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For Ease of Packing: The easiest models to pack and unpack were The North Face Rolling Thunder 30" and 36" models. Both of these duffel bags featured a large opening that still was easy to zip closed when the bag was full. The Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled was also extremely easy to pack up as well as all the more traditional non-wheeled duffels we tested. A rigorous criterion for them to even be selected for non-wheeled models was their ease of packing. Most of the duffels we tested have U-shaped openings. The Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole, Top Pick Yeti Panga, and Top Pick Bago all have straight "I-shaped" zippers and were subsequently harder to load and unload.
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The top competitors were reasonably close; however, the Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole performed a step above most of the rest for weather resistance. Its 100% ripstop nylon with a (most importantly) TPU-film laminate and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish was weather resistant in both our real-world and our side-by-side testing. Even its water-tight zipper lived up to its name, and even after several minutes of directly spraying it with a garden hose it only let a few drops of water in. Exceeding the waterproof performance of the Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole (and therefore all of the other bags we tested) is the Top Pick Yeti Panga. The Panga replicates river rafting equipment performance and is completely submersible. To the attributes of a river rafting duffel bag, the Yeti adds greater durability and backpack straps. It truly stands out.
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Alex, I’m so happy I found your site and watched all the Live events from LV. We are traveling to Europe during August and September this year and as you can imagine – coming from Australia will require some super packing and discovering handy tips is a bonus. We are going Sydney – Rome – up through Italy to Switzerland, France, Germany, Scotland, Norway – well I hope I haven’t forgotten anything…. anyway, it means lots of different weather… I love everything you have shown, especially a bag to keep your things safe!
Why is the Gregory Alpaca ranked here? 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 type, 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. When you throw in the fact that the Alpaca is roughly the same price as bags from other top brands, it’s a solid duffel but not a standout.
It loads from the top, but it also has a reinforced bottom compartment with bumper guards and ballistic nylon fabric to protect your delicate possessions. You can also access the bottom of the main compartment through the zippered curtain divider. The Alpha 2 Split Duffel also comes with two front U-zip pockets, a telescoping handle, and an adjustable shoulder strap.
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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Don’t let the rain keep you from exploring. This Baggallini crossbody is also a stylish travel purse, light and water-resistant, so you can take advantage of wet travel days without worrying about your valuables and electronics getting drenched. It comes with a removable RFID-resistant wallet you can pull out of the middle of the bag. For me, this feels safer than having an outside zippered pocket for my cards.
Thanks for a great article and reviews. I travel a lot to Africa and tend to keep it simple, never leave valuables lying around in plain sight, always carry bags across body, and keep it small. I have however been burgled at night while asleep and lost many digital devices (family trip) which were scattered around the house we were sleeping in. Since then I sleep with my cell phone under the mattrass and travel hand bag with passports and wallet tucked under the bed!
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Wheels naturally make it far easier to move the bag around on paved roads or other relatively even surfaces, and for most air travel applications, they are much easier to manage and what we prefer for traditional air-travel. The significant advantage of more conventional duffels over wheeled versions is much-lower weight and their ability to be more easily taken to far more rugged environments and locations. Let's start with weight: wheeled duffels are always heavier, most often four to six pounds heavier, meaning you get to bring more of your stuff by going with a non-wheeled, non-framed duffel.
Wherever you’re going, get there in effortless style with a quality crafted travel bag. At Sole Society, we know that that best part of traveling is snapping that perfect weekend-warrior pic and just wait for the likes and comments to pour in. That’s why we’ve hand selected every bag you see in our travel bag collection to ensure you always look your best, without having to compromise on space.
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.
The timeless popularity of L.L.Bean’s Boat and Tote bag is a testament to its quality and durability. But for those wanting a bit more organization and a little less Nantucket, here’s an alternative: the Everyday Lightweight Tote. Starting at just $35, this tote will last you many years even with daily use. Water-resistant nylon makes it great for the pool or beach and the reinforced handles can withstand heavy lifting. There's also an exterior slot, interior pocket, and key clip keep your phone, wallet, and keys at the ready without digging around.
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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.
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The crossbody strap makes it easy to walk around hands-free and the slim look makes it elegant but not too noticeable – which is perfect if you're trying to blend in and not call too much attention to yourself. It's one of the best leather travel purses around. It's not cheap, but I've had mine for years and it only looks the better for wear. And it holds everything I need for a day of sightseeing.