Another way to ensure duffel backpacks won’t weigh you down is opting for a smaller ultralight duffel-bag backpack. The North Face Flyweight Duffel is a great choice for packing light on shorter trips, or for budget airlines that limit bag size. It can hold 32 liters and has external pockets for easy access to necessities. Its sleek unisex design blends in anywhere. Wear it on your back or sling its long carrying strap over your shoulder.
For travelers torn between a standard duffel and traditional wheeled luggage, the Osprey Shuttle may be exactly what you’re looking for. This high-end duffel is extremely roomy, durable, and comes with tons of organization. Time and time again, we’ve loaded an entire vacation worth of clothing and other items into the Shuttle with ease. Unlike cheaper wheeled duffels that have a tendency to fall over when full and upright, it maintains its stability nicely. And all of the other features are there, from external compression straps to tighten down your load to a separate lower compartment for wet gear.
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I love reading all of your articles. Even if I’m not visiting that particular part of the world! A great travel tip: Purchase a pair of foldable flats. Everyone says to never walk around an airplane in bare feet or socks. The minute I sit down in my seat, I take off my shoes & put on these. When we’re starting to land, I remove them & put my shoes back on. They’re soft, comfy, very affordable, lightweight & fold up into a soft pouch to throw in your carry on. Many colors to choose from on Amazon.
"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
Some travelers may not care about the weight of their duffel, but for others it’s a factor, and particularly with heavier rolling models. Most non-wheeled duffels weigh just a few pounds or less, which makes them easy to carry, throw in your car, and store when not in use. Rolling duffels, on the other hand, tend to get a bit heavy. For example, The North Face Rolling Thunder weighs 9 pounds 14 ounces empty for the 80-liter version, which already accounts for almost 20% of the standard 50-pound limit for checked bags. And the Osprey Shuttle weighs 8 pounds 3 ounces but has a larger capacity at 100 liters (and comes in a massive 130-liter version). We can tell you that a loaded Osprey Shuttle 100L with things like shoes can get awfully close to the 50 pounds: we’ve been in the high 40s on a number of occasions. It’s also worth noting that a 45-pound bag isn’t the easiest to get in and out of your car or up a flight of stairs.
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We’ve all been there: clumsily dragging our bag across the airport lobby and cursing ourselves for not purchasing something with wheels. And if you’re looking for a bag in the 60-liter range or larger, know that when it gets full, it’s going to be heavy. The good news is that duffel manufacturers have gotten creative with designing bags that can be carried in a multitude of ways. Below are the main carrying options, and some fully-featured bags offer all four.
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The No Matter What is made of bi-tech fabric that’s water and abrasion resistant. It also comes with compression straps to compress your gear in transport and #10 anti-theft locks. When you’re bag isn’t in use, it collapses into a “stuff pouch” so you can store it inside another piece of luggage to avoid the checked bag fees or to store in your closet clutter-free between trips.
Keep in mind that the YETI Panga is overkill for most non-outdoor use. The bag is very pricey at $350, heavy at over 6 pounds for the 75-liter version, and has a thick, rubbery feel. In addition, YETI branding is strong with logos on each side and a very prominent imprint that runs the length of the bottom of the bag. All in all, this isn’t the optimal duffel for the average traveler or for light outdoor use, but it’s hard to beat when you need waterproof protection for your gear (think water sports or protecting important belongings that absolutely cannot get wet). For a cheaper waterproof duffel option, see the SealLine WideMouth below.
If you know coolers, chances are you know the YETI brand. And it’s no surprise that the company entered the duffel market with a splash. Many models on this list are water resistant—they can withstand wet ground and the occasional rain shower—but the Panga is fully waterproof. You’ll often spot this thick and submergible duffel on rafts, fishing boats, and pretty much anywhere people want the ultimate level of protection for their gear. Made with laminated high-density nylon that feels like rubber, a burly EVA bottom, and a waterproof zipper that locks firmly into place, this duffel is as water-ready and air-tight as you’ll find.
Drawing on the success of its soft-sided coolers, Yeti stripped out the insulation and used the thick, laminated nylon skin to create a highly puncture- and abrasion-resistant duffel called the Panga. Like many Yeti products, what appears run-of-the-mill is actually innovation genius. The Panga has easily removable backpack straps, lash points on all sides and haul handles on either end. Speaking of those ends, they’re sturdy enough to keep this bag standing upright, and the bottom is padded with EVA foam, similar to the stuff in running shoes, to keep things protected when you decide to give the bag a toss. The Panga is also fully submersible thanks to a TIZIP airtight zipper. One way to test it? Close it up when the bag is empty and stand on it — not even a gasp will escape.
Created in collaboration with reputed Spanish textile supplier Güell-Lamadrid, this Palmio weekend bag makes a stylish statement wherever she goes. Inspired by Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, it combines high-quality vegetable-tanned leather and precious jacquard in a bold, geometric pattern into a timeless, feminine silhouette ideal for a Friday-to-Sunday escape with your girlfriends.
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.
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But many standard totes tend to have two straps and a main compartment, and that’s about it. While they’re perfectly fine for day-to-day use, travel requires something that's far less prone to organization chaos. You don’t want to spend tons of time digging through the depths of your bag to find your chapstick (the ultimate in-flight essential), having your headphones and charging cords tangled in a mess with your keys, or even worse, holding up the security line as you rummage for your ID or boarding pass.
Most of the models in our fleet used 900D PU, PE rip-stop nylon, or polyester material throughout the duffel, with an additional layer of 630D nylon on the bottom, or other high wear areas, which help to maximize a given model's life. While these materials are straight-up burly and will last the vast majority of user's decades of abuse, the Base Camp Duffel has proven itself as one of the longest-lasting contenders out there.
The North Face Rolling Thunder was particularly good at managing a second bag. We think this is a combination of the stiffness and robust nature of the handle as well as the width between the bars and the length at which it extends. In fact, if we know we are going to have a second 50+ pound second non-wheeled duffel, the Rolling Thunder is our top-choice to "piggyback" them.
"When it comes to camera bags, Billingham is a tried-and-true brand that I trust with my camera equipment. The bag is structured with a removable padded insert, has exterior pockets, and can hold a DSLR, and extra lens, and accessories. The weather-resistant material and front flap protect my equipment from inclement weather, allowing for an uninterrupted day of outdoor travel." — Mary Robnett, Assistant Photo Editor
The NOMATIC Travel Bag bundle is the ultimate travel kit with everything you’ll need to stay organized and stress-free on your next trip. It comes with one NOMATIC Travel Bag. The NOMATIC Travel Bag was designed for a 3-7 day trip. By combining the best features from a backpack, duffel bag and general luggage, we have created the ultimate travel bag to help you spend less time fussing with your luggage and more time enjoying your journey. The NOMATIC Travel Bag has over 20 features that make it the most functional travel bag ever. On top of being packed with incredible functionality, the bag has a sleek minimalist design, is made of strong weather-proof materials and is built to last.
These are all incredibly good tips. Security is one of the most important issues for me when traveling, so I have to admit I loved these bags. I definitely need one. One tip I haven’t seen here is to make copies of all your relevant documents (like passport, visa, etc.). If worst case scenario you have your stuff stolen, you’ll have copies that will help you get back on your feet.
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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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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More than anything, a superior luggage set will elevate any on-the-go experience, allowing travelers to breeze through an airport, hotel, or conference center with ease. Our editor-approved travel bags take into consideration all the main concerns of anyone setting off for a big trip: dimension (no carry-on should be more than 22” x 14” x 9”), mobility, and functionality. At Travel + Leisure, we spend large amounts of time on the road—just like you—and know the importance of stylish, lightweight luggage with plenty of room for all your belongings.
Why isn’t the Thule ranked higher? The shoulder straps are functional but not as comfortable as many of the options above, not to mention they have such a simple attachment system that it has tendency to wiggle off while in use. And another small issue: the U-shaped lid that dips well below the top of the bag can be difficult to zip shut when the bag is fully stuffed. But these are small gripes about an otherwise solid duffel, and we hope Thule continues to make strides with its bags.
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.
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If you’re on the go, nothing slows you down faster than a clumsy travel bag. Rushing off to the airport? Trying to pack for an extended, multi-city business trip? Or maybe you just like putting your organizational skills to use? A good travel bag—sturdy, efficient, stylish—can be worth its weight in gold, more as a necessity than a mere accessory. Travel + Leisure editors deliberate carefully over which luggage sets are ideal for bringing on a vacation, and make sure to feature only the best that money can buy.
I absolutely love my Travelon mini crossbody. I use it as my everyday purse. As for my number one travel tip, I think it’s to always carry a snack in your bag like RX bars which I love. When I’m starting to lag, eating an snack helps keep me going and makes me feel better mentally and physically. Plus eating something I know that my body tolerates well and not some random thing picked up off the street makes me feel better. Oh, and carry a bit of toilet paper folded up into a ziploc bag. Both come in handy way more often than you’d think!
I just fell in love with the Travelon backpack, especially in the gray color. My travel tip is to pack everything in a carryon that can fit under the seat 💺 I dread the hustle of snatching and stressing for overhead space. Since I get cold easily, I wear lots of layers on the plane, which means less items to pack in my bag. Plus the bag I have is convertible and can either be a backpack or shoulder bag. It can serve several purposes. In my case, I travel for work so I also use it as my work bag as it fits my 15” laptop
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 have the Pacsafe City Safe 100 GII and although its not attractive like the previous comment its a great purse and holds a lot. I also use the DayMakers Convertible Backpack — they have a few different sizes, but its great as the zippers connect and there are lots of zippered pockets and the straps are adjustable to wear over one shoulder or wear as regular backpack.
Thanks for the info on these bags and ways to stay safe….my personal comments/tips: 1) I never, ever, carry a bag out when I will be in crowded public areas—I put my id, day cash, lip crème/mirror in an inside pocket of blouse/jacket or secure pants pocket. Sling a water bottle & umbrella if necessary…and go. You find out quickly what is vital……only carry those items in all possible situations. If I feel safer or absolutely have to carry a bag out–I make sure first that it is as small as possible and a cross-body style….that I can wear UNDER a light blouse, jacket, coat re weather conditions. These tactics keep me safer and prevent me from losing stuff….which I am prone to do if I carry too much!! There’s a sad story about Rx sunglasses and a sheep in Ireland!!
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.
Patagonia hit the nail on the head with the name of its line of heavy-duty carry-alls: Black Hole. That’s what a duffel should be — a bottomless pit into which you can toss anything and everything you might need for a day at the crag or an entire week in the opposite hemisphere. The brand recently released a pared-down version of the popular bag — goodbye padded backpack straps and D-shaped zip opening. It’s lighter, but no less durable than its predecessor. The Lightweight Black Hole is made from 7.1-ounce 210-denier nylon ripstop with a TPU-film laminate and a DWR coating. Best of all? It weighs just 510 grams.
Whether you’re traveling by air, driving up to a cabin for the weekend, or venturing across the world on an expedition, you’ll likely be using a duffel bag to get your gear from one place to the next. Duffels are popular among all kinds of travelers for good reason: they’re easy to load and carry, and many are built to take a beating. Below we break down the best duffels of 2019, including top travel, outdoor, and waterproof bags of both the standard and rolling varieties. For more background information, see our duffel bag comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
5. Wear your bag in a way that dissuades theft. Most often thieves look for an easy mark. A handbag across your chest (as opposed to hanging loosely over a shoulder) will look more challenging and less appetizing. Keep your bag on the inside rather than on the street side. Yes, there have been instances of women being dragged along by a thief on a scooter BUT seeing a well-protected bag should be pretty dissuasive. If this worries you, use a pashmina or a scarf over your shoulder. It won't hide your bag completely but it makes it more complicated for thieves - and they like to keep things simple.
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.
“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.
Why a leather duffel bag, you may ask? Well, for starters, this thing is going to last you a long, long time — way longer than any cheap plastic thing you pick up before your last-minute trip out to Montauk. It’s also versatile, an important quality for any investment piece. You’ll be able to bring it on a plane, on a business trip, or to a hunting lodge out in Montana. There’s virtually no place where a leather duffel bag would feel awkward or out of place.
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The head-turning designs of our women's travel bags will help you be camera ready every time you step out of your house. Our travel bags for women have a variety of features to make them versatile enough to fit your travel needs. Adjustable straps, sturdy handles, smooth zippers, inner and outer pockets and more make these bags our favorite choice when leaving home.
The timeless popularity of L.L.Bean’s Boat and Tote bag is a testament to its quality and durability. But for those wanting a bit more organization and a little less Nantucket, here’s an alternative: the Everyday Lightweight Tote. Starting at just $35, this tote will last you many years even with daily use. Water-resistant nylon makes it great for the pool or beach and the reinforced handles can withstand heavy lifting. There's also an exterior slot, interior pocket, and key clip keep your phone, wallet, and keys at the ready without digging around.
The Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler is a nice option for travelers looking for a lightweight duffel with an assortment of carry options. It’s one of the more affordable duffels on the market at $99 for the 60-liter version, weighs less than 2 pounds, and even packs into its own end pocket. The bag is functional too: similar to the Patagonia Black Hole, the Cargo Hauler has a U-shaped lid, lash points and grab handles, a padded foam bottom, and padded and removable backpack straps.