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.

Smaller than a suitcase, bigger than a tote, the classic duffel is a perfectly sized carryall for a long weekend. Peer out at a train platform full of city dwellers fleeing town on a Friday afternoon and you’ll see all varieties of duffels — from waxed-canvas bags harking back to the style’s military roots to luxe versions in buttery leather. To discover the best travel duffel bags out there, we asked frequent travelers — including writers, photographers, and a hotel exec — to recommend their favorites, and then sought out more bags that fit the experts’ requirements across a range of styles and price points.

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In terms of features and carrying comfort, you get a multitude of ways to grab and carry the Black Hole Duffel. The backpack straps are more comfortable and functional than most, and the bag comes with a large detachable shoulder strap for throwing over one shoulder. Keep in mind that this duffel does not have a particularly rigid structure, so it doesn’t offer a ton in the way of protection for your fragile items. In addition, it’s one of the more expensive non-roller duffels on this list, but we think worth the quality is worth the extra cost. Patagonia makes the Black Hole in a variety of versions including with wheels, and the 40-liter roller version is carry-on compatible.
Nowadays, such a wide variety of travel bags is available that you can get overwhelmed choosing one. If you are a traveler, you’ll need a good backpack. However, that’s not the only option; you can find lightweight backpacks, sling bags, messenger bags, duffel bags and much more. To be honest, I love duffel bags! Sure, I wouldn’t go on a long trip or a thru-hike with a duffel bag – that’s common sense. Still, they can be a great choice for certain trips.
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!

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The “black hole” duffel bag lives up to its name for travel writer and photographer Michaela Trimble, who has toted it all over the world, most recently to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Madagascar. “It fit everything I needed for a nearly two-month trip with room to spare,” she said, “and it barely came back with a scratch.” Laminated fabric and water-repellent coating protect the bag from the elements and any damage that may occur in transit, while keeping it lightweight (under three pounds). Trimble also likes that it “comes with padded straps, so it can easily and comfortably be carried as a backpack.”
Keep in mind that the YETI Panga is overkill for non-outdoor use. The bag is 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 travel and light outdoor use, but it’s worth the cost for those who put their gear to the test. For a cheaper waterproof duffel option, see the SealLine WideMouth below.

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Cenzo listened to their customers and is now fitting brass zippers. That was the tipping point for me. Italy is known for leather goods, but the quality of this weekend bag is exceptional. The vegetable tanning process must have improved the suppleness of the hides, because Cenzo leather feels fantastic. The canvas has stripes inside and I found that admissible, but not great. I'd have gone with a natural canvas color. Stripes were the only feature I didn't understand, but that may be a matter of taste. I highly recommend the Cenzo duffle, it's the best travel bag I've found.

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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.
From a short commuter flight to traveling deep in the Alaskan wilderness, we went all out to compare how each model stacked up in our ease of transport category. Photo: Topping out Heartbreak Hill, with the mighty North Buttress of Mt. Hunter Looming above, just below Kahiltna Base Camp, while dragging 50lbs stowed in duffel bags that are strapped to plastic sleds, Denali National Park, AK.
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 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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I’ve traveled extensively and, honestly, I would never use most of these suggested bags with the exception of the PacSafe and Travelon. The bags must have security features like wire lined straps, hook latches, scan-protected pouches, etc. It’s fine to use a crossbody as long as you have the right strap that can’t be easily cut and place your hand across the bag at all times and inside your coat or sweater when in public places. Never ever consider using a backpack. It’s a sure fire way of getting ripped off….

Whether you’re traveling light or looking for the best way to pack, our selection of travel bags are stylish solutions for beach vacations, time-off, errand-running, or just a trip across town. From carry-on bags, to toiletry bags, travel totes, purses, backpacks, and more, we have a variety of ways to embrace the journey. Rolling bags offer quick travel to and from terminals, and laptop totes boast plenty of room for your computer. Removable RFID-blocking wristlets keep your essential information safe during trips, and passport crossbody bags offer a fashionable solution to storage.

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This is the most user-friendly bag I have ever owned. Being a messenger style, it slips on and off very easily and is extremely lightweight, unlike my heavy leather bags. The main compartment is plenty big enough for my big (heavy) B-Mak wallet, and personal items, with room to spare. I love the see-through netted zipper compartment in the bag-I can actually see what is in there! I have yet to rummage through to find something, and that is highly unusual for unorganized me! The multiple outer pockets are so accessible, and I love the side pockets, which are expandable via zippers, making them even more versatile for not just water bottles. The quality is very good, zippers all work very smoothly, strap is very adjustable for any height/size of person (I'm only 5'2"). Yes, it is not a high fashion leather bag, and I ... full review

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Priced at $80, the Gregory Stash is an affordable duffel with an attractive design. We’ll start with the Stash’s simple zipper opening that extends the length of the duffel, which is not our preferred closure (U-shaped is better). The zipper does reach the end flaps, however, allowing the main compartment to expand up and out when packing and providing better access than others of its kind. You also get generous padding on the straps and a large outside pocket for valuables.
Though less comfortable than backpack straps over extended periods, a single shoulder strap is a quick way to carry your duffel short distances. In particular, we like shoulder straps on smaller duffels that don’t weigh a ton (they can start to get uncomfortable around the popular 60-liter range). Not all duffel bags come with shoulder straps, but we see them frequently on smaller capacity, travel-specific bags. Shoulder straps usually are removable, allowing you to streamline your duffel for transport.
As the premier online store for bags, totes and duffle bags we’re proud to offer a variety of the best time-tested brands such as Tumi and Samsonite luggage, as well as our own exclusive brand of eBags luggage. Known for innovative products, such as our packing cubes and convertible carry-ons, we offer multi-functional travel gear that gets you to and from your destination with durable function and uncompromised style. Want to buy the best luggage brand bags? Think eBags. 

Nearly all the duffels with backpack straps were reasonably comfortable to carry, and because all of our reviews find this such a valuable feature, it was a design focus during our model selection process. A couple of standouts were The North Face Base Camp and the Patagonia Black Hole, which were exceptionally comfortable and even still reasonable. When we say reasonable, we mean the blood circulation to your arms wouldn't be cut off, something that was the case with many models with poorly designed shoulder straps (even when worn for short durations when loaded with 50+ pounds).
The oversize version of Madewell’s ever-popular Transport Tote has the same cool yet classic look but with plenty more space for your stuff and — at least for the canvas version — a lower price tag. The waxed finish is water resistant and gains a nice patina with age, and it’s lighter and more flexible than leather but still heavy duty enough to handle repeated overpacking.
This duffel bag came highly recommended by our testers for its sleek design and its many useful storage compartments. It was also very comfortable to carry: “I really liked the strap and the bag didn’t seem too bulky even when there was a lot of stuff inside of it,” one tester noted. The only thing our testers wished was different? The bag’s size. “I would have made it little larger,” said one reviewer. “With a laptop inside, I couldn’t fit a ton of clothes.”
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!

how to pack bags for airline travel


I was on the search for an anti-theft bag recently that wasn’t ugly and wasn’t too big. I was set on one of the ones shown here, but when I arrived at a local luggage shop, I found the Travelon Anti-Theft Signature E/W Shoulder Bag in black. It is the perfect size so that I didn’t feel weighed down or look too touristy, and because it has various zippered compartments and decent depth, I was able to also use it for as a camara bag for my compact-system camera with extra lens. It’s a good price at around $40 and comes in different colors ebags.com/product/travelon/anti-theft-signature-ew-shoulder-bag/276982

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.
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 its fully stuffed. But these are small gripes about an otherwise solid duffel, and we hope Thule continues to make strides with its bags.
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