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 outdoor/travel duffel to consider.
One travel tip I have is to pack two or three binder clips with you. They are small to pack but useful for securing hotel/hostel/accommodation curtains shut. This helps block out the light more and make it easier to sleep which is helpful when you are adjusting to a new schedule & overcoming jet lag. Another tip is to try to switch whatever toiletries you can to solids. There are great options for solid shampoo bars, body wash bars, face wash bars, lotion bars, etc.
My favourite cross-body travel bag isn’t mentioned here. It’s the Ameribag, a.k.a. the Healthy Back Bag. It’s very sturdily made, it’s ambidextrous (can be slung and accessed from either right or left), it’s comfortable to wear in a number of ways, it’s machine-washable (depending on the model – mine is the Distressed Nylon), and you can get it in various sizes and colours. Plus, the bag is soft and flexible enough to be collapsed and folded/rolled up when needed.
Why isn’t the Thule ranked higher? The shoulder straps are functional but not as comfortable as many of the options above, not to mention they have such a simple attachment system that it has tendency to wiggle off while in use. And another small issue: the U-shaped lid that dips well below the top of the bag can be difficult to zip shut when the bag is fully stuffed. But these are small gripes about an otherwise solid duffel, and we hope Thule continues to make strides with its bags.
This lightweight, quilted bag from Oliver Thomas — a new travel bag brand that's named after founder Sue Fuller's dog — pulls out all the stops. It's got water-resistant fabric, a sleeve that slides over your luggage handle, a clip that keeps the straps from sliding off your shoulder, and a bottom zip compartment that's perfect for keeping shoes separate from clothes. The brand also makes tons of patches with cheeky statements like,"more baggage than LAX," and, "aspiring retiree," that adhere in a few seconds with a hairdryer.
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.