What to Buy

This $3 Bag Is the Most Functional One I Own

And I found it at IKEA.

November 12, 2021
Photo by IKEA

In September, I bought a house after a decade in a one-bedroom apartment. That has meant I suddenly care a lot about grout, came up with a solution for combatting grody toilets, and have spent a lot of time dissociating in big-box stores, specifically IKEA. On one of my many trips assessing options for house trappings that were both affordable and cute, I stumbled upon something that has been even more useful in my moving-house process: the perfect canvas bag.

That IKEA makes great catch-all bags is likely not news to you: its signature blue Frakta bag is a staple of urban life. I’ve been using one as a laundry bag for years, and several more are scrunched under my bed for any situation in which I need to haul an inordinate amount of things quickly. But the blue bag has its drawbacks. One, the material, though basically indestructible, is pretty crinkly, and difficult to wrangle back into its original shape without some Jiu-Jitsu. And the other is that it’s instantly recognizable as “that 99 cent bag from the furniture store”—so if you’re hoping to go incognito, it’s not the right call.

Which is why when I stumbled on IKEA’s plain beige cotton version of the bag, the Spikrak, I was so pleased. The unstructured bag holds thirteen gallons of stuff, the same capacity as the classic blue version. But there’s something about it that’s, well, chic. You wouldn’t know it was from IKEA unless you read the inner tag. It’s slouchy and cute, like a good ankle boot. It has a longer strap for slinging it over your shoulder, and shorter handles for carrying it in your hand. It reminds me of my favorite Baggu duck bag, but much bigger. It’s easy to throw in the wash, and it’s $2.39.

Since I picked up one of the Spikraks on one of my initial visits, I've acquired five more of them. I've used them for storing linens, transporting my crochet project on a long car ride, and wrapping a bulky birthday present. You, like me, might have a pile of generic tote bags that you got for something or another hanging on a hook in your closet, gathering dust—no one needs another purposeless bag. But I found that these bags are durable, spacious, and replace many of the less sustainable options I had been using, like garbage bags for trucking comforters and pillows to my new apartment, and bringing a load of fun clothes I don’t wear as much anymore to a swap in my new neighborhood. I used one to replace a giant plastic tub that had held my winter clothes, and one to shuttle groceries to the free fridge near me. My cat adopted one as her new favorite bed, and it’s not so precious that I mind having to clean cat hair off it.

It’s unstructured cotton, and there aren’t any pockets, so if that’s a deal breaker, this might not be your bag. But for me, it’s the enormous, logo-less tote bag of my dreams. It also comes in a smaller, three-gallon version that has LL bean vibes, minus the zipper top, and is great for hauling groceries. That one rings in at $1.89 and yes, I also have three of those now. But can you blame me? When you find something that exactly suits your needs and costs less than a happy-hour beer, why wouldn’t you stock up?

Signature blue Frakta or streamlined, modern Spikrak—which one's for you? Tell us in the comments below.

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Margaret Eby

Written by: Margaret Eby

Editorial Lead of Food, Food52