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 (such as with the Gregory Stash) or sides (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.
There really are no corners cut in the manufacture of this product, other than perhaps the plastic zipper (which is nevertheless sturdy and probably one reason this beautiful bag is such a steal). The hardware is better than basic, and strong, but not top of the line -- but it's a trifle. In searching for any other negatives, the strap is pretty basic and a little too thin and narrow, meaning it's not very comfortable if you've got 25 or 30 pounds in the bag, but it works. There are no outside pockets, but chances are if you stuff the bag to the gills, you wouldn't be able to fit anything in one anyhow.
1. For a $200+ dollar bag, I would not expect to have so many problems with the zippers. The design of zippers around the top of the bag is such that they get stuck in the corners at the bottoms and it take a minute of rearranging the sit of the zipper tracks and jangling with the zipper to get it come unstuck and finally zip up. On my bag, this is a bigger problem on the right side corner as you are looking at it. Perhaps this could be remedied by simply using a slightly bigger zipper track or bigger zipper tag? Regardless, its an obnoxious tick.

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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.
LOVE this bag!! I cannot say enough good things about this gorgeous bag. I bought it in 2011 as a gift for my husband. We have taken it on countless trips. It is stunning and worth every penny. It is holding up fabulously. It will hold a lot, approximately enough clothes for 5 days. He usually takes it as his carry on but if its just a long weekend, he uses it as his bag. Sometimes he even lets me borrow it. It looks expensive and I can wholeheartedly say its one of the GREATEST purchases I ever made on amazon.
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.

After using the newer Base Camp model on just a few trips, our testing team unanimously gave the thumbs up to this additional pocket, which added just enough organizational options. The same could be said for the Long Hauler. Other organizational features that our testers appreciated were the dual inner, zippered mesh pockets featured on the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel and Black Hole Wheeled Duffel, Gregory Alpaca, and The North Face Rolling Thunder.

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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 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 can’t get wet). For a cheaper waterproof duffel option, see the SealLine WideMouth below.
I think Pacsafe bags are built much better than Travelon, though Travelon is definitely more fashionable. I absolutely loved having my Pacsafe Citysafe CS300 with me in Europe this summer. I used it to carry my camera (a6000), extra lens, gorillapod, and as a daypack. It even fits my iPad pro 10.5 in it’s logitech case. I felt totally confident on the metros and even my newly-made friends commented on it. Plus, the cranberry color is so cute! I even took it to the beach and was able to use a small cable to attach and lock it to my rented beach umbrella and/or chair while I went swimming. It really took a lot of stress out of the trip since I was traveling solo. 🙂
The “black hole” duffel bag lives up to its name for travel writer and photographer Michaela Trimble, who has toted it all over the world, most recently to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Madagascar. “It fit everything I needed for a nearly two-month trip with room to spare,” she said, “and it barely came back with a scratch.” Laminated fabric and water-repellent coating protect the bag from the elements and any damage that may occur in transit, while keeping it lightweight (under three pounds). Trimble also likes that it “comes with padded straps, so it can easily and comfortably be carried as a backpack.”
Priced at $80, the Gregory Stash is an affordable duffel with an attractive design. We’ll start with the Stash’s simple zipper opening that extends the length of the duffel, which is not our preferred closure (U-shaped is better). The zipper does reach the end flaps, however, allowing the main compartment to expand up and out when packing and providing better access than others of its kind. You also get generous padding on the straps and a large outside pocket for valuables.

I am traveling with my Travelon bag now and it is wonderful. My best travel tip is to use a tether to attach your smart phone to your bag. I tuck the tether into the bag when I’m not using the phone for a camera. Admittedly it does not quite pass muster as stylish but if I have to choose between stylish and not losing my phone, I will choose not loosing every time!

In addition to using them in the real world, we conducted a number of side-by-side tests in an attempt to measure each contender's overall weather resistance. We didn't weigh Weather Resistance as high as other categories like Ease of Packing and Comfort to Carry but it remains an important category never-the-less. Weather resistance is important when you want to keep your stuff dry as you take it out of the car on a soggy day or when it's being driven around on the tarmac. We also find it useful for travel to more exotic locations where it may spend longer periods in the elements.


I would like to say that cross body bags are targets for thieves. The three times I was robbed while living in south america involved cross body bags. For one, they are easy to rip off your body with enough force. That’s how I got robbed once. Someone just ripped it right off of me. I’ve heard of this happening to someone else. Someone on a bike rode by this woman and just ripped it right off of her. They also are easy for thieves to get their hands into without you looking so one that zips is essential. Thats how I was robbed the other two times – having a bag that didn’t zip.
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