Help me figure out the most awesome tote bag ever to give away to my organization's donors!
July 1, 2010 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out the most awesome tote bag ever to give away to my organization's donors!

We're just about to finish up a Kickstarter campaign and have about 150 people who need to be on the receiving end of a tote bag. We got a couple samples of the bag we had originally priced out and I'm pretty unhappy with it - straps are far too short, fabric way too thin and it seems like a prime candidate for shrinkage. Now I'm on a mission to find an awesome bag for everyone who's helped us out.

What kind of materials or weight are people looking for? Polypropylene seems cheap, cotton seems flimsy, is canvas the default?

Gussets or no gussets? I thought gussets were a given, but apparently no one likes wide bags for everyday use. I think I've lost that battle, but I figured I'd ask anyway.

Is there anything that makes an otherwise cheap bag especially great? Better shoulder straps or a spot for pens or anything?

Where should I buy them? There are an overwhelming number of options out there, so recs are really appreciated.

Am I missing anything?

While we are on a tight budget, I'd like to get as good of a wish list as possible. We have sewing skills, too, so modding post-purchase is definitely possible.

Also, we don't have to worry about printing, we're doing all of the screening ourselves.
posted by soma lkzx to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've gone to many conferences and gotten many tote bags. I think all of them have been donated or recycled. The only thing that would totally make me squee, and that I would use all the time is Envirosax.
posted by kimdog at 8:10 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure what your budget is, but these are the gold standard in my book.
posted by sallybrown at 8:14 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had the exact same thought as kimdog. I have several ChicoBags for groceries, and I usually have at least one on me all the time. The Sling rePETe is particularly useful and comfortable. Aside from the general appeal of a bag that tucks into itself, I specifically like that the ChicoBags come with a mini-caribiner so you can hang it off, say, another bag.
posted by mkultra at 8:16 AM on July 1, 2010

If something other than tote bags is a possibility (and I apologize if it's not) I would do that instead, since people end up getting so many tote bags from stuff like this, and many people have their own reusable bags anyway. If it is an option, I would really recommend umbrellas; they're practical, you can still put your logo on them, and I've never heard anyone complain about having too many umbrellas.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:21 AM on July 1, 2010

Response by poster: If something other than tote bags is a possibility (and I apologize if it's not)

Oh no problem! Yeah, these people picked the tote bag as something they actually want.
posted by soma lkzx at 8:25 AM on July 1, 2010

Here's the site you need to look at for envirosax you can put a logo on. I agree that I would think envirosax are more kickass than your regular tote.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:47 AM on July 1, 2010

I was at a yearly conference recently and noticed that several attendees were still carrying the bag from 2003. I noticed this because, while I was not carrying the bag at the meeting itself, I did have it with me as a gym bag. I didn't see anyone with bags from other years. It has a tag saying "made in USA, Admanco," but I can't find it on their website, so I'll try to describe it. It's 15 x 15 inches, medium weight, black, with handles that are long enough to wear it on a shoulder, and the handles are a soft but strong synthetic. The handles are not positioned exactly at the top, they are about 3 inches below, attached with a band of the same material. Because of this, the top can be pushed in to make a shorter bag. It doesn't have gussets, but it does have a shaped bottom, not an envelope bottom.

Probably the most important difference from the standard canvas bag is that it has a zipper.

I also know someone who uses this promotional bag everyday, but it is expensive.
posted by SandiBeech at 8:48 AM on July 1, 2010

One of the reasons give-away bags are so often discarded are because of the god-awful logos and dates on them. Go to any thrift store and you'll see a virtual graveyard of "Pediatric Oncology Conference - Miami 1998" or "InfoTek Alliance - Des Moines 2001" on them. Blech - those bags are only good for hauling groceries around or packing a weekend's worth of dogfood in.

So may I suggest a discreet logo?
posted by HeyAllie at 8:54 AM on July 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Agreed that the LL Bean bag can't be beat for "standard" totes.
If you want something a little different, "cooler" maybe: the envirosax are something I would like.
Anything small, cheesy, overly corporate gets tossed, IMO.
posted by mmf at 8:59 AM on July 1, 2010

I came here to say Envirosax, but it looks like I've been beaten to the punch. I love those things. I got a pack about four years ago and use them all the time. They're sturdy and lightweight, and take up almost zero space so they're easy to pack. They don't have much in the way of bells and whistles, but my guess is that they would be used much more than any other kind of tote.
posted by phunniemee at 8:59 AM on July 1, 2010

Every year mr. ambrosia goes to a certain biotech conference and gets a tote bag. Every year I am pestering him to remember to bring home that bag! because usually he ditches them. These I collect with a excess of zeal. It's a fairly simple canvas tote but the thing about them is they carry a ton of weight without falling apart. I use one to carry my dumbbells around in, for example (70 pounds total!) and the thing has held up for years.

And seconding HeyAllie, the other thing that is great about them is that they are a simple bright color with the sponsor's name embroidered tone-on-tone with the color of the bag. So you can see it if you look, but it's not garish.
posted by ambrosia at 9:06 AM on July 1, 2010

I have gotten a lot of free tote bags over the years, and unless you are going to spend a little extra money on them, a simple canvas tote is the way to go. In general the fancier you get with extra pockets and zippers, the cheaper the components, especially zippers, are and the quicker they fall apart. I do have a couple of nice bags that have stood up over they years; they are really more like duffel bags and are well-constructed compared to most of the free junk I have gotten. So I would say if you want people to keep and use them, make quality a priority over features and as others have said keep the logos and colors tasteful.
posted by TedW at 9:58 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whenever we're ordering totes for our conferences, we give our Logo Products Guy our specs and budget, and he comes back with a nice selection to choose from.

I'd be glad to give you his contact info if you memail me.

He loves getting opportunities to win business and would definitely send you options that might meet your needs at no charge or obligation.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 10:23 AM on July 1, 2010

Zipper. I have a friend in marketing for a law firm and their totes have zippers at the top. It is the best tote.
posted by dame at 10:34 AM on July 1, 2010

I like LL Bean totes too but want to point out that Eddie Bauer also makes an excellent tote bag for a pretty good price.
posted by bearwife at 12:05 PM on July 1, 2010

Also, I am in love with my Tom Bihn cafe bag, which has now replaced my LL Bean tote. Here are Bihn's knitting/tote bags, but more importantly the web site has contact information for his Seattle factory. Maybe he could do a custom order.
posted by bearwife at 12:10 PM on July 1, 2010

Screen print a relevant drawing/picture, no logo or only a very small one.
posted by Idcoytco at 2:10 PM on July 1, 2010

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