I don’t particularly like tote bags, I view them as a necessary evil I need to deal with from time to time. Whether that is for hauling groceries, or towels to a pool party, or as defacto organizers for oddly shaped items in the back of my car on road trips — I deal with totes, I don’t embrace them. That makes me something of an anomaly amongst my group of bag toting nerds — but it is what it is.
And then I received a Mystery Ranch Bindle 20 in trade, and this is a tote I can get behind.
Specs and Materials
This variant/color is no longer sold, it’s “Shadow” and the thing to know is that this particular color is one of the only ones that Mystery Ranch sells in 1000D Cordura. It’s rough, it’s tough, and it’s entirely unnecessary. I don’t know if this bag would be better or not in another material — this is the one I have.
As the name indicates, this is a 20L tote that is 16” wide, 14” tall, and 9” in depth. It’s a really good size. The shape itself is a little trapezoidal, such that it both swallows up gear, keeps overstuffed gear from spilling out at will, and allows the bag to stand upright and open when empty. That last bit is something even Mystery Ranch calls out — and is one of those features I never thought I would care about, but turns out it is a gem.
There’s two snaps to close the top, and two very large zipper pockets on each side of the bag — these are huge black holes of pockets. There’s two very nice, but very short/small handles to carry the bag hand held. They are thick and super comfortable. I had no issues easily carrying the bag with these, though my hands are not huge, I do think these are nicely sized to stay out of the way, while being discreet. There’s also an adjustable single seatbelt nylon strap that goes from edge to edge, for shoulder carrying. It’ all very well done.
Carry and Use
I thought I would never use this. Then I loaded it up to take a bunch of ‘beverages’ to a friends house for dinner and I was blown away. It swallowed up all the drinks with ease, closed at the top, and was an easy to carry. And the bag stayed in the corner of the house, upright, waiting for me to grab it on the way out.
That opened my eyes to this bag, and I’ve been using it for odd jobs since. It looks sharp, and not easily mistaken as a standard grocery tote. I could see someone who doesn’t carry laptops and such to the office, getting a lot of use out of this. It would work well for gym clothes, lunches, a jacket, or whatever bulky but necessary items you might need.
It’s the kind of bag you don’t mind ending up carrying a lot — the one you take because you suspect you’ll need a bag, but have no clue what you’ll need a bag for. The primary downsides are the lack of organization — I think Mystery Ranch would do well to add a small external pocket. And the carrying straps are going to be make or break for people — like them or hate them type of a setup. It’s more shoulder bag than tote, but I also think most people prefer to carry on their shoulders rather than in hand.
The Bindle is different than all my other totes, it works well even as a stand alone bag. It’s kind of a super tote, and I love it. I think it is better to think of this like an open top messenger bag, rather than a tote. And given that, it better frames how you should use this bag: a solid way to carry random things — while needing them to be well contained and easily accessed.
Sometimes a backpack is too much, and messenger is too small, and a tote is too silly — Bindle.
However you frame it, I dig this bag.