They’re at the start of every expedition documentary. Explorers in a conga line, chucking bulging bags loaded with ropes, food, and tents into the back of a seaplane or weathered Land Rover. You see them piled on docks, in airports, or swaying back and forth on pack mules as they wind their way to basecamp — duffel bags are the storage backbone of any long adventure.
Use them for your next three-month foray through Patagonia, or to visit your in-laws in Michigan over the weekend. Duffels are versatile pieces of luggage for anything on your travel tick list.
Any duffel bag worth its salt needs to meet certain metrics. They must be sturdy enough to protect and transport hefty loads of technical gear, yet light enough to merit use on an expedition. They should exhibit thoughtful organizational features, and have to be packed and unpacked with ease.
Those are big shoes to fill, and with so many top brands churning these workhorses out, it can be difficult to narrow in on the best pick. So, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you.
We took the finest duffel bags money can buy, and pitted them against each other on dusty overland trips in Africa, climbing expeditions through Mexico, and weekend cabin getaways, to bring you the crème de la crème of these brawny bags.
Check out our top picks below, and be sure to browse our comprehensive buyer’s guide at the end for help in choosing the perfect duffel. Use our comparison chart for a quick overview, or have your burning questions hashed out in the FAQ.
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023
- Best Overall Duffel Bag: Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 70L
- Best Budget Duffel Bag: Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 60L
- Best Expedition Duffel Bag: Black Diamond StoneHauler 120L
- Best Duffel Bag for Casual Use: Peak Design Travel Duffel 35L
- Best Ultralight Duffel Bag: Matador FreeFly 30L
- Best Rolling Duffel Bag: The North Face Voyager 40L
- Best Waterproof Duffel Bag: YETI Panga 75L
- Weight 3 lbs., 2.8 oz.
- Volume Options 40, 55, 70, & 100 L
- Face Fabric 900D 100% recycled polyester ripstop with TPU-film laminate
- Straps Removable backpack straps, top carry handles, 2 side handles
- Versatile, stylish design
- Durable yet lightweight
- Comfortable carry system
- Flimsy material doesn’t stay open when packing
- No zippered pockets at either end
When we think of duffel bags — this is what comes to mind. The Patagonia Black Hole ($199) has become almost synonymous with long road trips, climbing excursions in the desert, and well … adventure. But, does it live up to the hype?
After extensively testing the 55 and 70-liter models over many years, we feel that the 70-liter Black Hole is just about the perfect duffel for any travel scenario you could cook up. Rugged enough for brutal adventures, with a sleek and stylish finish for around town, its versatility is truly where it shines.
Stellar carrying comfort is one of our litmus tests of a solid duffle, and the Black Hole scores big in this department. Toting it through the airport, or schlepping it to the base of a remote crag, the cozy ergonomic shoulder straps and simple top haul handle design make this a breeze. The straps quickly deploy or detach from the bag entirely. We feel that this system hugs our body and carries better over the long run than others we tested, and we like the snap coupling on the haul handles.
One of our favorite touches? An outside zippered pocket that can be accessed from the inside or outside of the bag. We didn’t expect to love it as much as we do — but dang we use it a lot. This pocket also doubles as its stuff sack. A mesh interior lid pocket stashes small items, and the huge U-shaped opening for the main compartment is by far our top pick for zipper configurations on duffels. Internal compression straps help snug down the load.
Despite its burley 900-denier ripstop face fabric, with a shiny weather-resistant TPU laminate coating, the 70-liter clocks in at just over a respectable three pounds, and packs down small. For fast and light missions, it doesn’t add much to your overall base weight.
A lightly padded bottom protects gear from rocky terrain, and reinforced daisy chains won’t pop off when lashed to roof racks or mule backs. We do feel the vertical daisy chain configuration is limiting in some cases though.
If we had to knock the Black Hole at all (which is hard), it would be its comparatively flimsy material. It doesn’t hold its shape well when packing it up. Other duffels, such as The North Face Base Camp below, have super rigid side walls that stay open even when empty, whereas the Black Hole easily folds over on itself unless held open. We also find ourselves wishing for zippered pockets at either end of the bag on occasion.
Backpack through Europe, dirtbag it up in the desert, or visit grandma for Thanksgiving with about as much storage comfort and style as you could ask for. The Black Hole 70-liter is the bag for the job.
- Weight 2 lbs., 3 oz.
- Volume Options 40, 60, & 90 L
- Face Fabric 1000D Helix Poly & 600D Poly TPU
- Straps Removable backpack straps, 4 side handles
- Great value for the price
- Solid organization features
- Sturdy, weather-resistant construction
- No top carry handles
- Fabric doesn’t hold shape while packing
- Not the highest quality zippers
While Eagle Creek’s Cargo Hauler ($129) isn’t technically the cheapest on this list, we feel that it is absolutely the best bang for your buck of any duffel we reviewed. For under $130, you get similar durability, carrying comfort, and thoughtful organization as the best of the best.
We used this stout little bag much more than we anticipated during our testing period. It was loaded with climbing and camping gear for weekend jaunts, crammed with clothes for holiday getaways, and even packed as our primary piece of luggage for a trip to Morocco, North Africa. This is a great steal.
Ticking several of our favorite duffel bag boxes, it boasts stellar carrying and organizational features, but maintains a competitively light weight at just over two pounds. Our favorite U-shaped opening provides access to a generous main compartment, with detachable interior mesh dividers.
For even more organization, there are two zippered pockets on either end — which we think every duffel should have. One of these doubles as the bag’s stuff sack.
Cozy shoulder straps quickly slide out of a zippered pouch in the lid, and hook into loops at the base. The straps also couple together with a buckled wrap to be used as a haul handle. This isn’t our favorite design, as we prefer to have top haul handles be separate from the shoulder straps (like the Black Hole above), but this does shave some weight. Additional handles on the side, top and bottom mean you can grab it from any angle with ease.
The materials used in this duffel are undeniably robust, without adding too much bulk. A 1000 and 600-denier poly TPU face fabric guards your gear, which is waterproof with storm flaps, but not seam sealed, so the bag isn’t entirely waterproof.
We have similar gripes as the Black Hole with the loose fabric of the Cargo Hauler, and wish it stayed open better as we load it up. The extra pockets, buckles and straps are all handy, but kind of get in the way when you’re in a hurry.
We’re big fans of this affordable powerhouse, and feel confident recommending it for both casual trips and tough adventures.
- Weight 3 lbs., 13 oz.
- Volume Options 45, 60, 90, & 120 L
- Face Fabric 600D & 1500D SuperGrid ripstop & 1640D polyester
- Straps Removable backpack straps, 4 side handles
- Extremely durable materials
- Bomber tubular webbing loop around entire bag
- Foam-reinforced fabric in high-use areas
- No top carry handles
- Non-laminated fabric absorbs water faster than TPU-coated duffels
- Backpack straps aren’t the most comfortable
If you ever have to carry a duffel into battle, this is the one you want. With a bomb-proof blend of 600, 1500, and 1640-denier fabric, burly haul-loop carry system, and reinforced end caps, this blurs the line between duffel and big wall haul bag. If it wasn’t for its specialized, beefed-up design, this would probably be our top pick. It’s just so good.
We jammed the StoneHauler 120L ($230) full of spiky cams and chunky ropes on climbing expeditions in Mexico, strapped it to Land Cruisers on the muddy backroads of Kenya, and lived out of it during road trips through Appalachia. It swiftly became our favorite duffel for taxing adventures where top-notch gear protection and rugged durability are paramount.
This beast of a bag is advertised for far-flung missions to extreme environments, and it has the design to back it. The ripstop SuperGrid body material sandwiches padding on the bottom, top, and side panels for stronger durability and structure, and the end caps are reinforced with 1640-denier polyester to fight abrasion. Chunky #10 YKK reversed coil zippers on a huge U-shaped lid inspire some of the most faith in any closure system we tested.
The Haul-loop carry design, a continuous thick tubular webbing loop that wraps entirely around the duffel, is a unique adventure-specific innovation on this bag. From any angle, there’s a loop to strap something to.
Black Diamond puts its lash loops through the same load tests as their carabiners and cams, rating each one to a hefty 2kN. Strap it to a mule or drag it up a cliff by the daisy chain — those things aren’t popping off.
The organizational design is basic and streamlined, with two internal mesh pockets on the lid, and a large zippered pocket on both end caps. Internal compression straps help manage bulky loads, and removable backpack straps quickly attach to the top of the bag, and clip into the side for prolonged carry.
When our 120L model is fully loaded, however, we definitely wish for wider shoulder straps with more foam. You don’t want to be carrying it for too long.
For burly expeditions to remote corners of the world, count on the StoneHauler to get you there with about as much storage confidence as you could ask for.
- Weight 2 lbs.
- Volume Options 35 & 65 L
- Face Fabric 100% recycled 600D nylon canvas & 900D waterproof base
- Straps Single shoulder strap, top carry handles (can be backpack straps), 2 side handles
- Sleek, stylish look
- Thoughtful design
- Comfortable, versatile carrying options
- Cord hooks difficult to pull out of strap loops
- Not the best for long adventures in rough conditions
Can a duffel bag be called a piece of fine art? Well, we’re dubbing Peak Design’s Travel Duffel ($140) a masterpiece. The level of craftsmanship and thoughtful engineering put into this bag nudges it head and shoulders above any other casual travel duffel we’ve carried.
Technical specs aside, just the look of it inspires admiration. Subtle leather accents and anodized aluminum clasps complement a textured, canvas body with poly-coated zippered pockets to deliver a retro, utilitarian vibe. This is a beautiful bag.
We found the carry-on sized 35-liter version to be perfect for short flights, weekend trips to visit friends, or video projects on the road. One of the many brilliant touches in most Peak Design products is their seamless compatibility with their packing and camera cubes (sold separately). We loved clipping the small or medium camera cubes into our Travel Duffel, and hauling our sensitive film gear across the country with confidence.
For such a small bag, the modularity it boasts is shocking. It can be carted by hand with two carry handles, or slung over your shoulder with a single shoulder strap. Each strap can be configured in a number of different ways by clipping the cord hooks into any two of the 12 loops located all around the bag.
The hand carry was the most natural configuration for us, but the webbing of these handles is long enough to be clipped such that you can wear it as a backpack — though not super comfortably if the bag is fully loaded. This is a great design, but the cord hooks inspire a bit too much confidence. We feel like we are going to rip the loops off the bag every time we adjust the strap position.
Durable fabric and padding on the bottom and sides boost gear protection, and internal rods provide some structure as you pack the bag. The center zip opening isn’t our favorite design but works well with the way this duffel is laid out, and the bars hold the bag from folding in as it’s loaded up. A grand total of four low-profile external zippered pockets, and two internal mesh pockets round out this duffel’s stellar organization options.
Peak Design’s Travel Duffel isn’t the best choice for rugged expeditions to the backcountry, but for frontcountry style and functional storage on the road, it’s hard to beat this sleek, charming bag.
- Weight 8.5 oz.
- Volume Options 30 L
- Face Fabric 70D Robic nylon UHMWPE ripstop, with PU waterproofing & 50D mini ripstop nylon
- Straps Top carry handles, front and back grab handles, single shoulder strap that splits into backpack straps
- Extremely packable
- Waterproof materials (not submersible)
- Lower durability than other duffels
- Thin, basic carry straps aren’t the most comfortable
A duffel bag that fits in the palm of your hand? We were skeptical as well. But give Matador’s Freefly 30L Packable Duffel ($85) a chance and you’ll be throwing it in your suitcase for every long trip.
We struggled to imagine which scenarios we would use this for when ordering it for testing. But, after packing it as our carry-on for multiple flights, and as a secondary bag for day trips on a multitude of extended adventures, we’ve given it more love than we ever would have expected.
First things first — the packed size. Though it boasts a variety of extras you see on fully-featured travel duffels, like multiple external zippered pockets, compression straps, top, and side carry handles, and a shoulder strap that splits into backpack straps, it barely registers on the scale at 8.5 ounces and crams down to about the size of a softball.
It is a bit hard to get it into the mesh stuff sack at first, but we figured out the trick after a few tries. One of the side pockets also doubles as a stuff sack.
We didn’t expect our lightest duffle to also be one of our most waterproof, but aside from YETI’s Panga, this thwarted moisture more than most. Fully taped seams, sealed YKK zippers, and PU-coated 70-denier ripstop nylon combine forces to form an essentially waterproof vessel (though it’s not intended for submersion).
So, what’s the rub? With 50 and 70-denier fabric, this also registers as our least durable model, and the low weight means no padding and thin webbing on the straps. This won’t hold up to the same torture as the mighty StoneHauler above, or carry as comfortably, but at this weight and size, it is hard to quibble about its flimsy nature.
We love the Freefly for quick day trips to swimming holes in the summer, as a carry-on while flying, or as a backup duffel to throw into larger luggage. Its tiny pack size makes this great for setting out on side quests in the midst of long road trips or international excursions.
With a specked-out design at an approachable price point, we think this is a fantastic little duffel to snag for those just-in-case moments during your travels, or as a standalone pack for ultralight missions on the road.
- Weight 6 lbs., 13 oz.
- Volume Options 40 & 94 L
- Face Fabric 840D recycled ballistic nylon with DWR finish
- Straps Three side carry handles, telescoping top handle
- Durable, weather-resistant fabric
- Sturdy wheels and chassis
- Carry-on compatible
- Pricey compared to duffels of similar volume
- Wheeled duffels aren’t as versatile
As duffel bags explode in the travel scene, many manufacturers have realized the value of crossing the convenience of a duffel, with the ease of standard wheeled suitcases. While they don’t work for every travel scenario, wheeled duffels like the Base Camp Voyager ($240) can alleviate a lot of stress on your body, and carry heavy loads much better.
We narrowed in on the 21-inch Base Camp Voyager as our top pick for this category. Its durable design, water-resistant materials, and carry-on compatible size make it a prime duffel for domestic and international adventures alike. The large rugged wheels and sturdy chassis accommodate tougher terrain than other rolling bags, and we feel comfortable lugging it over dirt roads and uneven ground while traveling overseas.
Constructed with the same 840-denier ballistic DWR nylon as their wildly popular regular Base Camp Duffel, this wheeled iteration provides greater structure and overall gear protection than its traditional cousin. While we wouldn’t recommend using it for the same sort of expeditions, the wheeled version does have reinforced lash points on three sides of the duffel, so could be strapped to a roof rack or motorcycle if need be.
The design is minimal but functional, without the bells and whistles of common rolling suitcases. You won’t get the same level of organization, but an internal mesh zippered pocket, a top external zippered pouch for small essentials, and a laptop sleeve on the outside of the lid give you enough to get by.
The Base Camp Voyager epitomizes the outdoor travel aesthetic in a bomb-proof, adventure-ready design. It runs a bit on the pricey side and is significantly heavier than regular duffels, but the durability, weather protection, and ease of transport you get with this bag make it a worthy investment.
- Weight 6 lbs., 1.6 oz.
- Volume Options 50, 75, & 100 L
- Face Fabric EVA molded bottom & ThickSkin waterproof nylon shell
- Straps Removable backpack straps, 4 side handles
- Fully waterproof
- Extremely durable material
- Simple, easily attachable backpack straps
- Minimal feature set
For most of your travel needs, a bomb-proof, fully submersible, waterproof travel duffel isn’t on the shortlist. But some adventures — like snowy winter expeditions, multi-day rafting trips, or tours through wet climates — may require such a burly bag.
If wet climates or river trips are in your future, YETI’s Panga 75L ($350) stands out as one of the best waterproof duffels on the market. Tipping the scales at over six pounds, it is undeniably a chunker but kept our sensitive gear bone dry on long paddling trips and torrential downpours around camp. For such peace of mind, the high price tag and hefty weight make it worth the cost.
A fully submersible zippered bag? These are rare finds. YETI’s unique Hydrolok zipper is entirely waterproof, and features a rubber “U-dock” at the end, which ensures a completely airtight seal. The zipper takes a bit of a yank to open, but is consequently incredibly sturdy and durable. The bag actually boasts an IPX7 waterproof rating, which means its contents will stay dry for roughly 30 minutes at a depth of one meter.
An EVA molded bottom provides a tough landing pad, and the welded TPU panels with ThickSkin waterproof nylon serve as an impenetrable barrier against moisture. To reduce the amount of stitching that needs to be reinforced, the bag is quite minimally featured, with one big main compartment and two small internal zippered mesh pockets. Simple, vertically oriented daisy chains on the sides provide adequate lashing options to boat decks or pulk sleds.
Two handles on either end of the Panga allow you to hoist it around from different angles, and removable shoulder straps quickly clip onto the bag with sturdy aluminum clasps. These are minimally padded, so beware when hauling seriously heavy loads. The straps can also be used as top carry handles.
While this isn’t the best duffel to pick up for everyday casual use, if long days on the river or cold, wet winter trips are on the docket, this would be a great companion.
- Weight 3 lbs., 6.4 oz.
- Volume Options 40, 65, 95, & 120 L
- Face Fabric 900D & 600D TPU-coated DWR recycled polyester
- Straps Stowable backpack straps, 4 side handles
- Uber comfortable backpack carry straps
- Durable, quality materials
- Minimal extra pockets
- Not many lashing points
Widely considered one of the most comfortable duffel bags to carry long distances, Osprey’s Transporter ($200) is a popular, durable shoo-in for this guide. Osprey is perhaps best known for their cushy backpacking backpacks that are ubiquitous on trails around the world — and the Transporter reflects that.
A full yoke backpack harness that deploys from a pouch in the lid, with a vertically adjustable sternum strap, and plush ventilated shoulder straps lend credence to Osprey’s reputation for a comfortable carry over the long haul. Of all the duffels we tested, this wore us down the least while carting it like a backpack through a village, or waiting in line for hours at passport control.
We took the 95-liter model on demanding overland missions in Africa, rainy road trips through Appalachia, and international climbing excursions to test its durability, weather resistance, and carrying comfort. This was a definite contender for our top pick, but a few design choices of other duffels bumped them just ahead.
The bag carries incredibly well, but we wish there were top carry handles in addition to the backpack straps, similar to Patagonia’s Black Hole design. Having the lid hinge from the top of the bag, instead of the side, isn’t our favorite layout either, as it makes the lid narrow and flimsy which can be a frustration while packing.
These are small nitpicks for an otherwise brilliantly designed, tough-as-nails bag. The 900-denier polyester shell with a smooth TPU coating is a formidable barrier between your gear and the elements and stood up to some serious torture during our testing period.
Massive padded haul handles on each side of the bag are some of the largest we’ve seen, and a few sturdy lash points allow you to strap it down with confidence. We wish there was a longer daisy chain for a more even tie-down, but we made do just fine.
A single large internal mesh pocket and an external zippered pocket on one side constitute its simple organizational features. Still, we quite enjoyed the stripped-down, sleek feel of the bag while charging around bustling markets overseas or navigating busy airports. This is a stylish but effective duffel.
For travelers who can’t quite decide between a traditional backpack and a duffel bag, the Transporter would be the perfect crossover piece for stellar storage, and world-class comfort on long trips.
- Weight 1 lb., 6 oz.
- Volume Options 40, 60, 100, & 140 L
- Face Fabric Recycled polyester
- Straps Single shoulder strap, top carry handles, 2 side handles
- Simple, sleek design
- Lightweight and packable
- Simple straps are uncomfortable during long carries
- Fabric isn’t as durable or water-resistant as other models
While most of the models on this list offer complicated handle layouts, bleeding-edge fabric technology, and pockets galore, REI’s Roadtripper ($65) harkens back to the duffel bag’s roots. What you get with this bag — a simple polyester tube with a few straps — may be just the minimalist, retro design you’re after.
If you seek something quick and easy to get the job done, you’ve found it. But don’t let the basic structure and rudimentary design of the Roadtripper fool you. This duffel holds its own on demanding trips when you need it to, then packs down to almost nothing when you’re ready to stow it.
We particularly appreciated it on a recent extended climbing trip, where it housed our random excess gear and camping equipment that didn’t necessarily need top-notch protection from the elements. Its lightweight design meant we could easily pack it away in our larger luggage when we didn’t have a use for it anymore.
Its recycled polyester shell fabric doesn’t have the same weatherproof durability as other fancy TPU-coated duffels, but it is still abrasion-resistant and somewhat water-resistant — and boasts greater sustainability than many in this list.
We do like the strap layout of this bag, but the lack of padding and backpack straps makes it less than optimal for long carries. With two haul handles on the top and bottom, two top carry handles that velcro together, and a single shoulder strap, you can easily grab the bag from any angle. Simple, vertical daisy chains allow you to strap it to vehicles if the need arises.
While this wouldn’t be our top pick for technical assaults on alpine peaks, the Roadtripper 100L delivers surprisingly solid performance considering its simple, compressible profile. This is a great bag for impromptu road trips, or as additional lightweight storage on gear-intensive journeys. And at $65, it’s a darn good steal.
- Weight 3 lbs., 9.1 oz.
- Volume Options 31, 50, 71, 95, 132, & 150 L
- Face Fabric 1000D polyester with PVC coating & 840D DWR ballistic nylon
- Straps Removable backpack straps, top carry handles, 2 side handles
- Durable, time-tested design
- Comfortable carry system
- Zipper can be difficult to open and close
- On the heavier side
This iconic duffel has developed something of a cult following during its 40+ years of service to the outdoor community. The Base Camp Duffel ($149) has become the poster child of remote alpine expeditions and wild forays to the far-flung places of the world — but does it hold up to the competition today?
Pop into the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, and you’re likely to still see a procession of these bright yellow sacks parade in front of you on the luggage carousel as climbers arrive. The Base Camp’s layout has remained quite similar during its history across four decades, and this timeless, trustworthy design is largely what keeps explorers hooked on it.
So why isn’t it our top pick? With so many quality bags out there, the decision was admittedly difficult. But in the end, a few key design decisions bumped other duffels a smidge above the Basecamp in our opinion.
This bag sports our favorite strap and main opening configurations: two top carry handles, two side haul handles on the top and bottom, and removable padded backpack straps with a large U-shaped lid. For us, this is hands down the most comfortable, versatile setup for packing, grabbing, and transporting a duffel with ease. Compression straps on the side allow for a tight, manageable package.
Drumming up any qualms for this duffel is hard, but our main frustration has to do with the zipper. It is quite stiff, and is difficult for us to close quickly and smoothly (at least on the medium size). It also clocks in a tad heavier than other models of similar volume, but the durability you get makes up for it.
The 1000 and 840-denier polyester and ballistic nylon combo with PVC and DWR coatings is about as bomber and weatherproof as it gets, and horizontal daisy chains allow for an even tie-down. Drag it through thorny underbrush, strap it to a yak, or throw it into the dusty bed of a truck — your gear will stay protected.
This legacy bag has helped countless mountaineers and adventurers achieve their dreams in wild environments, and remains a solid choice today despite fierce competition. For whatever mission you can conjure up, the Base Camp Duffel will tackle the job.
- Weight 2 lb., 10 oz.
- Volume Options 50 & 70 L
- Face Fabric 840D ballistic nylon & TPU coated 1000D polyester
- Straps Removable backpack straps, top carry handles, 2 side handles
- Stylish design with lots of fun color schemes
- Durable materials
- Fantastic organization
- Backpack straps attachment design isn’t our favorite
- No internal compression straps
Style meets function with this nifty little duffel, and we keep discovering things we love about it each time we pack it up for an adventure. The Allpa 50L ($140) was a strong contender for our best casual use duffel award, but its beefed-up fabric and outdoor-oriented design make it a bit more of a niche bag than Peak Design’s Travel Duffel.
This has one of the more clever solutions for dirty laundry we’ve seen on a duffel, which is a constant conundrum for our author on long trips. As filthy clothes amass mid-trip, a dedicated discrete zippered pocket underneath the main compartment swallows them up, and a gusseted pouch slowly expands into the main storage as dirty gear replaces clean. Pretty smart.
Our favored layout for carrying comfort is featured here: top carry straps coupled together with a velcro handle, cozy removable backpack straps, and haul handles on the top and bottom. The backpack straps attach to the bag by feeding the webbing through buckles, which takes some time and isn’t our favorite design choice.
There are pockets galore on this bag, and we never have trouble keeping our gear organized. In addition to the dirty laundry compartment in the base, a zippered mesh pouch on the lid, large external zippered pockets on one end and one side, and two velcro pouches on either side provide more storage than most. The velcro pouches also conveniently stow the top carry handles for a more streamlined feel.
Cotopaxi is known for its wild color schemes and fun, funky designs — which translates beautifully with this bag. Muted and flashy colorways abound for whatever your vibe might be.
While the Allpa looks great around bustling towns or quaint remote villages, it’s built like a workhorse and won’t shy away from an adventure. Hefty TPU-coated 1000 and 840-denier polyester and ballistic nylon protect your gear, and can hold up to some serious abuse on outdoor missions. Reinforced horizontal daisy chains round out its rugged aesthetic.
This is without a doubt one of the better duffels for gear organization on long trips, and we love its style and functionality. For overseas jaunts to distant European cities, or technical adventures through unpredictable terrain, the Allpa holds its own through it all.
- Weight 3 lbs., 9 oz.
- Volume Options 45, 60, 90, & 120 L
- Face Fabric 630D nylon & 900D polyester diamond ripstop with TPU coating
- Straps Removable backpack straps, top carry handles, 2 side handles
- Durable, no-frills design
- Expedition-oriented features
- Backpack straps take some time to remove
- No internal compression straps
This unassuming, simple duffel is understandably one of the more popular models for tough adventures in unpredictable climates. A number of our author’s mountaineering friends recommended the Gregory Alpaca ($160) for this guide, as it delivers no-frills, reliable durability, and weather-resistance for high-altitude alpine excursions or burly winter expeditions.
While we weren’t able to test it in most extreme conditions, we found it to be a sturdy, functional duffel on our tamer travel tests. It follows a similar strap configuration as our favorite Patagonia Black Hole, and has a much better daisy chain design, with reinforced loops that run horizontally along the bag’s length. Compression straps on the side help snug down large loads, but there are unfortunately no internal ones.
The 630-denier nylon and 900-denier diamond ripstop fabric with a TPU coating shrugs off any torture you send its way, and holds up to significant exposure to rain or snow. The massive U-shaped lid has two mesh pockets with diagonal zippers, which is a small design tweak that really helps open these pockets with ease.
One side of the duffel has a large zippered pocket, but we wish there was one on both ends. The removable straps are quite comfortable, though take a bit of time to attach, and feel a bit thin when the bag is fully loaded.
The Alpaca delivers just what you need and nothing more. We find we gravitate to this streamlined reliable model for long international forays and local road trips alike, and truly appreciate its simple functionality.
- Weight 3 lbs., 12 oz.
- Volume Options 50, 80, & 120 L
- Face Fabric 600D polyester with TPU film
- Straps Removable backpack straps, top carry handles, 2 side handles
- Comfortable carrying options
- Functional adventure-ready design
- Not as durable as other expedition duffels
- Minimal extra zippered pockets
- No internal compression straps
This bag was made for one thing — carrying tons of gear to far-off lands — and we’d say it does that pretty darn well. The burly Expedition Kitbag ($155) was on the shortlist for our best expedition duffel award, but we feel that the StoneHauler ekes in just above it in some key areas.
Regardless, this incredibly durable, reliable bag delivers expedition-ready quality at a surprisingly affordable price point. Its tough shell fabric, thoughtful features, and top-shelf carrying comfort make it a phenomenal choice for any adventure you could cook up.
The 600-denier TPU-coated polyester shell with a reinforced base provides great weather resistance and durability, but is a bit thinner than other battle-ready duffels on our list, and showed more signs of wear after similar tests. This does help cut down on weight though, particularly with the massive 120-liter version.
Top carry handles, two side haul handles on the top and bottom, and removable thickly-padded backpack straps decorate the Kitbag, but the main opening isn’t our favorite, especially with larger volumes. Though it is a U-shaped lid, it hinges from the top instead of the sides, making it thin and flimsy — a frustration while packing or trying to grab something from the mesh pockets in the lid. Aside from these pockets in the lid, the only other pockets are two internal mesh pouches.
The backpack straps are some of the more comfy ones we tested, with thick breathable mesh and daisy chains that run the strap’s length. They aren’t the quickest to attach to the bag, but the adjustability they offer is nice. Swiveling clips on the bottom of the straps ensure they don’t get twisted while pulling it on and off. This is actually a super helpful touch.
All-in-all, this rugged duffel is a great option for demanding adventures on a budget. The $155 price tag makes this an approachable piece of high-tech expedition gear that won’t let you down in extreme conditions.
- Weight 2 lbs., 9.5 oz.
- Volume Options 45, 65, 95, & 135 L
- Face Fabric 420D carbonate-coated ripstop nylon
- Straps Removable backpack straps, 2 side handles, single 25 mm webbing shoulder strap
- Sleek, haul bag inspired design
- Comfortable backpack straps
- Effective dirty laundry system
- Minimal lashing points
- Few additional pockets
- Lower durability materials
The Camp 4 Duffel ($160) from Mountain Hardwear is another staple in the outdoor community, and has accompanied many an adventurer to exotic locales. Its newest iteration offers a unique flair to the classic duffel design, with a haul bag-inspired layout and simple, rugged aesthetic.
While we like several elements of this update, we wish they had retained some key features of previous models — namely the lid and daisy chain setup. The large U-shaped opening of old has been replaced with a single center zipper. This shaves some weight and simplifies the opening, but we just can’t get over the ease of accessing tons of gear at once that the old lid offered.
Additionally, while previous Camp 4s had nice horizontal daisy chains running the entire length of the bag, this update eliminates lash loops entirely, leaving only the haul handles and shoulder straps as tie-down options for transport. Internal compression straps are a huge bonus though, and help keep everything cinched up tight.
Those gripes aside, this bag still deserves a spot on our round-up for its time-tested durability and thoughtful features. 420-denier carbonate-coated ripstop nylon is used on the face fabric, which keeps this light and packable, but ready to handle some brutality.
This wouldn’t be suited for the same level of abuse as other bags like the StoneHauler though, and is better used on more casual adventures where keeping weight down is of chief importance.
Aside from a large external zippered pocket on one end, the organization of this bag is quite minimal. One extremely useful touch is an internal cinch-closure pocket for dirty clothes or muggy boots. This easily tucks out of the way when everything is clean, and slowly expands with dirty laundry as your trip progresses.
Another unique feature of this bag are the internal grab handles that allow you to easily move the duffel around without zipping it up. We can’t say we’ve seen this on any other duffel and found ourselves using it way more than we thought we would.
We were quite attached to our previous Camp 4 model, so the overhaul in this new iteration has taken some getting used to. But, we still feel it is objectively one of the better duffels on the market from an extremely reputable brand. We don’t have any qualms about bringing it on rigorous romps in the mountains, or international outings alike.
- Weight 4 lbs., 8 oz.
- Volume Options 45, 65, 90, & 130 L
- Face Fabric 1000D nylon with waterproof tarpaulin laminate
- Straps Removable backpack straps, 4 side handles
- Impenetrable fabric
- Modular strap configurations
- Minimal organizational features
If simple durability with a few unique flairs is your cup of tea, this is the duffel for you. Despite having one of the most rudimentary organizational designs of any bag on this list — one large main pocket with a single additional internal pocket — Sea to Summit’s 90L Duffel Bag ($200) came on way more technical trips than we expected during our testing period.
Outdoor-oriented specs like reinforced lash points, impenetrable 1000-denier nylon with waterproof tarpaulin laminate, compression straps, and a multitude of carry options make this a battle-ready model for the toughest of trips.
We immediately appreciated how stiff the fabric is on the first outing we took this on, as it stands up even while empty, making packing it up a breeze. You do pay for this a bit with a 4.5-pound reading on the scale, however.
Though this doesn’t have center carry handles, thick haul handles on each side of the bag and modular backpack straps give you solid carrying options. These multi-function straps quickly clip onto the bag and can be configured in three different ways: hand grip, backpack, or single shoulder strap mode.
Magnets in the straps snap together and hold them in the hand grip position, though we wish they were a bit stronger, as they come apart easily.
The cons of this bag lie in its lack of extra pockets, which is a bit of a drawback for us on serious expeditions. With only one extra internal mesh pouch, you are essentially limited to the large main compartment for storage.
While it’s not our top pick for stellar organization, if you need a bag that will get the job done without the bells and whistles of more complicated bags, this would be a great option. It has a minimalist layout, but proved to be a hardworking technical duffel for long arduous adventures.
Duffel Bags Comparison Chart
|Duffel Bag||Price||Weight||Volume Options||Face Fabric||Straps/Handles|
|Patagonia Black Hole 70L||$199||3 lbs., 2.8 oz.||40, 55, 70, & 100 L||900D polyester ripstop with TPU-film laminate||6|
|Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 60L||$129||2 lbs., 3 oz.||40, 60, & 90 L||1000D Helix Poly & 600D Poly TPU||6|
|Black Diamond StoneHauler 120L||$230||3 lbs., 13 oz.||45, 60, 90, & 120 L||600D & 1500D SuperGrid ripstop & 1640D polyester||6|
|Peak Design Travel Duffel 35L||$140||2 lbs.||35 & 65 L||100% recycled 600D nylon canvas & 900D waterproof base||5|
|Matador Freefly 30L||$85||8.5 oz.||30 L||70D Robic nylon, with PU waterproofing & 50D nylon||5|
|The North Face Base Camp Voyager Roller||$240||6 lbs., 13 oz.||40 & 94 L||840D recycled ballistic nylon with DWR finish||4|
|YETI Panga 75L||$350||6 lbs., 1.6 oz.||50, 75, & 100 L||EVA molded bottom & ThickSkin waterproof nylon shell||6|
|Osprey Transporter 95L||$200||3 lbs., 6.4 oz.||40, 65, 95, & 120 L||900D & 600D TPU-coated DWR recycled polyester||6|
|REI Co-op Roadtripper 100L||$65||1 lb., 6 oz.||40, 60, 100, & 140 L||Recycled polyester||5|
|The North Face Base Camp Medium||$149||3 lbs., 9.1 oz.||31, 50, 71, 95, 132, & 150 L||1000D polyester with PVC coating & 840D DWR ballistic nylon||6|
|Cotopaxi Allpa 50L||$140||2 lb., 10 oz.||50 & 70 L||840D ballistic nylon & TPU coated 1000D polyester||6|
|Gregory Alpaca 90L||$160||3 lbs., 9 oz.||45, 60, 90, & 120 L||630D nylon & 900D ripstop polyester with TPU coating||6|
|Rab Expedition Kitbag 120L||$155||3 lbs., 12 oz.||50, 80, & 120 L||600D polyester with TPU film||6|
|Mountain Hardwear Camp 4 95L||$160||2 lbs., 9.5 oz.||45, 65, 95, & 135 L||420D carbonate-coated ripstop nylon||5|
|Sea to Summit Duffel Bag 90L||$200||4 lbs., 8 oz.||45, 65, 90, & 130 L||1000D nylon with waterproof tarpaulin laminate||6|
Why You Should Trust Us
Author and Senior Editor Chris Carter tested duffel bags’ durability, weather resistance, and overall useability on remote climbing expeditions, international overland adventures, and long road trips around the country. Each model was put through the wringer over thousands of miles of real-world travel tests in a variety of different climates and environments. Rest assured — only the best ended up on this guide.
We know everyone’s travel plans differ, and no two trips are alike. We selected a broad array of duffel designs for each traveler’s budget, style, and adventure needs. Slung over our shoulders, strapped to roof racks on wild backroads, or thrown into the belly of planes, these bags were put through their paces and all performed with flying colors.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Duffel Bag
What is a Duffel Bag?
The line between travel backpacks, standard suitcases, and duffel bags can often be blurred. So what are these rugged sacks, and what makes them special? The origin of the duffel bag is somewhat disputed, but most trace it to the actual town of Duffel in Belgium, where they employed “duffel cloth” to make thick, cylindrical bags with zippered or drawstring closures on top. The burly material was also used as a covering for ships.
Used widely by the military in WWI and WWII, the durable, flexible nature of these souped-up knapsacks made them perfect for chucking haphazardly into the back of transport vehicles or bunkers. They were more durable and voluminous than backpacks, and easier to carry than a solid crate. But they weren’t very comfortable to tote around.
News of these nifty packs seeped into the public, and the design evolved. Longer, wider bags with various sturdy straps for throwing over the shoulder or lashing to animals emerged. The likes of arctic explorers, mountaineers, and international travelers began seeing the value in these versatile wonders, and big-name brands picked up the scent.
From fully waterproof models, to technical bags with more pockets and straps than you can count, duffels have come a long way from their humble roots. For weekend getaways to visit the parents or gear-intensive climbing trips, they now offer state-of-the-art storage for wherever the road takes you.
Categories of Duffel Bags
The type of duffel bag you decide to go with depends on your unique travel plans. If you need a general all-around workhorse, something like the simple REI Roadtripper or versatile Patagonia Black Hole would be a solid choice. If you’re looking for a sleek companion on international flights, The North Face Voyager Roller may be the move, whereas the specked-out Black Diamond StoneHauler is catered for dedicated expeditions in rough environments. Duffels can be expensive, so consider what you’ll be primarily using your duffels for before making your final decision.
Expedition Duffel Bags
The last thing you want to worry about on an expedition or long adventure is your precious cargo. Expedition duffels are the more burly, specialized bags of the bunch, and are often decorated with fancy technology and features for specific outdoor pursuits. They are designed to be light enough for fast missions while withstanding abuse from the elements, and must be easily carried, packed, and unloaded — all while protecting important technical gear.
Bags like the Rab Expedition Kitbag, Black Diamond StoneHauler, and Gregory Alpaca fit this bill. They prioritize durability, weather resistance, and useability, featuring elements like TPU-coated waterproof fabrics, and reinforced lashing points.
Expedition duffels will often be hauled to basecamp on pulk sleds, strapped to the backs of pack mules, or thrown on top of janky overland trucks as they bump along remote dirt tracks. They need to be malleable to fit these various modes of transportation, durable enough to fight abrasion, and fitted with attachment points that are rated to hold heavy loads.
The Black Diamond StoneHauler, for instance, is lined with thick tubular webbing loops that are each rated to 2kN, and sports a bomb-proof 1500-denier outer shell. This allows it to be easily affixed to anything and instills confidence that your only tent and cooking kit won’t slide off into a couloir whenever your mule stumbles.
You can expect to find thoughtful additions, like waterproof zippers and storm flaps, unique storage compartments, cushy backpack straps, and compression straps, on expedition duffels. The amount of fancy add-ons makes these bags a bit overkill for a simple weekend getaway, and their durability will often add some significant weight.
Travel/Casual Use Duffel Bags
If you’re scoping out a bag for shorter trips, lugging around the gym, or flights home for Christmas, these are the duffels you want. While not as stalwart as their battle-ready cousins above, these often still boast excellent storage, weather resistance, and carrying capabilities. Travel and casual duffels focus on comfort and useability over rugged durability.
You probably won’t find many adventure-specific features of technical expedition duffels on these, such as DWR-treated fabrics, storm flaps, and stout daisy chains. This means they are generally lighter, easier to handle, and may be more stylish for use around town. We narrowed in on the sleek Peak Design Travel Duffel as our top pick for casual use.
Many duffels on our list function as solid crossover pieces, and their versatile nature makes them good for casual trips, with enough gumption for demanding adventures. The Patagonia Black Hole and Cotopaxi Allpa fit this description. They’ll look great while tramping between gates in the airport, but boy will they perform when you need them to.
While some designs may be better suited for casual trips, most of the bags on this list would be fine in just about any scenario. You don’t need to be trekking to a far-off base camp to merit the use of Black Diamond’s StoneHauler on your travels.
Waterproof Duffel Bags
Long paddling expeditions, snowy winter excursions, or a family fun day at the lake — these are the bags for the job. Though the selection is sparse, some brands have developed entirely waterproof duffels for trips where keeping your gear dry is paramount. Their higher weight, minimal features, and hefty price tag make them a pretty niche bag, so we wouldn’t recommend snagging one for everyday use.
It’s important to note that most duffel bags, including casual-use models, are already crafted with a high degree of water resistance. Some face fabrics may even be waterproof, but water will still be able to get through the unsealed seams or zippers. It takes a good deal of prolonged rain to breach the beefy TPU-coated fabric of Gregory’s Alpaca or Osprey’s Transporter. For most of what you’ll encounter on your travels, this will suffice.
But if you really plan on getting wet, models like YETI’s Panga will fend off a downpour, with technical Hyrdolok zippers, minimal stitching, and impenetrable fabric. Waterproof duffels are great for keeping sensitive gear or technology dry on long outdoor trips through wet climates, or anything involving extended time on a boat.
Rolling Duffel Bags
Rolling duffels merge the convenience of a duffel, with the ease of standard wheeled suitcases, and are great for carrying heavy loads over smooth surfaces. These designs caught on quickly, and you will often see wheeled versions of popular models, like the wheeled Patagonia Black Hole or Osprey Transporter.
Rolling duffels are good choices for trips where you won’t be navigating a variety of different environments, as their designs are restricting in many travel scenarios. You’ll rarely see backpack or shoulder straps on rolling duffels, limiting how easy it is to carry them yourself.
If you’re touring around South America and will be shouldering your baggage onto busses, or hiking through small towns to your next hostel, it may be best to go with a traditional duffel. Trust us — trying to roll a wheeled bag down a rocky dirt road is less than optimal.
However, if you’ll be keeping to controlled environments with a lot of pavement and nice walkways, these can alleviate a lot of stress on your body. Many brands also offer rolling duffels that hover around 40 liters, making them suitable as carry-ons.
We found the North Face Voyager Roller to be one of our favorite rolling duffels for a diversity of environments and surfaces. Its sturdy wheels and chassis instill confidence over bumpy cobblestone or broken-up sidewalks, and the burly materials and lash points make it somewhat adventure-ready.
Duffel bag models are frequently available in a variety of volume options, usually on a spectrum of 40 to 120 liters. 40-liter duffels will often be carry-on compatible, which is perfect for weekend trips where you don’t want to check a bag. At the higher end, 100 or 120-liter bags are for seriously long trips or gear-intensive expeditions.
The volume you decide to go with will obviously depends on the length and intensity of the trip you plan to bring it on. A 90-liter model is probably overkill for weekend getaways, and will be uncomfortably floppy with a few changes of clothes and an overnight kit inside.
We’ve seen duffels with volumes of up to 150 liters (like the gigantic XXL North Face Base Camp Duffel), which are great for clunky outdoor gear on long trips like tents, ropes, crampons, or backpacks. It’s easy to bump the weight of these duffels above what is allowed for checked baggage on a plane, so pack with care. Black Diamond’s 120L StoneHauler has been one of our favorite hardworking large-volume duffels for serious missions with technical gear.
Medium-sized duffels in the 50 to 70-liter range are our favorite versatile volume, as they work for long weekend adventures, or international trips that last for months. Patagonia’s 70L Black Hole and Osprey’s 65L Transporter are some of our top picks in this range. They swallow enough gear to travel comfortably, but aren’t overly bulky and unwieldy.
Smaller duffels can dip as low as 25 liters, and can be solid day packs or weekend carry-ons. We love the North Face Base Camp Voyager 40-liter rolling duffel as a carry-on for short flights, or the stylish Peak Design Travel Duffel 35-liter for spontaneous overnight trips.
Weight and Packed Size
Most people don’t plan to haul duffel bags on their person for very long like they would a traditional backpack, so weight isn’t a huge concern for many travelers. Sure, you may have to carry your duffel like a backpack from the airport to your hotel across town, but you won’t be trekking up a mountain with it on your back.
You want your gear to be protected by thick, durable materials, with hefty zippers and straps. That said, most duffel bags maintain a relatively low weight and are often surprisingly packable. Many of the duffels on this list come with their own stuff sacks, and cram down to the size of a small throw pillow.
Nothing holds a candle to the packed size of Matador’s Freefly 30L duffle though, which fits in the palm of your hand when shoved into its tiny stuff sack, and weighs a scant 8.5 ounces. Duffels like this are great solutions for throwing into larger suitcases to be used on shorter missions during your trip, or as backup luggage.
While a duffel bag’s weight doesn’t matter as much as that of an ultralight backpack, it is still an important consideration when planning your trip. Rolling duffels, for instance, can have dry weights north of eight pounds (like the Patagonia Black Hole wheeled duffel), which is a significant chunk out of the 50-pound weight limit of checked baggage on most airlines.
Straps and Carrying Comfort
This is where duffel bag manufacturers truly flex their creative muscles. Simple side handles with a shoulder strap, removable backpack harness that stows into a pocket, or handles that transform into backpack straps and snap together with a magnet — this feature can get complicated. It is an admittedly difficult conundrum for these brands. How do they keep the bag streamlined and easy to throw around, while making it comfortable enough to carry long distances?
Versatility is key when handling duffel bags, and different situations require you to carry them in different ways. You may just need a small handle on the side to transport your bag into another room or pull it from the bed of a truck. A single shoulder strap while lugging it between airport gates may suffice, while it makes sense to use a full backpack harness when walking across town. A good duffel bag can be grabbed from any angle and carried with ease.
You’ll see a lot of variety in the strap designs of duffel bags. Most will have some way of either carrying the bag slung over your shoulder with a single padded strap, or as a traditional backpack with two shoulder straps (generally found on models with larger volumes).
Our favorite layout for easy handling is two top carry handles, two haul handles on the top and bottom, and removable padded backpack straps. For us, this allows for maximum carrying comfort and quick organization during the duffle shuffle.
These bags get chucked around a lot, so the fewer loops and straps that could get snagged on things the better. For that reason, shoulder straps will usually be fully removable, or able to be tucked away in a pouch on the lid or side.
The Sea to Summit Duffel features one of the more unique carrying designs we’ve seen. Cozy, contoured harness straps easily clip to the top and bottom of the pack, and have above-average padding for heavy loads. When you want to pick the bag up without wearing it on your back, magnets in the shoulder straps quickly snap together to form an effective carrying handle.
Peak Design’s Travel Duffel also has a good deal of modularity and allows you to configure its straps in different ways depending on how you want to carry it throughout your trip.
No matter how fancy the strap system is on a duffel, they will almost never be as comfortable as an actual backpacking backpack, so don’t plan on clocking serious miles with them. Though some will have hipbelts, without a backpack frame, beefy foam shoulder straps, or ventilation systems, they tend to wear you down pretty fast.
Materials and Weather Resistance
If duffels need to be one thing — it’s durable. These bags often find themselves being tossed about, drug through the dirt, or strapped to the outside of trucks, and they need to keep expensive gear safe through it all.
The denier of a duffel’s material (often written as a number followed by “D”), is a good general way to determine the durability and weather resistance of a bag. Denier is a unit of measurement that indicates the thickness of the yarns that are used to construct a fabric. The number represents the actual amount of yarn within each thread. So the durable 900-denier polyester shell of Patagonia’s Black Hole contains 900 yarns within each of its threads, plus a TPU-film laminate for water resistance.
Most of the brands in our lineup employ some combination of tough ballistic nylon, polyester, or TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) laminate for their duffel’s face fabrics. TPU is a plastic-like film used to laminate and waterproof fabric — it is not a fabric itself. These materials will often be ripstop to help fend off large tears, and many duffels have reinforced areas that get particularly abused, like the bottom.
Vinyl or laminate finishes are common on outdoor duffels and will keep the bag’s contents dry in light to moderate rain, but water will eventually leak through zippers and seams that aren’t taped. Fully waterproof models obviously don’t have this weakness.
From hard-working expedition bags with face fabrics boasting 1000-denier or more, to ultralight casual duffels with flimsy 70-denier nylon shells, we cover a wide range of options on this list. While denier and fabric choice aren’t the only determining factors in a bag’s durability over long trips, it’s a good, quick way to compare different models and narrow in on the best pick for your travel needs.
Ease of Use and Packing
A variety of features contribute to a duffel bag’s ease of use while packing and unpacking your gear. Below we’ve outlined some extra features that boost a bag’s useability.
In case you haven’t caught it by now, our favorite lid design for duffels is definitely a large U-shaped opening. Nothing beats it for quickly accessing everything in the bag’s main compartment while maintaining structure and weather resistance. It is easier to add storm flaps to this design than it is on a single center zipper, as the lid flap naturally overlaps the zipper, protecting the zipper from moisture.
The Sea to Summit Duffle Bag has one of the larger, easier-to-open U-shaped lids we tried. We love being able to quickly see and rummage through piles of climbing and camping gear immediately after pulling it open.
Center zippers make it more difficult to pack things in an orderly fashion and access that gear when the bag is filled to the max. They do tend to be shorter than U-shaped zippers though, so can save some overall weight.
Some U-shaped openings hinge from the sides of the duffel, while others, like Osprey’s Transporter or Rab’s Expedition KitBag, hinge from the top. This means the lid is longer and thinner when opened, which isn’t our favorite design, particularly if there are mesh pockets on the lid. They tend to be harder to hold open, and feel a bit floppy while accessing the pockets.
The main compartments of duffels will often have a couple of mesh zippered pockets inside or on the lid (like on Gregory’s Alpaca), or removable dividers to boost internal organization (like on Eagle Creek’s Cargo Hauler), but they are generally quite basic.
The fabric and design of a duffel help dictate how easy it is to pack with clothes and gear. Duffels that have stiffer sides and thicker fabrics are much easier to load up, as they stay firm even when empty, and don’t fold over on themselves while holding them open with one hand and packing with the other.
Our main complaint with our top pick, Patagonia’s Black Hole, lies in its flimsy fabric. Models like The North Face Base Camp Duffel or Black Diamond’s StoneHauler, on the other hand, boast solid structure with stiff materials and padding to hold the bag open. However, this can come at the cost of a higher weight.
Extra Internal and External Pockets
With your bulky gear and clothing items inhabiting the main compartment, you’ll want some smaller pockets for loose items like toiletries, passports, and electronics. Internal pockets help with organization, and external ones provide quick access to essentials while on the go.
We found that the vast majority of duffels have a couple of zippered mesh pockets on the inside of their lids. This isn’t our favorite design, as we prefer to have pockets in the main compartment itself, since heavy items in the lid make it unwieldy when opening and closing the bag. This does make it so that you can grab those items without having to shove other gear aside, but those pockets generally go unused by us.
Patagonia’s Black Hole features one of our favorite pocket designs, with the ability to access one of its extra pockets from both outside or inside the bag.
Many duffels will have one or two zippered compartments on either end of the bag, which are often big enough for larger items like rain jackets or hiking shoes. These are great for keeping dirty clothes separate from clean ones as the days go on, or for stashing gear you need to easily access.
You may never have to tether your duffel to a muggy jeep bouncing down a dirt road, or a smelly yak teetering over a mountain pass — but you definitely want it to be secure if you do. Bags for light travel and casual use might never see these conditions, but expedition duffels will often be put to the test atop a variety of different modes of transportation. These can be some of the most important elements of a duffel bag.
Most bags designed for outdoor use feature some layout of daisy chains or nylon straps along the sides of the bag. Our favorite daisy chain design is a horizontal configuration that runs the length of the bag, allowing for a more even tie-down of the load. Gregory’s Alpaca, The North Face’s Base Camp, and Black Diamond’s StoneHauler sport this setup.
Sea to Summit’s Duffel Bag only has a couple of small lash points on each side, and Patagonia’s Black Hole has two daisy chains that run vertically up the side, limiting your tie-down options. These aren’t our favorite configurations, but still get the job done.
No matter the layout, lashing points need to be robust enough to hold serious weight while tied to unstable vehicles and animals. You don’t want your gear tumbling down a slope mid-adventure because the stitching popped out.
Black Diamond nudges the bar high with the StoneHauler. They put its tie-down loops through the same load tests as their carabiners and cams, and rated each one to 2kN. The daisy chains on Gregory’s Alpaca also inspire lots of confidence, and are great for strapping to pulk sleds or roof racks.
Waterproof duffels often forgo lashing points to reduce the amount of stitching on the bag, and casual-use duffels may leave them off, opting for a simpler, lighter design. If you plan on tying your bag down during your travels, make sure it’s ready for the job.
Internal and External Compression Straps
These are some of our favorite features of duffels, and we bemoan the design of a bag if it doesn’t have them. Aside from rolling duffels, most models on this list don’t have a lot of internal structure to speak of. For that reason, loads that don’t entirely fill the bag jostle and shift around a good deal during travel and can make the duffel unwieldy and floppy — particularly when carrying it like a backpack.
Both internal and external compression straps help snug down the load, making it a tighter, easier-to-transport package. External compression straps are rarer, but can be found on bags like Rab’s Kitbag, or The North Face Base Camp.
Internal straps help keep things organized and compact while on the road. This means clothes stay folded, shoes stay together, and you won’t find a tossed salad of gear when you zip open your bag at the end of the day.
Flying with Duffel Bags
Duffel bags can be great flying companions, and many brands offer 30 to 40-liter models that are carry-on compatible if you’re looking to dodge checked baggage fees. Patagonia’s Black Hole, for instance, comes in the popular 40-liter option that meets most airline and train carry-on requirements.
Bag dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches are standard for carry-ons on many common airlines such as United, American, and Delta. Some airlines, like Delta, do not have weight limits for carry-ons to most destinations. Others, such as Frontier, put a cap at 35 pounds. Keep this in mind as you are loading up your bag. We found the 21” North Face Voyager wheeled duffel to be our go-to carry-on model for domestic and international flights alike.
Duffels make great checked bags as well. Since they weigh less themselves, you can often fill them with more heavy gear than regular suitcases, and they are built to be thrown around and handled roughly. United, American, and Delta have weight limits of 50 pounds for checked bags, with common international airlines like Qatar, Turkish, and British Airways enforcing similar restrictions in the 51 to 55-pound range.
Airlines generally have checked bag size limits of around 35 x 30 x 17 inches, which is plenty big enough for most duffels you’ll throw in the belly of a plane. Rolling duffels obviously provide some of the greatest ease of transport while navigating airports on a long trip. If the entirety of your trip will accommodate a bag with wheels, we’d definitely recommend them. But be careful — these are heavier duffels and you won’t be able to pack quite as much before hitting 50 pounds.
Be sure to always check the baggage regulations of your airline before packing for your flight, as the above figures could change over time. Interested in how we pack our duffels, backpacks, and suitcases for various trips? Check out our tips and tricks for both domestic and international travel.
While there are some great budget options out there, you do get what you pay for with duffel bags. As the barrier between your valuable cargo and the unforgiving elements on an adventure, you want to make sure you can travel with confidence.
Expect to pay anywhere from $70 to $300 for a quality duffel bag. Additional features and bleeding-edge technology boost the value and useability of a duffel bag — along with its price tag.
Simple cheaper models like REI’s Roadtripper will get you a basic polyester tube with webbing, which may be just what you need for occasional weekend jaunts. Staring down the barrel of a full-on expedition up Denali? You’ll probably want to shell out a bit more cash.
No matter which duffel you go with, every bag on this list has proven to be dependable on far-flung overseas tours, and short overnight excursions alike. We feel confident recommending each of them for any journey you’ve penned down on your bucket list.
After years of stuffing climbing, camping, and expedition gear into the Patagonia Black Hole and hauling it to far-off places, we feel that it is the best all-around duffel bag on the market right now. While different models may serve you better for more niche needs, the Black Hole is one of the more versatile bags we tested, and performs incredibly on both tough outdoor missions and casual trips. It features our favorite strap layout, main opening, and fabric choice, and is just fantastic to travel with.
Duffels are flexible, light, extremely durable pieces of luggage that offer greater versatility than traditional suitcases. They are often cylindrical tube-like bags made with tough ballistic nylon or polyester and are quite weather-resistant, with zippered or drawstring openings at the top.
Suitcases, on the other hand, are usually rectangular rigid cases with a large hinged lid to access your possessions. They may not offer as much weather resistance, but will have more structure and often have wheels to help roll them long distances.
Duffels are the better option for outdoor and expedition use, as they are much easier to transport through difficult terrain, or to lash onto various vehicles or animals.
Travelers use duffle bags for various reasons, and the type of trips you have on the docket will help dictate the duffle you decide to buy. Some use them for simple weekend travel, while others depend on them to protect sensitive gear in harsh landscapes on wild adventures. Regardless of where you intend to bring your duffel, you want it to be reliable and durable enough to keep your gear protected from the elements.
Duffel bags make great travel luggage because of their malleable, versatile nature, and ability to be easily strapped to different modes of transportation. This makes them perfect for trips that go through a wide variety of landscapes and environments.
We highlight a number of different categories of duffels in this guide, and each one is catered to different types of trips. All of the duffels we tested fall into the following designations: expedition duffel bags, travel/casual use duffel bags, waterproof duffel bags, and rolling duffel bags.
Many of the bags above fit into a couple of different categories. The Cotopaxi Allpa, for instance, could easily be used for both casual use and expeditions in harsh settings.
Many models of duffel bags come in carry-on sizes, and can be used to cut down on the cost of checked baggage. Most airlines enforce dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches for carry-on bags. Usually, a duffel bag in the 30-40 liter range will fall within these restrictions.
Most duffels with volumes of 50 liters or more will have either removable or stowable backpack straps to help with carrying your bag long distances. Not all backpack straps are created equal, though, and some are much more comfortable than others. The Osprey Transporter has the most cozy backpack system of any of the duffels we tried, and we had no problem carting it across town to a bus stop or standing in line for hours in the airport with it on our backs.
No matter how fancy the backpack straps are on a duffel bag, they will almost never be as comfortable to carry as backpacking backpacks. You shouldn’t plan on having to trek for long periods of time with your duffel, as it could wear you down fast.