Smaller than a suitcase, bigger than a tote, the classic duffel is a perfectly sized carryall for a long weekend. Peer out at a train platform full of city dwellers fleeing town on a Friday afternoon and you’ll see all varieties of duffels — from waxed-canvas bags harking back to the style’s military roots to luxe versions in buttery leather. To discover the best travel duffel bags out there, we asked frequent travelers — including writers, photographers, and a hotel exec — to recommend their favorites, and then sought out more bags that fit the experts’ requirements across a range of styles and price points.
What is the REI Roadtripper Duffel best for? It makes a great gear hauler for those who need space and protection without the bells and whistles. We’ve used the 100-liter version on a number of big trips including going all the way down to Patagonia (4 flights plus bus rides) and came away impressed. The bag is well built, functional, and has withstood quite bit of use and abuse. At the same time, it’s definitely not a fully-featured bag. If you want conveniences like backpack straps, internal storage, and side compartments, we’d recommend the Patagonia Black Hole above instead.
What are the downsides of the Granite Gear? With a 600-denier shell, it’s reasonably durable but not quite as thick or water resistant as the non-packable options from Patagonia and The North Face above (more weight equals more thickness). In addition, the bag does a fine job at carrying your gear but doesn’t offer much in the way of structure. And for an even lighter packable option, the Mountain Hardwear Lightweight Expedition weighs 6 ounces less but does not offer the U-shaped opening, backpack straps, or durability.
The Mission Duffel sits firmly in between backpack and duffel. As such, its shoulder straps aren’t an afterthought but a fully fleshed-out component that draws on the brand’s success with everyday and expedition packs. The straps are padded for comfort and equipped with a sternum harness. They also stow away neatly into a flap on the bottom of the bag. In addition to that, the Mission contains a main compartment that feels bigger than it looks and is home to multiple mesh organizing pockets. Like the Base Camp duffel, the Mission offers a separate section at one end for wet, dirty, or bulky items.
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Who should buy the Filson? To be sure, this bag belongs more on a weekend cabin getaway than on an Alaskan glacier. Not only that, but it lacks backpack straps, organizational compartments, haul handles for easy transport, and is pricier than most other options in its size range. This means that it’s not our first choice for an outdoor duffel, but it’s a super classy option for travel.
I just ordered the Signature 3 Compartment Crossbody, based on your reviews!! I’m excited to get it and see if it will be just what I’m looking for. My best travel tip is to read about where you’re going to familiarize yourself – it helps with packing appropriately, knowing the local customs, and just an overall sense of respect for the place you are visiting. I enjoy seeing the sites, but living like a local. Immersing yourself and just taking it all in is the perfect idea of a vacay for me!!
"I cram as much as possible into my checked luggage when I fly so that I can carry on something lighter (and more stylish). My go-to is the Dante backpack, a handsome roll-top sack with leather detailing from Swedish outfitter Sandqvist. It’s compact enough to fit handily underneath the seat, roomy enough to hold all my in-flight essentials, and dapper enough to usually earn a compliment from my seat mate. Dante comes in various colors, but the olive green is kind of my thing, so maybe choose a different one." — CB Owens, Copy & Research Editor
If you’re on the go, nothing slows you down faster than a clumsy travel bag. Rushing off to the airport? Trying to pack for an extended, multi-city business trip? Or maybe you just like putting your organizational skills to use? A good travel bag—sturdy, efficient, stylish—can be worth its weight in gold, more as a necessity than a mere accessory. Travel + Leisure editors deliberate carefully over which luggage sets are ideal for bringing on a vacation, and make sure to feature only the best that money can buy.
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Thank you, I have the Travelon cross body bucket bag, I love it and use it every day when traveling, a would be thief was foiled on the Paris metro, as I had clipped the zips closed, and I love the mini light that comes with the bag, helps with finding items at night especially. I rave about this bag to anyone who will listen. My number one travel tip is to wear in the shoes that you plan on taking travelling, don’t keep them ready for the trip, you will smile at the end of every day if you do.
Cenzo listened to their customers and is now fitting brass zippers. That was the tipping point for me. Italy is known for leather goods, but the quality of this weekend bag is exceptional. The vegetable tanning process must have improved the suppleness of the hides, because Cenzo leather feels fantastic. The canvas has stripes inside and I found that admissible, but not great. I'd have gone with a natural canvas color. Stripes were the only feature I didn't understand, but that may be a matter of taste. I highly recommend the Cenzo duffle, it's the best travel bag I've found.
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When choosing a duffel, consider how much you’ll want access to your belongings as you travel. The most streamlined models feature one large compartment with no internal organization (the REI Roadtripper, for example), while more fully-featured designs include handy external pockets for small items or padded compartments for a tablet or computer. Rolling duffels such as the Osprey Shuttle are downright luxurious, with numerous external pockets and internal dividers to help you organize your clothing inside (the Shuttle even includes an expandable external pocket so you can separate dirty clothes or hiking shoes from the rest of your belongings). For travelers, we think that at least one external pocket is nice to separate out your smaller essentials.
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.
Got this for my husband for Father's day. The only bag he had for short trips and stuff was a Puma duffel bag and I thought this will be a good upgrade. He loves it. Waxed canvas is thick and has a nice feel to it, leather seems to be of good quality, the straps are comfortable, pockets are perfect, and it looks really nice and classy. This is a grown man's bag.
Made by Boarding Pass in Brooklyn, NY, the Voyager Waxed Weekender is all at once practical, elegant, and adventure ready. Built from Martexin waxed canvas and adorned with exceptional leather detailing from the likes of legendary Wickett & Craig, it’s as suitable for a quick fall escape in the Catskills as it is for an epic sightseeing trip to Barcelona.
Very practical, light in weight and casual enough to be taken anywhere, this bag is strong and gives you the most value for its price. When not in use, just fold it up neatly and pop it into your closet. So, instead of carrying your wallet, a makeup kit, or a separate bag for your important documents or other essentials, make life easier with this travel duffel.
"I've tried other hard-shell suitcases, but Samsonite's are by far my favorite. I have two in different sizes! They're super lightweight and extremely durable, but most of all I like the way the interiors are organized. With other brands, you'll find the handle casing intrudes upon your packing space; not so with Samsonite. It's just a zip-up compartment for clothes on one side, and straps to hold shoes, toiletry bags, etc. in place on the other." — Flora Stubbs, Features Director
It loads from the top, but it also has a reinforced bottom compartment with bumper guards and ballistic nylon fabric to protect your delicate possessions. You can also access the bottom of the main compartment through the zippered curtain divider. The Alpha 2 Split Duffel also comes with two front U-zip pockets, a telescoping handle, and an adjustable shoulder strap.
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Lastly, you need to ask yourself that when you have purchased your bag, what storing options do you have available for it? – If you have a lot of storing space available then you can go for any kind of bag. However, if you have limited storing space available and you opt of a hard-sided bag then you will have atough time finding a suitable storing space for that.
These recommendations are great! I need a travel bag for my upcoming trip to Italy, so this is super helpful. One travel tip I’ve heard over the years in the same vein that I think is really helpful is when you’re walking with a rolling suitcase to keep it either between you and your travel companion, or if you’re alone to keep the bag on the side of you closest to a wall. This applies to bags as well. That way it’s much harder for someone to swipe it as they go by, especially if they’re on a bike, Vespa, motorcycle, etc.