If you knew me when I lived in New York (2017-2020), you knew my sidekick: Joshuvela's Utility Tote. That canvas bag carried it all, and without fuss: wine bottles in its exterior pockets, work stuff inside, a laptop when I traveled and sneakers and shorts when I had an intramural basketball game. It was the quintessential canvas carry-all: hard-wearing, consistent and better-looking the longer you used it, like L.L. Bean's Boat and Tote.
But when I moved to a smaller city (Pittsburgh) and bought a car (a Hyundai — these help paint the picture), the bag became less essential. Instead, it stayed in the trunk, leaving it easily accessible for trips to the grocery store (or farmer's market), where you now have to pay for the bags you take. (It's just 5 0r 10 cents, but still.) It's easy to fill, and to carry, and the zipper top helps you keep everything inside. Plus, the exterior pockets, of which there are four, can stow bulkier items like wine or oil bottles, sauce jars or canned goods.
But after a year or so using it this way, I realized the bag is ultimately a little small, which is why I went looking for a backup. (Between my trips to the post office and the grocery store, two is surely better than one.) To my surprise, the original — black canvas — was gone from Joshuvela's site. In its place? A nylon version, replete with pockets still and finished with leather handles. "Why?!?!" I cried out, as someone infatuated with the canvas-finish version. I needed an answer.
"We do have the zip utility, but have switched things up a bit," Joshuvela founder Noah Guy told me. "What we have done is replace all the dyed, colored cotton twill fabrics with dyed 500d nylon. It’s a military fabric that’s super lightweight and packable, has better abrasion resistance, better water resistance and way easier clean-ability. They have similar super-long lifespans that should last decades."
Guy promised me I'd be impressed, especially if I like the canvas version. The shape was exactly the same, he assured me, they just swapped materials. But would the nylon bag be an instant favorite as well?
Joshuvela Nylon Utility Tote Review
What's Good About This New Bag
It's easier to clean than canvas.
I have to say, the first thing I noticed about my new nylon bag was how easy it was to clean. If it picked up a smudge while sitting on the ground, I could easily dust it off. If it was something more major, like a smooshed blueberry at the bottom of my grocery haul, I could clean it out with a wet towel. Nylon stands up better to messes, even though the canvas never really looked "dirty," just used — and it was.
It's still roomy enough for my needs.
The American-made nylon version of Joshuvela's Utility Tote is the exact same size as its canvas: 17L capacity and mid-sized dimensions (14.5” x 14.5” x 6.5”). That means, if you're like me (an expert packer), you can fit $50-$75 worth of groceries, a few bottles of wine, your keys and wallet and whatever extras you pick up along the way.
Or, if you're someone that'd take this into your office or a studio, it stores a 16 inch laptop or smaller, your usual tech and some extra trinkets. In total, there are three interior pockets (two big ones and a smaller zippered one) and six exterior (four big, bottle-sized ones and two smaller ones on each end).
It fits over my shoulder.
The strap loop is just big enough for me to slide this bag up over my shoulder, like a normal tote bag. It's tight, especially if I am wearing a big jacket, but it fits easily up there if it's summer and I'm wearing a T-shirt.
What's Not So Good About the Utility Tote
It's hard to carry like your usual tote when completely full.
One issue carried over from the canvas iteration to its nylon counterpart: once the bag is truly full (like, no more can go inside), it is difficult to wear over your shoulder because of the bag's width. It juts out from your body, preventing your arm from hanging flat against your side.
This isn't a serious issue unless you like being hands-free, because you can carry the bag by its handle, too.
The end pockets are a little impractical.
While I love the four exterior pockets — which are big enough for a bottle of wine — and have seen them replicated on several other bags, I think the two end pockets, which aren't even big enough for a plastic bottle of water, prove unnecessary. I default to one of the four big pockets when it comes time to carry a bottle (water or wine), and I rarely put anything small inside the end caps for fearing of forgetting about it.
Verdict: Joshuvela Nylon Utility Tote
Although I was sad to see the all-black canvas bag go, the nylon version of Joshuvela's Utility Tote impresses just the same. (And I doubt my canvas one is going anywhere any time soon.) If you're seeking a tote bag that'll last longer than the free ones you accumulate from events, friends and retail stores, try this one, which is versatile enough to accommodate commuters, picnickers and party-goers.