Here in late 2018, as an autumn expedition wraps and we plunge into holiday travels, our crack test team is sharpened up on travel. We spent the last few months initiating a transition in the test team (long-time OGL legend Ian Nicholson hands duffel review coordination off to fellow globe-trotting mountain guide Jediah Porter) and testing a couple of unique pieces of luggage. We grant two new Top Pick awards. The exciting Yeti Panga is fully submersible and has category-leading shoulder straps. For super-wet adventures, you won't do better. On the other end of the spectrum is the budget-friendly and user-packable Bago Packable. Supplanting the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole, the Bago is our newest preference as a secondary duffel for adventure travel and day-to-day life.
Second of all, a lot of people are complaining about the inside zippers being busted but the supper just separated, which is an easy fix. All you have to do is zip it back and forth one time and fixed! My backpack came with “busted zippers” but I literally just zipped it once and back and it was fixed. It’s like these people don’t even try to zip it before they go online to complain.
I am very impressed with this bag, thus far. I have only had it about a week, so we will see how it holds up to the weight of textbooks over time. It has excellent padding on the handle, straps, and on the back of the bag. I was concerned that it would not expand to fit my books and folders, but it has not disappointed! Once I stuffed all of my gear into it, it expanded to about 8” wide. The front compartment has odds & ends in it. The middle compartment has two 3 ring binders and a LARGE textbook in it. The back compartment has my iPad, several notebooks, and a wad of pens in it. Pics of all 3 compartments included. This bag holds A LOT! I haven’t even used the smaller outer compartments, and I fit a lot more in it than I thought I ... full review
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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Larger than a camera bag or waistpack - yet smaller than a briefcase or laptop bag - it'll hold whatever you need, wherever your travels take you. A book, readers, an iPad®, cell phone, calculator, pens, pencils ­- and more! Gusseted zip-front organizer has pen and cell phone slots, a zippered pocket and organizational sleeves. Middle zip section has organizational sleeves, and gusseted rear-zip section has a neoprene sleeve to hold an e-reader or iPad®. Rear exterior pocket with snap-down security strap, two-way zippers with large zipper pulls, leather reinforcements and a detachable padded shoulder strap.
Got this for my husband for Father's day. The only bag he had for short trips and stuff was a Puma duffel bag and I thought this will be a good upgrade. He loves it. Waxed canvas is thick and has a nice feel to it, leather seems to be of good quality, the straps are comfortable, pockets are perfect, and it looks really nice and classy. This is a grown man's bag.
The only thing that kept the Alpaca from being our Editors' Choice was The North Face Base Camp's additional pockets and organizational oriented features, which our testers thought helped it as a better all-around piece of travel baggage. However, the Alpaca provided a high level of durability and was burlier than most of the models in our fleet. In fact, it will be plenty durable for most users for many, many years.
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.
A timeless, feminine design makes Cuyana’s Classic Weekender Bag a stylish pick for quick jaunts out of town. Its generous interior, along with a variety of interior/exterior pockets, allows you to store clothes, cosmetics, and accessories for three days, while its delicate Soft Grey/Natural color scheme pairs well with just about anything in your wardrobe.

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Enter the unsung workhorse of every traveler's luggage collection: The weekender. The ideal pick is not too big (or it'll weigh you down) and not too small (or you won't be able to fit extra shoes), sturdy enough that you won't need to baby it, and stylish enough that you'll feel confident hauling it to beach bungalows, mountain cabins, city apartment rentals, and wherever else your weekend travels take you. 

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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.
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.”
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
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.
In 2018, as it has been for over half a decade, our testers' favorite burly duffel bag is The North Face Base Camp. This perennial favorite is great, but so is the competition. The Base Camp barely edged out the Gregory Alpaca and the Patagonia Black Hole for the win. While the Base Camp wins Editors' Choice and remains a measuring stick for the all burly duffels, its scores don't make it a runaway Editors' Choice. Some other models tested have slight advantages, like the low weight of the Patagonia Black Hole. However, the Base Camp still clocks top or near-top scores in every comparison category.

If you just need a basic duffel bag to get your gear from point A to point B, the Hexin Collapsible 85L Duffel Bag is a great option at a budget-friendly price. Constructed from high-quality honeycomb nylon and durable two-way zippers, this large-capacity Hexin bag quickly folds down to a tiny pouch with a wrist strap that weighs just one pound. You can toss it in your purse or other luggage when not in use, making it the perfect extra bag for travel purchases or a quick replacement for a damaged suitcase. (The 85L bag is 28 x 12 x 16 inches and folds down to just 11.5 x 10 x 23 inches.)
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.
I think Pacsafe bags are built much better than Travelon, though Travelon is definitely more fashionable. I absolutely loved having my Pacsafe Citysafe CS300 with me in Europe this summer. I used it to carry my camera (a6000), extra lens, gorillapod, and as a daypack. It even fits my iPad pro 10.5 in it’s logitech case. I felt totally confident on the metros and even my newly-made friends commented on it. Plus, the cranberry color is so cute! I even took it to the beach and was able to use a small cable to attach and lock it to my rented beach umbrella and/or chair while I went swimming. It really took a lot of stress out of the trip since I was traveling solo. 🙂
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.”

Why is the Gregoy Alpaca ranked here? First and foremost, it lacks a shoulder strap. This isn’t a deal breaker for us as backpack-style is the carrying method of choice for a bag of this type, but a shoulder strap is great for short hauls and moving the bag from place to place. Second, the Alpaca lacks outside pockets for small items, which is a simple feature that adds a good deal of convenience. When you throw in the fact that the Alpaca is roughly the same price as bags from other top brands, it’s a solid duffel but not a standout.
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.
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