After dozens of trips of in-the-field testing and direct side-by-side comparisons, we liked the big D- or U-shaped openings rather than the straight "I" style zippered openings. We also loved bags that acted more like a box that we could just fill up rather than ones that were more of a clam-shell style design and closure. Bags that have some structure stay upright and open while packing. These are easier to pack.
Hands down, the easiest duffels to pack, unpack, and rummage around in are those with a large, U-shaped opening. Duffels such as the Patagonia Black Hole feature this design: a zippered flap extends around three of the four sides of the top of the duffel and opens to reveal most of the contents. These bags provide easy access whether in a hotel, tent, or on the road. Other bags, such as the Filson Field Duffel, open in a more traditional style, with one zipper that extends across the top of the bag. With a smaller opening, access to the contents is more limited, and especially when full (this means more rummaging and disorganization). If you’re looking to prioritize convenience above all else, large roller duffels like the Osprey Shuttle offer the most rigid structure and largest opening for packing and unpacking.

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Larger diameter wheels help rolling luggage to be moved more easily over uneven terrain like gravel, grass or only very poorly paved streets far more efficiently. Even though the Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel wheels were just half an inch larger than The North Face models, all of our testers felt it performed better on more rugged surfaces. The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Wheeled sported the most massive wheels, and while due to other factors wasn't as maneuverable, it was nice to pull over old cobbles, gravel roads, or different rugged terrains. Why not just make all wheely bags with giant wheels? Well, wheel size, in addition to the width of the wheelbase, or how far the wheels are apart, affected a model's maneuverability.
If retiring your ratty old gym bag took a real toll on your psyche, try replacing it with this gym bag-adjacent duffel from United by Blue. The elevated carry-all features interior and exterior pockets for easy organization and a removable crossbody strap. PS: the bag comes with a lifetime manufacturers warranty, so you can send it in for repairs years from now.
Oh my. I’ve been looking and looking and looking at this one and finally made the plunge. It is NOT inexpensive. That is for SURE. And it is rather smallish. Carryons by Orvis and Hulme and others pack more stuff, have more pockets, are in all objective ways better. And cost less. Sooooo, what can there possibly be to make me buy the Colonel’s No 1 Grip in the face of those overwhelming facts? Simply this. It is a work of art. It is unique (at least as far as a non-custom object can be. It’s beautiful. It’s a pleasure to touch, to carry, to use. My gosh, is it nice.

We love this bag from Issara — a small, socially conscious leather goods company in London — because of all the thoughtful, functional details for travel. It's got a full zipper closure to keep everything secure (and for stowing under the airplane seat without your belongings spilling onto the floor), multiple interior and exterior pockets to keep you organized, a roomy and sturdy interior (no collapsing in on itself while searching for an item), and a structured bottom with metal feet. As a major bonus, you can feel great about your purchase: the artisans Issara works with in India and Indonesia receive fair living wages, healthcare, and safe work environments, and all of the materials and processes used to produce the  leather products are environmentally friendly. 
We’ll start by noting that we initially had our hesitations about the Filson Field Duffel. To start, the Tin Cloth fabric is rather distinct and has an Indiana Jones-type feel (not necessarily in a bad way, but that was our first impression). Upon further inspection, this bag is exquisitely made and looks and feels the part. The thick canvas has a water repellant finish (oil-finish wax can be applied for added protection) and we love the silky interior liner. The Field Duffel certainly is more formal than others on this list, but we love the build quality and unique design.
Patagonia’s Black Hole line helped made duffels cool, and we think the 60-liter version is the best all-around bag on the market. Starting with design, Patagonia is known for premium build quality and trendy colorways, and the Black Hole fits the bill perfectly. It’s beautifully constructed from end to end, and you get multiple color options from simple black to blaze orange. And the Black Hole is tough: the fabric is 900D ripstop nylon with a DWR finish to fend off moisture. This duffel is not waterproof like the YETI and SealLine models below, but should keep your gear dry in light rain just fine.  

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The Gregory Alpaca Duffel is premium-quality duffel that can withstand the elements and is well worth the higher price tag. With a 45-liter capacity, the weatherproof bag can take the wear and tear from the airport and is ideal for outdoor adventures. In addition to carry handles, the duffel features removable padded backpack straps for easy transportation – great for hiking. The water-resistant bag has reinforced threads for high performance and has a small exterior zippered pouch for quick access items, a “U-shaped” main compartment, as well as a large mesh interior pocket. There’s also a slot for IDs and plenty of exterior loops for attaching carabiners. It is available in bright blue or black. 

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"I cram as much as possible into my checked luggage when I fly so that I can carry on something lighter (and more stylish). My go-to is the Dante backpack, a handsome roll-top sack with leather detailing from Swedish outfitter Sandqvist. It’s compact enough to fit handily underneath the seat, roomy enough to hold all my in-flight essentials, and dapper enough to usually earn a compliment from my seat mate. Dante comes in various colors, but the olive green is kind of my thing, so maybe choose a different one." — CB Owens, Copy & Research Editor
"I've tried other hard-shell suitcases, but Samsonite's are by far my favorite. I have two in different sizes! They're super lightweight and extremely durable, but most of all I like the way the interiors are organized. With other brands, you'll find the handle casing intrudes upon your packing space; not so with Samsonite. It's just a zip-up compartment for clothes on one side, and straps to hold shoes, toiletry bags, etc. in place on the other." — Flora Stubbs, Features Director
The size is perfect for I'd say a two-to four-day trip, and it's absolutely the ideal carry-on. I just recently checked at the airport. It fits headlong or sideways into any larger plane's overhead bin — a major advantage — and will never rouse the contempt of flight attendants or gate checkers looking to cut down on carry on by forcing you to check your bag. At the same time, I was able to pack it for a week-long international trip recently (which is pushing it somewhat) but worth it all to skip the airport carrousels and keep all my important things close by.
For a timeless look and heirloom-quality construction, you can’t get better than duffels from American heritage brand Filson. The brand tests their gear on real-life customers who haul their bags hunting, fishing, and even dog-sledding, so this bag is guaranteed to weather every weekend trip you haul it on — and that leather will only look better with age. 
Why is the Gregory Alpaca ranked so low on the list? First and foremost, it lacks a shoulder strap. This isn’t a deal breaker for us as backpack-style is the carrying method of choice for a bag of this size, but a shoulder strap is great for short hauls and moving the bag from place to place. Second, the Alpaca lacks outside pockets for small items, which is a simple feature that adds a good deal of convenience. It's a solid duffel, but when you throw in the fact that the Alpaca is roughly the same price as bags from other top brands, it’s not a standout.
I figured I would share this gem. This bag is one of the best investments that I have ever made. It literally holds my life in there! The inside is perfect with a large amount of space, one zippered pocket, and another deep pocket along the backside of the pack. These two pocket are perfect to store stuff in that you don’t want stolen. This bag has large straps that can’t be cut, and it also very stylish for even the fashionistas out there. I can’t wait to get another before my trip to Spain!
Many duffels on this list are made by big outdoor brands like Patagonia, The North Face, Osprey, and Marmot. Outdoor use can vary substantially, from throwing your bag in the back of a truck to hardcore expeditions (often tied to the side of a horse or in a sled). The good news is that versatility is a notable upside of these duffels: we’ll often use them for basic travel purposes as well, especially those with multiple carrying options and convenient organizational features like U-shaped openings and multiple pockets or compartments. For example, the Patagonia Black Hole, our top pick, can be used from anything from serious outdoor exploration to standard air travel (and it looks the part for both). In this category, look for robust fabrics with DWR coating, water-resistant zippers or storm-flaps, more comfortable backpack carrying straps, and lash points for grabbing the bag or attaching extra gear to the outside. And although outdoor duffels usually can keep your gear dry in a light rain, if you’re truly subjecting your bag to wet conditions, see the waterproof category below.

Ok, so immediately after ordering my cinch belt, I broke down and spent $$s on this gorgeous travel bag and even went for broke that I’d love it w/no return option by adding monogram! Even better, it shipped ONE DAY AFTER I ORDERED IT! So I received it today along with my cinch belt and I’m in awe! From the detailed packaging and extras (which I won’t disclose here as it’s nice to be surprised!) to the actual item, all was absolutely outstanding and top-notch. This bag will definitely be used for years to come, will continue to look and wear even better and better, and will become a treasured item to be given to a treasured family member. I absolutely love it. In short, stop reading. and start ordering.
I have an upcoming weekend business trip where I go straight to a conference upon landing. Normally, I just travel with a backpack as my travel bag on such short trips. However, I want to up my travel luggage game, so I thought a nice leather duffel bag could be just what I was looking for. A travel duffel bag is still small enough to use as my carry on luggage, but big enough to hold enough clothes for a weekend easily. Plus, a nice leather duffel bag would cast a professional look. 

Many duffels on this list are made by big outdoor brands like Patagonia, The North Face, Osprey, and Marmot. Outdoor use can vary substantially, from throwing your bag in the back of a truck to hardcore expeditions (often tied to the side of a horse or in a sled). The good news is that versatility is a notable upside of these duffels: we’ll often use them for basic travel purposes as well, especially those with multiple carrying options and convenient organizational features like U-shaped openings and multiple pockets or compartments. For example, the Patagonia Black Hole, our top pick, can be used from anything from serious outdoor exploration to standard air travel (and it looks the part for both). In this category, look for robust fabrics with DWR coating, water-resistant zippers or storm-flaps, more comfortable backpack carrying straps, and lash points for grabbing the bag or attaching extra gear to the outside. And although outdoor duffels usually can keep your gear dry in a light rain, if you’re truly subjecting your bag to wet conditions, see the waterproof category below.

It’s worth noting that Marmot did decide to use thinner materials on the current Long Hauler. With a burly 1,000-denier fabric, the older version was prized for its toughness and durability. Unfortunately, Marmot downgraded this bag to 600-denier while adding a side pocket. 600D certainly isn’t bad, but it’s now thinner than competitors like the Patagonia Black Hole and The North Face Base Camp while the price remains similar. We still like the Marmot, but it just doesn’t stand out like it used to. 
For a travel duffel bag that looks less like a gym bag and more like a fashionable carry-on, the Dakine EQ Bag is a popular option. With several print designs, including turquoise with hibiscus flowers and white and black Aztec prints, the duffel is the perfect travel accessory. Measuring 15.5 x 9 x 10 inches and with a volume of 31 liters, the Dakine bag makes a great carry on for weekend getaways. When not in use, the polyester fabric can be folded for easy storage. Some features buyers appreciate are the carry handles and shoulder strap, zippered side pocket for small items such as phones and wallets and “U-Shaped” interior storage area.  

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Some of the most prominent factors that contribute to how comfortable a bag is to maneuver are the width of its wheelbase, how stiff its frame and handle are, how far its handle extends, and how far it extends above the bag or load. With lighter weights, it makes only a little bit of difference; once a piece of luggage becomes more massive, the difference is more apparent.
Cenzo listened to their customers and is now fitting brass zippers. That was the tipping point for me. Italy is known for leather goods, but the quality of this weekend bag is exceptional. The vegetable tanning process must have improved the suppleness of the hides, because Cenzo leather feels fantastic. The canvas has stripes inside and I found that admissible, but not great. I'd have gone with a natural canvas color. Stripes were the only feature I didn't understand, but that may be a matter of taste. I highly recommend the Cenzo duffle, it's the best travel bag I've found.
Another sporty duffel bag, this one from the makers of our all-time favorite cooler, can also be worn as a backpack and is made from thick, laminated nylon that’ll withstand any rough baggage handling. It’s also completely waterproof — the zippers tuck into enclosed docks — so there’s no need to fear a rainstorm or wet ground ruining your clothing or gear inside.
Cotopaxi also offers roomier active duffle backpacks: The thick canvas Chumpi Travel Duffel Bag can hold 30 to 50 liters and is designed to carry all your necessary gear. Use it for camping, road trips, or as a larger carry-on bag (it fits most airline’s carry-on dimensions) to protect all your personal items. It’s made to last (61-year warranty) and has large outer pockets and thick straps that will keep you both organized and comfortable while you’re carrying it.
Alex, thank you for the blog post and especially your FB group, I learn so much from TFG and fellow admirers! I love cross body bags for travel, I’ve wish listed some of the Travelon bags above for an upcoming trip later this year. One of my favorite travel tips are freezer-strength Ziplock bags – sandwich sizes for credit cards and another for foreign currency, medium size for TSA and larges for medicine, charging cords/headphones. I find it helps me locate exactly what I need immediately (and helps my husband, too).

I leave all of my “nice” jewelry at home. I wear a simple wedding band that if taken or lost will not make me cry. While in Buenos Aires a few years ago, my sister in law almost had her arm taken off when someone tried to take her Rolex watch off of her wrist. A guy ran by her, grabbed her wrist and attempted to unlatch the watch. My niece quickly realized what was happening and hit him in the face with her fist. His accomplice drove by on a motorcycle out of nowhere and he hopped on and sped off. My sister in law was bruised and a local shop owner gave her a bag of ice for her arm. All of this happened in a matter of seconds and we were in broad daylight among people! So now ALL jewelry stays at home except for a simple pair of unassuming earrings and my simple gold wedding band.
The Bago Packable is built and marketed as what we'd call "secondary luggage"; it is a fairly lightweight, full-size duffel that can be folded and zipped into a small envelope when not in use. Whether it lives in your car for getting unexpected purchases into your 7th floor walk-up apartment or in your expedition luggage for moving groceries from Anchorage to the Ruth Glacier, a duffel bag like this is handier than you might first realize. It is closely comparable to (and snags this award from) the Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole. The Lightweight Black Hole is a little lighter (in absolute terms, for the respective sizes we tested) and more waterproof, but is only available in smaller sizes and doesn't have the organizational attributes of the Bago. When corrected for volume, the Bago is definitely lighter than the Patagonia. 

We’ll start by noting that we initially had our hesitations about the Filson Field Duffel. To start, the Tin Cloth fabric is rather distinct and has an Indiana Jones-type feel (not necessarily in a bad way, but that was our first impression). Upon further inspection, this bag is exquisitely made and looks and feels the part. The thick canvas has a water repellant finish (oil-finish wax can be applied for added protection) and we love the silky interior liner. The Field Duffel certainly is more formal than others on this list, but we love the build quality and unique design.
Trendy Swedish bag maker Fjallraven offers the Splitpack, a unique take on duffel backpacks that splits in half to become two roomy, easy-to-pack compartments rather than one gravity-sensitive backpack slot. Fill both compartments and zip them together for a densely packed duffel-bag backpack, and keep your accessories in the easy-access outer pockets. The inner walls include mesh compartments to organize smaller items, and the bag can hold about 35 liters.

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Another sporty duffel bag, this one from the makers of our all-time favorite cooler, can also be worn as a backpack and is made from thick, laminated nylon that’ll withstand any rough baggage handling. It’s also completely waterproof — the zippers tuck into enclosed docks — so there’s no need to fear a rainstorm or wet ground ruining your clothing or gear inside.

Your travel bag needs minimal styling—it goes with just about everything. Want to travel in ultimate comfort? Try pairing your all-black activewear look with a black leather weekender for a cool and comfortable look that is always appreciated. If you want to travel in style, pair your skinny ankle jeans, chunky knit, and booties with a cognac leather travel bag for a casual and timeless look.
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