We can’t sing the praises of this bag enough. It’s spare but polished, made of lightweight, stain-resistant nylon, and hits the sweet spot of form and function. The interior offers plenty of pockets for keeping your stuff organized, and it’s got wheels and a retractable handle hidden in a zip pocket, so you can roll it through the terminal if you overpack.
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.
"I recently tested this smart carry-on for a weekend trip and it impressed me from the get-go. For starters, it's only about 9 lbs. and has a built-in weight sensor, a USB charging port, and a lock that's activated by an app on your phone. I found it to be roomier inside than other smart suitcases I've tested, and love the added front pockets for exterior storage on a hard-sided case. Plus, the charger pack includes a set of converters, allowing for easy charging worldwide." — Richelle Szypulski, Assistant Digital Editor
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The $130-ish duffel market certainly is competitive, but another nice option for travelers is the Long Hauler from Marmot. This bag is well designed with just about all of the features that you need: detachable backpack straps, a U-shaped access to the main compartment, grab handles on the ends, compression straps, and end pockets for storing smaller items and valuables. Durability is good too: the bag is reinforced with 600D nylon, which should allow for a decent amount of rough use.
With a capacity of 40.78 liters, the bag is roomy enough to handle extended trips, without having to check it in at the airport. Its interior is complemented by two large zipper pockets and lined with soft navy cotton twill to keep your menswear essentials and gear protected. Each order comes with a free tin of Martexin wax to extend your weekender’s life and maintain its waterproof qualities.
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Why is the Gregory Alpaca ranked so low on the list? First and foremost, it lacks a shoulder strap. This isn’t a deal breaker for us as backpack-style is the carrying method of choice for a bag of this size, but a shoulder strap is great for short hauls and moving the bag from place to place. Second, the Alpaca lacks outside pockets for small items, which is a simple feature that adds a good deal of convenience. It's a solid duffel, but when you throw in the fact that the Alpaca is roughly the same price as bags from other top brands, it’s not a standout.
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Help me, dear Strategist! I’m going on two very different international trips in the next few months (Nicaragua and Japan) and am looking for a cross-body bag that will work for both and doesn’t scream TRAVEL BAG. I’m looking for a goldilocks size that I can wear with my backpacking pack that will hold a water bottle and small book, along with my wallet and phone. I realize I’m describing the Baggu drawstring you all talk about so much, but I’d love to spend less than $75. Any clues?
Developed in collaboration with Permanent Style, this clever Bennett Winch 2-piece design is made from British waterproof cotton canvas and includes a cylindrical holdall, complete with military-grade detachable shoulder strap, a removable waterproof shoe bag, and an external pocket for small items. The suit carrier ingeniously wraps around the central bag and accommodates one jacket and one pair of trousers safely. And the best part is that each section can be used separately.