Our reviewers spent 15 hours testing one of the most popular duffel bags available. To get the most well-rounded results, our testers packed their things and toted it to and from their destinations for hours at a time. We asked our reviewers to consider the most important features while using this duffel bag, from durability to comfort. We've outlined the major takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
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.
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.
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I bought a fabulous cross body satchel in dark grey canvas years ago it has flaps and zippered compartments – and plenty of room for a rain jacket – trouble is it is so heavy that by the end of a long day my neck hurts. So last time we went to the US I bought a small shoulder bag I wear it cross body and it has my phone credit card some cash and passports on it. Hubby gets a back pack with my scarf, rain jacket and a water bottle. Best reveal tip – make the husband carry the heavy stuff lol
The Bago Packable is built and marketed as what we'd call "secondary luggage"; it is a fairly lightweight, full-size duffel that can be folded and zipped into a small envelope when not in use. Whether it lives in your car for getting unexpected purchases into your 7th floor walk-up apartment or in your expedition luggage for moving groceries from Anchorage to the Ruth Glacier, a duffel bag like this is handier than you might first realize. It is closely comparable to (and snags this award from) the Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole. The Lightweight Black Hole is a little lighter (in absolute terms, for the respective sizes we tested) and more waterproof, but is only available in smaller sizes and doesn't have the organizational attributes of the Bago. When corrected for volume, the Bago is definitely lighter than the Patagonia.
I received the bag a little over a week ago and it looked great when I opened it. The only problem was the smell. The smell was like rancid oil on leather. To fix the smell, I conditioned it with Mothers leather conditioner. After letting it sit overnight the smell of clean leather came back. The quality seems great so far the leather feels nice and feels good. I took it on a four day trip and had no problems. I'm taking it on another weekend trip this weekend 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.
The Top Pick Bago Packable has four pockets in addition to the main compartment. Among lightweight bags, this is well above the competition. One of the Bago pockets is an externally accessed, large and variable volume "shoe/wet" compartment that sequesters dirty or damp things from the rest of your gear. Its volume is shared with the main compartment. If the main bag is full, you won't get much in the sequestered compartment. It is a clever and welcome design that we've seen in other bags and are happy to observe and use in this ultra-lightweight piece of equipment.
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Make sure you have everything packed and organized with a duffel bag from our selection. Large duffel bags with spacious capacities offer larger main compartments for storing your camping or sporting gear and equipment, while smaller bags and backpacks are great for storing just a few items on your way to practice or a game. Look for additional storage features as well, such as exterior or interior pockets, lined valuables pockets or wet and dry, ventilated storage compartments, so you can have a specialized place to put all your gear.
The Base Camp Duffel from The North Face is a fully-featured bag and a direct competitor to the Patagonia Black Hole above. It’s similarly tough and water resistant, offers easy access to the inside, and can be carried as a backpack, which we love. Both bags offer comparable organization pockets, but the Base Camp’s medium and large models add an exterior compartment on one end that allows you to separate dirty clothes and shoes. The Base Camp comes in more colors and designs than we can count, and is available in capacities ranging from 31 liters (XS) to a whopping 150 liters (XXL). For everything from a carry-on to an expedition workhorse, this is one of the most popular duffels on the market year after year.
For outdoor use and travel, there’s big demand for lightweight and packable duffels that can be easily stowed away at the bottom of another pack. The Granite Gear Packable Duffel is a prime example, weighing only 1 pound 8 ounces and coming with a separate case for easy storage. Despite the compact size, you still get plenty of features: the bag has a full backpack harness plus the regular assortment of straps and handles, a decently tough 600D shell fabric, and good access to the main compartment with a large U-shaped zipper. At only $60, there is a lot to like about this duffel.
This leather bag definitely is worth its price. It is large enough to be considered a weekender bag, fitting 2-3 days worth of clothes. It is also small enough to carry and look stylish. The durability of the leather is fantastic. I feel that it is thick enough to not tear easily, but soft enough to have that elegance. The redish brown color gives it a luxurious feel. I also like the inner lining, which whenever someone opens it, notices the fine detail.
what travel bag to buy
We’ve all been there: clumsily dragging our bag across the airport lobby and cursing ourselves for not purchasing something with wheels. And if you’re looking for a bag in the 60-liter range or larger, know that when it gets full, it’s going to be heavy. The good news is that duffel manufacturers have gotten creative with designing bags that can be carried in a multitude of ways. Below are the main carrying options, and some fully-featured bags offer all four.
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.