Best Travel Duffel Bags 2019 – Review & Buyer’s Guide

best travel duffel bagA duffel bag is essential when traveling and to bring all of your gear along for the adventure. They are perfect for travel by air, a weekend cabin trip, or venturing across the world.

Duffel bags are popular among all kinds of travelers due to the quick mobility and comfort. They are easy to load and carry on the road, and many are built for great durability.

Smaller than a suitcase, bigger than a tote, the classic duffel is a perfectly sized travel bag. Duffel bags come in a variety of designs and can fit many different needs or styles.

We took a look at some of the industry’s best travel duffel bags and here are our top picks.

Our 5 Best Travel Duffel Bags

1. Patagonia Black Hole 60L Travel Duffel Bag – Best Performance

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.

The Black Hole is also very durable. The fabric is 900D ripstop nylon with a DWR finish to fend off moisture. This duffel is not waterproof like some other models but should keep your gear dry in light rain.

In terms of features and carrying comfort, you get a multitude of ways to grab and carry the Black Hole Duffel. The backpack straps are more comfortable and functional than most. The bag comes with a large detachable shoulder strap for throwing over one shoulder.

Keep in mind that this duffel does not have a particularly rigid structure. It doesn’t offer a whole lot of protection for fragile items. It’s one of the more expensive non-roller duffels on the list. However, the quality is worth the extra cost.

There is a padded base from some protection when setting your bag down on hard surfaces. This bag also offers zippered top access, as well as internal organizers and zippered mesh pockets. It comes with internal compression as well.

Pros
  • Adjustable backpack straps
  • Durable ripstop nylon
  • Sufficient storage
  • Comfortable
Cons
  • Structure isn’t super rigid

2. The North Face Base Camp Travel Duffel Bag – Largest Capacity

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.

Both bags offer comparable organization pockets. 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).

The alpine-cut shoulder straps are adjustable and provide an ergonomic fit with minimal twisting. Padded side handles serve as both duffel carry handles and haul handles. It also comes equipped with a D-shaped zip opening and weather-resistant zipper flap.

There are plenty of compartments and zippered mesh pockets for organizational and storage options. There are also four compression straps to cinch down the load.

The outer fabric on The North Face shows scuff marks more easily than the Patagonia above. It’s also over a pound heavier, which does add up if you will be carrying for extended periods of time. The backpack straps are also not quite as easy to detach as those on the Patagonia.

Pros
  • Water-resistant
  • Many compartments
  • Adjustable backpack straps
  • Durable
Cons
  • Outer fabric easily shows scuffs
  • On the heavy side
  • Backpack straps not as easily detachable

3. Osprey Packs Transporter 65 Expedition Travel Duffel Bag – Hybrid Bag

The Osprey Transporter is a hybrid of a duffel as well as a backpack. With serious backpack straps designed with carrying comfort in mind, the Transporter is a great option for travelers who need to cover distance with their duffel.

In terms of features, the outside is tough and water resistant. The inside is loaded with handy extras like a padded compartment for electronics and rain flaps for piece of mind. Further, the lid zips are lockable, and the straps can be easily stowed away when not in use.

The Osprey Transporter is a bit on the expensive side. It’s also slightly less durable than other models in terms of denier. The lack of dedicated carry handles are a bit of an inconvenience as well.  However, the carrying comfort over long distances more than makes up for any inconvenience in other features.

The Transporter 65 is built with ruggedly dependable, weather resistant fabrics. Not just a duffel, it is comfortable to carry, and perfect as a companion on a short trip or for storing your gear. The Transporter will also keep objects with sharp points from poking through.

Built with dual sided TPU coating inside and out. It comes with burly hardware and stiffened main body fabric with protective accent ribs. There are also overlapping zipper rain flaps and design details that protect your gear from external elements like snow, rain, hail and sun.

Pros
  • Dual duffel and backpack
  • Water-resistant
  • Great comfort on long distances
Cons
  • Slightly less durable than other models

4. Granite Gear 24″ Packable Travel Duffel Bag – Best Price

The Granite Gear Packable Duffel is a great duffel, weighing only 1 pound 8 ounces and coming with a separate case for easy storage. Despite the compact size, you still get plenty of features. The bag has a full backpack harness plus the regular assortment of straps and handles.

It is designed with a decently tough 600D shell fabric that keeps your itesm protected. There is also plenty of storage with good access to the main compartment with a large U-shaped zipper. At only $60, there is a lot to like about this duffel.

With a 600-denier shell, it’s reasonably durable but not quite as thick or water resistant as non-packable options from Patagonia and The North Face above. The more weight a bag has, the thicker it generally is. This bag does a fine job at carrying your gear but doesn’t offer much in the way of structure.

If you’re looking for a bag that makes carrying things easier, without becoming bulky and awkward, this is a great option. The price point is also a very attractive feature for this bag. It makes it a great option if you don’t plan to be in extreme conditions on a frequent basis with you gear.

Pros
  • Great price
  • Backpack harness included
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Not as water-resistant

5. Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 60L Travel Duffel Bag – The Lightweight Duffel Bag

The Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler is a nice option for travelers looking for a lightweight duffel with an assortment of carry options. It’s one of the more affordable duffels on the market at $99 for the 60-liter version, weighs less than 2 pounds, and even packs into its own end pocket.

The bag is functional too. Similar to the Patagonia Black Hole, the Cargo Hauler has a U-shaped lid. It also has lash points and grab handles, a padded foam bottom, and padded and removable backpack straps.

Within its weight class, the Cargo Hauler is comparable in function and design to Granite Gear’s Packable Duffel. It comes in 4 ounces heavier and lacks features like top carry handles and internal organization pocket. This bag is also made with 600D water-resistant fabric, a less durable, but lighter weight material than more rugged models.

The Cargo Hauler simply is not as burly and water resistant as a bag like The North Face Base Camp, nor is it as comfortable of a backpack. It tends to droop even when loaded. However, for a nice all-around travel duffel at a reasonable price, this makes for a great option.

Pros
  • Great price
  • Lightweight
  • Very functional
Cons
  • No carry handles
  • Less durability than other models
  • Less water-resistant

Choosing the Best Travel Duffel Bag

In terms of capacity, duffel bags can range from 25 liters to a whopping 150 liters. Your capacity needs will match your activity and intended use.

For solo travelers on overnight and weekend trips where you won’t be bringing a bunch of gear, a smaller duffel in the 25 to 40-liter range should do the trick.

A good number of these models within this range are carry-on compatible, saving you the time and the potential cost of checking a bag. The general cut-off for a carry-on is roughly 40 liters.

For extended travel, where you will be bringing more items, you will want to look into a medium sized duffel between 50 to 75 liters. The 60 liter is often a great middle ground to choose from within this range.

Duffels that are 75 liters or larger are heavy haulers for longer trips. They are also great for multiple people. They are a great option for bringing outdoor equipment such as boots, backpacks, tents, etc.

It’s worth noting that these bags can get heavy fast depending on what you stow inside of them, so keep an eye out for total weight as you’re packing.

Clothing and most regular items should keep you below the 50-pound checked bag limit, but if you’re packing anything particularly heavy, it can be an issue. And for serious outdoor and expedition use, duffels like The North Face Base Camp are made all the way up to 150 liters.

Waterproofing

If you will be engaging in activity involving water or rain, you will want to have a certain level of waterproof protection from your travel duffel. You’ll want to look for thick exterior materials and a fully waterproof zipper. Most bags are somewhat water-resistant and are sufficient for an average traveler’s needs.

Roller vs. Non-Roller Duffels

Roller duffels are quite popular, particularly for air travel. They are great for travelers wanting the ease of wheeling their bag with the packing convenience. This is great if you want to have to option to relieve your back or shoulder from the carrying weight.

Roller duffels do have their limitations. First, rarely do roller duffels come with anything more than carry handles, making them difficult to transport in areas without a sufficient rolling surface. Second, cheaper or ultralight duffels tend to fall over when full.

Finally, roller duffels inherently have more breakable parts. Some duffels have replaceable wheels, but many don’t which is a quick way to lose all of that easy transport functionality.

A non-roller duffel is a better choice for uses where you will be traveling around a lot. Backpacking through Europe is a great example.

If you’re primarily an air traveler and moving your bag long distances by vehicle, a roller duffel is a fine option. You do get the added benefit of one hard side for protecting your belongings.

Backpack Straps

Backpack straps are a great carrying method. They are perfect for those who want to throw their bag over their back and walk with it.

Look for backpack straps that offer padding for extra comfort. You’ll also want to consider whether or not you will need detachable/removable backpack straps. These types of duffels are great for covering long distances.

Shoulder Straps

A single shoulder strap is a quick way to carry your duffel short distances. Though they are less comfortable than backpack straps over extended periods of time.

In particular, shoulder straps are more comfortable on smaller duffels that don’t weigh over 60 liters. Shoulder straps usually are removable, allowing you to streamline your duffel for transport.

Carry Handles

Most duffels have carry handles of some sort. They could either be dedicated straps or a simple padded handle connecting the backpack straps to each other.

Carry handles are useful for picking up a bag and moving it a short distance, and they’re great for carrying small capacity bags in one hand.

Durability

You want to be sure that your bag can handle the environment that you plan to be in. So be sure it can match the level of durability that you will require from it. In general, the heavier a bag is the more durable it tends to be.

Weight

Weight is also a factor that largely depends on your needs. If you will be going long distances, you want to make sure the bag doesn’t add too much unnecessary weight. However, if you won’t be carrying it for extended periods of time, you can get away with a few extra ounces or pounds.

Pockets and Storage

You also want to factor in where you are going and how many items you will need to bring. Additionally, ensure that you have plenty of storage options for all of your essentials. You also want to go with a bag that offers adequate organization so that your items aren’t just randomly all over the place.

Our Final Review for Best Travel Duffel Bags

First and foremost, know what you need your bag for. Knowing the length of your stay is the first factor to consider, then factoring in your location.

Will you be going somewhere that you can only utilize one bag? Will you be able to transfer a few items over to a daypack?  If so, maybe backpack straps aren’t an important feature to you.

The same goes for durability and weight. You can see how your environment and stay greatly influences what are the necessary factors to consider. Start by knowing your needs and then go out and find the perfect travel duffel bag for you.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment