Product Review: Duluth Women’s Oilcloth Business Tote

I needed a carry-all for my teaching gear, books, impedimenta and water bottle(s) that looked decent and was water-resistant. Most of the time I use a very nice leather briefbag. It has the features I prefer, but a few flaws. 1) It is very nice leather. 2) the loop-handles are relatively short, so I can’t sling it over a shoulder. 3) the main compartment cannot fully close to keep out moisture (or curious eyes and fingers). The need for waterproofing was my greatest concern, so I started looking around for a back-up bag. Wrapping everything in plastic grocery bags was not an option, nor was wrapping the main bag in a trash bag. I have to look professional enough not to be mistaken for a student.

Oh, and I wanted something that did not scream “Computer bag!!!!” a fact that put my usual computer bag out of the running (well, that and all the electronics gear stowed inside said bag already.) I didn’t want anything too fancy, but it needed to be Alma proof and school resistant. And lo, the Duluth late summer catalogue arrived bearing much temptation and the answer to my problem. At a pretty decent price, given the item in question.

Shortly after my first paycheck hit my account, a new Duluth Women’s oilcloth business tote arrived at Schloß Red. I unpacked it and shook out enough dehydration packs to replenish the Sahara. The bag looked as advertised, with enough pockets to keep me from getting bored. It has a padded laptop/tablet pocket that just fits my 13″ MacBook, a second large pocket for stuff, small pouches for keys, pens, headphones. And an interior zip pocket for my wallet, change purse, iLeash, spare nose wipes, and so on. All these are secured with a main zipper. Teh front of the bag has a second zipper pocket, and a flap-covered pocket with a magnet to keep it mostly shut, and smaller inner pouches for keys, pens, tollway change, business cards and other stuff. The magnet is quite strong and does a good job of holding the flap down in high wind or against accidental brushes. The back of the bag has two zippers, one on the top and one on the bottom, that can be opened to allow you to slide the bag over the handle of a rolling suitcase or equipment case. Otherwise you can use it as another pocket. There is a nice, leather-padded canvas shoulder strap (removable) and two leather-wrapped canvas handles (not removable).

Pros: water-resistant, carries a lot of stuff, looks grown-up, can be carried in hand or over-the-shoulder, good protection for laptop. Light-colored interior makes it easy to find dark objects. Solid brass hardware is not going anywhere.

Cons: the oiled leather is still a bit damp and it stained my regular work bag when the two were piled on top of each-other for 48 hours. It won’t hold a big laptop. It’s built for function, not fashion, so it looks as rugged as it acts. The water-bottle pockets on the ends are a little shallower and narrower than I would like, but I re-use 20 oz pop bottles for water, so they probably hold a normal water bottle or travel coffee cup just fine.

Would I buy it again: In a heartbeat! It is perfect for rainy days and much sturdier than other similar bags I’ve seen. It does what I want, keeps me organized, and while it could be a touch roomier inside the main pocket, most normal people are not trying to carry a 13″ laptop, e-reader, file folders, writing tablet, books of assorted thickness, armored eyeglass case, iLeash, wallet, coin purse, three sets of keys, pens and personal stuff including two 20 oz water bottles.

Cost: $99 US plus shipping. Four paws of approval.

NOTE: I have received no remuneration for this review and I purchased the bag for my own personal use.


2 thoughts on “Product Review: Duluth Women’s Oilcloth Business Tote

  1. I’m irritated with Duluth, they make something I like, and when I go back to buy more, they have changed it or discontinued it. (to be fair, this is not a problem unique to Duluth, apparently my tastes are either not popular or at least not profitable, because it is a problem I run into regularly) I bought a pair of fire hose pants from them a while back (also, I believe, at your recommendation) and while they felt a little light compared to my normal Carhartts or Keys, they held up well, and were well made. Lo and behold, I go back to buy more pairs, and they have discontinued them. 😦

    • I have similar problems with LL Bean as well. I’m miffed at Duluth for changing all of their women’s pants (OK, except for the overalls) to dropped waist starting a few years back. Although that might explain why they started making Longtail shirts for ladies last year – too many complaints about the draft.

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