How to Choose the Best Duffel Bags for Travel and More

If you are looking for a versatile, sturdy, and efficient bag, then you must be thinking of a duffel bag. Although this type of carrier has been around for quite some time, it still remains as popular as ever. So, regardless of what you need it for, a duffel bag is sure to suit your purpose well.

Of course, this brings you to actually choosing the best possible bag for you and your endeavors. Since this can be a bit of a longwinded and confusing process, we have decided to provide you with some pointers. This guide will tackle all of the relevant subject matter for you:

The Complete Guide to Choosing a Duffel Bag

At a glance, you may think that you know all about duffel bags. After all, you have either seen them being used or used them yourselves for most of your life. Well, believe it or not, there is probably a great deal about these bags that you don’t know.

This is because there tends to be a considerable level of difference between each duffel bag. They vary by manufacturer, function, design, and even material. So, you will need to be fully informed if you are to actually find one that is well-suited to you. Here is all that of the information that you require:

Types of Duffel Bags

First things first, let’s tackle the types of duffel bags that you can choose from:

  • Gym Duffel Bag: this is probably the most common types of duffel bags available. They tend to be large enough to carry your equipment, although they do come in a variety of sizes. The key features of this bag are strength and durability.
  • Travel Duffel Bag: this type of bag is actually becoming quite widespread these days. You can choose either a rolling duffel bag or a design with no wheels. These bags are sturdy and lightweight and have large capacities.
  • Unstructured Duffel Bag: while most duffel bags can keep their shape when empty, unstructured bags are meant to do the opposite. This makes them easy to put away and store when they are not in use. These bags are also quite light. Unstructured bags can be categorized either as foldable duffel bags or collapsible duffel bags.

How Will You Be Using Your Duffel Bag?

Being aware of the types of duffel bags alone isn’t enough. You will also need to take into consideration what it is that you need this bag for. There are a few reasons that people look to duffel bags as their preferred form of luggage. Understanding these requirements makes it easier for you to decide on one that is right for you.

For instance, there are various types of travel duffel bags available to you. You are probably most familiar with the ones that are taken on airlines. These keep their shape well and are able to carry a larger number of items as well as protect them too. The travel duffel bags without wheels are often used as carry on luggage while those with wheels tend to be bulkier and so work better as checked luggage.

Of course, this is not the only type of travel that you may be doing. If you are more of an explorer, then the duffel bag that you will need will differ slightly. For one thing, it is going to need to be lighter and have backpack-like straps so that it is more comfortable for you to carry around. In the event that you will be out in all types of weather, you will require a design that has weatherproof features.

Since one of the main advantages of a duffel bag is its volume capacity, these bags can be quite popular for businesspeople who are either traveling or just want to carry a larger number of items. Here, form is just as important as function. This is why, in this instance, you may want to choose a duffel bag that is slightly more expensive, looks good, and is made from more luxurious looking materials.


The next thing you will need to ponder is the size of the duffel bag that you are going to get. Here, it is all about how much you want to carry and the length of the trip that you are going on. Of course, keep in mind that there are some special rules as far as a carry on duffel bag is concerned. If this is the type of bag that you want then you will need a smaller bag that is able to adhere to the regulations of both domestic and international airlines.

Looking for a gym bag that is able to take the bare minimum or want a duffel bag that will hold clothes and small toiletries for a day? Then you will find that one with a volume of around 25 to 30 liters is satisfactory.

If you want to either carry larger items or will be gone for a weekend then you should look for a duffel bag that can hold up to 50 liters in capacity. A duffel bag that is larger than this is suitable for week-long trips. If you are planning on heading out on an expedition, then you may want to consider a bag that can hold up to 200 liters.


In addition to capacity, size can also be an issue. As you can imagine, if you are traveling by air, each airline will request that even your checked luggage be within the boundary of certain dimensions. While there are no such restrictions on gym or commuter duffel bags, you should still contemplate the size. Bags that are either too large or too long can be difficult to carry around with you. So, you should always choose ones that match your height, size, and your carrying capabilities.


Another thing to pay attention to is the material or fabric that the duffel bag is made from. Now, typically most duffel bags are made from some variation of polyester or nylon. However, if you are looking for a slighter higher end, more luxurious option, then you may prefer one in leather. The thing to keep in mind about leather is that it is quite high maintenance so you will have to care for it properly if you want it to last for longer. Also, bags made from this material don’t always age well so you may not be able to use them for too long if using them for professional purposes.

If you don’t expect too much wear or tear, duffel bags made from high denier nylon or polyester will work well for you. Of course, if you are planning on using and abusing your duffel bag, you may want to consider using ripstop or ballistic versions of the material. These are less likely to tear even when there is a lot of friction involved.

If you will be spending a lot of time outdoors then it stands to reason that your bag will have to endure changes in weather. In this case, weatherproofing features will come in quite handy. If you are anticipating a lot of rain, then you will need a bag that is made from water resistant or waterproof materials. For sunny areas, fabric that is protected against UV light will be more useful.

Organization Features

Typically, duffel bags aren’t known for their pockets or compartments. They tend to comprise of one large, main compartment where all of your items can be stored. Now, if organization isn’t your main goal or if you are headed out on a short trip, then this will serve you well. However, if you are carrying a greater number of items and want some semblance of orderliness, then you will require more isolated sections.

If you want a bag to take to the gym or the great outdoors, then consider the fact that you may have to store wet or sweaty items. In these instances, mesh pockets on the outside of the bag tend to be most useful as they allow you to keep the items separate and air them out as well.

Now, for carry on luggage, external pockets may make sense as they allow you to be more organized. Also, since the bag will rarely leave your sight, there aren’t security concerns either. Nonetheless, if you want a duffel bag for checked luggage, you will find that these outside pockets are a bit redundant. Since you can’t lock or secure those items can easily be stolen from the compartments.

The Straps

There are actually three different ways that you can carry your duffel bag:

The traditional way is with two short carrying handles that meet in the middle. These are often secured together with a piece of fabric and Velcro. With these, you can hold the bag in one hand and carry it parallel to the ground. This system works well for lightweight bags with medium dimensions. Just ensure that the fabric that holds the handles is well padded so that the grip is more comfortable.

Then, you have the option of a cross-body strap that goes diagonally across your torso. This is a good choice for bags that are a little longer and are a bit bulky. For the greatest level of comfort, look for a wider strap with a padded portion that can rest on your shoulder.

More recently, you are able to find duffel bags that have a carrying system much like that of a backpack. This is ideal for bags that are quite heavier or if you have to travel a greater distance, carrying your bag. These straps afford you greater stability. Just ensure that the straps are well-padded and are slightly wider.

This is a good set of pointers to help you choose a duffel bag that will suit you perfectly, regardless of what you need it for.

Top 10 Best Duffel Bags

1 – Dakine Stashable

Dakine Stashable Duffle Bag
  • Deployable nylon duffle with allover print
  • Large main zip opening for your daily essentials
  • Dual Function Straps
  • Limited Lifetime Guarantee
  • 20 x 12 x 10 inches, 51 x 30 x 25 cm, 2000 cubic inches, 33 Liters

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Dakine Stashable:

Reviewers like these things about the Dakine Stashable

  • Many reviewers noted that the Dakine Valise backpack is comfortable to carry.
  • Laptop users lauded the presence of an external sleeve dedicated to keeping their gadgets safe and secure.
  • Other reviewers pointed out that the bag could be carried using the handle, or through a roller.
  • Testers also noted that its interior drop pockets allow users to organize things better.
  • Many users found that the bag is durable due to its polyester and cotton material.
  • Several reviewers found out that its tuckaway ID pocket adds security.
  • Many of the users indicated that its handle could be retractable.
  • Users noted that the urethane wheels of the bag are replaceable.
  • They pointed out that the bag could be used for travel and excursions.
  • Several testers also felt that it was easy to fly with.
  • Other users pointed out that its wheels roll smoothly and sturdily.
  • Reviewers also noted that its fabric does not show dirt.
  • Others indicated that its main compartment could hold a weekend’s worth of clothes.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user thought that the bag could tip right over when not leaned against something.
  • Another user does not stay upright.

2 – Mountainsmith Travel Trunk

Mountainsmith Travel Trunk Recycled-Fabric
  • Recycled travel bag that's big enough to carry anything and everything
  • Made of 450-denier recycled PET fabric with 1,000-denier Kodroa reinforcements; made with fabric woven from 100 percent recycled water bottles
  • Internal zippered pocket; elastic rigging for quickly stashing items
  • 2 compression straps with quick-release hardware; 2 end haul handles
  • Storage space varies from 2,900 (M) to 11,000 (XXL) cubic inches

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Mountainsmith Travel Trunk:

Reviewers like these things about the Mountainsmith Travel Trunk

  • One owner thought it was indeed a heavy duty bag. It carries relatively heavy stuff and it has held up well.
  • Some reviewers like the heavy fabric and zippers with compression strap that relieve stress from the zippers.
  • One user was happy with how she was able to fit all of her outdoor gear in it for a weekend of winter activities.
  • A number of reviewers also appreciate the haul loops on both ends and the padded velcro wrap for the top handles.
  • Some users recommend this bag for all its great features and meeting airline carry on baggage requirements.
  • One customer refer to it as a travel trunk of many uses.
  • A reviewer is confident that the bag will hold up to years of travel.
  • Frequent travelers love how they can easily put over a week’s worth of clothes in it with room to spare.
  • One skier thought it was perfect for packing as much gear as he needs.
  • One happy customer recommends this bag for its quality, big beefy zippers,stitching and thick fabric.
  • A reviewer was so amazed with how this bag never seems to run out of space and it seems to have magical properties when stuffing gear into it.
  • One owner said he’d recommend this bag to any outdoor enthusiast looking to carry all their gear.
  • Huge storage capacity,strong straps and zippers,great construction and size are cited as the most favorite features of this bag.
  • Some reviewers said it is the perfect travel bag for all their hunting gear and clothes.
  • One couple was amazed with how it had enough room for both of their luggage for an extended trip.
  • One exclaimed that he could pack an entire closet with this travel trunk.
  • A number of reviewers said the bag is perfect for business trave as it is light and rugged with a VERY comfortable shoulder strap.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One customer thought it was too big for regular checked baggage.
  • One owner said it needs more compression straps on the sides.

3 – Timbuk2 Quest

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Timbuk2 Quest:

Reviewers like these things about the Timbuk2 Quest

  • Users have noted that they could access their things from the Timbuk2 Quest duffel bag quickly.
  • Many of the reviewers indicated that the bag is comfortable to wear.
  • Several users felt that its ripstop nylon material is durable.
  • Reviewers thought that it is an excellent rugged duffel bag for adventures.
  • Other reviewers said that the internal mesh wall pocket of the bag helps keep things in place.
  • Users noted that its full-zip opening main compartment provides easy access to the duffel.
  • Other users praised the presence of reflective hits for visibility.
  • Users said that it has multiple external pockets that are well-sized to fit all travel accessories.
  • They also noted that the pack is an excellent travel and gym bag.
  • Testers also noted that it could fit essential things well.
  • Users recommend the pack could fit perfectly in an overhead compartment when flying.
  • Other users pointed out that the material in the bag is robust.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that it is a little small to fit shoes.
  • Another reviewer does not recommend the bag for high-intensity activities.

4 – Dakine Crew 70L

Dakine Crew Duffle Bag
  • Stowable padded shoulder straps
  • U-Shaped opening for easy access
  • YKK waterproof zippered side and end pockets
  • Padded shoulder strap

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Dakine Crew 70L:

Reviewers like these things about the Dakine Crew 70L

  • Semi-recessed wheels,storage organization,light weight,durability and construction are cited as the most favorite features of the bag.
  • Some skiers were so pleased with how it’s able to fit everything they need to go skiing/snowboarding for a long weekend.
  • Other users find the split design brilliant plus the different zipping compartments make it a breeze to keep things organized.
  • Many users love its stable wheels and how it stays upright no matter how the items are distributed inside the bag.
  • Others find the presence of additional buckles useful in keeping stuff safe and secure.
  • Some users particularly like the soft pack which allows for maximizing space.
  • One user dubbed it as the best suitcase on wheels.
  • Many users describe it as a stable,reliable and good-looking bag.
  • Other users love how easy it is to pack and unpack,maneuver and comes with a lot handles for carrying options.
    -Some reviewers find the stabilizer bar opposite the wheels very useful in balancing the weight of the pack and keeping it from tipping over.
  • Many users find its storage organization fantastic.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users thought it’s a great product but the handle does not easily slide up.
  • One user thought it’s close to perfect bag but finds the position of the handle a design flow.

5 – Burton Backhill 25L

Burton Mens Backhill Duffel X-Small 25L
  • Pack light and keep moving with the Burton Backhill Duffel X-Small 25L.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Burton Backhill 25L:

Reviewers like these things about the Burton Backhill 25L

  • Most users said that this is a great weekend sized bag.
  • Reviewers said that the material and design is good and also easy to grow accustomed to.
  • They said that it is spacious with an excellent space for your shoes, too.
  • Many users said that the whole bag is lined with a rubber-like waterproof liner to keep your things dry.
  • Users also said that this is great for your wet boots, and to keep them separate from your dry clothes.
  • Many reviewers mentioned that the handles are all triple stitched nylon and seem very durable.
  • Buyers said that it seems very durable.
  • Many other buyers said that it has durable straps and the material of this bag ensure years of use.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user complained that the bottom tore open very early.
  • Another user complained that the backpack straps are not padded.

6 – Fjallraven Duffel No. 6

Fjallraven - Duffel No. 6 Medium, Black
  • Large duffel bag for travelling in robust G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco. Padded shoulder straps with ventilating air mesh for extra comfort. Padded at the top for extra comfort when carrying as a backpack.
  • Extra large opening for easier packing/unpacking and to give a good overview of contents. Main zipper can be locked with a padlock (not included).
  • Compression straps at the short ends. Handles and shoulder straps can be stowed away during air transport for easier check-in. Bottom in waterproof 1000D Nylon with foam padding for extra protection of contents.
  • Security pocket and an open mesh pocket inside. Zippered exterior pocket for items that need to be easily accessible.
  • Measures 15.4" x 26.8" x 15.4" (39 cm x 68 cm x 39 cm). Weighs 3.4 lb (1550 g). 70 L volume.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Fjallraven Duffel No. 6:

Reviewers like these things about the Fjallraven Duffel No. 6

  • Many reviewers thought it’s a fantastic bag perfect for short trips.
  • Others love how the internal and external pockets allow easy access.
  • Some users find the circle tab on the main zipper a really nice touch.
  • Many users thought the zippers are nice and solid.
  • Others thought the leather straps will last a lifetime.
  • Some owners find the size perfect for a weekend trip or carry-on for a flight.
  • Many reviewers find the fabric very sturdy and durable.
  • Others are fond of the leather handles and little leather fox logo.
  • Many users agree that they get what they pay for for this bag.
  • One user said that the bag feels indestructible.
  • Heavy duty ring pull, outside snap pocket, outside zip pocket and inside smaller mesh zip pocket are among the favorite features of the bag.
  • Others find the external pocket very convenient.
  • Many users love how it holds a lot without being too bulky.
  • Some users love how it fits easily into the overhead bin and takes up very little space.
  • Many users agree the bag looks gorgeous, well crafted and functional.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Other users thought the straps are a bit small.
  • Some users said it would have been great if there was a cross body strap.

7 – Osprey Trillium 45

Osprey Trillium 45 Duffel Bag
  • Three-position padded shoulder strap for multiple carry options
  • Large lockable U-zip access to the main compartment
  • Zippered end pocket for quick access to smaller items
  • Four lower web lashing points for securing duffel and protecting high wear points
  • Large padded web grab handles

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Trillium 45:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Trillium 45

  • Most reviewers said that the construction, zippers, straps, etc all seem to be very robust.
  • Many reviewers said that It is comfortable to carry and can be set up to carry in a variety of ways.
  • Some other reviewers said that the size is comparable to a typical school backpack.
  • They also said that It easily fits a full-size laptop or full page size notebooks.
  • Many users said that It can actually expand to be pretty big.
  • Some other users said that the main compartment also has a clip on a strap that can hold onto keys.
  • One great feature mentioned by many users is that the inside of the main compartment has a mesh sub-compartment on the inside of the zipper flap.
  • Reviewers also said that this bag can be rolled up to tightly to be an extra bag to stuff into your luggage.
  • Most buyers said that overall, nice bag for clothes/short trips.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users complained that it is difficult to fold it back into the storage pouch.
  • Another user complained that the bag is a little smaller than he expected.

8 – Watershed Ocoee

Watershed Ocoee Duffel Bag, Orange
  • Removable, padded shoulder straps and adjustable waist strap
  • Durable top lug handle
  • Large, tapered opening allows for easy access to contents
  • Abrasion resistance and overall strength
  • 840 denier fabric with a heavy matte PU finish built to withstand years of use

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Watershed Ocoee:

Reviewers like these things about the Watershed Ocoee

  • Most users said that it has an interesting way of opening and closing and it will keep water out.
  • They also said that it will work perfectly and are completely waterproof.
  • Some users said that it is very versatile.
  • Users also said that it is a great size and fits all my essentials with no problems.
  • Many reviewers said that it has plenty of well-constructed lash point.
  • They said that it’s super fashionable.
  • Reviewers said that it holds all your stuff, still look tough.
  • They said that it’s great to have your phone protected.
  • Buyers said that the seal is heavy duty and easy to open and close.
  • One great feature mentioned by many users is that the clips on the compression straps are well made and can take a beating.
  • Another great feature mentioned by the users is that it has hard loops that allow you to throw a carabineer through and secure into your boat.
  • Many buyers mentioned that there is a soft flap that velcros around the carrying straps that create a nice handle.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user complained that it is hard to open and close because the seal is so tight.
  • Another user complained that the stitching on certain areas that were frayed & loose right out the box.

9 – Kelty Versant 40L

Kelty Versant Duffel Bag
  • Removable strap drop: 25 inches
  • Pockets: 1 interior zip, 3 exterior

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Kelty Versant 40L:

Reviewers like these things about the Kelty Versant 40L

  • A lot of users deemed that the Kelty Versant pack is very lightweight.
  • Users recommend the bag for everyday use.
  • Other users noted that the fabric looks kind of like canvas but has a texture, feel and weight that is more like parachute material.
  • Many of those who have tried the pack noted that the flap has a large zipper pocket with a key ring hook that could be found inside.
  • Several users observed that its strap is adjustable and can be quite long if needed.
  • Reviewers have felt that it has a sleek minimalistic look.
  • Many wrote that the bag’s inside is high visibility.
  • Another user said that the pack is an attractive, understated bag, that when fill does bulk out weirdly but still is comfortable to wear.
  • Testers noted that the organizational pocket at the front is a nice touch.
  • Reviewers raved about the padding in the back that will be great when the weather is warm.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user remarked that the straps that hold the flap down have hooks instead of buckles; the hooks tend to come loose rather easily and this leads to the flap being loose and not strapped down half of the time.
  • Another user thought that the bag’s pockets on the main interior are hard to access when the bag is full though.

10 – Marmot Long Hauler Medium

Marmot Long Hauler Medium Travel Duffel Bag, 3050ci (50 Liter)
  • Duffel bag ideal for use as an expedition bag, carry-on bag, or general travel bag
  • Large, D-shaped main zipper opening for easy access; medium, large, and extra-large duffels feature haul loops on both ends for easy lifting
  • Zippered end pockets for securing small items. Removable Shoulder Strap Harness Converts to Carrying Handles
  • Double bottom to increase durability; tough YKK zippers for reliable opening and closing
  • Small: 600D 100% embossed poly-TPU laminate (phthalate-free); Medium, Large, and Extra-Large: 1000D 100% polyester with TPE laminate (phthalate-free); Lining on all: 210D 100% nylon; Reinforcement: 1680D 100% ballistic nylon

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Marmot Long Hauler Medium:

Reviewers like these things about the Marmot Long Hauler Medium

  • According to users, the polyester fabric of the Marmot Long Hauler provides durability to the duffel bag.
  • Reviewers praised the rain flap on its D-shaped main zipper which helps keep the weather out.
  • Other users pointed out that its shoulder strap harness could be removed.
  • They indicated that the removable shoulder straps could be converted to carrying handles.
  • They also mentioned that the zippered pocket on the end is designed to secure smaller items.
  • Users noted that its double bottom increases durability,.
  • Other users praised the spacious main compartment where they can place a variety of their things.
  • According to most reviewers, the bag is ideal for road trips, long adventures, and travel.
  • Reviewers praised its soft yet sturdy handles.
  • Other reviewers noted that its straps do not slide around the shoulder.
  • Testers said that the bag contains compression straps which keep the bag stable.
  • They also indicated that they could organize their things well through its pockets.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that the shoulder straps were a little uncomfortable when the bag is used as a backpack.
  • Another user felt that he could not pack a week’s worth of things since the bag is small.

Selected reviews

Loadout Room reviewed the YETI Panga 75

Although the weather on our last truck camping trip was unseasonably warm and dry, having all our clothes packed into the Yeti Panga 75 was good piece of mind.

Posted 27 October 2017 by Erik Meisner – Read full review

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Last update on 2018-11-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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