In my recent tested review of the best work bags for women, I picked the Bellroy Tokyo Tote Second Edition as the best value winner. This smart, functional and well-made tote met my exacting standards and comes at a very reasonable price point. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re considering it.
Functionality is a key element when it comes to work bags, and few do it better and more affordably than the Bellroy Tokyo Tote Second Edition. When testing this $129 tote for my review of the best women’s work bags, it earned the top spot for my value pick thanks to its reasonable price point, efficient design, clever pocket structure, resilient materials and comfortable straps. This canvas and leather tote also comes with a 3-year warranty, ensuring that you’ll keep this bag in rotation for a long time.
The Tokyo Tote’s overall aesthetic is minimal and modern, giving it a slightly sportier and more utilitarian look than others I tested. For an elevated, sophisticated carryall, I recommend the Cuyana System Tote, and for a sleek laptop bag, the Dagne Dover Signature Tote has extra security features to keep devices safe from impact. But if you prioritize space and practical organization, the Tokyo Tote delivers excellent value for the price.
Bellroy Tokyo Tote Second Edition
Dimensions: 14.2 x 18.5 x 5.1 inches | Material: Recycled nylon and polyester | Colors: Bronze, Melbourne Black, Navy, Ranger Green, Saltbush | Compartments: Main compartment with interior laptop sleeve, two slip pockets, two fold-away compartments, exterior zipped pocket | Closure: Zipper | Straps: Two shoulder straps | Warranty: 3 years
- A simple aesthetic and thoughtfully designed compartments
- Protection for storing a laptop and other devices
- High-quality features at a relatively affordable price
- You want a dedicated laptop bag with extra security features
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A Perfectly Compartmentalized Work Bag
The main reason users obsess over the Bellroy Tokyo Tote is the efficient compartment design. Indeed, the interior offers a host of organizational possibilities. Pockets on the sides are large enough to fit items such as a water bottle, umbrella or shoes, but they can also be folded away when not needed, allowing for more space in the central cavity. Two smaller side pockets hold palm-sized items, and a keyring holder ensures your house or car keys won’t go missing inside. There’s also a designated laptop pocket that can hold a 13-inch model vertically, and while it could do with an extra flap-top closure, the lack of one didn’t prove problematic since the Tokyo Tote has a top zipper to keep the entire bag shut.
After testing it for 2 weeks, I found the Tokyo Tote fit a variety of items with ease, especially those that are best kept separated from the rest, such as liquids, food, gym sneakers or laptops. The exterior has an additional zipped pocket, which I found was so discreet that it took me a couple of days to realize it existed. This external pocket runs quite deep, which makes it great for carrying a phone or wallet (or both); smaller items, however, will sink to the bottom and not be very easy to grab quickly.
Functional Construction To Protect Your Items
The Tokyo Tote is made of different types of recycled woven fabric and recycled nylon accents. It’s also water-resistant, a feature I tested by spraying water on the bag multiple times. While the items inside the bag didn’t get wet, the water beaded rather slowly on the exterior fabric, so I wouldn’t recommend carrying the Tokyo Tote in heavy rain for an extended amount of time. Still, the compartments are lined with two layers of fabric, and the laptop pocket is well padded to protect against impact. During my testing, the bag actually fell from the kitchen counter with my laptop inside, and my device emerged undamaged and without a scratch. The Tokyo Tote also has a bottom insert that gives it some structure and allows it to stand upright on its own to a certain extent. Looking at other parts of the bag’s construction, it’s clear a lot of thought and care went into the details: The top zipper opens and closes swiftly (a great feature for travel), and the seams are durably stitched and almost as good as new after 2 weeks of rigorous use.
A Big Work Bag That’s Comfortable To Carry
The Tokyo Tote is available in two sizes: the Second Edition, which I tested and which has a 15-liter capacity, and the Compact size, with a 12-liter capacity. Measuring 14.2 inches wide by 18.5 inches tall, the Second Edition is definitely a big bag, and when worn, it looks more like a weekend or gym bag than a work bag, even if you’re tall (I’m 5 foot 9). If you don’t need the extra space, you might consider the Compact version. That aside, the Second Edition is a very comfortable bag. It’s been designed to be carried on the shoulder, with two padded straps that have nonslip backing that prevents them from sliding down. When testing, I ran and walked a full city block. In both cases, the straps stayed in place. I also appreciated that the bag didn’t jostle and had a lightweight feel, so that despite its size, it never felt bulky or overly heavy.
I’ve been a fashion and design editor for nearly 10 years, working for magazines such as Metal and Vice and publishing houses like Gestalten. I’ve covered trends and aesthetics, written brand copy for independent designers and contributed to Forbes Vetted as a commerce writer in the fashion category, covering products such as laptop bags and wallets. Before I started a career in fashion writing, I also worked in retail selling vintage clothing, which taught me a great deal about construction, materials and the overall quality of fashion items, including handbags.
How Does It Compare?
The Bellroy Tokyo Tote was among the most affordable bags I tested, beaten in price only by the Street Level Reversible Tote, which did not offer the same level of organization possibilities or thoughtful construction. Compared to more expensive bags I evaluated, the Tokyo Tote has similar functionality, and the longest extended warranty (3 years) of all the brands. Although not as refined as the Cuyana System Tote, or as sturdy as the Dagne Dover Signature Tote, the Tokyo Tote has more organizational features than the no-frills Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote, making it the right choice for those looking for a spacious, highly practical work bag.
How I Tested The Best Work Bags For Women
Along with the other six bags I tested, I carried the Bellroy Tokyo Tote for 2 weeks, during which time I ran a number of tests to assess its overall performance, paying attention to specific criteria: I evaluated its storage capacity, comfort and security features, aesthetics and, lastly, its ease of care and maintenance. My daily routine with the Bellroy Tokyo Tote involved trips to the office and working from cafés, and I also used the bag in other everyday scenarios, such as grocery shopping, getting takeout and running errands on the weekend.
These different scenarios allowed me to test the capacity of the bag with different combinations of items inside. To ensure a fair comparison, I also tested the bag with a standard selection of items (laptop, notebook, phone, wallet, keys, pen, water bottle, snack box, light sweater, charger, earphones case, glasses case and makeup pouch) to evaluate it against the other contenders. Additionally, I tested for safety and security by closing the bag and turning it upside down, and to assess waterproofness, I sprayed water on the bag. Lastly, I cleaned it with a general all-purpose cleaner and paper towel to determine if stains were easy to remove.
What’s The Best Color For A Work Bag?
After testing the Tokyo Tote specifically, I realized that the recycled woven fabric is best in a dark color. The beige Saltbush shade didn’t feel particularly refined for professional situations and instead, had a sportier, more casual feel. When it comes to work bags that already have a somewhat utilitarian aesthetic, opting for black or dark green shades helps elevate and create a more formal aesthetic.
How Do I Clean A Tote Bag?
Another conclusion from my testing: Spraying your bag with any cleaning product on a paper towel doesn’t always work well. In the case of the Bellroy Tokyo Tote, the woven fabric is prone to stains and doesn’t absorb liquid cleaners that well. On Amazon, the brand recommends cleaning the bag with a damp cloth or using a fabric cleaner—I advise testing on a smaller area before tackling the main panels.
Do I Need A Laptop Bag?
While the Bellroy Tokyo Tote’s laptop compartment fits only 13-inch laptops, a bigger laptop could fit in the main compartment as long as it was protected with a case or sleeve—but bear in mind that it might not benefit from the padded protection of a designated laptop compartment.