Back in November 2021, I ordered a large leather tote bag from Portland Leather as part of their Cyber Monday sale (30% off). The sale price was less than $140), and I had been looking for an oversize tote bag for a long time. I chose the cold brew color, which is a dark coffee brown, in pebbled leather with the zipper top for more security.
I’ve been working at home full time since March 2020. Eventually (maybe!) I expect that I will go back to the office in some capacity, and I am way overdue for a stylish laptop bag. Previously I was using a very old (ugly) backpack to carry my 13 inch Apple MacBook.
I also considered the Madewell Transport tote, but I wasn’t impressed when I saw it in person at a store. The leather seemed stiff and looked like it would scratch easily.
The bag took quite a bit of time to arrive after shipping from Mesquite, Texas. My FedEx tracking was crazy wonky (it even said my bag was in Nova Scotia at one point). Then just when I was ready to give up, the package arrived on my doorstep.
Excited, I wrapped it up for Christmas and didn’t give it a second thought until December 26, when I got ready to place it in my closet. At that time, I realized there was a problem. The bag had a noticeable flaw, or scratch, on the side. Uh oh. Note: Portland Leather does sell “almost perfect” bags for a lower price, but I had NOT ordered one of these.
Thankfully a customer service rep replied quickly to my email. She also noted that I had received a nutmeg colored bag, not cold brew. She sent me a return label and gave me clear instructions for packing the damaged bag back up and returning it. Within a week or two, a replacement tote bag arrived, without any flaws.
As you can see, this tote is very roomy. It easily holds my laptop, as well as a hat, scarf, gloves, wallet and my phone. There is a small interior pocket for personal items that I need to access quickly, such as my keys, face mask and hand sanitizer. The bag also has a side exterior pocket where you could place your phone or a small notebook.
The bag is not lined; other than the pocket, the interior surface is just the unfinished back side of the leather. To be honest, I’m not sure I love this, but I will say the bag smells incredible. When the bag is not stuffed, it is soft and supple; this tote will not stand up on its own.
I am slightly nervous about how it will hold up to scratches over time, given what happened with the first one that I returned, but I do not want to baby the bag. For comparison, my trusty Coach pebbled leather hobo bag still looks great after many years of use (however that bag is fully lined).
Would I buy it again? Probably not…I like the size, the capacity, and the soft leather, but I think I would shop around a bit more and select a bag that I could view in person. Or go with a canvas or nylon tote that would hold up better to the weather and wear-and-tear.
I still feel like I got a good value for my money, and I expect I will use the bag often for work and travel in the future.