Whether you’re traveling by air, driving up to a cabin for the weekend, or venturing across the world on an expedition, you’ll likely be using a duffel bag to get your gear from one place to the next. Duffels are popular among all kinds of travelers for good reason: they’re easy to load and carry, and many are built to take a beating. Below we break down the best duffels of 2019, including top travel, outdoor, and waterproof bags of both the standard and rolling varieties. For more background information, see our duffel bag comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Weight: 2 lbs. 9.1 oz.
Capacities: 40, 55, 70, 100L
What we like: Durable, comfortable as a backpack, and looks great.
What we don’t: A little pricey.
Patagonia’s Black Hole line helped made duffels cool, and we think the 55-liter version is the best all-around bag on the market. Retooled for 2019, all Black Holes are now made with 100-percent recycled materials, but have retained the premium build quality and trendy colorways that Patagonia is known for. This bag is beautifully constructed from end to end, and you get multiple color options from simple black to blaze orange. And the Black Hole is tough: the fabric is burly 900-denier ripstop nylon with a DWR finish to fend off moisture. This duffel is not waterproof like the YETI and SealLine models below, but it should keep your gear dry in light to moderate moisture just fine.
In terms of features and carrying comfort, you get a multitude of ways to grab and carry the Black Hole Duffel. The removable backpack straps are more comfortable and functional than most, and the bag comes with reinforced haul handles and webbing loops for carrying by hand. 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 the quality is worth the extra cost. Patagonia’s Black Hole line also includes a variety of versions including smaller travel packs and duffels with wheels, and the 40-liter roller version is carry-on compatible.
See the Patagonia Black Hole 55 See the Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled 70
Best Carry-On Duffel Bag
Weight: 7 lbs. 5.5 oz.
Capacities: 40 (22”), 80 (30”), 155L (36”)
What we like: A tough carry-on duffel with wheels.
What we don’t: Somewhat lacking in internal organization.
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.
What the Rolling Thunder is not, however, is a fully featured piece of luggage for business travelers. It lacks the organizational compartments of some premium roller bags, with only one internal mesh pocket and two small external zip pockets. Further, some users have reported that over time, the internal support bar has worn through to the base of the bag. For the most part however, the Rolling Thunder can take a licking and keep on ticking better than most rolling duffels. For those who want more space, The North Face makes two other sizes of this bag (80 liters and a whopping 155 liters). And for a similar carry-on option, see the Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled 40L.
See the North Face Rolling Thunder 22"
Best Budget Duffel Bag
Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz.
Capacities: 40, 60, 100, 140L
What we like: A simple duffel at a great price.
What we don’t: No backpack straps or internal storage.
If you’re in the market for basic storage and protection for your gear, the REI Co-op Roadtripper is one of the best values on this list. At just $60, this bag is made from burly 610-denier, water-resistant Cordura and sports a large detachable shoulder strap and handles (no backpack-style straps here, which is notable for those who plan on carrying their bag long distances). We also love the minimal weight, which at just 1 pound 8 ounces makes it one of the lightest duffels on this list.
What is the REI Roadtripper Duffel best for? It makes a great gear hauler for those who need space and protection without the bells and whistles. We’ve used the 100-liter version on a number of big trips including going all the way down to Patagonia (four flights plus bus rides) and came away impressed. The bag is well-built, functional, and has withstood quite bit of use and abuse. At the same time, it’s definitely not a fully featured bag. If you want conveniences like backpack straps, internal storage, and side compartments, we’d recommend the Patagonia Black Hole above instead.
See the REI Co-op Roadtripper Duffel 100L
Best Wheeled Duffel for Carrying Large Loads
Weight: 8 lbs. 3 oz.
Capacities: 100, 130L
What we like: Premium build quality, sturdy design, and convenient organization.
What we don’t: Bulky, heavy, and shows wear quicker than we would like.
For travelers torn between a standard duffel and traditional wheeled luggage, the Osprey Shuttle may be exactly what you’re looking for. This high-end duffel is extremely roomy, durable, and comes with tons of organization. Time and time again, we’ve loaded an entire vacation worth of clothing and other items into the Shuttle with ease. Unlike cheaper wheeled duffels that have a tendency to fall over when full and upright, it maintains its stability nicely. And all of the other features are there, from external compression straps to tighten down your load to a separate lower compartment for wet gear.
The shortcomings of the Osprey Shuttle mostly relate to the design itself. First, you are not throwing this duffel over your shoulder and strolling through the airport or walking through a major city. It’s big and heavy at over 8 pounds empty, and must be transported almost exclusively on wheels. In addition, when packed to the brim, you may find yourself pushing the standard 50-pound checked baggage limit, and particularly if you go with the 130-liter version (we’ve been okay with the 100-liter but have been close on occasion). Finally, we’ve been surprised at how much wear and tear shows on the Osprey Shuttle. We got ours in bright red but would recommend the black instead.
See the Osprey Shuttle 100L
Best Waterproof Duffel Bag
Weight: 6 lbs. 2 oz.
Capacities: 50, 75, 100L
What we like: A fully waterproof duffel for rafting and other outdoor uses.
What we don’t: Very expensive and thick.
If you know coolers, chances are you know the YETI brand. And it’s no surprise that the company entered the duffel market with a splash. Many models on this list are water-resistant—they can withstand wet ground and the occasional rain shower—but the Panga is fully waterproof. You’ll often spot this thick and submergible duffel on rafts, fishing boats, and pretty much anywhere people want the ultimate level of protection for their gear. Made with laminated high-density nylon that feels like rubber, a burly EVA bottom, and a waterproof zipper that locks firmly into place, this duffel is as water-ready and air-tight as you’ll find.
Keep in mind that the YETI Panga is overkill for most non-outdoor use. The bag is very 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 the average traveler or for light outdoor use, but it’s hard to beat when you need waterproof protection for your gear (think water sports or protecting important belongings that absolutely cannot get wet). For a cheaper waterproof duffel option, see the SealLine WideMouth below.
See the YETI Panga 75
Best Ultralight/Packable Duffel Bag
Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz.
Capacities: 40, 55, 80L
What we like: Extremely light and water-resistant.
What we don’t: Unpadded backpack straps.
Arc’teryx’s sleek Carrier is not your everyday travel duffel, and it doesn’t look like one either. With taped seams, coated nylon, and a water-tight zipper with storm flap, the Carrier is as close to waterproof as a water-resistant bag gets. And at only 1 pound 5 ounces for the 55-liter version (and a mere 1 pound 7 ounces for the 80L), it’s the lightest option on our list, handily beating out other competing designs like the Osprey Trillium and Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler below. Plus, it packs down to an impressively small size, making the Arc’teryx a great option for backcountry enthusiasts on the go.
Keep in mind that with the Carrier, you don’t get the full-on waterproofing of the YETI Panga or SealLine WideMouth, and the similarly water-resistant Hyperlite is made with tougher Dyneema materials. Further, the ultralight build means that you have to give up pockets and padding, and the bag lacks structure when unpacked. But you do get backpack carry straps and an expedition-ready weight for those trips when every ounce counts. Not to mention, Arc’teryx’s build quality and craftsmanship are second to none, meaning this ultralight bag should last you through many adventures.
See the Arc'teryx Carrier Duffle 55
Best of the Rest
Weight: 3 lbs. 8 oz.
Capacities: 31 (XS), 50 (S), 71 (M), 95 (L), 132 (XL), 150L (XXL)
What we like: Durable and water-resistant, plethora of color and size options.
What we don’t: Falls a little short of the Black Hole in a few areas.
The Base Camp Duffel from The North Face is a fully featured bag and a direct competitor to the Patagonia Black Hole above. It’s similarly tough and water-resistant, offers easy access to the inside, and can be carried as a backpack, which we love. Both bags offer comparable organization pockets, but the Base Camp’s medium and large models add an exterior compartment on one end that allows you to separate dirty clothes and shoes. The Base Camp comes in more colors and designs than we can count, and is available in capacities ranging from 31 liters (XS) to a whopping 150 liters (XXL). For everything from a carry-on to an expedition workhorse, this is one of the most popular duffels on the market year after year.
Although we do like the Base Camp line and have used them for years, we prefer the Black Hole for a few reasons. First, the outer fabric on The North Face shows scuff marks more easily than its Patagonia counterpart. Second, at 3 pounds 8 ounces, it’s nearly a pound heavier. Finally, we found the backpack straps on the Base Camp Duffel to be slightly more difficult to detach than those on the Black Hole, making your airport check-in a bit more frantic. But for a bit more versatility in terms of size and colors, the Base Camp from The North Face is a solid duffel choice.
See the North Face Base Camp Medium
Weight: 3 lbs. 2 oz.
Capacities: 40, 65, 95, 130L
What we like: One of the top duffels in terms of carrying comfort.
What we don’t: Slightly less durable than other outdoor models.
The Patagonia Black Hole above is truly a duffel by nature, but the Osprey Transporter moves closer into backpack territory (we’ll call it a hybrid). With serious backpack straps designed with carrying comfort in mind (Osprey is the industry leader in backpacking packs), the Transporter is a great option for travelers who need to cover distance with their duffel. In terms of features, the outside is tough and water-resistant, while the inside is loaded with handy extras like a padded compartment for electronics and rain flaps for peace of mind. Further, the lid zips are lockable and the straps can be easily stowed away when not in use.
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.
See the Osprey Transporter 65
Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz.
Capacities: 45, 60, 90, 120L
What we like: Lightweight but still feature-rich and durable.
What we don’t: Doesn’t carry as comfortably as heavier models.
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 $109 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.
All that said, the Cargo Hauler falls notably short of the more premium options above in a few ways. First and foremost, it lacks features like top carry handles and an internal organization pocket, both of which add a great deal of convenience. The Cargo Hauler also is made with a 600-denier water-resistant fabric, a less durable (yet lighter-weight) material than many of the more rugged models on the list. It’s obvious at first glance that the Cargo Hauler simply is not as burly and water-resistant as a bag like The North Face Base Camp, nor is it as comfortable of a backpack (it has a tendency to droop even when loaded). But for a nice all-around travel duffel at a reasonable price, the Eagle Creek is worth a look.
See the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 60 See the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Rolling 90L
Weight: 2 lbs. 4 oz.
What we like: Ultra-premium build quality and good looks.
What we don’t: Pricey and small (this really is a weekend duffel).
Seattle-based Filson specializes in premium leather products for the fishing and hunting crowds, among other things, but their duffels are pretty darn nice too. For 2019, we like the 46-liter Duffle Pack best, which—as the name suggests—offers good dual functionality. On the outside, you get burly 600-denier nylon, large pockets on each side for organization, and a separate built-in pocket for shoes or other dirty gear. For use as a backpack, two detachable and dedicated shoulder straps make that process easy. All in all, the Filson is versatile, well-built, and downright fashionable.
The two biggest downsides of the Filson Duffle Pack are price and size. At $245, it’s one of the most expensive models on this list, only surpassed by the waterproof YETI Panga, Dyneema-built Hyperlite, and larger, wheeled Osprey Shuttle and The North Face Rolling Thunder. Second, 46 liters of capacity definitely is on the small side of the spectrum, although it’s a nice size for weekend trips and for those who like to pack light (plus, it can be used as a carry-on). Despite the high price, we’ve never had a Filson product give out on us, ever, so this sleek duffel should last year after year on the road.
See the Filson Duffle Pack
Weight: 2 lbs. 11.4 oz.
Capacities: 35, 50, 75, 105L
What we like: Another quality do-everything duffel for travelers.
What we don’t: Thinner materials than past versions.
The $130-ish duffel market certainly is competitive, but another nice option for travelers is the Long Hauler from Marmot. This bag is well-designed with just about all of the features that you need: detachable backpack straps, a U-shaped access to the main compartment, grab handles on the ends, compression straps, and end pockets for storing smaller items and valuables. Durability is good too: the bag is reinforced with 600-denier nylon, which should allow for a decent amount of rough use.
It’s worth noting that Marmot did decide to use thinner materials on the current Long Hauler. With a burly 1,000-denier fabric, the older version was prized for its toughness and durability. Unfortunately, Marmot downgraded this bag to 600-denier while adding a side pocket. 600D certainly isn’t bad, but it’s now thinner than competitors like the Patagonia Black Hole and The North Face Base Camp while the price remains similar. We still like the Marmot, but it just doesn’t stand out like it used to.
See the Mamot Long Hauler Large See the Marmot Rolling Hauler Large
Weight: 3 lbs. 9 oz.
Capacities: 45, 60, 90, 120L
What we like: Packed with features.
What we don’t: No shoulder strap.
The Gregory Alpaca is a high-capacity duffel that checks all the boxes. It has a large U-shaped opening, padded and removable backpack straps, and is made with a durable 900-denier ripstop nylon fabric with a water-resistant coating. Throw in storm flaps over the top zipper, plenty of daisy chains, and a sleek design, and you have another attractive outdoor/travel duffel to consider.
Why is the Gregory Alpaca ranked so low on the list? 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 size, 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. It's a solid duffel, but when you throw in the fact that the Alpaca is roughly the same price as bags from other top brands, it’s not a standout.
See the Gregory Alpaca 90 Duffel
Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz.
What we like: Lightweight and tough.
What we don’t: Steep price tag and lack of backpack straps.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is in a class of its own, but for serious outdoorspeople, their duffel is a very intriguing option. We’ll start by noting that this bag is not flashy or made for rolling through the airport on your next trip. The big selling point is the Dyneema fabric, which is used on ultralight tents and backpacks and known for its extremely impressive strength-to-weight ratio. If you’re looking for a lightweight, tough, weather-resistant, and large-capacity duffel that will fit on a pack horse or in a sled on your next backcountry foray, the HMG Dyneema Duffel is a great way to go.
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.
See the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Duffel
Weight: 3 lbs. 11 oz.
Capacities: 40, 70, 90, 130L
What we like: Durable, water-resistant, and streamlined design.
What we don’t: Shoulder straps could be improved.
Sweden-based Thule is a popular brand in the biking and car rack world, but it is relatively new to travel. Nevertheless, the Chasm is one sleek-looking duffel with great access and durability. We love the extra large U-shaped zipper, which is among the most generous on this list in terms of sizing, along with the 1,000-denier water-resistant outer fabric. The shoulder and backpack straps are removable, as are the carry handles (a rarity among duffels). For everything from air travel to the outdoors, Thule has done a nice job with the Chasm.
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 the bag is fully stuffed. But these are small gripes about an otherwise solid duffel, and we hope Thule continues to make strides with its bags.
See the Thule Chasm 70L Duffel
Weight: 8 lbs. 11.2 oz.
Capacities: 53 (22”), 74 (22”), 79 (26”), 131L (32”)
What we like: Removable daypack adds versatility for airline travel.
What we don’t: Very heavy and lacks the portability of non-wheeled models.
Like The North Face Rolling Thunder 22” above, the Granite Gear Cross-Trek 2 22” is ideal for travelers who want the convenience of a wheeled carry-on. However, the Cross-Trek stands apart in one major way: the addition of a removable daypack. For airline travel, you can unzip the 28-liter daypack and store it under your seat, while the 46-liter duffel goes in the overhead compartment. And once you reach your destination, the daypack doubles as a great around-town bag. Other notable features include nicely padded backpack-style straps for carrying the main unit, large and easy-to-roll wheels, water-resistant zippers, and a sturdy build.
Where does the Cross-Trek 2 22” fall short? At 8 pounds 11.2 ounces, it significantly outweighs all other duffels on this list, including the higher-capacity Osprey Shuttle 100L above. Simply put, we wouldn’t want to be carrying the full bag on our back for extended periods of time (even walking through the airport might feel like a chore). And like all other wheeled duffels, the Cross-Trek 2 can be tough to roll over uneven surfaces and has more breakable parts than shoulder-slung models. But you do get a rigid structure for protecting your belongings, and considering you’re getting two bags in one, the Cross-Trek 2 is an undeniable value for frequent travelers at just over $200.
See the Granite Gear Cross-Trek 2 22"
Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz.
Capacities: 30, 45, 65L
What we like: A no-frills, sleek duffel at an attractive price point.
What we don’t: Only one carrying strap.
If you’ve heard the saying “less is more,” then you’ll understand the philosophy behind Osprey’s Trillium. With a single carry strap and heavily streamlined design, the Trillium is one of the most pared-down duffels on the list, yet still manages to pack in many of the features we look for. You get a convenient U-shaped opening, pockets for separating the essentials, and lash points for securing the bag. And despite its lightweight and sleek package, the Trillium is plenty durable with a 1,000-denier packcloth material throughout. At $80 for the 65-liter version, the Trillium is a great value, especially considering Osprey is the industry’s top pack maker.
As we mentioned above, the Trillium is a trimmed-down duffel with few bells and whistles. You don’t get backpack or compression straps, although the bag’s shoulder strap does feature an easy-to-use adjustment system that allows you to sling it over your shoulder, across your back, or carry it in your hand. And unlike more outdoor-focused options, the Trillium’s packcloth fabric isn’t water-resistant, nor does it have a DWR coating for fending off light rain. All told, it’s a far cry from expedition-ready duffels like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Duffel or The North Face Base Camp above, but for everyday use and air travel, the Trillium is a solid bag at a good price.
See the Osprey Trillium 65
Weight: 2 lbs. 11 oz.
Capacities: 40, 80L
What we like: A waterproof duffel at a much lower price than the YETI Panga.
What we don’t: No backpack straps and the roll-top closure is prone to user error.
Along with the YETI Panga, SealLine’s WideMouth Duffle is the only other waterproof duffel on this list. These two bags are quite different, however: the SealLine is made with vinyl instead of the YETI's thick nylon, resulting in a significantly lower weight and profile. Further, the roll-top design means that it can't be fully submerged but it does pack down nicely to accommodate any size load. And perhaps most importantly, the WideMouth is less than one-third the price of the Panga.
Why do we have the SealLine ranked here? The YETI has more structure and is much easier to pack, not to mention the fully waterproof zipper system mitigates the common user error of creating a roll-top seal (SealLine also makes the Zip Duffle, which has a waterproof main zipper). Moreover, the YETI has backpack straps and therefore is easier to carry. And the cherry on top: the extra thickness of the YETI means that it’s much more durable in the long term. But for those looking for a waterproof duffel without breaking the bank, the SealLine WideMouth is a nice option.
See the SealLine WideMouth Waterproof Duffle
Weight: 2 lbs. 15 oz.
Capacities: 40, 60, 105L
What we like: Great features at a relatively low price point.
What we don’t: Not as durable as the Black Hole or Base Camp.
The All Around is Backcountry’s recent addition to the outdoor duffel market, and a nice value at that. Similar to the Patagonia Black Hole and The North Face’s Base Camp above, it boasts a U-shaped zipper opening, several pockets for organization, and offers the option of being worn as a backpack. And like the Base Camp, an external zipper on one end opens to a large secondary compartment, which is great for separating dirty laundry or shoes.
Backcountry didn’t necessarily do anything new with the All Around, but they did make a quality bag at a reasonable price point. Compared to our top-ranked Black Hole, the All Around lags behind in durability (it has 300-denier fabric vs. the Patagonia’s 900 denier), weather resistance (the Backcountry lacks the waterproof laminate coating of the Black Hole), and capacity options. Further, the All Around only is available in three colors and sports a very large logo on one end, which not everyone will appreciate. For $19 more, we’ll stick with the tried-and-true Black Hole, but the All Around is another viable option in this category.
See the Backcountry All Around 60L
|Patagonia Black Hole 55||$139||2 lbs. 9.1 oz.||Yes||900D||40, 55, 70, 100L||No (available)|
|North Face Rolling Thunder||$269||7 lbs. 5.5 oz.||No||1000D||40, 80, 155L||Yes|
|REI Co-op Roadtripper 100L||$60||1 lb. 8 oz.||No||610D||40, 60, 100, 140L||No|
|Osprey Shuttle 100L||$290||8 lbs. 3 oz.||No||420D||100, 130L||Yes|
|YETI Panga 75||$350||6 lbs. 2 oz.||Yes||1680D||50, 75, 100L||No|
|Arc'teryx Carrier Duffle 55||$210||1 lb. 5 oz.||Yes||400D||40, 55, 80L||No|
|The North Face Base Camp||$139||3 lbs. 8 oz.||Yes||1000D||31, 50, 71, 95, 132, 150L||No|
|Osprey Transporter 65||$140||3 lbs. 2 oz.||Yes||840D||40, 65, 95, 130L||No|
|Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 60||$109||1 lb. 12 oz.||Yes||600D||45, 60, 90, 120L||No (available)|
|Filson Duffle Pack||$245||2 lbs. 4 oz.||Yes||600D||46L||No|
|Marmot Long Hauler Large||$139||2 lbs. 11.4 oz.||Yes||600D||35, 50, 75, 105L||No (available)|
|Gregory Alpaca 90 Duffel||$150||3 lbs. 9 oz.||Yes||900D||45, 60, 90, 120L||No|
|Hyperlite Dyneema Duffel||$525||2 lbs. 10 oz.||No||Unavail.||140L||No|
|Thule Chasm 70L Duffel||$140||3 lbs. 11 oz.||Yes||1000D||40, 70, 90, 130L||No|
|Granite Gear Cross-Trek 2||$210||8 lbs. 11.2 oz.||Yes||Unavail.||53, 74, 79, 131L||Yes|
|Osprey Trillium 65||$80||1 lb. 11 oz.||No||1000D||30, 45, 65L||No|
|SealLine WideMouth 80||$115||2 lbs. 11 oz.||No||Unavail.||40, 80L||No|
|Backcountry All Around 60L||$120||2 lbs. 15 oz.||Yes||300D||40, 60, 105L||No|
- Duffel Bag Categories: Travel, Outdoor, Waterproof
- Duffel Bag Capacity
- Roller (Wheeled) vs. Non-Roller Duffel Bags
- Carrying Options: Backpack Straps, Shoulder Straps, Handles
- Durability (Denier)
- Water Resistance
- U-Shaped Zipper Access
- Pockets & Organization
- Compression Straps
- Daisy Chains (Lash Points)
For most types of travel, from a weekend at the cabin to an international trip, a casual travel duffel will do the trick. You still get plenty of features with these bags: backpack straps are common (more on that below), many have a water-resistant finish for protection from light precipitation and wet ground, and organization can be good depending on the size. If you’re strictly using your duffel for air travel, a roller duffel is a good option: it will allow you to move quickly through the airport without having to haul your bag on your back or shoulder. For travelers who don’t plan on subjecting their bags to the elements for extended periods of time, travel duffels offer a nice mix of convenience and simplicity.
Many duffels on this list are made by big outdoor brands like Patagonia, The North Face, Osprey, and Marmot. Outdoor use can vary substantially, from throwing your bag in the back of a truck to hardcore expeditions (often tied to the side of a horse or in a sled). The good news is that versatility is a notable upside of these duffels: we’ll often use them for basic travel purposes as well, especially those with multiple carrying options and convenient organizational features like U-shaped openings and multiple pockets or compartments. For example, the Patagonia Black Hole, our top pick, can be used from anything from serious outdoor exploration to standard air travel (and it looks the part for both). In this category, look for robust fabrics with DWR coating, water-resistant zippers or storm-flaps, more comfortable backpack carrying straps, and lash points for grabbing the bag or attaching extra gear to the outside. And although outdoor duffels usually can keep your gear dry in a light rain, if you’re truly subjecting your bag to wet conditions, see the waterproof category below.
A small percentage of people want waterproof protection from their duffel (think rafters, fisherman, and backcountry winter adventurers). The market is limited, but two bags on the list are waterproof: the YETI Panga and SealLine WideMouth. The Panga is a beast of a bag, with the shape of a traditional duffel but with extra thick materials and a fully waterproof zipper. The SealLine, on the other hand, is a roll-top bag that more closely resembles a dry bag. Given their over-built nature, we wouldn’t want a waterproof duffel for anything but the harshest and wettest of environments. They simply are too heavy, expensive, and technically-oriented (minimal organization and straps) for everyday use. And it's worth mentioning that the Arc’teryx Carrier and Hyperlite Dyneema Duffel can also be used for some scenarios in which a waterproof duffel is being considered. They won’t handle submersion, but should be able to keep out rain or snow with similar waterproof fabrics, taped seams, and water-resistant zippers as a rain jacket.
Small: 25 to 50 liters
In terms of capacity, the duffels on this list range from 25 liters to a whopping 150 liters, so there’s a bag to match every activity and intended use. For solo travelers on overnight and weekend trips where you won’t be bringing a bunch of gear, a smaller duffel in the 25 to 40-liter range should do the trick. A good number of these models are carry-on compatible, saving you the time and the potential cost of checking a bag. For U.S. airlines, there isn’t a universal carry-on size, but 22 x 14 x 9-inch is quite common (at the time of publication, these are the maximum dimensions for Delta, United, JetBlue, and others). It’s worth noting that almost all carry-on compatible bags will advertise themselves as such, but the general cut-off is right around 40 liters.
Medium: 50 to 75 liters
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 55-liter Patagonia Black Hole more than any other duffel in our closet.
Large: 75 liters+
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.
The roller duffel is one of those “have your cake and eat it too” scenarios for travelers wanting the ease of wheeling their bag with the packing convenience of a duffel. We’ll start by noting that roller duffels are quite popular, and particularly for air travel. You simply take the bag out of your car, wheel to check-in or your gate if it’s a carry-on, and you’re off. Roller duffels are ideal for those who don’t want to carry their bag on their back or shoulder, and some of the smaller versions (in the 40-liter range and under) are carry-on compatible.
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 sufficient rolling surfaces (they lack 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 (heavier 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.
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.
We’ve all been there: clumsily dragging our bag across the airport lobby and cursing ourselves for not purchasing something with wheels. And if you’re looking for a bag in the 60-liter range or larger, know that when it gets full, it’s going to be heavy. The good news is that duffel manufacturers have gotten creative with designing bags that can be carried in a multitude of ways. Below are the main carrying options, and some fully featured bags offer all four.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 300D for the Backcountry All Around. 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.
Duffels advertised as “water-resistant” are designed to keep your belongings protected from light rain and soggy ground. These models often cover their durable ripstop fabric with a laminate that keeps moisture from soaking in (often a DWR treatment or something similar). A DWR treatment certainly is a nice feature for everyone using a duffel: the weather is unpredictable when traveling, you never know when your duffel might be sitting on the tarmac for a few extra minutes, and it’s super helpful for outdoor use. In addition, some bags have flaps covering the zippers, which can be a point of weakness. Water-resistant gear does have limitations: it should work well in light-to-moderate precipitation but eventually will soak through.
As mentioned above, a few duffels on this list take it a step further. The YETI Panga and SealLine WideMouth are waterproof, and the YETI can even be submerged (no guarantees, but your stuff should stay dry). In addition, the Dyneema fabric used on the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Duffel is naturally water-resistant and does a really nice job in this regard. All things considered, a waterproof duffel is essential for water sports but overkill for travelers who stick to land.
Some travelers may not care about the weight of their duffel, but for others it’s a factor, and particularly with heavier rolling models. Most non-wheeled duffels weigh just a few pounds or less, which makes them easy to carry, throw in your car, and store when not in use. Rolling duffels, on the other hand, tend to get a bit heavy. For example, The North Face Rolling Thunder weighs 9 pounds 2.2 ounces empty for the 80-liter version, which already accounts for almost 20 percent of the standard 50-pound limit for checked bags. And the Osprey Shuttle weighs 8 pounds 3 ounces but has a larger capacity at 100 liters (and comes in a massive 130-liter version). We can tell you that a loaded Osprey Shuttle 100L with things like shoes can get awfully close to the 50 pounds: we’ve been in the high 40s on a number of occasions. It’s also worth noting that a 45-pound bag isn’t the easiest to get in and out of your car or up a flight of stairs.
Packability often goes hand-in-hand with weight, and lighter duffels generally are more packable than heavier options. On the list above, the Arc’teryx Carrier Duffle 55 is our top pick for an ultralight/packable duffel because of its scant 1-pound-5-ounce weight and ability to stuff down nicely into the included zippered sack. Other stowable options on the list include the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 60 (1 pound 12 ounces) and REI Co-op Roadtripper (1 pound 8 ounces), both of which can be packed into one of their own pockets when not in use. For travelers who plan to stuff their duffel into another bag or suitcase or who simply don’t want a large item taking up valuable storage space at home, packability should be an important consideration.
Before you purchase a duffel, make sure you know what kind of access you’ll need. Will you be living out of your bag while traveling or simply unpacking at your destination? How bulky are the belongings that you’ll put inside? How full are you planning to stuff your duffel?
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 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.
When choosing a duffel, consider how much you’ll want access to your belongings as you travel. The most streamlined models feature one large compartment with no internal organization (the REI Roadtripper, for example), while more fully featured designs include handy external pockets for small items or padded compartments for a tablet or computer. Rolling duffels such as the Osprey Shuttle are downright luxurious, with numerous external pockets and internal dividers to help you organize your clothing inside (the Shuttle even includes an expandable external pocket so you can separate dirty clothes or hiking shoes from the rest of your belongings). For travelers, we think that at least one external pocket is nice to separate out your smaller essentials.
Compression straps, both internal and external, can help make a duffel’s load more compact. Internal straps remove strain from the zipper and compress your gear inside the duffel to keep it from shifting during transit. We see these on models like the Patagonia Black Hole and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Duffel. External compression straps can be on the ends or sides (such as with The North Face Base Camp) and tighten the duffel after the zipper has been shut. External straps are especially useful on large duffels that might not be stuffed to capacity, and they help make your bag less unruly for travel. Additionally, if you plan on frequently carrying your duffel as a backpack, we encourage you to consider a model with compression straps—it makes the whole operation a lot more comfortable.
If you’re using your duffel primarily to transport your belongings via plane, train, or automobile, you’re probably wondering why you might need the daisy chains lining the exterior. However, put your pack in a raft, saddle it to a mule, or strap it to the roof of your van, and you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them. Not all duffels come with daisy chains (a.k.a. lash points) and some have more than others. If you know that you’ll need to secure your duffel for a wild ride, definitely be on the lookout for a bag that sports plenty of reinforced lash points. The most outdoorsy the bag, the more likely it is to be lined with daisy chains.
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