Anyone who has shopped at a retailer with few physical storefronts to browse knows it can be hard to figure out where to start. There are dozens of options that may all seem as worthy as the next, but the reality is that not all products from a given brand are created equal. When you shop as regularly as we do, you learn that many brands just do some things better than they do other things. L.L.Bean, we’ve found, is one of those brands — its massive inventory of unisex basics (and outdoor gear) must be carefully culled to find gems like the best duck boots, the most durable totes, and the warmest slippers. To help make things easier, we’ve rounded up all the L.L.Bean stuff our writers and editors — as well as architects, photographers, gardeners, and vintage-store owners — have recommended on the Strategist.
“No one can top the L.L.Bean Boat and Tote,” says Chris Black, host of the podcast How Long Gone, and our writers and editors heartily agree — so much so that the Boat and Tote is featured on the Strategist 100, our roundup of the best, most stood-behind products that have ever appeared on this website. Ming Thompson, an architect and principal at design firm Atelier Cho Thompson and proud owner of eight of these totes, says, “You might think this is a bag, but you’d be mistaken. It’s a laundry bag, a picnic basket, a way to schlep all your things across town.” In fact, as former Strategist writer Hilary Reid points out, they were originally designed for hauling ice back in the 1940s, but they’ve taken on a new life as an actually stylish bag in the decades since, “carried by both Carolyn Bessette in the ’90s and Chloë Sevigny in 2016.” And if you want to have even more fun with your tote, you can monogram it, as Strategist contributor Sadie Stein has done. The result is something so versatile, it can take you “from Greenwich Academy lacrosse practice to Sunday afternoon at Dover Street Market.”
L.L.Bean’s Hunter’s Tote has a very similar silhouette as the classic Boat and Tote, and it comes recommended by both Chris Black and designer-slash-potter Jonathan Adler, the latter of whom called it the “bargain of the century.” The biggest difference between the Hunter’s Tote and the Boat and Tote, besides the green or camo-print exterior, is the thermoplastic interior coating that makes it “more water-resistant than its preppier canvas sister,” and therefore a bit sturdier for grocery shopping or even picnicking.
If you want an L.L.Bean bag that’s even better for food storage, try this insulated tote. It comes recommended by Julie Lindenman, owner of an eponymous event-planning company, who says it does as good of a job at keeping cold food and drinks cold as a Yeti cooler — but at a fraction of the price.
Though there are lots of winter boots that you can buy from countless other brands to keep your feet dry, “Any other winter duck boot is just trying to copy what L.L.Bean perfected more than a century ago,” declares Strategist editor (and L.L.Bean fan) Maxine Builder. And over and over again in our reporting, we’ve found that stylish women and men love the original, unlined Bean Boot for its durability and good looks. Fashion blogger Dana Landon says she’s “been wearing these for rain, slush, and mud since high school” because “they last forever.” Gardener and MasterClass instructor Ron Finley calls the Bean Boots his “go-to” for working in the yard, because “they’re comfortable, waterproof, made in the U.S., and look good.” He adds, “When things get muddy — you never have to worry about your socks getting wet.” And Builder says the original, unlined, six-inch Bean Boots she’s owned for at least a decade are “going strong, even after ski trips out West, brutal New England winters, and New York City’s aforementioned black holes of slush.”
Former Strategist writer David Notis prefers this taller version of the Bean Boot, which also has a Thinsulate lining to lock in heat. He’s had his pair for five years and loves to “break [them] out if it’s really snowy or rainy or slushy or whatever else.” New York deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff also owns a pair and says that they’re “as hardworking and practical as everyone says.” She likes that her navy boots “blend in to most outfits on days when I don’t feel like taking them off when I get to work.”