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The Best Duffel Bags For Travel: Top 5 Revealed!

Traveling is for all occasions; I learned that when I chose to go away on the weekend of my 18th birthday. Ever since, I have been diversifying my trips between longer, more adventure-packed ones, and certainly more compact trips.

This is why I have chosen to talk about the importance of duffel bags and some of the few I have been looking into! Here I present to you five of the best duffel bags for travel!

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**Below, you find more detail reviews, but you also can click links above to see current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.

Duffel Bag or Small Suitcase?

You will be confronted with this before almost every trip you make, as they both have their personal pros and cons. The former provides versatility and a lightweight sturdiness, while the latter is easy to transport and can be used to carry more fragile objects. Whichever you choose, however, will hold a certain drawback, and I will talk about them here.

If you go the route of the suitcase, you are sacrificing a lot of mobility and flexibility. Duffels are much lighter than the small suitcases, and a lot less rigid, too. This makes the suitcase perfect for a holiday that does not require moving around a lot, for example leaving it behind in your accommodation.

On the other hand, the duffel bag means you have a constant weight on one side of your body at any given point in time. While yes, these days there are duffels that have wheels and a trolley handle, I personally feel these are much like a suitcase (as they are much more rigid). Duffels are more suited to a more active adventurer, which is why I am now in the market for a new one!

Single-point Entry?

One of the main gripes of the duffel bag is the general one-compartment style. Many do prefer having multiple compartments for the many things they will store, which is understandable. This type of packing, however, does come with its perks.

The zipper usually goes from one end to the other, allowing you access to the entire bulk of your things at once. This does offset the inconvenience of having to rummage through your stuff like a standard backpack would have you doing. A wide opening and one main compartment do also come with the additional positive of being able to transport much larger items than traditionally possible.

Durability?

Being able to withstand much in the way of weathering and wear and tear is the duffel bag’s biggest strength. The bottoms of these bags should be reinforced for all its uses, and the zippers should be relatively big and bulky to ensure they zip well and stay on the bag. Make sure to check the stitch-work and seams on the bag before purchase, too, as they are a common weak point in any bag.

Materials are also important to check when choosing a duffel. If you are looking for a bag that will stay together through your hikes and through many storms, you may want to get one made from heavy-duty polyurethane. For the day-to-day duffel, however, the much lighter, but less resistant ballistic nylon can be used with no problems.

Want to see the different components of a good duffel bag come together? Check this out!

Speaking of storms…

Weather Resistance?

One of the perks of a duffel bag over a traditional suitcase is that many duffel manufacturers are now making them water-resistant (to varying degrees). Again, a water ‘resistant’ bag will be good enough for you to bring to and from work, with the ability to shelter your documents and laptop from a passing drizzle. For more heavy duty use, however, you will want to invest in one that is properly waterproof.

Ease of Transport?

The main drawback of a duffel bag over a traditional suitcase has always been that it provides form over comfort, which has made industry leaders branch out. Other than wheels and a carry handle on a duffel, some of the best bags now come with other features that allow for ease of transportation!

These days, many duffel bags come with either shoulder straps, backpack straps, or even both! Certain things to note, of course; just because the bag comes with these features does not mean that it is the best option for the bag. Check if the backpack straps are easy to hide away or remove when not in use, and if the strap is too thick and/or bulky to your liking.

Also, do keep in mind where the duffel will be going when going on a plane! While most are malleable enough to compress to be small enough to fit into the carry-on cabin, some are obviously too big and need to be checked in as a checked bag.

This perfectly talks about the importance of comfort for duffel bags.

All in all, I have to say that watching the humble duffel bag’s transformation over the years into the multi-purpose, all-conquering bag it is today has been largely satisfying. Carefully pick a bag that suits your purposes and you will not be disappointed!

Duffel Bag Reviews

I have had many duffel bags for years, and while they are mostly still in good condition, I have been in the market looking for one (while I was looking for a new hiking daypack). These are some of my favorites in no particular order.


Aidonger “Unisex Canvas” (21”)


Pros

  • Perfect size for daily use – They keep perfectly in any locker, under any desk, and will sit perfectly well with any other cabin baggage.
  • Sturdy – Not many duffels hold its shape while empty and still manage to be lightweight, and yet Aidonger have found a way to do it. The aesthetics of this duffel is something else.
  • Expandable compartments – Amazingly, the side pockets unzip to unfurl even more space just in case you need it! Would be useful if ever I end up buying a little too much.

Cons

  • Non-padded, thin shoulder strap – Says it all, really. Not ideal if you are planning on having it on for an extended period of time.
  • Non-waterproof – Turns out the overreach for aesthetics have compromised a fundamental quality I look for in duffel bags – water-resistance. I need my duffels to hold up when I’m out and about, and may be a deal breaker for you.

Under Armour “Storm Undeniable II Medium” (25”)



Pros

  • Reinforced – Main pressure points of the bag, the handles, and the bottom are reinforced or double-lined, which will be useful for the longer haul trips.
  • Pocketed – Again, many of my old duffels did not have many pockets, if at all. This one has two side pockets and a front pocket, which will be perfect for storing my passport and other documents.
  • Pocketed – Again, many of my old duffels did not have many pockets, if at all. This one has two side pockets and a front pocket, which will be perfect for storing my passport and other documents.
  • Holds its shape – The material on this bag feels like it is premium quality. Even empty it holds its shape without being rigid or markedly heavier than others of its size.

Cons

  • Shoe compartment – While it is present, it is a little too small for my shoes to fit. I wear a 10.5, for anybody wondering. If you are a size 9.5 and under, this is perfect for you.
  • Strap – Bag-strap connector squeaks when I put some things inside to test its strap. Not a deal breaker, but a little annoying.

Samsonite “Tote-A-Ton” (32.5”)



Pros

  • Roomy – This bag is longer than many duffel bags, meaning it does hold a lot more than most. However, as an added bonus, when I was trying to fill up the bag, I got to about 50lbs (which is the international checked baggage allowance) and found that I still had a quite a bit of room left without compromising the shape of the duffel.
  • Packable – If you’re bringing other luggage and you will only need this sometime during your trip, fear not! This bag packs well and will tuck away at the bottom of your luggage without adding much weight.
  • Lightweight – The material on this duffel is quite thin, and with the one main compartment and not much else, this bag is lighter than most, if not all bags.

Cons

  • The bottom seems flimsy – The bag can hold a ton of weight, but with the thin bottom part of the bag, there may be questions about how well it does carrying harder heavier objects.
  • No strap – Yes, bigger bags tend not to have shoulder straps, but it would have been nice to have had that option.
  • One compartment – Unfortunately for me, this is a deal breaker. All the duffels I had in the past were just like this one, and I set my mind to finding one that had a little more function.

Bago “Travel Duffel” (27”)



Pros

  • Foldable – Many of these duffels that do not have a reinforced bottom will have this feature to act as a counterbalance, and this is the same. Folds up very thin, perfect to put in your bedroom drawer.
  • Strong material – While the bag itself is lightweight, do not be fooled into thinking it will not hold up. I was unable to bring it with me on an actual trip to test out the material (obviously) but while in store, upon inspecting the stitch work and the seams, it looks like it will hold up to frequent use.
  • Multi-compartmented – Side and front compartments mean you will be able to put your socks, your boarding passes and your shoes in different compartments. Handy.

Cons

  • Handle and strap – They is not reinforced, so unfortunately for longer trips, you may find them digging into your hand and shoulder and making it quick uncomfortable to carry.
  • Not water-resistant – Unfortunately, while the quality of materials seems good, it is not water-resistant at all. A light drizzle or wet clothes will see the rest of your stuff soaked. Could be a deal breaker.

Northstar “Diamond Ripstop Series: 1050 HD” (42”)



Pros

  • Huge – This is the largest of any of the duffel bags I looked it, and for good reason. Sometimes I do need to carry larger objects, and I usually need my suitcases for that. However, coming in at 42”, this duffel is massive and will carry many oddly sized objects along with your clothes no problem.
  • Comfort – Bag comes with a strap and reinforced handles, making it ever so easy to carry. Would be useful when packed full, especially with an awkward size such as this, to have some form of comfort.

Cons

  • One compartment – One of my only gripes with this bag is that for its size, it really should have a few pockets for miscellaneous items. Yes, it is for space optimization, which is understandable, but a pocket on either side of the duffel wouldn’t go awry.
  • Straps – The actual strap is not the problem, but the strap-bag connector might be. It does not look like it would hold up to the use it was meant to be, ie lugging around a huge amount of luggage.
  • Material – While it looks like it would be sturdy enough to go the distance, the material is a little thinner than many others of the Ripstop series in the past. No necessarily a con, just something to think about.

**Below, you find more detail reviews, but you also can click links above to see current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.

Personally…

I would go for the Under Armour “Storm Undeniable II Medium”, and while it is not exactly what I am looking for, here is why:

Both the “Tote-A-Ton” and the “Diamond Ripstop” were amazing duffel bags for their sizes, but I mostly use duffel bags for shorter trips, meaning I don’t really need the extra space. I will say, however, if I ever go on a longer trip and stop wanting to use suitcases, I would definitely come back to these two.

Aidonger’s entry is stunning to look at and looks like it would last many treks up and down mountains, but the lack of waterproofing is what turns me off a little to it. That and the lack of padding on the shoulder strap turned me away from it. Simple fixes for the company, however!

Finally, the Bago “Travel Duffel” would have been near perfect for my uses, but it is not water resistant, which I absolutely need. Unplanned adventures sometimes take you through a thunderstorm, and I need to know that my things have a chance of making it without being soaked through.

Duffel bags are usually multi-use, and so I hope that in outlining the pros and cons of each that I went through, I have made choosing your next duffle bag easier for you!

P/S: If you found this article helpful, click on the link to purchase your bag (whatever brand you go with) and no extra cost for you. The small commission helps me keep the website running, community supported, and advertiser free.

About the Author James Wilson

Hi! My name is James Wilson, adventurer and traveler. I was born in New York City, am 28 this year, and have been traveling since I was 19. New places fill me with an unexplainable joy, so let me share some of my experiences with you!

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