Grab handles often are located on the ends or sides of a bag and sit close to the surface. Similar to carry handles, they are used to quickly lift or slide a duffel. Having a grab handle on each side is convenient when moving the bag around (think about grabbing it from the overhead bin of an airplane or the storage compartment on the bottom of a bus). We love grab handles: they are one the reasons that duffels are so versatile and easy to move around.
If you just need a basic duffel bag to get your gear from point A to point B, the Hexin Collapsible 85L Duffel Bag is a great option at a budget-friendly price. Constructed from high-quality honeycomb nylon and durable two-way zippers, this large-capacity Hexin bag quickly folds down to a tiny pouch with a wrist strap that weighs just one pound. You can toss it in your purse or other luggage when not in use, making it the perfect extra bag for travel purchases or a quick replacement for a damaged suitcase. (The 85L bag is 28 x 12 x 16 inches and folds down to just 11.5 x 10 x 23 inches.)
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While I really like the stylishness of the Travelon handbags, they are very poorly made with poor quality materials, at least in the interior. I purchased a hobo style bag from Travelon about 3 years ago and sadly the lining ripped apart within 3 months. I was NOT impressed. The lining material was of a very inferior quality and the stitching was subpar. I’ve since switched to PacSafe, while not nearly as stylish, the material used for the entire bag is sturdier and more durable. I’ve been using my PacSafe citysafe 100 bag for 2 years now and it still looks like new.
Here’s a duffel for those heading for inclement climates and expecting the worst. Ortlieb’s take on the duffel is an expedition bag made from tear-resistant, PVC-coated, polyester fabric that’s reinforced at the base. The interior contains two pockets for essentials, while the exterior features a mesh pocket, daisy chains for rigging and an impregnable TIZIP zipper (also frequently used on diving suits as well as Yeti’s soft sided coolers). You know water, or anything else for that matter, can’t get in when the excess air can’t get out.
If you know coolers, chances are you know the YETI brand. And it’s no surprise that the company entered the duffel market with a splash. Many models on this list are water resistant—they can withstand wet ground and the occasional rain shower—but the Panga is fully waterproof. You’ll often spot this thick and submergible duffel on rafts, fishing boats, and pretty much anywhere people want the ultimate level of protection for their gear. Made with laminated high-density nylon that feels like rubber, a burly EVA bottom, and a waterproof zipper that locks firmly into place, this duffel is as water-ready and air-tight as you’ll find.
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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.