8 best bags for life
Join the anti-plastic revolution with one of these reusable carriers
If there’s one thing that every environmentally conscious person needs, it’s a great reusable bag. Since the plastic bag tax was introduced in the UK in 2015, the demand for single-use bags has dropped by 86 per cent, and consumers have been more keen than ever before to find alternatives.
As a result, there are endless choices when it comes to reusable bags – from the free totes you can pick up from different brands, to high end options.
There is a time and a place for different types of reusable bags, so your preference will likely depend on your lifestyle, personal taste and ways of shopping.
We’ve tested out some of the most appealing options on the market to round up those with the best design, usability, innovative features, quality and sustainability credentials.
Doc Cotton customisable tote bag: £24, Doc Cotton
Doc Cotton is an eco-friendly brand which offers a range of beautiful designs you can choose for your tote – from pugs to citrus and a huge range of geometric and abstract prints, there’s a style for everyone and even if none of their options float your boat, you can upload your own design and have it printed onto the bag for ultimate customisation.
While it’s priced a little higher than other totes, the quality justifies the cost. Each garment is handmade in their south London studio using organic cotton; it’s a great size, sure to fit as much shopping as you can carry, while still being soft enough to fold up so that you can always keep it on-hand. The straps are thick and the bag itself is lined, giving it extra sturdiness. It even has a large internal pocket so that you don’t have to fish around for your keys when you get home.
Kipepeo twill bag wanyama: £10, Mamoq
If you’re looking for a basic tote you can roll up and keep in your handbag for spontaneous shopping trips, this is the one. It’s a great size and has long straps that feel thick and sturdy. It’s made from 100 per cent certified organic cotton harvested by farmers in Tanzania, which Kipepeo work with to ensure high quality and ethical working conditions. The brand also uses part of its profit to support schools in Arusha, where the children draw the designs featured on the bag. At £10, it’s very reasonably priced and you can be confident you’re donating to a sustainable, ethical brand.
Finisterre Bragar Shopper: £25, Finisterre
If you’re looking for simple practicality, this is the one for you. Finisterre makes all its products in Devon, using sustainable materials. This bag is created using surplus fabric which would otherwise go to waste. It’s a water repellant polycotton canvas in a neutral grey-blue with a sturdy handle and a small internal pocket with a popper to keep it secure. It’s a wider shape with long straps, which makes it incredibly comfortable to carry even with a lot of weight in. A great option for a no-fuss, does what it says on the tin product, with a sustainable ethos.
Turtle Bags jute bag: £17.50, Trouva
If you’re looking for something you can carry in your hand, rather than on your shoulder, this jute bag with a small strap is perfect. It folds down pretty flat yet fits a good amount of stuff in it. It’s also wipeable which is great if you’re carrying fresh fruit and veg which can be wet or dirty.
The bags are hand-woven in Bangladesh as part of a Women’s empowerment programme using natural jute which grows naturally in the area. Turtle also have a good selection of produce bags which are perfect if you want to shop plastic-free.
Atlas & Ortus everyday bag: £14, Atlas & Ortus
For versatility, you can’t beat the Atlas & Ortus everyday bag, which can be used as a shopping tote, gym bag or everyday handbag. It’s designed to have a flat base, which allows it to keep a nice shape even when it’s packed to the brim, and the reinforced seams make it feel sturdy enough to carry around on a daily basis. It has a magnetic clasp for security and two internal pockets – one that closes down with velcro and one phone-sized one which stays open for easy access.
It comes in grey, black and blue and has nice long thick straps which are comfortable on the shoulders.The flexible fabric does allow it to fold down pretty flat if you wanted to use it as an extra shopping bag instead.
The product is made from 100 per cent organic Fairtrade cotton and manufactured in Kolkata, West Bengal, in partnership with Freeset, an organisation which provides employment, fair wages and support to women who have been trafficked into the sex trade.
Rex London shopping bags: £2.95, Rex London
For a super affordable, convenient reusable bag, Rex London offers a shopping bag made out of recycled bottles in a range of patterns, from florals to map motifs. The bag is a decent size with a flat bottom, meaning it can stand up and holds its shape when used. The straps are thick and long enough to wear over the shoulder, while the bag itself folds up flat making it convenient to store and carry with you.
Tote Stories classic tote bag: £30.30, Tote Stories
You can really tell this is a tote made by a tote lover. The founder, Lisa, wanted to make “the just perfect utility tote”, and this comes pretty close. It’s oversized but not absurd-looking. You can wear it over your shoulder and it serves well as a shopping bag, a beach bag or an overnight bag. The fabric is lightweight but sturdy – the bag keeps its shape even when empty – and has a clip-on pouch which zips up, if you need a secure spot to keep valuables. Lisa’s bags are manufactured from organic cotton at an ethical factory in India which guaranteed fair wages and supports women in local communities.
For an extra £8.69 you can add a zip fastening on the whole bag for even more security. The design is simple, with a variety of accent colours available and you can monogram it for an extra £4.25. The only downside is that the base colour is white so we can imagine it could get a bit grubby after a lot of use or a couple of rain downpours. It doesn’t fold up flat either, so definitely one to wear as a handbag.
Sea To Summit ultra-sil sling bag: £16.50, Sea To Summit
If practicality is what you’re after, this is the bag for you. It folds up into its own pouch, down to about the size of a fist, and comes with a mini carabiner so you can attach it to your key ring and make sure you never come unstuck. Once unpacked, it can hold up to 64kg in weight and is a good size for a light shop, which a zipper fastening to keep things secure.
The verdict: Bags for life
If you’re looking for an aesthetically pleasing, high quality tote that can double up as a day to day bag, Doc Cotton and Totes Stories have the perfect options. For a super convenient, minimum effort bag to always have on-hand, you can’t beat Sea To Summit, while if you’re looking for the perfect hand-held bag to wander around the farmer’s market with, Turtle and Atlas & Ortus have you covered.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.