Whether you’re traveling by air, driving up to a cabin for the weekend, or venturing across the world on an expedition, you’ll likely be using a duffel bag to get your gear from one place to the next. Duffels are popular among all kinds of travelers for good reason: they’re easy to load and carry on the road, and many are built to take a beating. Below we break down the best duffel bags of 2019, including top travel, outdoors, and waterproof duffels of both the standard and rolling varieties. For more background information, see our duffel bag comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
For a timeless look and heirloom-quality construction, you can’t get better than duffels from American heritage brand Filson. The brand tests their gear on real-life customers who haul their bags hunting, fishing, and even dog-sledding, so this bag is guaranteed to weather every weekend trip you haul it on — and that leather will only look better with age.
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Personalized overnight bags are excellent companions for short trips and long vacations alike. Choose from a variety of sizes to accommodate how much you need to pack. Stylish leather overnight bags are attractive and durable, while tough and rugged nylon duffels can stand up to the roughest conditions with ease. If you’re shopping for a gift for a frequent traveler, consider personalized overnight bags. Adding monogrammed initials or a name makes the gift special, and our monogramming services are free, so adding that personal touch couldn’t be easier.
For most types of travel, from a weekend at the cabin to an international trip, a casual duffel will do the trick. You still get plenty of features with these bags: backpack straps are common (more on that below), many have a water resistant finish for protection from light precipitation and wet ground, and organization can be good depending on the size. If you’re strictly using your duffel for air travel, a roller duffel is a good option: it will allow you to move quickly through the airport without having to haul your bag on your back or shoulder.
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Our testers thought having the pocket divided made it significantly more useful compared to the single giant mesh pocket. In fact, they missed it when we used models that didn't offer this feature. This was one of the most significant drawbacks of our Editors' Choice The North Face Base Camp; it just had one sizeable inner mesh zippered pocket, which was nice, but again, our testing team enjoyed having the two smaller pockets significantly more. Many of the bags had flat outside zippered pockets, like the Helly Hansen Duffel Bag 2 and the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel. While this is a good thought, these pockets were hard to get our hands into when the bags were full.
Kate Spade New York is famous around the world for creating luxe handbags and stylish accessories. This stowaway case is no exception. The durable suitcase is constructed of fiberboard and is accented with leather straps. Inspired by a vintage design, this case has a double latch with metal buckle closures and features a telescoping pull handle; top and side carry handles, and interior zip pocket. It also includes a detachable toiletries case that conveniently transforms into an easy-hang washbag.
Both the strap and purse body are made of slashproof mesh, the straps and zippers lock, and the inner compartment blocks RFID thieves. And I know you could buy an LED light anywhere, but I love that this purse comes with one attached. This is an ideal lightweight travel handbag to slip into your luggage or use for the basics - passport, money, cards, phone...
I wanted to use this good before I left this review. We used this bag as a carry on for our Mexican vacation then we used it as a beach bag a down town shoppping bag, it’s been used hard for a week let’s put it that way. And my boyfriend and I both love the bag. No damage rips or tears. No color fading. I might actually buy more for travels! It fits so much clothes towels, gifts, you can put a lot in this bag. You won’t regret the decision.
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Your travel bag needs minimal styling—it goes with just about everything. Want to travel in ultimate comfort? Try pairing your all-black activewear look with a black leather weekender for a cool and comfortable look that is always appreciated. If you want to travel in style, pair your skinny ankle jeans, chunky knit, and booties with a cognac leather travel bag for a casual and timeless look.
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For frequent air travelers, there is a lot to be said for the convenience of a wheeled duffel, and especially one that can be used as a carry-on. At 40 liters, the TNF Rolling Thunder is an optimal size for air travelers who don’t pack the kitchen sink. The wheels are large yet smooth and functional over a variety of surfaces, equally at home from the airport to far-flung villages. And while the bag expands nicely to accommodate full loads, compression straps help to keep the size within airline regulations.
My favorite tip is to be organized and prepared but still willing to be spontaneous. When going new places, my husband and I research the top places to go, get recommendations, and decide what general areas we want to go to. We make sure to hit the top things on our list and then just wander to see what else we can find. When we went to Tokyo, we found the best ramen place and a beautiful little park just by wandering around.
Get a travel credit card with a limit on it. If it does get lost or stolen, it will prevent a lavish spending spree. Also carry a cc that doesn’t have charge fees associated with use, some cards will charge 3-5% per use. If two of you are travelling together, each person should have a different credit card in the event one gets lost/stolen and you need to cancel it, the other person has a different one for expenses. Do not travel with items you never want to loose, leave them at home.
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I figured I would share this gem. This bag is one of the best investments that I have ever made. It literally holds my life in there! The inside is perfect with a large amount of space, one zippered pocket, and another deep pocket along the backside of the pack. These two pocket are perfect to store stuff in that you don’t want stolen. This bag has large straps that can’t be cut, and it also very stylish for even the fashionistas out there. I can’t wait to get another before my trip to Spain!
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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Grab handles often are located on the ends or sides of a bag and sit close to the surface. Similar to carry handles, they are used to quickly lift or slide a duffel. Having a grab handle on each side is convenient when moving the bag around (think about grabbing it from the overhead bin of an airplane or the storage compartment on the bottom of a bus). We love grab handles: they are one the reasons that duffels are so versatile and easy to move 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 shortcomings of the Osprey Shuttle mostly relate to the design itself. First, you are not throwing this duffel over your shoulder and strolling through the airport or walking through a major city. It’s big and heavy at over 8 pounds empty, and must be transported almost exclusively on wheels. In addition, when packed to the brim, you may find yourself pushing the standard 50-pound checked baggage limit, and particularly if you go with the 130-liter version (we’ve been okay with the 100-liter but have been close on occasion). Finally, we’ve been surprised at how much wear and tear shows on the Osprey Shuttle. We got ours in bright red but would recommend the black instead.
For those who are able to throw their bag over their back and walk with it, backpack straps are our preferred carrying method. Many of the high-end bags on this list have backpack straps that are lightly padded and often removable. One duffel in particular, the Osprey Transporter, has many similarities to an actual backpack and is great for those planning to cover longer distances. Keep in mind that carrying comfort does vary, which is one reason why some bags are ranked higher than others. When not in use, many backpack straps simply detach for storage in the main compartment (this keeps them out of airport conveyor belts). Sometimes, simply tightening down the straps flush to the bag can be enough.
The North Face Base Camp featured highly contoured backpack shoulder straps with high-quality foam that didn't collapse under loads. Both the Base Camp and Black Hole could be worn for extended periods and over distances with only minimal discomfort. Not that we'd recommend this, but a good friend of ours who doesn't own a large pack hiked all the way into the Bugaboos (a 3-4 hour hike, 2,300 ft of elevation gain) with massive loads in a Black Hole Duffel. This isn't ideal but is a testament to both his toughness and to the comfort of some duffel bag shoulder straps.
Many airlines will ask you to remove your duffel's shoulder straps before checking it, so they don't get hung up on the conveyor belt. The Black Hole had shoulder straps that were the easiest to remove and re-attach, which is a bonus when wearing your duffel like a backpack all the way to the check-in counter. Similarly, the backpack straps of the Top Pick Yeti Panga are easy to clip on and off.
This duffel bag came highly recommended by our testers for its sleek design and its many useful storage compartments. It was also very comfortable to carry: “I really liked the strap and the bag didn’t seem too bulky even when there was a lot of stuff inside of it,” one tester noted. The only thing our testers wished was different? The bag’s size. “I would have made it little larger,” said one reviewer. “With a laptop inside, I couldn’t fit a ton of clothes.”
Another sporty duffel bag, this one from the makers of our all-time favorite cooler, can also be worn as a backpack and is made from thick, laminated nylon that’ll withstand any rough baggage handling. It’s also completely waterproof — the zippers tuck into enclosed docks — so there’s no need to fear a rainstorm or wet ground ruining your clothing or gear inside.
Most of the models in our fleet used 900D PU, PE rip-stop nylon, or polyester material throughout the duffel, with an additional layer of 630D nylon on the bottom, or other high wear areas, which help to maximize a given model's life. While these materials are straight-up burly and will last the vast majority of user's decades of abuse, the Base Camp Duffel has proven itself as one of the longest-lasting contenders out there.
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Our team of travel experts will teach you how to optimize your packing experience, and get the most bang out of your luggage set. Using tricks like the “roll-up squeeze,” or the layer cake technique, find out what packing style makes the most sense for which trip. Our packing shortcuts and hacks will amaze you when it comes time to pack, making the whole process go more smoothly.
Patagonia’s Black Hole line helped made duffels cool, and we think the 60-liter version is the best all-around bag on the market. Starting with design, Patagonia is known for premium build quality and trendy colorways, and the Black Hole fits the bill perfectly. It’s beautifully constructed from end to end, and you get multiple color options from simple black to blaze orange. And the Black Hole is tough: the fabric is 900D ripstop nylon with a DWR finish to fend off moisture. This duffel is not waterproof like the YETI and SealLine models below, but should keep your gear dry in light rain just fine.
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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.
The Gregory Alpaca is a high capacity duffel that checks all the boxes. It has a large U-shaped opening, padded and removable backpack straps, and is made with a durable 900D ripstop nylon fabric with a water-resistant coating. Throw in storm flaps over the top zipper, plenty of daisy chains, and a sleek design, and you have another attractive travel/outdoor duffel to consider.
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.
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The Trekker is Backcountry’s recent addition to the outdoor duffel market, and a nice value at that. Similar to the Patagonia Black Hole and The North Face’s Base Camp above, it boasts a U-shaped zipper opening, several pockets for organization, and offers the option of being worn as a backpack. And like the Base Camp, an external zipper on one end opens to a large secondary compartment, which is great for separating dirty laundry or shoes.
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.
Duffels that are 75 liters or larger are heavy haulers for longer trips, multiple people, and outdoor equipment (boots, backpacks, tents, etc.). When we fly to go backpacking, we love our 100-liter REI Co-op Roadtripper duffel: it can fit multiple empty backpacks, bulky footwear, and all of our extras. It’s worth noting that these bags can get heavy fast depending on what you stow inside of them, so keep an eye out for total weight as you’re packing. Clothing and most regular items should keep you below the 50-pound checked bag limit, but if you’re packing anything particularly heavy, it can be an issue. And for serious outdoor and expedition use, duffels like The North Face Base Camp are made all the way up to 150 liters.