On my last trip to Indonesia, I realized that duffel bags can also be great for short trips as long as you don’t have to walk much. On that occasion, I was traveling with a group (I was working as a guide with a Spanish travel agency) and some people brought duffel bags. It was a backpacking trip but transportation was well organized, so we didn’t walk long distances. We took buses and shared taxis between towns, from the hostel to the terminal, etc. Another advantage is that many of these travel duffel bags have wheels, which is great when you are carrying a heavy bag.

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I haven’t traveled much, but my husband will be retiring soon so we will definitely be traveling more in the near future. I learn so much from you, Alex, and all readers that follow you. The one trip to Japan, last year, made me realize that although I LOVE the RM Julian backpack, it was not practical when taking the train so often. A crossbody is more practical. Not only in having to get your ticket out and your usually rushing, but when you’re inside the train. Whether you’re sitting or standing, you’re always taking off and putting on your backpack. Kind of a slight inconvenience. With a crossbody, it stays in one place and everything is at your fingertips. I still love my RM for walking around because it feels better to my shoulders. Thank you again for all that you offer to all of us. I really appreciate it. Have a great day!
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 a sufficient rolling surface (and no 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 (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.

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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.
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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Our team of travel experts will teach you how to optimize your packing experience, and get the most bang out of your luggage set. Using tricks like the “roll-up squeeze,” or the layer cake technique, find out what packing style makes the most sense for which trip. Our packing shortcuts and hacks will amaze you when it comes time to pack, making the whole process go more smoothly.

The Patagonia Black Hole is one of the best duffel bags you can find out there. Why? It’s super lightweight (one of the lightest on the list) and it has many pockets and a big main compartment. It’s super versatile, featuring padded shoulder straps, so you can carry it in many ways, like as a bag or even a backpack. If you don’t need the shoulder straps, they are removable.

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This is an amazing bag!!. I purchased this for my sons 18th birthday as the bag he receipt chased for himself is really small. I took several pictures and filled it to capacity so that you can get a real idea of what this bag will hold. All the items pictured were inside this bag. The details are amazing on the bag and the leather quality is great. I anticipate he will get many years off use. I looked at many bags and I am so happy I decided on this one. Lots of storage pockets inside and durable carry handles.

Coming in at $140 for the 65-liter version, the Osprey Transporter is a touch more expensive than the Patagonia Black Hole and The North Face Base Camp above. It’s also slightly less durable in terms of denier, and the lack of dedicated carry handles are a bit of an inconvenience. That said, we love the carrying comfort over long distances and think the other features are highly practical, making the Transporter our top non-wheeled duffel from Osprey.
Large tote bags for travel are crucial for carrying everything you need while on the go. This one’s spacious enough to hold just about anything — neck pillow, tablet, laptop, baby accessories, gym wear, you name it — but light as a feather so it won’t weigh you down in transit. The quilting adds a bit of signature flair to an otherwise highly utilitarian tote: it’s easily packable, washable, and holds up to wear and tear. It also comes with detachable interior zip pouches that are great for organizing knick-knacks, or to use as a clutch when you don’t want the take the whole bag.
Grab handles often are located on the ends or sides of a bag and sit close to the surface. Similar to carry handles, they are used to quickly lift or slide a duffel. Having a grab handle on each side is convenient when moving the bag around (think about grabbing it from the overhead bin of an airplane or the storage compartment on the bottom of a bus). We love grab handles: they are one the reasons that duffels are so versatile and easy to move around.
I have the Pacsafe City Safe 100 GII and although its not attractive like the previous comment its a great purse and holds a lot. I also use the DayMakers Convertible Backpack — they have a few different sizes, but its great as the zippers connect and there are lots of zippered pockets and the straps are adjustable to wear over one shoulder or wear as regular backpack.
As I said, it’s smallish. The way the top flap cinches down means it’s more of a triangular prism than a rectangular one (for those mathematically inclined). So it definitely requires more thought and planning. But I just packed it with two pair of pants, three shirts, a pair of slippers, couple undershirts, a watch cap, couple of socks, and some other odds and ends. Not too bad. My new goal in life is “pack light” and this bag forces you to.
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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