This review photo shows the RTIC Large Tote Bag at the beach.

RTIC Tote Bag Review: ‘Rugged & Ready’

- Field-tested -

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The RTIC Tote Bag is a rugged and affordable do-it-all tote. It’s a great beach bag, a boat bag, and it’s handy for day trips and road trips. If you’re looking for a rugged tote bag, it’s hard to go wrong with the RTIC Tote Bag, large or small.

To get us a closer look, RTIC sent Man Makes Fire a large review unit. After testing the RTIC Large Tote Bag on day trips to the beach — as well as huckleberry picking and river float trips during the review process — this is what we learned:

Time to Get a Tote?

It seems as if outdoor-loving women are far ahead of men when it comes to appreciating the utility of a good tote bag. At the very least (in case I have that completely wrong) I personally hadn’t given totes a serious gear-focused consideration until this spring and summer. For day trips, tote bags are just awesome for anything you want quick and easy access to. For example, on beach days, you can load up a tote with towels, sunscreen, and snacks.

This photo shows the RTIC Tote Bag near a lake during the testing and review process.
The RTIC Tote Bag is rugged and waterproof. More specifically, the bottom and sides are waterproof — it’s a tote!

Sure, you could use a duffle bag or backpack, but the tote’s genius is all about the vertical design and open top. You can easily see what’s inside the tote bag, which also makes it easy for your companions (and even kids) to find what they need inside. Stuff has a tendency to get lost in the shadows inside duffle bags and backpacks, but totes keep all your gear ready to find and use.

The RTIC Tote Bag, which is available in both a small and a large version, is made from a waterproof, puncture-resistant material similar to what the RTIC soft coolers are made with. It’s semi-rigid, so it will collapse for easy storage — but it also retains vertical walls when you load it up.

RTIC Tote Bag Features

In addition to the rugged, heavy-duty material, the RTIC Tote Bags have nylon straps that are long enough to go over your shoulder if you have a long haul ahead of you. For carry by hand, RTIC includes a padded handle to take the pressure off and keep the straps together.

This photo shows the D-loops on the RTIC Tote Bag.
Each side has two D-rings and two lash rings.

Each side as two D-rings and two lash rings — but I’ve never seen anyone actually lash a tote bag down to anything because the tops are usually open and don’t seal out the elements. For me, the bottommost rings are handy for hanging the RTIC Tote Bag upside down to dry after I’ve rinsed the sand out following a beach day.

On the interior, you get a smaller water-resistant zippered pouch for stowing car keys and your smartphone.

And that is pretty much it. Seriously, tote bags are super simple, but once you start using a tote bag, I can now attest, you’ll always want one handy when you’re gearing up to get outside.

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Great for Potato Chips

I’m trying to eat fewer potato chips these days, but the point remains: The RTIC Tote Bag is great for packing snacks like potato chips. The large version is plenty big enough to carry several bags of chips without crushing them. Once you’re at the beach or picnic or whatever, you can even leave the chips in the tote bag so that they’re upright for easy access from multiple directions. Just saying.

This photo shows the RTIC Tote Bag's interior stash pocket.
The interior stash pocket is water-resistant.

If you’re not going to the beach or hiking down the boat ramp to a boat, tote bags are also great for odds and ends on fishing and hunting trips. The RTIC Large Tote Bag has room for binoculars, rain jackets, Shelta Sun Hats, two-way radios and bug repellants. If you’re a skier or snowboarder — especially with kids — it’s not hard to imagine putting a big tote bag to work, too.

Of course, if you want to help cut down on the explosion of single-use plastic bags from grocery stores, the RTIC Large Tote makes a fantastic grocery bag. In fact, it’s tough enough to carry a monster watermelon with ease.

Competitive Alternatives & Options

There are many manufacturers of tote bags and many styles to choose from. Lots of tote bags come in and out of season, never to appear again. However, here are several competitive tote bags that are rugged and are usually available year-round. They’re particularly good for outdoor enthusiasts:

L.L.Bean Zip Hunter’s Tote Bag — The primary benefit of the L.L.Bean Zip Hunter’s Tote Bag is that it’s camo. It’s best for outdoor enthusiasts who are afraid of bright and soft colors — and obviously, for hunters. The zip top is an added bonus.

Patagonia Black Hole Gear Tote — If you’re looking for an ultra-large tote, the 61-liter Patagonia Black Hole Gear Tote is for you. The most important benefit is its cavernous large size, but that size is also its primary drawback. The exterior fabric is rugged, but the sheer size of the tote means that it doesn’t hold its shape nearly as well as the large RTIC Tote Bag when you load it up.

Stio Basin XT CarryAll 35L — The Stio Basin XT CarryAll tote’s polyester construction doesn’t have the same rigidity as the RTIC Tote Bag, but it does have both internal and external pockets for keeping your keys and phone separate.

REI Co-op Pack-Away 45 Tote — The key benefit of the REI Co-op Pack-Away 45 Tote is its drawstring closure at the top. If you want to cover up the contents of your tote, the drawstring top does the job. The main drawback is that it’s not as rugged as the RTIC Tote Bag and it also is not as easy to clean.

YETI Camino Carryall 35 Tote — YETI discontinued its Camino Carryall 35 Tote, but it is still available at a few retail stores. It’s generally more rugged than pretty much all the tote bag competition, but it’s main drawback is that it is quite a bit more expensive than most other outdoor adventure-focused totes.

This photo shows the bottom the RTIC Tote Bag.
The molded bottom helps the RTIC Tote Bag maintain its shape when you carry it — and plop down upright wherever you place it.

The RTIC Insulated Tote Bag Option

If you want your tote bag to perform double-duty as a lightweight cooler for lunch at the beach or as a grocery bag for cold stuff, check out the RTIC Insulated Tote Bag. It has built-in insulation and a zip top — but it’s not as rugged as the regular RTIC Tote Bag.

Get the Gear:

Benefits
Very rugged
Available in two size options
Waterproof, which is handy for cleaning, spills, and using near water
Drawbacks
No real drawbacks
4.6

Need 52-quarts of cooler for camping? Read our RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler Review!

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