In 2012, the Filson Zippered Tote was the first Filson bag I purchased. I knew about the brand because on Reddit shared that the bags are warrantied for life. Looking through the options online, the zippered tote stood out to me because I wanted an everyday bag and not a briefcase at the time. Between the two Filson colors, I went with the tote in Otter Green instead of Tan because the color is more masculine for a guy carrying a tote. The shape of the bag – like a box also helps with that.
I was living in Cupertino, CA at the time and the closest retailer was Doms Outdoor Goods, one of the largest Filson approved stockists in the US, and it was located in Livermore, CA. The other closest stockist was all the way in San Francisco, Unionmade Goods, but they only stocked the tan color according to their website and my experience visiting the store in the past.
I called Doms beforehand to ask if they had a Filson 261 in OT in stock. The associate went to go physically check and he responded there was 1 left on the shelf! I decided to take a trip spontaneously that day to buy it. So after a 1 hour drive to Livermore, I ended up purchasing it for about $130.
A bit of history about the change of ownership that happened recently. Filson started producing luggage only in the ~1980s to early 90s and before that only clothing. The first zippers they used on their luggage were “Talon zippers”. Most of the Filson affectionados today desire bags with Talon zippers because they were really smooth, and the zipper teeth were no joke, very little, if any, of zipper failure. If you have a bag with Talon zippers, it for sure was manufactured in the 90s. Later in the 2000s filson switched over to YKK branded zippers. YKK zippers were also solid, they’re a well known zipper company based in Japan. They continued with these zippers to about 2010. Around that time Filson the company was sold to Bedrock Manufacturing, a company that also owns Fossil and Shinola Detroit. Since the 2010s Filson started using their own branded “Filson” zippers which likely were just YKK zippers. In my experience, they worked just as well.
However, the major changes in quality over the years was most prominent in the bridle leather used and not so much the zippers and twill canvas. If you had a Talon era bag and Filson era bag (today’s) and compared the leather, the Talon bag’s leather was significantly better in quality. The Talon leather aged to a lightened chestnut color, was thicker, and also felt robust in weight. The recent Filson “bridle leather” doesn’t feel like leather, cracks more easily, and the backside is typically unfinished and fuzzy. The current leather feels more like “foam” and not leather. The leather also wrinkles very easily in an unattractive manner and does not lighten with color over time.
All of this information I learned much later after I had owned a few more Filson bags. Filson bags are still ‘buy it for life’ bags because they still have a lifetime guarantee regardless of when/who you purchased it from. When you send the bag in for repair, they will either repair it or replace it with a brand new same bag if they deem it not worth the repairs (time/cost of repairing that bag outceeds the time/cost of producing a new bag). The only situation of a Filson garment/bag that is not under lifetime warranty is items purchased from a Filson outlet. These bags are indicated with a “X” on top of the Filson logo, and Filson will literally not touch these garments/bags, and will send it right back to you.
So back to my Filson 261 Otter Green tote, I’ll now talk about the design. There are 4 large outer pockets with 2 of them on the functioning as water bottle pockets. Each of them are large enough to fit my 32oz Hydro Flask. Other uses include an umbrella, sunglasses case. The two longer pockets are great for papers/documents, quick access things. In one of these pockets there’s a small key clip on the inside. I don’t find it useful because it’s too short.