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 (it 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.
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.
how to pack bags for travel
Duffels are a popular choice among travelers because they are often lighter than standard luggage, but can hold a lot of gear. As luggage companies expand and improve on duffel bags, you’ll find some with rolling wheels, backpack straps, waterproof material and stylish designs. Whether in need of a carry-on sized bag or something a bit larger, check out our recommendations for the best duffels available today.
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.
In general, the outer pockets on the top and bottom of the bag embed into the larger bag, so if you are searching for something in the larger bag, you have to move around the outer pockets to look around. It seems it might be better to just have layered pockets so that if you were looking at the bag from the top, there were two different larger pockets you could open to get into the main space of the bag.
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.
What are the downsides of the Granite Gear? With a 600-denier shell, it’s reasonably durable but not quite as thick or water resistant as non-packable options from Patagonia and The North Face above (more weight equals more thickness). In addition, the bag does a fine job at carrying your gear but doesn’t offer much in the way of structure. For an even lighter packable option, the Mountain Hardwear Lightweight Expedition weighs 6 ounces less but does not offer the U-shaped opening, backpack straps, or durability.
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.
Made with beautiful full grain calfskin leather that has deep color tones and looks better as it ages. The vegetable tanned base creates the rich brown and red colors while the semi gloss finish helps prevent stains. Over time this leather will soften and develop a beautiful patina. Our 8 oz cotton duck canvas lining is made in South Carolina and very durable. The combination of Italian vegetable tanned leather and strong U.S. made canvas lining makes this bag an all time best seller.
For any long distance your kit must be transported, the Base Camp's shoulder straps made it one of the most comfortable models to carry "backpack-style". The latest iteration, released in Fall '15, features an extra externally accessed zippered pocket, which adds much welcomed organizational capacity. Overall one of the easiest models to load and rummage through, the Base Camp is also among the most weather-resistant and most durable models tested. It also comes in a large variety of sizes and colors. Our only wish is that it was lighter for the same durability and function.
Nearly all the duffels with backpack straps were reasonably comfortable to carry, and because all of our reviews find this such a valuable feature, it was a design focus during our model selection process. A couple of standouts were The North Face Base Camp and the Patagonia Black Hole, which were exceptionally comfortable and even still reasonable. When we say reasonable, we mean the blood circulation to your arms wouldn't be cut off, something that was the case with many models with poorly designed shoulder straps (even when worn for short durations when loaded with 50+ pounds).
Almost all the non-wheeled models we selected for this review have decent daisy chains and grab loops. Two Top Pick winners are almost entirely devoid of daisy chains. The external profile of both the Yeti Panga and Bago Travel are almost entirely devoid of lash points. The Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole is similarly lacking in lash points. The rest of the non-wheeled bags have good options. The Gregory Alpaca, with its robust reinforced daisy chains, stood out. The daisy chains ran the full length of the bag, and its large grab loops made it easy to attach to almost anything, whether that be a sled or llama. The North Face Base Camp and the Patagonia Black Hole weren't too far behind, as both offer ease of transport. We feel wheeled duffels are great for traditional travel and duffels are better for non-traditional travel or for trips where getting every ounce possible without going over the 50-pound limit is of the utmost importance.