Urth Arkose Tote Bag

INTRODUCTION

We had never considered using a tote bag until recently when we reviewed the Peak Design Everyday Tote 15L bag. Although we initially couldn’t see it as a bag we would use, Helen decided to make it her primary camera bag for a 3.5-week trip to Japan in November 2023. The bag was brilliant, except for the annoying tote handles which fortunately can be concealed. It carries a lot more than our Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L bag and can be carried as a sling.

In early November 2023, as a coincidence, Urth launched 3 new ‘Carry‘ options to their bag range – the Andesite Camera PouchDolomite Camera Sling, and the Arkose Tote. We were quite interested to see how the Arkose Tote stacked up against the Peak Design Tote.

Urth kindly sent us the Arkose Tote in the Sand colourway for this review. As per usual, this is an unbiased review of the product. Urth did not pay us for this review. Check out our disclaimer at the bottom of this post.

If you are interested, check out What’s in our Bag.

Read on…

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OVERVIEW

The Arkose Tote is the only tote bag in the Urth range and has been designed as a dual-purpose bag for photographers, non-photographers, and photographers who want a bag for both photography and non-photography days.

With their latest bag releases, it appears Urth are trying to plug gaps in their Carry Range to cater for a wider audience. The Andesite Camera Pouch is a no-frills 2L camera pouch for point-and-shoot users whilst the Dolomite Camera Sling bag is a 5.1L sling bag that is adequate for minimalist and street photographers.

The Urth Arkose Tote is the largest bag of its new offerings at 18L and its capacity is only slightly smaller than their Arkose Modular Backpack bag which has a 20L capacity. The tote can be purchased with or without the Camera Insert.

As mentioned in other Urth posts when it comes to design they try to make the product practical and functional while giving it a clean, modern, and minimalist look. All the products in their ‘Carry’ range do not look like camera bags.

Now, let’s get into the bag’s features. We’ll break this up into Exterior and Interior features to make it easier to read.

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Urth Arkose Tote Set and Arkose Tote

Above Left: Urth Arkose Tote Set / Above Right: Urth Arkose Tote
The Arkose Tote Set includes the camera insert while the Arkose Tote doesn’t. They have introduced the two versions to cater for photographers and non-photographers, however, the only difference is the camera insert. Doesn’t make sense to us. Maybe they should have just released the tote with the option for adding the camera insert rather than two separate products.

ARKOSE TOTE EXTERIOR

Similar to the rest of Urth’s ‘Carry‘ range, the exterior of the Arkose Tote has a clean, minimalist, and modern look. Its external appearance does not look like a camera bag in any shape or form. This is great for reducing the chances of being targeted by thieves.

The exterior is constructed with durable weatherproof* 100% recycled 600D nylon (the product as a whole is 70% recycled) and appears quite impervious to moisture, but we would still consider using a rain cover on the tote to give it that bit more protection, especially if you are exposed to a heavy downpour. See below for the definitions of weatherproof v waterproof. Personally, if a product is not promoted as ‘Waterproof’ we would carry a rain cover.

The Arkose Tote is configured quite differently from the Peak Design Everyday Tote. Whereas the Peak Design version is configured to be worn horizontally, more like a traditional sling bag, the Arkose Tote is configured to be worn vertically, more like a backpack.

The external dimensions of the Arkose Tote are Height: 40cm x Width: 32cm x Depth: 14.5cm and weighs only 800g without the camera insert. If purchasing the Arkose Tote Set the Camera Insert will add another 250g. All in all, that makes it a pretty light bag which would make it an ideal bag for aircraft carry-on luggage.

*Weatherproof (aka water-resistant) – usually the material has a coating which will cause water droplets to bead on the surface giving it added protection, however, it will not make the bag impervious to penetration by water. To produce a bag that is Waterproof would mean a completely different material thus adding considerable weight to the bag. If this is a concern, we suggest you purchase a rain cover for the bag. You could also try spraying the bag with a fabric protector, however, we’re not sure how that would react with the materials current coatings. We could not find any information on their website saying that this would be an issue.

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There’s a large double-zippered entrance at the top of the tote extending almost the full width of the tote. Each side of the zippered entrance has hooks that accommodate the shoulder straps. We don’t like the connection method that Urth has used for the shoulder straps. It can be fiddly to attach these, but if you only attach the shoulder strap once, it is only a minor irritation. As mentioned in our review of the Urth Dolomite Camera Sling (links to other reviews can be found at the bottom of this post), they could have used their Pebble Camera Strap Clips attached to these hooks and created a more quick-release system that would have made attaching and detaching the shoulder strap much easier for the user. Unfortunately, the hooks are a little too wide to use the clips. 

The shoulder strap is the same as the one supplied with the much smaller Dolomite Camera Sling and is only 25mm (2.5cm) wide. As the Arkose Tote has a much larger capacity we would have thought that a wider and more comfortable shoulder strap would have been provided or at least a wider padded section on the strap that would sit on the shoulder. If they had designed the tote to be used with the Pebble Camera Strap Clips, users would have had the option to attach a wider strap such as the Urth Core Camera Strap which is 40mm wide.

Urth Arkose Tote

Above: Urth Arkose Tote – Top Entrance. The Camera Insert is at the bottom of the tote and is closed. As mentioned, when using the contents of the Camera Insert we suggest you leave it open for easy access.

Urth Arkose Tote

Above: Urth Arkose Tote – External Pocket. This external pocket is an adequate size to store frequently accessed items. It also includes a lanyard for your keys.

After using the Arkose Tote with a packed Camera Insert, we found the shoulder strap uncomfortable due to its narrow width. However, the strap is tolerable for short distances when using the tote for everyday purposes without the packed camera insert. When you add significant weight to the bag, the shoulder strap becomes burdensome with prolonged use.

The tote comes with large nylon handles on each side, an essential addition of a tote bag. However, these handles are not stowable and are permanently attached to the bag. If you usually carry the tote without the shoulder strap, this may not be an issue for you. But if you prefer to wear the tote across your body or over your shoulder, these handles may dangle and cause inconvenience.

The exterior base of the tote is not rigid, but there is some extra padding on the inside that suggests it should withstand moisture if placed on the ground. If you’re using the Camera Insert, it should provide ample protection from moisture. Most camera bags have a sturdier, heavy-duty waterproof base on the exterior to provide more protection when placed on the ground. However, Urth has taken a different approach to this by providing extra padding on the inside of the tote.

The one feature we do like on the exterior is the recessed zipper pocket on one side of the bag, although it would have been nice to have a matching zipped pocket on the other side of the tote as well. The sizable vertical pocket has a fixed lanyard that will let you attach items such as keys. This pocket is handy for storing frequently accessed items.

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ARKOSE TOTE INTERIOR

Whereas the Dolomite Camera Sling was lacking in internal features the Arkose Tote has 8 internal storage areas. The Arkose Tote Set which includes the Camera Insert has 10 internal storage areas.

  • The main compartment is deep and comprises the largest storage area. If purchasing the Arkose Tote Set, the Camera Insert would be placed at the bottom of the interior within this storage area. If you are using the Camera Insert we suggest you leave open the zippered entrance of the Camera Insert, so that you can easily access your gear. Unfortunately, our biggest bugbear with this tote is the fact that the Camera Insert sits at the bottom of the tote. There is no side access to the tote. Any additional items that sit above the Camera Insert will need to be removed to access other lenses or to remove the camera. In our opinion, we think the height of the tote is too great. Alternatively, you could store other items at the bottom of the interior and use the Camera Insert closer to the zipper entrance of the tote but this could hinder access to the internal pockets if being used.
  • There is a large magnetised sleeve on the interior to accommodate a laptop. The specs say up to a 13″ Macbook Pro, however, our 14″ PC laptop also fits comfortably.
  • There’s also a smaller sleeve for a Tablet but not sure how many people carry both so this could be used for other items such as a rain cover for the tote, lenskirt etc.
  • On the opposite side of the laptop and tablet sleeves are 2 zippered pockets. The top pocket is wide but fairly shallow (6.5cm) with no internal pockets. The zippered pocket below is the same width but deeper (about 13cm). This pocket also has 2 equally sized separate pockets for smaller items.
  • On one side of the main compartment of the interior is a deep pocket designed for carrying a water bottle. This is a great idea, although, if you are using the camera insert it may be a little tight to fit some water bottles. If not used as a water bottle holder, then naturally this is another great pocket for storage of miscellaneous items or even another lens.
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CAMERA INSERT

The camera insert is only included if purchasing the Urth Arkose Tote Set. If you do not want the camera insert, order the Urth Arkose Tote. You can purchase the Camera Insert separately, however, you will not find the Camera Insert for the Arkose Tote on their website as we think it is the same product for the Arkose Backpack. Ideally, they should be listing the Arkose Small Camera Insert as suitable for the Arkose Backpack and Arkose Tote, but they don’t.

The camera insert is a robust dual-zippered product. It is extremely rigid and will certainly protect anything that resides within it. It has a large padded handle that extends across the camera insert’s full width, making it easy to grab when removed from the tote. On the interior of the lid is a zippered pocket for small accessories. There are also 2 velcro dividers that can be used to separate items in the camera insert. Our only criticism of the camera insert is that it is small. It usually holds a camera with a mounted lens in one compartment and maybe two small primes in the other. Everyone has different needs, so this may be perfect for some photographers but could be too small for others. Keep in mind that this tote has not been designed as a dedicated camera bag, and if that is what you are after, then this is perhaps not the bag for you.

PROS

  • Sleek minimalistic design
  • Dual purpose
  • Deep pockets
  • Weatherproof
  • External zippered pocket with key tether
  • Sleeves for laptop and tablet
  • Pocket for water bottle
  • Made from 70% recycled material
  • Plants 5 trees
  • Lifetime Warranty

Some of these CONS may not necessarily be a problem for many photographers. 

CONS

  • A bit too deep if using the camera insert at the bottom of the interior
  • The shoulder strap is not easily adjustable
  • Not Waterproof and no rain cover included
  • No tripod attachment
  • No external attachment points
  • Overpriced
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THE FINAL WORD

Out of the three new bags in their ‘Carry’ range, this bag is the best, in our opinion. Some improvements could be made, but that is the case for most bags. It is an attractive, sleek, minimalist, multi-purpose tote bag with ample storage space for the photographer and non-photographer.

Based on what this tote has been designed for we think it is a decent product. It can be used as a dual-purpose bag making it an attractive option for those who want to use it as a commuting bag for non-photography occasions or for those who want the luxury of using it for commuting as well as the option for carrying a limited amount of camera gear. There’s heaps of storage space for a laptop, tablet, and accessories.

Our only real criticisms of the Urth Arkose Tote is the height of the bag if using the camera insert, and the shoulder strap. Having the camera insert at the bottom of the interior can be a little counter-intuitive if placing more items on top such as a wet weather jacket, jumper (sweater, cardigan) etc. You will need to ferret to the bottom of the bag if you want to change a lens. Maybe the tote needed a zippered access pocket at the bottom of the tote similar to the Urth Arkose Camera Backpack to give some separation between the camera insert and the rest of the interior. Having said that, the product would probably be too similar to the backpack.

All in all, we think this is a worthy product for the Urth ‘Carry’ range and users will be delighted with most of the features of this bag. Would we use it?  Probably not – and not because we don’t like the tote but because we prefer the Peak Design Everyday Tote 15L bag. However, if we didn’t own the Peak Design Everyday Tote then we would consider this tote for day-to-day photography when we are not carrying many lenses. If we wanted to carry the gear that we normally travel with, then unfortunately this tote does not meet our needs.

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SIZES & COLOURS

The Urth Arkose Tote or Urth Arkose Tote Set is available in Onyx (Black), and Sand. Hover over the image below for a better look at the colours.

Urth Arkose Tote - Sand

Above: Sand

Urth Arkose Tote - Onyx

Above: Onyx (Black)

PRICING & SHIPPING

URTH ARKOSE TOTE

USD$165
  • Urth Arkose Tote - Sand
  • Click the BUY HERE button below and apply the discount code ‘widescenes10‘ at checkout to receive a 10% discount off this product. When you receive the bag please take the time to visit www.urth.co/trees to register your product so that 5 trees can be planted.

US, Australia, Canada, UK, and select European countries – Free Standard Delivery
Singapore – $4.95 Standard Delivery and $8.95 Express Delivery.
Rest of the World – $18.00 Standard Delivery and $25.00 Express Delivery.

RATING: RECOMMENDED 

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