Backcountry didn’t necessarily do anything new with the Trekker, but they did make a quality bag at a reasonable price point. Compared to our top-ranked Black Hole, the Trekker 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 Trekker only is available in two colors and sports a very large logo on one end, which not everyone will appreciate. For $9 more, we’ll stick with the tried-and-true Black Hole, but the Trekker is another viable option in this category.
Backpacks are a tourist’s best friend because you can carry all of the items you need for the day on your back as you wander around town and explore exciting new destinations and historical sites. Cushioned pockets protect your electronics so you can travel with your laptop or tablet and keep all those delicate electronics protected. Small pockets in the front hold your wallet, keys and other important items. Personalized backpacks feature your name or initials, making it easy to distinguish your bag from others’ things.
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.
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.
Pack like a pro for your next wedding/business trip with a sleek garment weekender from Hook & Albert, or head to Paris in style with the latest monogram keepall from Luis Vuitton. For those who want to rough it, there’s hardly a better option than The North Face’s kick-ass adventure duffel, while for everyone else, there’s always a sublimely versatile leather travel bag that screams both cozy countryside getaway and luxurious city escape.
For more traditional air or bus travel, wheeled duffels are excellent, as they are just plain easier to get around with and their heavier weight is typically less of an issue. For expeditions or more exotic travel, we prefer traditional duffels because of their low weight, ease of transporting on non-smooth surfaces, and ability to be transported by non-traditional means (AKA strapped to animals, boats, snowmobiles, etc.)
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I have so many packing tips… Using packing cells, using clip seal bags, taking a tiny pocket sized foldable backpack in case of unexpected purchases, downloading offline maps apps and translators and using dryer sheets in my luggage. But the best travel tip I have is actually a very simple one- look confident. I travel a lot and before I walk out the door each day I scan a map to orient myself, ensure I have an offline map just in case, put on some really reflective aviators and make sure I look like I know where I am going (even though most of the time I have no idea!) I find looking confident and purposeful means you don’t look like a tourist and makes you less of a target to anyone with ill intentions.
More traditional duffels are also easier to carry anytime you are not on a smooth surface. While the wheels help on the pavement, they are a down-right hassle when the going gets rough. Wheeled bags typically offer limited, or no other carrying options (for instance, no bags we tested have wheels and backpack shoulder straps. We're working on testing products that do both), making traveling with them difficult in remote or exotic locations. It is often far easier to deal with non-wheel luggage when you are strapping your bag to jeeps, yaks, sleds, snowmobiles, llamas, rafts, or anything else that your adventure might require. Lastly, we've experienced flying in small 2-5 person "commercial" planes in both Africa and Alaska that wouldn't let us bring hard-sided luggage along.
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.
I have a PacSafe cross body bag. It’s not the most fashionable but I do like it. Locking zippers, wires in strap to prevent slash ‘n grab thieves ,Rfid internal picket, external pocket for water bottle too. I chose this style for the safety features but also, I can put my 35mm DSLR camera inside the bag and not look completely like a tourist at times.
what's in your travel bags
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. And it’s worth mentioning the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Duffel, which is not waterproof but highly water resistant and surprisingly tough.
Of course, with weight, the most significant thing is what type of packer you are and the kinds of trips you like to go on. Its far easier to stay under weight going to a tropical climate than a cold one. So if you find yourself regularly battling with the 50-pound weight limit, going with a little lighter model can save you from a slight headache, excess weight fees, or extra weight in your carry-on. Among the wheeled duffels, the Patagonia Black Hole Wheelie is the lightest at eight pounds 10 ounces, nearly 1-1.5 pounds lighter than either size of The North Face Rolling Thunder.
Made by Boarding Pass in Brooklyn, NY, the Voyager Waxed Weekender is all at once practical, elegant, and adventure ready. Built from Martexin waxed canvas and adorned with exceptional leather detailing from the likes of legendary Wickett & Craig, it’s as suitable for a quick fall escape in the Catskills as it is for an epic sightseeing trip to Barcelona.
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It can be a little hard to close because there is a metal frame where the zipper is to keep it’s doctor bag shape. So if you overstuff the bag, you may not be able to close it. There are plenty of pockets inside to keep everything organized. The pockets for electronics are padded. (I love that there’s a pocket for my laptop and a separate for my ipad). The biggest plus to this bag and probably one of the main reasons i picked this bag over other ... full review
If you’re planning a long weekend getaway, the “Plambag Unisex Canvas Duffel” is a stylish-looking bag that is also functional and affordable. It's made of cotton canvas material that comes in grey, coffee, army green or dark grey, and it also features classic, attractive zipper pulls. Wear it on your shoulder or leave the strap and carry it like a tote. There are three layers of lining, rubber grips on the bottom (so if you set it on something wet it won’t seep through the fabric) and plenty of pockets. When fully expanded, it measures 24.4 x 9.8 x 11.8 inches otherwise it is 20.8 inches long – a great size for a short trip.