Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gear bag review, Part II

For the second in my series on gear bags, I’ll be reviewing the women’s oil cloth business tote from Duluth Trading Company (www.duluthtrading.com). This is currently my go-to gear bag, although I’ve had to modify it slightly with a pair of scissors. More on that later.

First I have to say I am a little over-the-top crazy about Duluth Trading Company. I buy a lot of clothes there. Seriously. A lot. Their stuff wears like iron. And its made to fit real women who get up in the morning and get shit done, not anorexic models with zero body fat. And they’re fast with no-hassle returns, which is important when you do something stupid and forget what size you wear.

This picture is supposed to be bigger. But it's not. So get a magnifying glass. Or go to the website.
Okay, bag basics: at 15” wide by 6” deep and 13” high, you cannot put the kitchen sink in it. But you CAN put your 13” laptop in a padded compartment. Or you can take scissors and cut out the padded compartment, which gives you more lovely room in the bag’s main compartment. Because if I want to take my laptop with me, it has its own bag. (Really? What a surprise.)

It’s available in three colors: dark brown, navy and burgundy. All would do an excellent job of hiding dog dirt. I have the dark brown one because a few years ago I became obsessed with owning things that are dirt colored. I have been known to buy things simply because they ARE dirt colored. I did not buy Phoenix because he is dirt colored. That was just a happy coincidence. And I'm generally defining "dirt colored dogs" as any dog who doesn't have white fur. Especially white foot fur.

This bag has a nice wide pocket with a magnetic flap that runs across the lower front. Inside that, there are more little pockets and plenty of space for things to roll around loose. Also on the front, there is a deep zippered pocket. These pockets all have ample room to actually put stuff in them, unlike some bags where the pockets are sewn so tightly there is no wiggle room.

My dirt-colored dog inspecting my dirt-colored bag.
 The main compartment is a good size for a malinois-sized dumbbell, leashes, treats, small bowl and ball. There are several smaller pockets inside the main compartment that are handy for stashing “tangly” stuff like slip collars, pinch collars, thin leads and anything else that tends to grab hold of everything it touches and wrap it up in a big fat snarly knot. There is a zippered pocket on the back, which can be unzipped top and bottom to serve as a “luggage handle sleeve.”

The inside of this bag is a nice light color. Not white. That would be stupid. Just a nice off-white cream beige neutral tan (get the picture?) so you can actually SEE what’s inside it. I have a big gripe with manufacturers who make a great bag, then line it with a black fabric that sucks all the light out of the immediate vicinity so I’m left fumbling inside what has become a portable black hole for a dark leash or some other bit of black minutiae.

Things I love the most about this bag: color, pocket configuration and light colored interior lining.

Things I love the least: the shorty pockets on each end. They’re not really tall enough to securely hold a water bottle or long tug. In fact, I wouldn’t put anything in them that I didn’t want to risk falling out during the general mayhem of being tossed into a vehicle and drug out again.

Items placed in shorty pockets are not as safe as you think they are.
Pros: The color and the fabric. The company claims oil cloth is water repellent but can’t say I’ve ever deliberately tested it. Love that the bag has an over-the-shoulder strap that is actually long enough to go over my shoulder or be worn cross body even when I’m wearing a heavy coat, plus two shorter handles for grab-and-go carrying. Nice moderate size. Makes me think about what I really need to take with me and not haul around a lot of surplus stuff.

Cons: The fabric is a little floppy (I braced the bottom of the main compartment with a piece of corrugated cardboard) and the outside zip pocket on the back isn’t big enough to hold a regular sized notebook or file folder. Little short pockets on each end aren't good for much besides holding poop bags. Which is actually a useful occupation.


  1. Love Deluth trading post. I can second everything said here. Love my day tote that it have from them and the clothes that I have bought . Saving up for a lifetime leather bag. My oilcloth is the color of dirt too and I love it!

  2. LOVE Duluth Trading Company. Their bags are a little floppy but otherwise very awesome.