Space and Access
At 21 liters in capacity, the bag is quite spacious to carry all your daily essentials and then some.
The top opening is wide enough to let you easily get things in and out. As with all top-loaders, your access to the bottom of the bag can be somewhat compromised, so practicing some packing discipline is advised.
A more important consideration is not the volume but the shape of the bag – it has a slimmer profile that is perfect for your laptop, documents, vinyl records, and other flat items. It is still possible to carry bulky items too, but be prepared for them to noticeably change the look of the bag and they might get uncomfortable when pushing against your body.
Pockets and Organizing
The bag is deceptively simple but when digging into it I found plenty of thoughtful organization.
There are two exterior pockets on the front of the bag. Low-key, almost concealed, excellent for quick grabs. The pockets are also very deep, going all the way to the bottom of the bag (almost up to my elbow). Note that both pockets do not have any zippers or snaps for secure closure. It does make it easy to reach for your things. For both you and strangers, be mindful of that. I am still going back and forth if I would trade the quickness of access for more security. I would also prefer to have a key clip in one of these pockets for secure storage and quick access to my keys.
The main tote compartment is split into two main areas:
1) A laptop pocket which is quite generous and has a false bottom, saving your precious tech from sudden slams against the ground. Note that despite this compartment being suspended there is no bottom padding. Having an extra layer of protection would certainly help keep your laptop safe.
2) A main compartment with:
– two slots for your pens/pencils
– two zippered pockets (with the same YKK AquaGuard 5CN zipper found on the outside of the bag)
– two open pockets that could fit your charger, wallet, or other small things
I could not imagine wanting more organization in a tote and Ancoats find a perfect balance between too many pockets (that make you forget where you put what) and no pockets that make your bag feel like a giant black hole.
An interior rear divider is a custom option that costs an extra 17.50 GBP but to me, it was worth it and I highly recommend that add-on.
Speaking of a black hole – the interior of the bag is pitch black. I found myself searching for my things inside longer than I would have liked. Considering there are many customization options offered when building the custom tote, having the option of a high-visibility liner would be a welcome addition to the bag builder.
The backpack straps, removable shoulder strap, as well as the top grab handles are made from a seatbelt material that is silky smooth and very durable. Thanks to the smoothness of the material, adjusting the straps and handles is a breeze.
My custom large version came with two large Fidlock V-Buckles. They are mostly overkill but I love the look and using those magnetic buckles is pure joy.
The inner liner is black impregnated polyester twill, it has a pleasant slightly rough texture. Throughout my use, I have found zero issues with the fabric, its abrasion resistance, and tear resistance. According to ABC, the lining features a water and dirt-repellent impregnation.
The zippers are YKK AquaGuard 5 CN, with nice minimal zipper pulls. I have to commend Ancoats for adding a double zip on the main opening, allowing you to open and close the bag from both sides.
Overall the quality is top-notch, the bag is exceptionally well made and every detail shows how much love and dedication is poured into making one.
So the bag looks gorgeous, what about the carrying comfort?
There are four ways to carry this tote and the comfort level of each is not the same.
1-2. Top grab handles. You can either grab it by the handles (1) or throw the bag on your shoulder (2). Depending on how much weight you have inside the tote your mileage may vary. With moderate/light loads I had no issues with this mode. As soon as I added more weight and extended the duration of my use, the lack of any padding started to feel noticeable. Also, when carrying on your shoulder be prepared to readjust the straps quite frequently – they do tend to slide off my shoulder, perhaps you will be lucky. For me, these handles were used often to grab the bag but I rarely carried the bag for more than 10 minutes in my hand or on my shoulder. Comfort level: average.
3. Over the shoulder/across the body with a removable shoulder strap. By far my favorite way to carry the bag, specifically across the body. It allows me to stay hands-free (I am a father of an 8-month-old son so being able to go hands-free to deal with stuff other than carrying the bag is priceless) and also distributes the weight nicely. There is also no need to readjust the bag in this mode and it is certainly a big win for mobility and overall usability. Comfort level: excellent.
4. Backpack mode. Two adjustable straps allow for carrying the tote as a backpack. In theory, very useful and cool. In practice, with my frame size, the straps fully expanded fit snugly on me and I was not in love with the look of the tote on my back but having an alternative way to carry the bag was a welcome feature nonetheless. A neat trick was used for backpack mode – the length of the backpack straps can be adjusted by using the length of the shoulder strap. Note that you will need to readjust the length of the grab handle if you used some of it to make the backpack straps longer. Comfort level: average.
The tote is extremely weather resistant thanks to the winning combination of the VX21 fabric and AquaGuard zippers. The materials themselves are waterproof, the bag is not. The main point of entry for the elements is the seams of the bag but it will take an extended amount of time in a downpour to endanger the contents inside. Simply put, you can take the tote outside in the worst weather conditions, just be mindful about:
- - Closing the AquaGuard zippers properly
- - Any contents of the two exterior pockets as they are open and do not have any zippers.