In Defense of the $200 Tote

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Few products have moved our testers from skepticism to delight as quickly as Yeti’s Camino 50 Carryall Tote, an extra-large version of the brand’s popular smaller carryalls that launched last year. Why the initial wariness? Because, let’s face it—a $200 tote bag? You could buy food, supplies, and a permit for a week of camping at that price. And what’s wrong with the 99 cent Ikea option? Whether or not you need the world’s best-quality gear tote, there’s no question that the Camino 50 is an achievement in terms of versatility and pure indestructibility. As one tester said, “You could strap this thing to the side of the space shuttle and it would come out looking just fine.”

First off, it’s huge. It holds 50 liters, and the bag itself (handles excluded) stands 16.7 inches high, 21.9 inches wide, and 11.9 inches deep. To give a sense of scale, that’s roughly the size of a six-month-old husky. I’ve backpacked 400 miles with a pack that held only two-thirds of that capacity. It’ll comfortably hold multiple helmets, boots, wetsuits, a sleeping bag, or all manner of bulky and often-dirty gear. At 4.7 pounds empty, it’s heavier than your standard tote, but given the heavy-duty construction, it comes across as surprisingly light. Thick shoulder straps, plus smaller handles enforced with thin metal bars, make it comfy to hoist—even with a heavy load.

The Yeti Camino 50
The Yeti Camino 50’s internal dividers help keep gear seperate (Photo: YETI)

Let’s talk about that construction. The sides consist of Yeti’s ThickSkin material—made of high-density nylon—and the EVA molded bottom recovers instantly from being squashed (and you have to press very hard to squash it). The materials handle temperature extremes, including deep cold, without becoming brittle. Furthermore, the welded seams make the bag completely waterproof. “I put it down in water next to a dinghy during the loading process and everything inside stayed bone dry,” reported a Whidbey Island, Washington based-tester. Inadvertently, the same tester checked the waterproofness from inside by spilling a cup of coffee in the bag. It pooled in the bottom, soaking everything inside, but the bag itself was completely undamaged by the scalding, stain-producing liquid.

As for pockets, the Camino 50 has two dividers that can lay flat around the edges to give the bag a single opening or fold out to keep your gear separated and upright. Two deep, flat, zippered pockets on the outside keep your phone or wallet safe, while ample webbing loops offer places to clip your water bottle or other dangly items. A hook closure on top won’t completely keep the bag’s contents from falling out, but it will encourage everything to stay in one place.

The Yeti Camino 50
The Yeti Camino 50’s size can be a drawback for shorter people (Photo: YETI)

The Camino 50 is most useful for people who pursue gear-heavy adventures in damp, cold, sandy, muddy, or otherwise inclement conditions, and need a bag that won’t fail on them when things get rough. There are few bags out there that can work as a dry bag on a boat, an impromptu ice cooler, survive getting dragged along a crag, and fit your helmet, boots, and extra clothes at a ski resort. 

If the 50-liter carryall has a downside (apart from price, of course), it’s that it falls victim to its own size. It’s easy to fill the bag to the point where it’s difficult to lift—although, as it can allegedly carry 1500 pounds before failing, you’re far more likely to hit your limit than the bag’s. The shoulder straps are so long that if you’re under 5’8” or so, you might find that it bangs uncomfortably into your lower thigh. The Camino isn’t something that you’d want to carry over your shoulder for long distances; it’s more practical for a short trek to a beach, or to get gear into and out of your car. Of course, if it’s out of your budget, there’s always the dirtbag Ikea classic.

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