Top 5 | Best Shoulder Bag
A great shoulder bag provides effortless grab-and-go portability, while keeping your gear organized and easily accessible throughout the day. And if it offers versatile style that adapts to a range of settings, even better. Enter our top 5 finalists for Best Shoulder Bag. These pieces transition smoothly from work to play, offering a variety of features that make them stand out as worthy companions for the daily commute, around-town trips, or even short getaways. But which one offers that extra something special that merits the category crown? Choose your top pick below…
Mission Workshop have always been in the business of creating high-quality, functional, and streamlined products. We’ve been fans for years now, and I personally think that the Drift Tote exemplifies their design process and ethos.
MiUSA, the Drift Tote feels luxurious in your hands, from the satisfying snaps and the smooth water-resistant zippers, to the sturdy shoulder strap and the magnetic lid. Every feature works seamlessly, just as it was designed to. Whether you carry it crossbody, over the shoulder, or by the handles, you’ll be comfortable. I also like the fact that the shoulder strap is removable which adds further versatility. Available in an array of materials such as VX, waxed cotton, and high tenacity nylon/Cordura, there is something suitable for everyone here.
While the external laptop (16″ fits with ease!) access, built-in magnetic organization pockets, and tricot lined pockets for your phone or sunglasses are excellent, this is designed with more than technology in mind. The 28L capacity makes it a great size for a multitude of carry situations–it has performed as a grocery bag, a beer shuttle, a gym bag, and I’m sure there are many more use cases to be found yet! The exterior water bottle pocket comfortably holds a 26oz insulated bottle too.
Simply put, the Drift Tote is an elevation of the humble tote. It is seamless in use and is perfect for the modern nomad whose daily needs change on the flip of a coin.
Premium materials and excellent variety of options
The elevated tote
If Batman carried a tote or shoulder bag, it would be this. The stealthy X-Pac material, the expandable and adaptable silhouette – the X-TOTE has all that the caped crusader could need!
The X-TOTE (pronounced cross tote) is a brilliant hybrid between messenger bag and tote. As such, it lends itself to many situations, but in particular, it strikes me as a perfect bag for an active commuter. Someone who bounces from the office straight to a pick-up game during the working week, and escapes to the mountains on the weekend. The combination of Cordura and X-Pac makes this hybrid ready for abuse – both from you and the elements. The YKK® AquaGuard® zippers complete the fortress and keep contents dry as you enter the Bat Cave. It expands from a slender 19L when folded to a healthy 35L when the front section is expanded. This front section is the perfect spot for extra clothing when bouncing between the gym and office, or for when you pick up a purchase on the way home.
Aside from the excellent materials, the organization is second to none. There is a pocket for absolutely everything in this bag. It takes a couple of uses to find your groove, but once you’re in, you’ll become an efficient ninja. On a good bag, it’s not about the volume of pockets though, it’s about the placement and functionality of them. Well, CODEOFBELL have it nailed here. The small EDC pockets are in the right places towards the top of the bag, which includes a great quick-access pocket on the lid!
The double laptop/tablet sleeve (with a really useful cable/charger mesh net attached) is immediately accessible when you open the bag–you can pull out your laptop while leaving the bag standing on the floor, which is great for the office. Then there’s the RFID pocket on the rear of the bag that keeps important documents (wallets/passports) hidden and out of sight against the padded luggage passthrough. Simply put, it is magnificent to use. I’ve said time and again, particularly for work bags, functionality is king and CODEOFBELL have it down.
This bag is customizable to your needs, including the stowable shoulder strap, compression straps, removable handle grip, etc. The X-TOTE is a well-thought-out, durable, and stylish hybrid bag. If it’s good enough for Batman, it’s definitely good enough for me.
Waterproof X-Pac and robust Cordura – this is tough!
Useful internal organization
Versatile and sleek style
We love all of the hard-wearing, lightweight, technical materials at Carryology. However, nature always does it best. With this 20L tote, QWSTION prove beyond doubt that renewable materials are the future, and they look great doing it too.
The Tote Bag Large is a simple, elegant, and refined update to the classic tote but with a far bigger significance. Made from naturally grown Abacá (that’s banana plant to you and me!) and 100% organic cotton, this tote feels luxurious in hand, and in heart. The Abacá is naturally water repellent, but it is enhanced by Ruco® Dry Eco Plus treatment and a natural wax coating. Simply put, this tote will handle most weather without worry!
Aside from the materials, what makes this tote stand out from the crowd? QWSTION have elevated the tote from something that can be rolled up and stored in the bottom of your main bag for shopping, to becoming your main bag. Two zippered pockets on either side of the main compartment, one large and one small, are the home for your essentials like wallets, phones, and keys. The small pocket contains a key loop, while the larger one can comfortably house a tablet or notebook. There is also a Bananatex® laptop sleeve available for purchase which is designed to work with this bag, and it attaches internally.
The main compartment is cavernous, and at 20L, can house enough for a short weekend away, a day trip, or your grocery shopping. Sealed by a drawstring closure (the hood is made from Biolight® cotton), this further enhances the weather protection and provides you with a few extra liters when needed.
The Simple-Strap-System® is ingenious too. Like any normal tote, the shoulder straps are your primary carry, but thanks to their intelligent design, the same shoulder straps become a backpack harness for the moments when you’re traveling a little further, or with a heavier load. Easy to adjust in a heartbeat, this certainly gives the Bananatex® tote an edge over other totes that I’ve been testing. This same system includes a grab handle too (which acts as a closure to the main compartment) for easy grab and go.
If you want a tote that is well thought out, with a good heart to go with its excellent function, the Bananatex® Tote is for you.
Japanese brand master-piece are, well, the masters of minimalism. Their bags are always supremely well designed and excel in day-to-day use. I was really excited to be testing the Kept Shoulder Bag, and I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint in the slightest.
The main fabric is made of 420D nylon fabric with a unique special salt shrinkage manufacturing process where the fabric is shrunk to increase the density and give it a firmer feel, while also providing an excellent tactile experience. It feels unlike other nylons, and decidedly luxurious. In a world where many bags we see are made from similar materials, they can sometimes look and feel the same – the Kept Shoulder Bag stands out.
This is a small bag, no doubt about it, but it is perfectly formed. It has been a long time since I have picked up a bag and just fallen for its ingenuity. As a tech bag/work bag, the Kept excels thanks to a range of well-thought-out and functional design choices. In the front of the bag is a zippered compartment with the ubiquitous pen slots etc.; you’d be forgiven for being unsurprised. However, with a quick roll of the pre-folded lines and Velcro attachment, you have a perfect tablet stand for responding to emails or consuming media while traveling–elegant and understated, I’ve come to love this feature.
However, it gets better. Internally, you have a firm desk-like extension that can be raised (and secured) to two different angles. A simple rubber strip keeps your laptop or tablet in place as you work, and on the back wall you’ll find a slender mesh pocket (with volume) for your cables, chargers, and stylus. This mesh pocket abuts a larger slip pocket, which I found to be the perfect size for a notepad. If one stand wasn’t enough, on the back of the bag is a firm kickstand that holds up the bag while you’re using the interior desk feature. This has been my portable office for the past few months, and I’ve been wonderfully impressed with it. I’ve even taken it with me in larger bags, knowing that I can pop out my office anywhere I like. The Kept also has a removable shoulder strap, a grab handle, and a simple slip pocket on the rear.
This is Japanese engineering at its best.
Slimline (can be combined with other carry systems)
Exceptional design and functionality
Another Japanese powerhouse, Porter, enters our Top 5 with their excellent Road Shoulder Bag. Available in two sizes, standard and large, the Road Shoulder Bag is a classic design that will stand the test of time. Don’t be fooled though, this bag has the features of many high-tech counterparts, shrouded in a traditional silhouette.
The body is made from 420D nylon and supported by a robust 1000D base. Featuring two-way AquaGuard Vislon zippers, the Road Shoulder Bag is prepared for the elements on your daily commute. Access is excellent, with a full U-shaped opening that allows you to get at your contents and see the full interior layout, or if just grabbing your laptop, you can use the top zip which puts your hands right into the laptop sleeve. I love this feature and honestly wish more bags utilized it.
Internally, it’s a simple but extremely effective layout. You have the laptop sleeve, 13″ or 16″ depending on the size of bag you buy, with a Velcro closure. On the front wall of the back are two open pockets with volume, well sized for a small Dopp kit or organizer. The structure of the bag gives you a nice protected space to either leave your contents loose or use a selection of packing tools. There is a small pocket on either end of the main compartment, not quite big enough to hold a water bottle, but I found it to be a good place for an umbrella or gloves.
Externally, on the rear you have a zippered pocket that runs the full length of the bag. I used this for my e-reader and wallet (out of sight). This is also home to a simple snap luggage passthrough while the front of the bag has an asymmetrical pocket with two-way zipper. The padded shoulder strap is also home to two useful stretch pockets. An elongated zippered pocket is where I kept my pen and multitool, while a smaller Velcro pocket is useful for chewing gum, change, hand sanitizer, etc.
The Porter Road Shoulder Bag is one that I enjoyed using, and I find it to be incredibly comfortable for extended use, particularly with the included stabilizing strap. It is a timeless piece that will blend in well in the urban environment. Effective pocketing, great structure, and elegant design make this worthy of its place in the top 5.
Comfortable for extended use
VOTING CLOSES 3 MARCH