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Another feature to consider when assessing the quality of wheeled luggage is how stable it is and how easy it is to use when overloaded. We tested the ease of stacking another piece of non-wheeled luggage on the wheeled piece. This method gives our shoulders a break and can be used on a carry-on or 50+ pound non-wheelie duffel. In this sort of improvised luggage cart application, a single traveler can move well over 100 pounds of stuff (carry-on backpack, 50-pound wheely, and 50-pound non-wheeled duffel) fairly far. A wheeled bag that is robust enough to support and move more than its own contents is of great value.
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Pros Easy to pack, comfortable shoulder straps, excellent pockets, super durable Highly weather resistant, easy to pack, dual mesh zippered pockets under the lid, comfortable shoulder straps Durable, waterproof, comfortable backpack straps Easy to pack, bomber construction, burly frame, internal dual-zippered mesh pockets, very maneuverable, highly water resistant Good pockets for organization and access, lightweight, comfortable to carry as a briefcase
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The Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole most certainly lived up to its name and tips the scales at a scant 1 pound 2 ounces; this makes it the lightest model we tested. However, before we continue, we want to be clear that while this is the lightest-weight model in our review, it is also the smallest volume bag (45 liter, largest volume this the Lightweight Black Hole is made) of any option we tested. The Top Pick Bago Packable is a few ounces heavier but is much larger. Both the Patagonia Lightweight and the Bago come in different size options. The Patagonia is available in 30 and 45 liter versions. We tested the 1.1 pound 45 liter version. The Bago comes in 60, 80, and 100-liter versions. We tested the 1.4 pound 80-liter version. For almost twice the volume the Bago is only 27% heavier. When corrected for volume, the Bago is much lighter than the Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole.
The D3 Traveller is made to take a beating, and go unnoticed. Why? Because when you’re traveling across borders where officers are more likely to request a bribe than a visa application, discretion is as important as durability. To the untrained eye, there’s nothing special about the unbranded black carry-all, but that’s the point. The bag is made from two layers of ultra-strong Dyneema composite fabric, allowing it to maintain a slackened look even when packed full. The D3’s detailing is in the same vein; the shoulder strap slider is machined from solid aircraft-grade aluminum, YKK zips are reinforced with water-resistant Uretrek. And, just to underline the brand’s thesis, the D3’s zipper pulls are accented with river stones from the Pamir Mountains, a vast and remote range located in a region where borders and laws are less tangible.
For a more traditional women’s travel purse, Travelon has a large collection of styles in all shapes, colors, fabrics, and sizes. I particularly like the look of their “Signature” and “Heritage” Collections like the Heritage small travel purse featured above. I highly recommend these styles if you’re looking for a more “fashionable” theft proof purse.
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There’s nothing flashy about the OutDry Duffel. Without shiny plastic-like fabric and flashy “outdoorsy” colors you probably wouldn’t expect much of it till you saw the nut in the brand logo. This bag is capable of taking a beating. Mountain Hardwear’s OutDry tech entails a custom-shaped waterproof membrane laminated to the bag’s inner, which seals fabrics and seams all at once. Just to be sure it worked, the brand sealed the bag away in a rain room for 24 hours, so although the fabric may not feel waterproof, rest assured that your stuff will remain dry once inside. The simplistic look won’t draw attention to would-be bag thieves, either.
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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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.
Along with the YETI Panga, SealLine’s WideMouth Duffel is the only other waterproof duffel on this list. These two bags are quite different, however: the SealLine is made with vinyl instead of the YETI's thick nylon, resulting in a significantly lower weight and profile. Further, the roll-top design means that it can't be fully submerged but it does pack down nicely to accommodate any size load. And perhaps most importantly, the WideMouth is less than one-third the price of the Panga.
Here’s a duffel for those heading for inclement climates and expecting the worst. Ortlieb’s take on the duffel is an expedition bag made from tear-resistant, PVC-coated, polyester fabric that’s reinforced at the base. The interior contains two pockets for essentials, while the exterior features a mesh pocket, daisy chains for rigging and an impregnable TIZIP zipper (also frequently used on diving suits as well as Yeti’s soft sided coolers). You know water, or anything else for that matter, can’t get in when the excess air can’t get out.
If you’re using your duffel primarily to transport your belongings via plane, train, or automobile, you’re probably wondering why you might need the daisy chains lining the exterior. However, put your pack in a raft, saddle it to a mule, or strap it to the roof of your van, and you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them. Not all duffels come with daisy chains (a.k.a. lash points) and some have more than others. If you know that you’ll need to secure your duffel for a wild ride, definitely be on the lookout for a bag that sports plenty of reinforced lash points. The most outdoorsy the bag, the more likely it is to be lined with daisy chains.
In our Ease of Packing category, we compared how easy it was to load each bag with both typical travel items as well as oddly shaped things that many people might want to include. We also compared how simple it was stay organized using smaller pockets and compartments and how much of a hassle it was to search both in these pockets as well as the main compartment and then the difficulty of zipping everything shut again when we were finished.
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It can be a little hard to close because there is a metal frame where the zipper is to keep it’s doctor bag shape. So if you overstuff the bag, you may not be able to close it. There are plenty of pockets inside to keep everything organized. The pockets for electronics are padded. (I love that there’s a pocket for my laptop and a separate for my ipad). The biggest plus to this bag and probably one of the main reasons i picked this bag over other ... full review
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The body of the No. 1 Grip is made of our vegetable-tanned vintage brown polished leather for strength, while the flap and ends of the bag are made of our dry-milled leather to give it character and softness. The bag has plenty of room to carry everything you need for an overnight stay, or it serves well as your personal carry-on bag for extended trips. It opens wide and packs easily. The Colonel packed his No. 1 Grip with a pair of khakis, two folded shirts, shoes, socks, two tee shirts, two boxer shorts, a bandana, a belt and his GP1 Shave Kit.
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.
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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.
"My Calpak spinner totally converted me from a duffel-toting, backpack-wearing traveler to a serious fan of the hard-shell suitcase. And with the Wandr carry-on, Calpak solved my only qualm: there's an easy-access front pocket for my laptop and necessities. I see no reason to ever swap out my suitcase again." — Melanie Lieberman, Associate Digital Editor
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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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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.
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.
Unlike many of the more ruggedly designed duffels on this list, the Gregory Stash is constructed with a little thinner 600D polyester on the body and 840D on the base. Additionally, Gregory kept things simple and did not include lash points or grab handles. As a result, this duffel is less outdoor-ready than we’d like—even a cheaper design like the REI Roadtripper offers more features (though without the backpack straps). That said, if you like the sleek look and low price, the Stash is a fine choice.
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This duffel has two front pockets to keep your valuable on-hand, as well as an expanding side pocket for storing dirty laundry or shoes while traveling. There are two hand straps and a detachable shoulder strap so you can configure it for easy carrying. It's available in seven different colors. Overall, the Hexin duffel is a large and versatile bag for a low price.
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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.
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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.
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.
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'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