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 North Face Base Camp featured highly contoured backpack shoulder straps with high-quality foam that didn't collapse under loads. Both the Base Camp and Black Hole could be worn for extended periods and over distances with only minimal discomfort. Not that we'd recommend this, but a good friend of ours who doesn't own a large pack hiked all the way into the Bugaboos (a 3-4 hour hike, 2,300 ft of elevation gain) with massive loads in a Black Hole Duffel. This isn't ideal but is a testament to both his toughness and to the comfort of some duffel bag shoulder straps.


If black is too blasé, this cult-favorite bag comes in tons of gorgeous shades like vibrant red and olive green, both perfect ways to add color that won’t clash with your travel ensemble (which, if you’re like us, consists of comfy black stretch pants). It's made with water-resistant nylon, so a bit of rain won't keep you from a day of boutique-hopping.

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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.
Not only were models that featured shoulder straps nice for using backpack style, but most of them featured straps that were long enough to simply be pulled over one shoulder for convenience and shorter distances. Photo Ian Nicholson and Graham Zimmerman using such a feature while unloading bags onto the Cul De Sac (AKA Cool Sack) Glacier in the Kichatna Spires, Western Alaska Range.

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.
Such an important issue to be aware of. Many years ago we were in Paris. My husband squatted low to ground to get perfect vantage point pic of Notre Dame when a man came behind him and started to reach out towards him. I yelled and the man backed away & left. Not sure what he was planning but my husband had no idea he was there. We were lucky in that I was far enough away he didn’t realize we were together & that he decided not to do anything.
A favorite among in-the-know travelers, this sturdy canvas bag works as a weekender or a carry-on bag. The ingenious exterior pocket unzips into a sleeve so you can slip the bag over the handle of a rolling suitcase for a far less clumsy sprint to your gate. A separate bottom compartment means you can also keep a pair of slippers for your long-haul flight separate from the other myriad things you throw in your bag.
“I look for a bag that can sit on top of my carry-on, fit a lot of items, and that’s easy to store when not in use,” said Daniela Velasco, creative director of Drift and Ambrosia magazines. She likes Longchamp’s Le Pliage totes because they carry her camera, laptop, chargers, and more, and are water-resistant, so she doesn’t have to worry about rain damaging her expensive gear. This duffel version is made of the same durable nylon and fits everything you’ll need for a few days away.
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