They are super helpful when I go climbing. I can pack my clothes, sleeping bag and other stuff in my backpack; then I bring a duffel bag in which I keep my climbing ropes, shoes and other gear. I also like to bring a duffel bag when I go camping somewhere close and don’t need to hike much, such as when my friends and I drive to a nice lake or hill and pitch our tents there. Duffel bags can be useful in those situations because you can carry a lot of things while keeping everything organized.
A long-lasting travel bag will remain your faithful companion, trip after trip. To keep your items safely stashed while you’re on the move, choose a carry-on with a hard-sided case, and make a statement with bold colors like teal and yellow. Traveling with all your gadgets? There are modern travel bags that come equipped with individual, labeled pockets for all your plugs, cables, converters, and tablets.
We reference durability frequently in this article—everyone wants their investment to last. The most common way of measuring fabric strength is denier (D), and the higher the rating, the tougher the fabric will be. All deniers are not created equal, but this gives you a general idea of how two duffels stack up to each other in terms of toughness. When available, we’ve included the denier rating of each bag in our handy comparison table above, which range from 1000D for a bag like The North Face Base Camp down to 420D for the Eagle Creek Load Warrior. It’s worth noting that the manufacturers sometimes provide two numbers, which refer to the different panels (usually the highest number is the bottom of the bag that is exposed to the ground, whereas the lower number are the sides and top). This number may not be the definitive factor in your buying decision, but it certainly can help tip the scales when choosing between two close competitors.
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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Duffels that are 75 liters or larger are heavy haulers for longer trips, multiple people, and outdoor equipment (boots, backpacks, tents, etc.). When we fly to go backpacking, we love our 100-liter REI Co-op Roadtripper duffel: it can fit multiple empty backpacks, bulky footwear, and all of our extras. It’s worth noting that these bags can get heavy fast depending on what you stow inside of them, so keep an eye out for total weight as you’re packing. Clothing and most regular items should keep you below the 50-pound checked bag limit, but if you’re packing anything particularly heavy, it can be an issue. And for serious outdoor and expedition use, duffels like The North Face Base Camp are made all the way up to 150 liters.
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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I do not carry an anti-theft bag yet, but I will be looking into it as the only times I’ve had things stolen while travelling are from a backpack! My travel tip is…also to do with bags..but I always chuck in a couple of roll-up nylon shopping bags when I am packing. They are great as dirty washing bags, shoe bags, beach and pool bags or to put your shopping in as a way to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags. My ones hold up to 20kg so they can carry a lot of groceries! And when you have bought too many souvenirs you can also use them as an extra carry-on bag (and I’ve never been charged for it). My favourites are envirosax (Australian) and Loqi. They all have beautiful eye-catching designs too.
For uses like travel 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.
Wow! I've been looking for a great leather duffel bag to use for business trips for 1-2 nights and this leather travel duffel is perfect. It's larger and taller than I realized and it has everything I was looking for in a high-quality, leather bag: durable,quality leather; inside pockets/compartment; inside fabric liner; cushioned shoulder strap; outside pocket and leather handle clasp. I've searched for months and on plenty of websites, but the cost to have all of these features was typically over $700. This bag is a fine example of quality craftsmanship from India. You can tell from the thick, quality leather to the stitching and materials used, that they were trying to create a high, quality item for the owner. I'll be looking to see what other products that they have to offer because of the quality of the craftsmanship!
The Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler is a nice option for travelers looking for a lightweight duffel with an assortment of carry options. It’s one of the more affordable duffels on the market at $99 for the 60-liter version, weighs less than 2 pounds, and even packs into its own end pocket. The bag is functional too: similar to the Patagonia Black Hole, the Cargo Hauler has a U-shaped lid, lash points and grab handles, a padded foam bottom, and padded and removable backpack straps.
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.
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What the Rolling Thunder is not, however, is a fully-featured piece of luggage for business travelers. It lacks the sleek suitcase look and organizational compartments of the Osprey Shuttle, and some people have reported that the internal support bar has worn through to the base of the bag. But if you’re looking for a duffel that’s equally at home on the dirt roads of a far-flung village as it is at the airport, the Rolling Thunder can take a licking and keep on ticking.
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.