) luxe. Psst…the large tote is super spacious. So if you love a roomy bag that can double as a beach or gym bag, go big. If you’re looking for something that makes less of a statement, we rec the medium. Plus, no matter the size, you have your pick of interesting color combos. We’re obsessed. ($165+, Paravel)

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A perfect backpack that’ll rest easy on your shoulders…

Carrying a lot of s**t around? No problem. This water-resistant backpack from Dagne Dover has so many pockets, it’ll be practically impossible to feel disorganized. (It even comes with a removable shoe bag, which is convenient if you’re constantly traveling for your job.) It’s a no-brainer, if you ask us. ($215, Nordstrom)

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A classic unisex tote you’ll have forever…

Like foreva eva. Because an L.L.Bean cotton-canvas bag never goes out of style (and will last ya for years). It’s super durable thanks to double-stitched seams, a reinforced bottom, and handles that can hold up to 500 (yes, really) pounds. Available in a variety of size and color options, you can monogram it for an extra-special touch. ($39.95+, L.L.Bean)

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A fold-up backpack that takes up little to no space when not in use…

Space-saving bags for the win. This colorful one from Paravel zips up into a tiny pouch when folded. So it’s ideal to keep on hand for those last-minute emergencies when you need to lug your 15-inch laptop, daily essentials, plus a change of clothes around. Other perks we love? It’s made of upcycled water bottles and is TSA-approved. So if you have to travel by plane for work, this is a must. Add a monogram, pick your color, and voilá, you’ll never use another backpack again. ($65, Paravel)

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An Italian leather shoulder bag for an elevated everyday look…

It’s made in Italy from 100% leather so you can count on its durability. The bag has an adjustable shoulder strap, a snap closure, and an interior and exterior pocket. Its roomy interior will fit your everyday work essentials (including a 13-inch laptop) and your after-hours extras. Psst…store this out of direct sunlight to keep it in tip-top shape. ($225, Everlane)

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A four-piece purse set that comes in a million colors…

Need choices? You’re in luck. This set’s available in 40 colors and comes with a matching wallet, tote bag, shoulder bag, and top-handle satchel. Each piece is made of quality synthetic leather, which is water resistant (and makes for easy cleaning too). Love it. ($35.99+, Amazon)

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An expandable Longchamp tote…

This versatile bag is made with water-resistant nylon and comes in a variety of colors. The best part? It’s extendable. So if you’re running errands post-work and need some more space in your bag to fit your purchases, you can simply unzip the middle inset, and presto, you’ll have more space immediately. Who doesn’t love that? ($195, Nordstrom)

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A woven tote that’s perfect for a put-together look…

Sometimes a laid-back canvas shoulder bag or comfy backpack isn’t the vibe. We get it. This tote’s woven straw and braided details will help elevate any outfit. Plus, it’s super practical. It has interior zip pockets and a magnetic closure to keep your belongings safe. ($78, Nordstrom)

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A quilted nylon tote you can wear as a crossbody…

If you prefer to wear your bag a number of ways, this option is for you. Use the removable strap to balance the weight across your shoulders and back, and rock it across your chest. Or lift it by its handles and carry it like a typical tote. This one has a roomy inside, top-zip closure, exterior and interior pockets, plus a removable pouch. Win. ($275, Nordstrom)

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A casual tote you can take from the gym to your office…

AM workout before you hit the spreadsheets? No problem. This one’s made from recycled water bottles and has a ton of pockets so your stuff won’t get lost in the depths of your bag. The water-resistant design makes keeping it clean easy. Plus, the ‘please recycle’ webbing on the strap is the perfect way to show passersby that you care about the environment. ($58, Girlfriend Collective)

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A colorful option if neutrals aren’t your thing…

Maximalists, we’re looking at you. This gingham print is everything you could want — and then some. The bag itself is great because it has a structured silhouette with a flat base so it’ll be extra stable. Plus, it’s lined and has a PVC coating, which makes caring for it really easy. ($148.80, Nordstrom)

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A Scandinavian-inspired waterproof backpack…

This smooth design comes in a number of neutral colors plus pink. If you’re someone who prefers something sleek and minimalist, look no further. It’s not too chunky or large — and has an internal laptop slot, main compartment, and concealed external phone pocket so it’s extremely useful too. All you need now is the matching rain coat, and you’re set. ($95, Rains)

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