I’ve been carrying the Pacsafe for years, paired with the Pacsafe travel wallet. The wallet has anti-scan, and velcro and zippers (multiple subtle pockets mean I can hide most of my cash), and it clips to a loop in my Pacsafe bag. The stuff I use frequently (phone, wallet) go in one section while super important items (passport, tickets) go in a separate, locked by zipper clip, section. The bag is worn cross body (as I always carry my bags) with my arm resting on it and a hand grasping the strap.
The Patagonia Black Hole above is truly a duffel by nature, but the Osprey Transporter moves closer into backpack territory (we’ll call it a hybrid). With serious backpack straps designed with carrying comfort in mind (Osprey is the industry leader in backpacking packs), the Transporter is a great option for travelers who need to cover distance with their duffel. In terms of features, the outside is tough and water resistant, while the inside is loaded with handy extras like a padded compartment for electronics and rain flaps for peace of mind. Further, the lid zips are lockable and the straps can be easily stowed away when not in use.
For most types of travel, from a weekend at the cabin to an international trip, a casual travel duffel will do the trick. You still get plenty of features with these bags: backpack straps are common (more on that below), many have a water-resistant finish for protection from light precipitation and wet ground, and organization can be good depending on the size. If you’re strictly using your duffel for air travel, a roller duffel is a good option: it will allow you to move quickly through the airport without having to haul your bag on your back or shoulder. For travelers who don’t plan on subjecting their bags to the elements for extended periods of time, travel duffels offer a nice mix of convenience and simplicity.
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.
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.
Some want the best, while others will benefit from a niche Top Pick. Others want the best bang for their buck and are willing to go to the ends of the earth to find it. For all of the penny pinchers out there, we've compared overall score and retail price for all these bags. Figure out what your budget is, then choose a higher scoring duffel within that price range to maximize value.
There’s a reason this bag has been a favorite for over half a century: it’s sturdy (that canvas is tested to hold up to 500 pounds), tastefully spare (those contrasting straps always look good), and offers just the right amount of customization (liven things up with a bright color or a monogram, or stick to the classic navy). And at only $50, you can buy in bulk and still not blow your budget.
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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.
For those who are able to throw their bag over their back and walk with it, backpack straps are our preferred carrying method. Many of the high-end bags on this list have backpack straps that are lightly padded and often removable. One duffel in particular, the Osprey Transporter, has many similarities to an actual backpack and is great for those planning to cover longer distances. Keep in mind that carrying comfort does vary, which is one reason why some bags are ranked higher than others. When not in use, many backpack straps simply detach for storage in the main compartment (this keeps them out of airport conveyor belts). Sometimes, simply tightening down the straps flush to the bag can be enough.
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.)
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For wheeled models, The North Face Rolling Thunder and the Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel were the most water resistant. Waterproofness may be essential to you, or it may be inconsequential. Everyone needs to move their luggage around and needs for it to survive rough treatment, but not everyone needs their duffels to be waterproof. Choose according to your needs and demands.
An excellent choice for traveling professionals, this luxe leather bag is made to last a lifetime and sports an ingenious garment section that accommodates up to two full suits/cocktail dresses and a pair of shoes in perfect condition. There are also zip pockets for storing your accessories, as well as a sliding shoulder strap for carrying comfort. At 22 x 13 x 9, the bag meets all major airline carry-on requirements, and, when not in use, it folds flat for easy storage.
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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.
The Gregory Alpaca is a high capacity duffel that checks all the boxes. It has a large U-shaped opening, padded and removable backpack straps, and is made with a durable 900D ripstop nylon fabric with a water-resistant coating. Throw in storm flaps over the top zipper, plenty of daisy chains, and a sleek design, and you have another attractive outdoor/travel duffel to consider.
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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.