This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Learn more

6 great autumn bags (and what to carry in them)

It's time to take your luggage into your own hands

6 great autumn bags (and what to carry in them)

I’m absolutely sick and tired of seeing nice clothes ruined by the straps of a backpack. Even the padded ones, clawing into shoulders like a particularly jittery animal on its first plane takeoff, wear at the fabric, turning it shiny and thin, or worse, covered in holes.

I remember one time I bought this knitted polo shirt – long-sleeved, ink blue, two buttons, lovely – and wore it to work a few times and, after having the bag on my back, it looked like I’d been attacked by pissed off moths at either clavicle. It was hell.

I decided not to let myself be put in this position anymore. For too long I’d been forced into choosing between over-the-shoulder luggage – backpacks, rucksacks (which is just a bigger backpack), messenger bags, satchels – or huge sports bags that make me look like I sleep in my car. And then I started using my hands, carrying around a slightly larger bag with a top handle. I was freed. Suddenly I could wear whatever I wanted. Suddenly I no longer had to worry about what to do with my hands while I was talking to people. Suddenly I had somewhere I could throw all the impulse Amazon purchases that were littering my desk. Suddenly I had a way of getting myself a little more room on the packed Central Line commute – leading with my bag hand (“Sorry! Sorry!”) and having my body follow into the gap vacated behind it. I loved it. It was like driving behind an ambulance.

Whenever I go to the pub, whenever I plonk by bag down by my feet or swap hands with the bag to grab a pint, people raise an eyebrow. That’s not a satchel… That’s not… one of these, they say, lifting their backpack, like a small child. (I’ve also convinced myself that by holding the bag with one hand, I’m also getting a bit of a workout: a completely unfounded belief that I am working my core as I go, leaving me free to drink as much as I like, safe in the totally, totally assumed knowledge that I am creating a deficit for me to slosh large quantities of ale into with no adverse effects.) 

They do it all, is what I’m saying: these fancy, hand-held tote-things. 

So here I am, ready to show you what you could be holding this autumn. 

ENGINEERED GARMENTS – Carry All Tote (£60)

This double-cotton tote serves carbon fiber vibes and would work well with bit of casual tailoring. Carrying this with a suit is a statement: a statement that says “this bag is plenty voluminous enough to stick my football kit, a book I bought specifically because it makes me look smart, my overpriced headphones, and a load of rolls of toilet paper that I’ve nicked from the bogs at work because am I fuck buying my own, but guess what? I’m too cool for you to even try and call me out on it, you brown-shoes-with-grey-suit nobhead”. Isn’t that the kind of statement we’re all after?

What to carry: New Balance Furon and Mark O’Connell’s hilarious and terrifying non-fiction book about how robots are going to destroy us all, To Be A Machine.

FILSON – Grab N Go Tote Bag (£120)

Looking a bit like you fashioned your seventeen-years-old-and-been-to-Camden-once, Barbour jacket-and-too-much-gel-wearing self into a hold-all for you to stuff a lovely woolly hat, a classic book about the outdoors, and a pair of sunglasses. Anyone who says sunglasses are just for the summer is not to be trusted. Look into their squinty little pig eyes and say: “I do not trust you.”

What to carry: A Kind Of Guise merino beanie, Pulitzer Prize-winning surf memoir Barbarian Days by William Finnegan, and a pair of Cubitts Herbrand sunglasses.

BATTENWEAR – Packable Tote (£45)

An orange bag marks you out as someone who has total confidence in their sense of style but only meagre-at-best confidence that they won’t be getting run over any time soon. Battenwear are a well-respected name in the camping crowd, and their packable totes have gone on to gain something of a cult status: allowing you - as the name suggests - to pack away the bag into a little ball of scrunched up nothing. It’s bagception. Sturdy, stylish, and ideal for filling with rations - biscuits, maybe one of those water bottles that connects to an app on your phone and measures how much you’re not drinking, not-so-gently chastising you into detoxing your evil little body from all those biscuits, etc - and a cool A5 ring-bound notebook for jotting down all of the wild stuff you’ve been seeing out there on your morning hikes through the park on the way to the train station.

What to carry: white chocolate Choco LeibnizAge Bag A5 American Journal notebook from Bureau Direct, and a Hydrate Spark 2.0 smart water-bottle. 


Deep enough to fit all your immediately necessary personal belongings should you be forced to vacate your premises in a hurry, forced to dash out into the dangerous night with the bare essentials. Or it’s deep enough to keep yourself a spare coat for if it gets cold, an umbrella if it gets wet, and a new kettle you ordered from Amazon but keep forgetting to bring home. Take your pick.

What to carry: cotton Le Labourer jacket, dark green TEL3 packable umbrella by Fox, and this Russell Hobbs Cambridge kettle for some reason.

ARKET – Packable Duffle Bag (£35)

While it might look a bit like something you might see slung across the hulking shoulders of a divorced dad who’s taken to living in the wooded area down the road to “return to the roots of manhood”, the beautiful, deep army green of this bag by ARKET is actually a highly versatile duffel bag. To say what it would fit would be a moot point as this is a big, fat goldmine of a luggage back, a magician’s hat of carrying-stuff-about magic; its happy nylon sheen winking at you in the sunlight, as you stuff ever more trinkets into its depths. Just lost your job? Never fear: this bargain bag will hold the entire contents of your desk, leaving you free to sweep it all in in one motion, before slinging it over your arm to live in Epping Forest together.

What to carry (for argument’s sake): Emily Culliton’s very funny novel The Misfortune of Marion Palm, a three-pack of adidas PW knee-high almost-football socks (because it’s getting cold), Reebok Club C 85 Vintage in chalk and lime green.

NANAMICA – Briefcase (£305)

Okay, okay, this one is a bit more expensive. But think of all that money you’ll save when you finally make the move to Margate. That move you’ve been thinking about for eighteen months. You’ve been pricing it up: maybe you could have your own little studio. Maybe you could get back into the art – remember that girl you met who described your work as “effulgent”? Of course you do. Had to delete her out your phone because you kept calling her, drunk, asking if she wanted to see your new easel at 2am. Anyway, this bag is one of your pipe-dreams made flesh… or made ultra-durable, military-grade Cordura fabric. Nanamica are one of our favourite Japanese brands, bringing craft, quality, and cool in a holy sartorial threesome.

What to carry: The obligatory Macbook Air and a couple copies of Apartamento, the cult Catalan interiors magazine.