After dozens of trips of in-the-field testing and direct side-by-side comparisons, we liked the big D- or U-shaped openings rather than the straight "I" style zippered openings. We also loved bags that acted more like a box that we could just fill up rather than ones that were more of a clam-shell style design and closure. Bags that have some structure stay upright and open while packing. These are easier to pack.

Alex, I’m so happy I found your site and watched all the Live events from LV. We are traveling to Europe during August and September this year and as you can imagine – coming from Australia will require some super packing and discovering handy tips is a bonus. We are going Sydney – Rome – up through Italy to Switzerland, France, Germany, Scotland, Norway – well I hope I haven’t forgotten anything…. anyway, it means lots of different weather… I love everything you have shown, especially a bag to keep your things safe!


Within its weight class, the Cargo Hauler is comparable in function and design to Granite Gear’s Packable Duffel, but comes in 4 ounces heavier and lacks features like top carry handles and internal organization pocket. Both duffels are made with 600D water-resistant fabric, a less durable (yet lighter weight) material than many of the more rugged models on the list. And it’s obvious at first glance that the Cargo Hauler simply is not as burly and water resistant as a bag like The North Face Base Camp, nor is it as comfortable of a backpack (it has a tendency to droop even when loaded). But for a nice all-around travel duffel at a reasonable price, give the Eagle Creek a look.

Another sporty duffel bag, this one from the makers of our all-time favorite cooler, can also be worn as a backpack and is made from thick, laminated nylon that’ll withstand any rough baggage handling. It’s also completely waterproof — the zippers tuck into enclosed docks — so there’s no need to fear a rainstorm or wet ground ruining your clothing or gear inside.

The Trekker is Backcountry’s recent addition to the outdoor duffel market, and a nice value at that. Similar to the Patagonia Black Hole and The North Face’s Base Camp above, it boasts a U-shaped zipper opening, several pockets for organization, and offers the option of being worn as a backpack. And like the Base Camp, an external zipper on one end opens to a large secondary compartment, which is great for separating dirty laundry or shoes.


Don’t let the rain keep you from exploring. This Baggallini crossbody is also a stylish travel purse, light and water-resistant, so you can take advantage of wet travel days without worrying about your valuables and electronics getting drenched. It comes with a removable RFID-resistant wallet you can pull out of the middle of the bag. For me, this feels safer than having an outside zippered pocket for my cards.

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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.

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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. 

Made with beautiful full grain calfskin leather that has deep color tones and looks better as it ages. The vegetable tanned base creates the rich brown and red colors while the semi gloss finish helps prevent stains. Over time this leather will soften and develop a beautiful patina. Our 8 oz cotton duck canvas lining is made in South Carolina and very durable. The combination of Italian vegetable tanned leather and strong U.S. made canvas lining makes this bag an all time best seller.

In general, the outer pockets on the top and bottom of the bag embed into the larger bag, so if you are searching for something in the larger bag, you have to move around the outer pockets to look around. It seems it might be better to just have layered pockets so that if you were looking at the bag from the top, there were two different larger pockets you could open to get into the main space of the bag.
Roller duffels do have their limitations. First, rarely do roller duffels come with anything more than carry handles, making them difficult to transport in areas without sufficient rolling surfaces (they lack backpack straps, which we love). Second, cheaper or ultralight duffels have a tendency to fall over when full, which is something to be aware of when making a purchase (heavier models like the Osprey Shuttle do not fall over, which makes them worth the extra cost in our opinion). Finally, roller duffels inherently have more breakable parts. Some duffels have replaceable wheels but many don’t, which is a quick way to lose all of that easy transport functionality.
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.

I am a minimalist. That doesn’t mean I live like a monk; I do enjoy the good things in life. It just means I don’t buy a lot of stuff because I learned a long time ago that everything you own owns you. So I have very few material possessions. But the few things I do own are the finest things money can buy. In my closet, I have two suits, a wardrobe of 7 pants and shirts, and three pairs of shoes. I even have one sofa in my 1,000 square foot condominium that will outlast me, because it is the last sofa I will ever purchase (and I’m only 41 years old). You get the picture. So that is why I consider this to be the last gym bag I will ever purchase. It has plenty of room for my running shoes, workout clothes, towel, and the No. 2 shaving kit. What else does a guy need? Nothing as far as I’m concerned. And if you get sticker shock, think about all the $50 gym bags that you would have purchased over the next 50 years.
We are committed to producing quality, handcrafted products that showcase our time-honored standards of excellence and deep respect for the Americana tradition. Col. Littleton products go through rigorous testing and numerous quality inspections before being shipped to our customers. Should you receive a Col. Littleton product that is defective in materials or workmanship, you can count on us to make it right. Our guarantee is limited to the cost of the product itself. It also does not cover normal wear and tear. We feel if you just plain “wore it out,” you got your money’s worth. Also, we cannot be responsible for an item which has suffered through alteration, damage due to improper cleaning, improper use, mishandling or accident. If we made a mistake in personalizing your product or if the product is defective in materials or workmanship, of course we’ll replace it. Otherwise, personalized products are not returnable.
Bottom Line While the Base Camp Duffel faces stiffer competition than it used to, it remains the duffel that all others are compared against. A solid all-around excellent expedition bag, this model was built with remote adventures in mind. A burly, waterproof sack that comes in a few sizes, all with nice backpack straps; it has a narrow niche, but is the only product we’ve found that checks the boxes it checks. This model offers a top-notch blend that makes it easy to transport and highly weather resistant. A top-notch model that is slightly less expensive than others, without giving up much in the way of features, pockets, carrying options or overall durability.

Hands down, the easiest duffels to pack, unpack, and rummage around in are those with a large, U-shaped opening. Duffels such as the Patagonia Black Hole feature this design: a zippered flap extends around three of the four sides of the top of the duffel and opens to reveal most of the contents. These bags provide easy access whether in a hotel, tent, or on the road. Other bags, such as the Filson Field Duffel, open in a more traditional style, with one zipper that extends across the top of the bag. With a smaller opening, access to the contents is more limited, and especially when full (this means more rummaging and disorganization). If you’re looking to prioritize convenience above all else, large roller duffels like the Osprey Shuttle offer the most rigid structure and largest opening for packing and unpacking.
This leather bag definitely is worth its price. It is large enough to be considered a weekender bag, fitting 2-3 days worth of clothes. It is also small enough to carry and look stylish. The durability of the leather is fantastic. I feel that it is thick enough to not tear easily, but soft enough to have that elegance. The redish brown color gives it a luxurious feel. I also like the inner lining, which whenever someone opens it, notices the fine detail.

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Oh my. I’ve been looking and looking and looking at this one and finally made the plunge. It is NOT inexpensive. That is for SURE. And it is rather smallish. Carryons by Orvis and Hulme and others pack more stuff, have more pockets, are in all objective ways better. And cost less. Sooooo, what can there possibly be to make me buy the Colonel’s No 1 Grip in the face of those overwhelming facts? Simply this. It is a work of art. It is unique (at least as far as a non-custom object can be. It’s beautiful. It’s a pleasure to touch, to carry, to use. My gosh, is it nice.
This is a very nice quality travel bag and I absolutely love it. The leather is very nice and feels good to the touch. The bag is spacious and has many compartments for organization. I like that it includes zip compartments as well which is a nice feature. This bag is perfect for a weekend trip or as an extra carrying bag for a night. I use this bag to travel back and forth from school and it is very durable. The adjustable strap is comfortable and useful for carrying. I think the water resistance feature is helpful especially since I usually store electronics and books in the bag. Overall, I’m really happy that I found this travel bag, and it has become my go to for whenever I need to travel.

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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.

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Although we do like the Base Camp line and have used them for years, we prefer the Black Hole for a few reasons. First, the outer fabric on The North Face shows scuff marks more easily than its Patagonia counterpart. Second, at 3 pounds 8 ounces, it’s more than a pound heavier. Finally, we found the backpack straps on the Base Camp Duffel to be slightly more difficult to detach than those on the Black Hole, making your airport check-in a bit more frantic. But for a bit more versatility in terms of size and colors, the Base Camp from The North Face is a solid duffel choice.
This is the best crossbody/shoulder bag ever! I got it for a trip to disneyworld as I needed a day bag that could be plane carry-on and suitable for theme park that was big enough to hold my bits plus stuff for my 3 yr old. But didn’t feel like I was dragging round a body bag. This was perfect! Tardis holding capacity! Loads of safety zips. But I found 2 big bonuses….first that the canvas was tough and handled being thrown into the footwell of rides for a week sooo well it never seemed to look dirty! And second, the neutral colour scheme meant the hubs was happy to do his stint of bag carrying too! With more feminine colour/design I get lumbered with bag duty, but this is so non-offensive. It’s stylish and durable and I love it! The best bag I’ve ever travelled with!

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 At NOMATIC we create the most functional gear ever to inspire confidence for life on the move. We love creating innovative products that help people simplify, organize, and improve their lives. We are so grateful to all of our backers and supporters who have helped us successfully bring 8 products to life on Kickstarter. Thanks for all of your support!


Our testers thought having the pocket divided made it significantly more useful compared to the single giant mesh pocket. In fact, they missed it when we used models that didn't offer this feature. This was one of the most significant drawbacks of our Editors' Choice The North Face Base Camp; it just had one sizeable inner mesh zippered pocket, which was nice, but again, our testing team enjoyed having the two smaller pockets significantly more. Many of the bags had flat outside zippered pockets, like the Helly Hansen Duffel Bag 2 and the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel. While this is a good thought, these pockets were hard to get our hands into when the bags were full.
More traditional duffels are also easier to carry anytime you are not on a smooth surface. While the wheels help on the pavement, they are a down-right hassle when the going gets rough. Wheeled bags typically offer limited, or no other carrying options (for instance, no bags we tested have wheels and backpack shoulder straps. We're working on testing products that do both), making traveling with them difficult in remote or exotic locations. It is often far easier to deal with non-wheel luggage when you are strapping your bag to jeeps, yaks, sleds, snowmobiles, llamas, rafts, or anything else that your adventure might require. Lastly, we've experienced flying in small 2-5 person "commercial" planes in both Africa and Alaska that wouldn't let us bring hard-sided luggage along.
I’m a crossbody bag fan for sure, because I really like having my hands free. That said, there are times my shoulders begin to beg for a little relief. I’m seriously considering the Henri Bendel Jetsetter Convertible Backpack for my upcoming trip through the Czech Republic, because it can be worn so many ways…and I won’t have to transfer the contents from bag to bag!

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For Ease of Packing: The easiest models to pack and unpack were The North Face Rolling Thunder 30" and 36" models. Both of these duffel bags featured a large opening that still was easy to zip closed when the bag was full. The Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled was also extremely easy to pack up as well as all the more traditional non-wheeled duffels we tested. A rigorous criterion for them to even be selected for non-wheeled models was their ease of packing. Most of the duffels we tested have U-shaped openings. The Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole, Top Pick Yeti Panga, and Top Pick Bago all have straight "I-shaped" zippers and were subsequently harder to load and unload.

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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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One travel tip I have is to pack two or three binder clips with you. They are small to pack but useful for securing hotel/hostel/accommodation curtains shut. This helps block out the light more and make it easier to sleep which is helpful when you are adjusting to a new schedule & overcoming jet lag. Another tip is to try to switch whatever toiletries you can to solids. There are great options for solid shampoo bars, body wash bars, face wash bars, lotion bars, etc.

One travel tip I have is to pack two or three binder clips with you. They are small to pack but useful for securing hotel/hostel/accommodation curtains shut. This helps block out the light more and make it easier to sleep which is helpful when you are adjusting to a new schedule & overcoming jet lag. Another tip is to try to switch whatever toiletries you can to solids. There are great options for solid shampoo bars, body wash bars, face wash bars, lotion bars, etc.
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