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.
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.
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The Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole most certainly lived up to its name and tips the scales at a scant 1 pound 2 ounces; this makes it the lightest model we tested. However, before we continue, we want to be clear that while this is the lightest-weight model in our review, it is also the smallest volume bag (45 liter, largest volume this the Lightweight Black Hole is made) of any option we tested. The Top Pick Bago Packable is a few ounces heavier but is much larger. Both the Patagonia Lightweight and the Bago come in different size options. The Patagonia is available in 30 and 45 liter versions. We tested the 1.1 pound 45 liter version. The Bago comes in 60, 80, and 100-liter versions. We tested the 1.4 pound 80-liter version. For almost twice the volume the Bago is only 27% heavier. When corrected for volume, the Bago is much lighter than the Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole.
Its a nice looking bag for sure. But after you use it a few times you notice its not really made that well. I know for $200 you can't expect much. For instance, the cloth on the inside of the bag is very thin and poorly sewn in. Also,the leather on the inside of the bag isn't treated and isn't double layered and sheds all over the inside of the bag every time you use it and so you have to brush off your clothes. (See pictures.) Also, the leather shoulder strap is so slippery it falls off just about every fabric you wear and so you will have to loop it over your head to get it to stay in place when walking through the airport or something.
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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.
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.
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I love my Henri Bendel Jetsetter Convertible Backpack! I have the larger and smaller bag. I used the larger one during my trip to Amesterdam and Paris. It was large enough for a rain jacket, light sweatshirt, water bottle, and my normal purse items (sun glasses, wallet, etc.). The bag was definitely full but I was out all day and the temperature changed greatly from morning to night. It was nice having everything I needed to stay comfortable. A few museums made you leave larger bags at the bag check and they seemed to only ask people with backpacks to check their bags. I loved the ability to quickly change the backpack to a handbag and bring it into museums. I hate leaving my personal belongings in the care of someone else. I highly recommend them!