The L.L. Bean Boat and Tote
Some of the most frequently asked questions I receive are about the L.L. Bean Boat and Tote bags, including how to wash them and how to soften them.
As many people know, they were originally designed for hauling ice, and some still call them ice bags (probably the same people who call refrigerators "ice boxes", like my grandmother). Friends often call them "sail bags", and YWP prefers Ratsey Bags.
|We always use them on boats...|
|...where I prefer the zip-top version for tossing on the launch.|
|This is an item that is an exception to the common situation where, to quote John Gardner as he wrote in his friend David Frum's column in The Daily Beast, "we are offered cheap imitations of products once famous for their quality."|
|We use them for travel and going back and forth.|
|It might be obvious which ones are for the males and which ones are for the females.|
|The pink and blue on top of the car are extra-large and the green is large.|
There are so many uses for these bags. Some uses include:
- As Luggage for Car Travel
- As an Inexpensive Pocketbook
- As Home Storage
- For the Grocery Store/ Markets
- For Hauling Firewood
- For Boat Re-Supply
- As a Baby Bag
- For Permanent Car Storage
- For Garden Tools
- For Gifts
|We use them for hauling wood. This one belonged to my grandmother and must be nearly thirty years old. The handle straps are closer together than they are today.|
|A Bag for Storing Bags (but no, there are no smaller bags inside of these)|
|We use these all over the house instead of plastic bins for storage. Some use the monogram to identify use. Wharf Rat labelled one "4 R DOG."|
|I always use them for groceries and the farmer's markets.|
Most of the time I only have to spot-clean them with kitchen soap and a moderately abrasive scrubbing tool. I then rinse it under the faucet and put it in the sun to dry.
|This is one of my many "scrubbies" hand made by the older ladies of the Congregational Church to which my great aunt belongs.|
The canvas gets a bit discolored when wet (such as in the top picture), but dries clear. Eventually, when they get too dirty to appear in public I relegate them to a new position such as wood hauling.
|A lot of mine I use for pocketbooks. This was my husband's tool bag in Medium, which I cleaned and "borrowed".|
|I keep a tidy pocketbook so having my contents exposed is not an issue (obviously not recommended for the city).|
|This could more easily be done in the bathtub, but there wouldn't be as many ducks.|
|Both of these bags have not yet been used. The one on the left has been soaked, softened and dried. The one on the right just arrived (in the unfortunately named Jadeite) and is noticeably stiffer.|
I buy them in all four of the sizes that they offer, some with open tops and some with zip tops. I have a few with long handles (necessary if you want to wear them over your shoulder), but most have the regular handles.
Twice a year L.L. Bean comes out with a handful of seasonal colors in addition to their "staple" colors, which include Blue (Navy), Dark Green, and Red. (I pretend that they don't offer Black.) They have had a run of great colors the last few springs. This is not the case this spring, with the only color I care for being Jadeite.
- Good trim colors over the years: Pink Berry, Wild Berry, Glen Green, Sky Blue, Cornflower Blue, Cirrus Blue, Cool Green, Pink Water Lily, Green Tea, Apple Green, Warm Pink, Wild Orchid and this year's Jadeite, which is good but not as good as Glen Green.
- Not my favorite trim colors: Ember, Snapdragon, Green Olive, Mulberry, Celestial Blue, Mango, True Teal and Cayenne.
|My bags in size Small - some with open tops and some with zip-tops, all with regular handles.|
L.L. Bean has discontinued their diamond monogram, one of my favorites. Hopefully they will bring it back.
A good, durable bag
L.L. Bean recently added this bag motif to their "Bootmobile" (shown here) and I can see why. This bag has many of the properties I most value. They are strong, durable, simple, flexible, a good value, and good looking. While there are plenty of alternatives, L.L. Bean's take on this classic design is my go-to choice; I believe it shows what happens when a company stays true to their heritage.
Link to L. L. Bean Boat and Tote Bag here.