The decision is yours, but possibly we can sway you a little bit with some higher education. Tote bags are handy. But what do you use one for? Well, if you are an average consumer chances are you are using them to transport items from a shopping trip to your vehicle and then from your car to your home.

You will need a tote bag that is strong enough to hold the items you load into it without breaking, stretching or otherwise destroying the contents. If you are a style and trend lover, then you are using them as a fashion accessory for your daily life wear at your work, casual meetings, and sports workout. 

Now that we have decided on the purpose of the tote bag you would need, we will have to go through the options of materials available and see which ones are durable and can resist moisture.

Let’s face it; if you are grocery shopping and your vehicle is at the far end of the parking lot, and it starts raining, you will want the tote bag to be able to keep your grocery items dry. And if you are a trendy and style person you need a bag that looks unique and fashionable from way far distance.

From the list of available materials, we see that polypropylene is strong and durable. It is also chemical resistant. Jute is exceptionally durable and is one of the strongest fibers in the world.

However, unless it is chemically treated, it is not moisture resistant. Reusable calico is very strong and durable but is not moisture resistant unless it is chemically treated. Reusable cotton and canvas are strong and durable. Hemp is rot resistant as well as very strong and durable.

Strong and Durable

The list gets shorter if we eliminate those that are not water resistant. This just leaves us with polypropylene, hemp and the combination of cotton and canvas. We dropped jute and calico cotton as both require chemical treating to make the water resistant.

There is no argument when it comes to a tote bag that is the combination of strong and durable. When it is strong, you know that it is a product that was manufactured with some level of quality control.

Although probably mass produced, the production line would have many checks and balances in place to maintain the quality from the first tote bag manufactured in a specific run all the way through to the final one produced on that date or shift. The consistency is a huge factor when strength is factored into the building of any product.

Durability goes hand in hand with strength. The stronger the product is – the more stringent the quality control and higher quality of materials used – the longer lasting something will be. In the manufacturing of tote bags, the longer they last, the more they get used.

Each time a single tote bag is reused, it eliminates the equal number of tote bags that could have ended up in landfill sites. Plus, the more durable product is, the less likely it needs to be replaced before it’s time.

 The Environment

Our three choices are polypropylene, hemp and the combination of cotton and canvas. If the environment is a deciding factor for you when it comes to purchasing certain products, then the materials used in tote bags will also play a role in your decision of which is the best for you.

The problem with polypropylene is that it requires fossil fuels – oil to be specific – in the manufacturing process. It doesn’t take long to realize that for each lot of polypropylene tote bags that are produced, they have impacted the environment. Unfortunately, that impact is not exactly positive. So we must remove polypropylene from our list.

When we look at hemp, it has a lot of positives connected to it. The fact that it is a natural plant fiber is extremely attractive. However, it is also a crop that tends to have a great deal of politics swirling around it. The misinformation that exists about hemp has long been a problem with connections drawn between hemp and marijuana. Is it fair?

Probably not but since hemp crops tend to be grown in more “understanding” countries in the world, supply may be a hurdle. Even if supply is great, the cost of importing it to where it needs to be manufactured will be a cost factor.

In addition to that, the greenhouse gasses spent to transport hemp from where it is produced to where it has to be processed now makes this a less desirable choice. So, we will drop hemp off of our list.


With only one choice left on our materials list – the combination of cotton and canvas in a reusable tote bag – we have to take a slightly harder look at this choice. Because the blend of the two materials results in a soft material to work with, it is less labor intensive to produce these tote bags than those with a stiffer material. Plus, because this mixture of cotton and canvas can be easier to work with, it presents some flexible options.

Handles for carrying attached to these tote bags will be more comfortable to use for longer periods of time.
Plus, the softer ‘walls’ and floor of the tote bags allow for better stacking and packing of multiple tote bags in a vehicle, pantry or any other place of storage or transportation.

The softer material also means that the tote bags can be folded in such a way that when stacked on top of each other, they do not take up much room at all. 

Are you getting where we are going here?

If you are in the market for a comfortable, strong, durable, water-resistant, easy to use, simple to pack, stack and store tote bag, then the obvious choice is one made from cotton and canvas.