The search for the perfect tote bag is almost as elusive as the search for the perfect travel backpack. I have several top contenders in my arsenal of travel totes, but without a doubt, my new Anchorpak is the most innovative.
Designed by a R.I.S.D. trained artist and designer, Anchorpak bags differentiate themselves by their structure and the way you carry them on your body.
Essentially, Anchorpak bags are cut to fit differently, designed in tune with the geometry of the human body. In plain speak: whether you carry it over your shoulder or cross-body, it sits against your side in a way that doesn’t continually slip, slide, or weigh you down.
I won’t pretend to understand the physics behind the design, but you can tell the shape of the bag is different immediately upon filling it and wearing it.
The single shoulder strap is wider than on any other bag I own, which, combined with the bag shape, distributes the weight in a much more comfortable way. I like the way Anchorpak puts it: “our bags function in accord with your everyday need to contend with gravity”.
The bag designer, Colin Sullivan-Stevens, grew up in Freeport, Maine, in the shadow of outdoor industry giant L.L. Bean, so he knows a thing or two about traditional travel totes. In fact, I grew up with L.L.
Bean canvas totes myself…we had one for just about every activity. And I love L.L. Bean and their classic totes, but those things can get heavy and cumbersome to haul around.
In contrast, my Anchorpak is just as durable, yet easier to clean, lighter and more streamlined, and fits my body better.
Anchorpak makes multiple versions of their bag, from kids’ sizes (which are adorable) to several options in adult sizes and materials. I tried out the waxed 7 oz bag in the small size (each bag comes in small or large).
The design is very simple, almost minimalist, which greatly appeals to me. You get a roomy main interior space with a large mesh interior side pocket. Then you get two deep exterior side pockets (perfect for water bottles) and one velcro-closure exterior side pocket.
There’s a loop at the top of the shoulder strap so you can hang up your bag easily, and that’s it. The small size is designed to fit people 5’10” or under (of small or medium build) and the large is designed for larger people.
I am 5’4″ with a medium build, and the small is ideal for me. The bottom of the bag rests at mid-thigh when I’m wearing it cross-body, and I can easily swing it around to get stuff out on the go.
The material of the bag is waxed canvas, which I love for travel. It’s supple–not a stiff fabric at all–and the whole bag easily folds down for packing.
I knew I’d want it for a week long eco cruise last month, but figured there would be days I’d want a backpack as well, so I folded and rolled my Anchorpak into my carry-on bag so I could have both! It takes up very little room.
The 7 oz bag is a very classy gray-black-teal color (they call the teal marine green), which I think works well for both genders, which is a nice touch.
Because of the design, I can easily wear the bag on urban or short hikes, on my bike, in the airport hands-free, and while museum touring. It definitely supports active, outdoorsy pursuits.
You can also get a 10 oz waxed canvas version, or several other bag types. The small easily fits my laptop, book, headphones and cords, wallet, camera, and phone, plus a light layer or windbreaker.
My only wish: the main compartment had the option of a zipper closure.
The 7 oz bag is $125 (in either size) and while this is a steep price for a bag, this bag is far more versatile than your standard canvas tote. It will last, and it can be put to use in many ways. It’s made in Maine.