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.
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For frequent air travelers, there is a lot to be said for the convenience of a wheeled duffel, and especially one that can be used as a carry-on. At 40 liters, the TNF Rolling Thunder 22" is an optimal size for air travelers who don’t pack the kitchen sink. The wheels are large yet smooth and functional over a variety of surfaces, equally at home at the airport and far-flung villages. And while the bag expands nicely to accommodate full loads, compression straps help to keep the size within airline regulations.
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.
For travel scenarios where you’ll be moving around a lot—think backpacking through Europe—we prefer non-roller duffels. They’re easy to grab and throw on your back, and you don’t have to worry about the surface (if you’ve ever tried taking a roller duffel down a cobblestone street, you know what we’re talking about). If you’re primarily an air traveler and moving your bag long distances by vehicle, a roller duffel is a fine option, and you do get the added benefit of one hard side for protecting your belongings. For the purposes of this article and the picks above, we’ve included a handful of our favorite roller models, and some of the standard designs have wheeled versions available.
These recommendations are great! I need a travel bag for my upcoming trip to Italy, so this is super helpful. One travel tip I’ve heard over the years in the same vein that I think is really helpful is when you’re walking with a rolling suitcase to keep it either between you and your travel companion, or if you’re alone to keep the bag on the side of you closest to a wall. This applies to bags as well. That way it’s much harder for someone to swipe it as they go by, especially if they’re on a bike, Vespa, motorcycle, etc.
First some pluses: This is a spacious bag - could easily pack for up to a week in it. Even when it is quite full, the backpack straps are constructed in a way that it doesn't feel too heavy on your back (for reference I am ~5'5, so the bag is quite large relative to my frame but does not feel cumbersome to carry as a backpack at all, even without support straps). I love that it has a computer sleeve that fits a 15" laptop, a couple smaller tech pockets, and separate external pockets for laundry/shoes, as I primarily use the bag for days I want to go to the gym in the morning and straight to work for the day [sometimes with a run in the afternoon].
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I love my Henri Bendel Jetsetter Convertible Backpack! I have the larger and smaller bag. I used the larger one during my trip to Amesterdam and Paris. It was large enough for a rain jacket, light sweatshirt, water bottle, and my normal purse items (sun glasses, wallet, etc.). The bag was definitely full but I was out all day and the temperature changed greatly from morning to night. It was nice having everything I needed to stay comfortable. A few museums made you leave larger bags at the bag check and they seemed to only ask people with backpacks to check their bags. I loved the ability to quickly change the backpack to a handbag and bring it into museums. I hate leaving my personal belongings in the care of someone else. I highly recommend them!
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Most duffels have carry handles of some sort, whether they’re dedicated straps or a simple padded handle connecting the backpack straps to each other. Carry handles are useful for picking up a bag and moving it a short distance, and they’re great for carrying small capacity bags in one hand. Some duffels like the Osprey Transporter omit carry handles altogether in favor of shoulder and backpack straps. This can make sense for big, heavy bags, but we still prefer having the option.
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For most travel where you will be checking a bag but won’t be bringing bulky outdoor gear, a medium duffel in the 50 to 75-liter range is a good match. For this reason, the 60-liter version often is the best seller of all: it’s perfect for most trips ranging from short weekend excursions to one week or more. Of course, the right choice also depends on how much stuff you like to bring, but we find ourselves reaching for our 60-liter Patagonia Black Hole more than any other duffel in our closet.
Keep in mind that the Hyperlite Dyneema Duffel truly is a specialty bag. The 140-liter capacity is excellent for hauling bulky outdoor gear in tough conditions, and this is one of the biggest duffels on this market in terms of interior space. It notably lacks backpack straps, which would be a nice touch for those instances where you do actually have to walk with the bag over a good distance. In addition, the $525 price tag is by far the highest on this list—Dyneema is an ultra-premium and very expensive fabric. Travelers and urban backpackers should look elsewhere, but for the right people and uses, the Hyperlite is a serious, expedition-ready duffel.
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Well, I must admit that I love the crossbody / shoulder bags more too. Threre are always tons of items I need to carry, Perfect for me as I’m mother of 2 children (1 and 5yo) and we all know that it is impossible to pack yourself into small clutch with this all additional kids stuf. Im looking for something for myself – a nice and big shoulder bag like mentioned here http://thewomansbag.com/cross-body-and-shoulder-bag/ would be perfect but didn’t decided yet.