My favorite tip is to be organized and prepared but still willing to be spontaneous. When going new places, my husband and I research the top places to go, get recommendations, and decide what general areas we want to go to. We make sure to hit the top things on our list and then just wander to see what else we can find. When we went to Tokyo, we found the best ramen place and a beautiful little park just by wandering around.
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.
Here in late 2018, as an autumn expedition wraps and we plunge into holiday travels, our crack test team is sharpened up on travel. We spent the last few months initiating a transition in the test team (long-time OGL legend Ian Nicholson hands duffel review coordination off to fellow globe-trotting mountain guide Jediah Porter) and testing a couple of unique pieces of luggage. We grant two new Top Pick awards. The exciting Yeti Panga is fully submersible and has category-leading shoulder straps. For super-wet adventures, you won't do better. On the other end of the spectrum is the budget-friendly and user-packable Bago Packable. Supplanting the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole, the Bago is our newest preference as a secondary duffel for adventure travel and day-to-day life.
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Ive spent a great deal of time in Mexico on missions trips. Unfortunately, due to an autoimmune disease, I have a true allergy to the sun, so I am covered head to toe. But this actually helps me with safety. I keep a small crossbody purse hidden under my long, flowy blouses for valuables, then a bigger crossbody tote over my clothes that carries my medical supplies, water, and a small amount of cash in a small wallet attached by strap on the inside. I also look for maxi dresses or light pants with deep pockets or pockets that snap closed. Ive never had my things stolen, even in the most sketchy places. I also shop at second hand stores for travel clothes and accessories, that way, I wont be that upset if things are stolen.
Compromise on any one of the Panga's above qualifiers, and you can spend half or less. The Panga is super expensive, and there are products available that come very close to the performance of the Panga at a fraction of the price. We'd say that price is the primary drawback to the Panga, for what you get. However, it is indeed the only thing going that meets its descriptions, at any cost. The other drawback is the straight zipper through the stiff fabric. This makes it difficult to pack and unpack, as compared to the U-shaped zipper of something like either Editors' Choice winners. We tested the 100-liter version, but Yeti also sells 50 and 75-liter versions with all the same pros and cons.
When you’re looking to simplify your experience in the air, a well-sized, cleverly designed carry-on makes all the difference. Whether you’re after a designer brand or a straightforward roller, we’ve sought out the most innovative travel bags around, with plenty of outside pockets, internal zippers, and elastic straps, not to mention useful features like collapsible frames, magnetized wheels, and pull-out compartments.
If you just need a basic duffel bag to get your gear from point A to point B, the Hexin Collapsible 85L Duffel Bag is a great option at a budget-friendly price. Constructed from high-quality honeycomb nylon and durable two-way zippers, this large-capacity Hexin bag quickly folds down to a tiny pouch with a wrist strap that weighs just one pound. You can toss it in your purse or other luggage when not in use, making it the perfect extra bag for travel purchases or a quick replacement for a damaged suitcase. (The 85L bag is 28 x 12 x 16 inches and folds down to just 11.5 x 10 x 23 inches.)
Accompanying its roomy interior are a handful of outside pockets to hold your magazines, tablet, or passport for easy access. Further special details include a built-in umbrella holder, locker compatible zippers, and a luggage tag with a detachable pen. The soft, comfortable handles and adjustable shoulder strap make this Stuart & Lau bag a pleasure to carry around.
Realize the limitations of the Bago Travel Bag. The lightweight construction is not durable. With rough treatment and hard contents, holes could form in the Bago in minutes. We wouldn't hand this duffel off to the airlines or to donkey drivers and we also wish that the Bago had backpack straps. The only reasonable ways to move the Bago are in briefcase mode or over one shoulder. For big loads and longer distances, this isn't ideal. Basically, all the other bags we tested can be backpacked or wheeled longer distances.
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Duffels advertised as “water resistant” are designed to keep your belongings protected from light rain and soggy ground. These models often cover their durable ripstop fabric with a laminate that keeps moisture from soaking in (often a DWR treatment or something similar). A DWR treatment certainly is a nice feature for everyone using a duffel: the weather is unpredictable when traveling, you never know when your duffel might be sitting on the tarmac for a few extra minutes, and it’s super helpful for outdoor use. In addition, some bags have flaps covering the zippers, which can be a point of weakness. Water resistant gear does have limitations: it should work well in light to moderate precipitation but eventually will soak through.
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.
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.
There are a lot of tough duffels out there, but The North Face Base Camp is among the toughest, as it uses the thickest fabric of any non-wheeled model in our review. Tester Ian Nicholson (not in this photo, he took it) has taken his on over 20 expeditions, including seven Denali trips and seven trips to South America and it's still going strong. Here one such Base Camp duffel on yet another adventure on Denali.
This Knomo bag marries form and function, with a rectangular shape made for comfortably toting around laptops sized up to 15.6 inches. There's also a trolley slip sleeve that fits over the handle of your wheeled luggage for easy carrying. Plus, travel without worry: The RFID-blocking liner will protect your credit cards and passport from wireless identity theft.
My #1 travel tip (besides an anti-theft bag) is a Travel Checklist. A spreadsheet with all the items you travel with. I separate things by category…toiletries, clothes, travel documents, etc. If I don’t need a specific item on that trip, then just cross it out. This keeps my husband and I organized and prevents us from forgetting things when we travel. We’re always adding to it and keeping it updated.
This lightweight, quilted bag from Oliver Thomas — a new travel bag brand that's named after founder Sue Fuller's dog — pulls out all the stops. It's got water-resistant fabric, a sleeve that slides over your luggage handle, a clip that keeps the straps from sliding off your shoulder, and a bottom zip compartment that's perfect for keeping shoes separate from clothes. The brand also makes tons of patches with cheeky statements like,"more baggage than LAX," and, "aspiring retiree," that adhere in a few seconds with a hairdryer.
This workhorse bag counts lifestyle bloggers, moms, and T+L editors among its devotees. With interior and exterior pockets for organizing your stuff, a drop-strap that makes hauling it around easy, and a bottom zip compartment for keeping shoes or dirty clothes separate, it’s a practical pick for long weekend excursions. The relaxed-chic look in a range of shades is just the icing on the cake.
Countries we consider in the Central & South America Region, we ship to for $55 USD. These countries are Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Falkland Islands, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Haiti, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Suriname, El Salvador, Uruguay, and Venezuela.