Home > Packs

The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

For casual international jaunts or full-blown assaults on Denali, you'll need a solid duffel to safely transport your precious cargo. Here are the best duffel bags for any trip on your bucket list.

Woman with duffel bags on the roof rack of a truckTesting duffel bags on dusty overland trips in Africa; (photo/Chris Carter)
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

They’re at the start of every expedition documentary. Explorers in a conga line, chucking bulging bags loaded with ropes, food, and tents into the back of a seaplane or weathered Land Rover. You see them piled on docks, in airports, or swaying back and forth on pack mules as they wind their way to basecamp — duffel bags are the storage backbone of any long adventure.

Use them for your next three-month foray through Patagonia, or to visit your in-laws in Michigan over the weekend. Duffels are versatile pieces of luggage for anything on your travel tick list.

Any duffel bag worth its salt needs to meet certain metrics. They must be sturdy enough to protect and transport hefty loads of technical gear, yet light enough to merit use on an expedition. They should exhibit thoughtful organizational features, and have to be packed and unpacked with ease.

Those are big shoes to fill, and with so many top brands churning these workhorses out, it can be difficult to narrow in on the best pick. So, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you.

We took over 20 of the finest duffel bags money can buy, and pitted them against each other for over six months on dusty overland trips in Africa, climbing expeditions through Mexico, and weekend cabin getaways, to bring you the crème de la crème of these brawny bags. We tested each duffel with a mind for a variety of different performance metrics, including durability, ease of transport, organizational features, and weather resistance.

Check out our top picks below, and be sure to browse our comprehensive buyer’s guide at the end for help in choosing the perfect duffel. Use our comparison chart for a quick overview, or have your burning questions hashed out in the FAQ.

Editor’s Note: We refreshed this article on August 28, 2023, sprucing up our buyer’s guide section with additional information regarding value and pricing. We also added some photos and shuffled others around.

The Best Duffel Bags of 2023


Best Overall Duffel Bag

Patagonia Black Hole 70L

Specs

  • Weight 3 lbs., 2.8 oz.
  • Volume Options 40, 55, 70, & 100 L
  • Face Fabric 900D 100% recycled polyester ripstop with TPU-film laminate
  • Straps Removable backpack straps, top carry handles, 2 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Versatile, stylish design
  • Durable yet lightweight
  • Comfortable carry system

Cons

  • Flimsy material doesn’t stay open when packing
  • No zippered pockets at either end
Best Budget Duffel Bag

Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 60L

Specs

  • Weight 2 lbs., 3 oz.
  • Volume Options 40, 60, & 90 L
  • Face Fabric 1000D Helix Poly & 600D Poly TPU
  • Straps Removable backpack straps, 4 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Great value for the price
  • Solid organization features
  • Sturdy, weather-resistant construction

Cons

  • No top carry handles
  • Fabric doesn’t hold shape while packing
  • Not the highest quality zippers
Best Expedition Duffel Bag

Black Diamond StoneHauler 120L

Specs

  • Weight 3 lbs., 13 oz.
  • Volume Options 45, 60, 90, & 120 L
  • Face Fabric 600D & 1500D SuperGrid ripstop & 1640D polyester
  • Straps Removable backpack straps, 4 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Extremely durable materials
  • Bomber tubular webbing loop around entire bag
  • Foam-reinforced fabric in high-use areas

Cons

  • No top carry handles
  • Non-laminated fabric absorbs water faster than TPU-coated duffels
  • Backpack straps aren’t the most comfortable
Best Duffel Bag for Casual Use

Peak Design Travel Duffel 35L

Specs

  • Weight 2 lbs.
  • Volume Options 35 & 65 L
  • Face Fabric 100% recycled 600D nylon canvas & 900D waterproof base
  • Straps Single shoulder strap, top carry handles (can be backpack straps), 2 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Sleek, stylish look
  • Thoughtful design
  • Comfortable, versatile carrying options

Cons

  • Cord hooks difficult to pull out of strap loops
  • Not the best for long adventures in rough conditions
Best Ultralight Duffel Bag

Matador Freefly 30L

Specs

  • Weight 8.5 oz.
  • Volume Options 30 L
  • Face Fabric 70D Robic nylon UHMWPE ripstop, with PU waterproofing & 50D mini ripstop nylon
  • Straps Top carry handles, front and back grab handles, single shoulder strap that splits into backpack straps
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Extremely packable
  • Waterproof materials (not submersible)

Cons

  • Lower durability than other duffels
  • Thin, basic carry straps aren’t the most comfortable
Best Rolling Duffel Bag

The North Face Base Camp Voyager Roller Duffel 21”

Specs

  • Weight 6 lbs., 13 oz.
  • Volume Options 40 & 94 L
  • Face Fabric 840D recycled ballistic nylon with DWR finish
  • Straps Three side carry handles, telescoping top handle
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Durable, weather-resistant fabric
  • Sturdy wheels and chassis
  • Carry-on compatible

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Pricey compared to duffels of similar volume
  • Wheeled duffels aren’t as versatile
Best Waterproof Duffel Bag

YETI Panga 75L

Specs

  • Weight 6 lbs., 1.6 oz.
  • Volume Options 50, 75, & 100 L
  • Face Fabric EVA molded bottom & ThickSkin waterproof nylon shell
  • Straps Removable backpack straps, 4 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Fully waterproof
  • Extremely durable material
  • Simple, easily attachable backpack straps

Cons

  • Minimal feature set
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
Best of the Rest

Osprey Transporter 95L

Specs

  • Weight 3 lbs., 6.4 oz.
  • Volume Options 40, 65, 95, & 120 L
  • Face Fabric 900D & 600D TPU-coated DWR recycled polyester
  • Straps Stowable backpack straps, 4 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Uber comfortable backpack carry straps
  • Durable, quality materials

Cons

  • Minimal extra pockets
  • Not many lashing points

REI Co-op Roadtripper 100L

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 6 oz.
  • Volume Options 40, 60, 100, & 140 L
  • Face Fabric Recycled polyester
  • Straps Single shoulder strap, top carry handles, 2 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Simple, sleek design
  • Lightweight and packable

Cons

  • Simple straps are uncomfortable during long carries
  • Fabric isn’t as durable or water-resistant as other models

The North Face Base Camp Medium

Specs

  • Weight 3 lbs., 9.1 oz.
  • Volume Options 31, 50, 71, 95, 132, & 150 L
  • Face Fabric 1000D polyester with PVC coating & 840D DWR ballistic nylon
  • Straps Removable backpack straps, top carry handles, 2 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Durable, time-tested design
  • Comfortable carry system

Cons

  • Zipper can be difficult to open and close
  • On the heavier side

Cotopaxi Allpa 50L

Specs

  • Weight 2 lb., 10 oz.
  • Volume Options 50 & 70 L
  • Face Fabric 840D ballistic nylon & TPU coated 1000D polyester
  • Straps Removable backpack straps, top carry handles, 2 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Stylish design with lots of fun color schemes
  • Durable materials
  • Fantastic organization

Cons

  • Backpack straps attachment design isn’t our favorite
  • No internal compression straps

Gregory Alpaca 90L

Specs

  • Weight 3 lbs., 9 oz.
  • Volume Options 45, 60, 90, & 120 L
  • Face Fabric 630D nylon & 900D polyester diamond ripstop with TPU coating
  • Straps Removable backpack straps, top carry handles, 2 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Durable, no-frills design
  • Expedition-oriented features

Cons

  • Backpack straps take some time to remove
  • No internal compression straps

Rab Expedition Kitbag 120L

Specs

  • Weight 3 lbs., 12 oz.
  • Volume Options 50, 80, & 120 L
  • Face Fabric 600D polyester with TPU film
  • Straps Removable backpack straps, top carry handles, 2 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Comfortable carrying options
  • Functional adventure-ready design

Cons

  • Not as durable as other expedition duffels
  • Minimal extra zippered pockets
  • No internal compression straps

Mountain Hardwear Camp 4 95L

Specs

  • Weight 2 lbs., 9.5 oz.
  • Volume Options 45, 65, 95, & 135 L
  • Face Fabric 420D carbonate-coated ripstop nylon
  • Straps Removable backpack straps, 2 side handles, single 25 mm webbing shoulder strap
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Sleek, haul bag inspired design
  • Comfortable backpack straps
  • Lightweight
  • Effective dirty laundry system

Cons

  • Minimal lashing points
  • Few additional pockets
  • Lower durability materials

Sea to Summit Duffel Bag 90L

Specs

  • Weight 4 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Volume Options 45, 65, 90, & 130 L
  • Face Fabric 1000D nylon with waterproof tarpaulin laminate
  • Straps Removable backpack straps, 4 side handles
The Best Duffel Bags of 2023

Pros

  • Impenetrable fabric
  • Modular strap configurations

Cons

  • Minimal organizational features
  • Heavy

Duffel Bags Comparison Chart

Duffel BagPriceWeightVolume OptionsFace FabricStraps/Handles
Patagonia Black Hole 70L$1993 lbs., 2.8 oz.40, 55, 70, & 100 L900D polyester ripstop with TPU-film laminate6
Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 60L$1292 lbs., 3 oz.40, 60, & 90 L1000D Helix Poly & 600D Poly TPU6
Black Diamond StoneHauler 120L$2303 lbs., 13 oz.45, 60, 90, & 120 L600D & 1500D SuperGrid ripstop & 1640D polyester6
Peak Design Travel Duffel 35L$1402 lbs.35 & 65 L100% recycled 600D nylon canvas & 900D waterproof base5
Matador Freefly 30L$858.5 oz.30 L70D Robic nylon, with PU waterproofing & 50D nylon5
The North Face Base Camp Voyager Roller$2406 lbs., 13 oz.40 & 94 L840D recycled ballistic nylon with DWR finish4
YETI Panga 75L$3506 lbs., 1.6 oz.50, 75, & 100 LEVA molded bottom & ThickSkin waterproof nylon shell6
Osprey Transporter 95L$2003 lbs., 6.4 oz.40, 65, 95, & 120 L900D & 600D TPU-coated DWR recycled polyester6
REI Co-op Roadtripper 100L$651 lb., 6 oz.40, 60, 100, & 140 LRecycled polyester5
The North Face Base Camp Medium$1493 lbs., 9.1 oz.31, 50, 71, 95, 132, & 150 L1000D polyester with PVC coating & 840D DWR ballistic nylon6
Cotopaxi Allpa 50L$1402 lb., 10 oz.50 & 70 L840D ballistic nylon & TPU coated 1000D polyester6
Gregory Alpaca 90L$1603 lbs., 9 oz.45, 60, 90, & 120 L630D nylon & 900D ripstop polyester with TPU coating6
Rab Expedition Kitbag 120L$1703 lbs., 12 oz.50, 80, & 120 L600D polyester with TPU film6
Mountain Hardwear Camp 4 95L$1602 lbs., 9.5 oz.45, 65, 95, & 135 L420D carbonate-coated ripstop nylon5
Sea to Summit Duffel Bag 90L$2004 lbs., 8 oz.45, 65, 90, & 130 L1000D nylon with waterproof tarpaulin laminate6
Battling around with a load of duffels in tow to test during road trips with friends; (photo/Chris Carter)

How We Tested Duffel Bags

Author and Senior Editor Chris Carter tested over 20 duffel bags’ durability, weather resistance, and overall useability over a six-month testing period on remote climbing expeditions, international overland adventures, and long road trips around the country. Each model was put through the wringer over thousands of miles of real-world travel tests in a variety of different climates and environments. Rest assured — only the best ended up on this guide.

We know everyone’s travel plans differ, and no two trips are alike. We selected a broad array of duffel designs for each traveler’s budget, style, and adventure needs. Slung over our shoulders, strapped to roof racks on wild backroads, or thrown into the belly of planes, these bags were put through their paces and all performed with flying colors.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Duffel Bag

Girl on top of truck with duffel bags
Taking top expedition duffels on long trips through the African bush; (photo/Chris Carter)

What Is a Duffel Bag?

The line between travel backpacks, standard suitcases, and duffel bags can often be blurred. So what are these rugged malleable sacks, and what makes them special? The origin of the duffel bag is somewhat disputed, but most trace it to the actual town of Duffel in Belgium, where they employed “duffel cloth” to make thick, cylindrical bags with zippered or drawstring closures on top. The burly material was also used as a covering for ships.

Used widely by the military in WWI and WWII, the durable, flexible nature of these souped-up knapsacks made them perfect for chucking haphazardly into the back of transport vehicles or bunkers. They were more durable and voluminous than backpacks, and easier to carry than a solid crate. But they weren’t very comfortable to tote around.

News of these nifty packs seeped into the public, and the design evolved. Longer, wider bags with various sturdy straps for throwing over the shoulder or lashing to animals emerged. The likes of arctic explorers, mountaineers, and international travelers began seeing the value in these versatile wonders, and big-name brands picked up the scent.

Duffel bags now have loads of straps, lash points, and pockets that boost their useability and handling abilities; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

From fully waterproof models, to technical bags with more pockets and straps than you can count, duffels have come a long way from their humble roots. For weekend getaways to visit the parents or gear-intensive climbing trips, they now offer state-of-the-art storage for wherever the road takes you.

Categories of Duffel Bags

The type of duffel bag you decide to go with depends on your unique travel plans. If you need a general all-around workhorse, something like the simple REI Roadtripper or versatile Patagonia Black Hole would be a solid choice.

If you’re looking for a sleek companion on international flights, The North Face Voyager Roller may be the move, whereas the spec’d-out Black Diamond StoneHauler is catered for dedicated expeditions in rough environments. Duffels can be expensive, so consider what you’ll be primarily using your duffels for before making your final decision.

Expedition Duffel Bags

Expedition duffel bags need to be durable enough to withstand the unpredictable conditions of long, bumpy adventures; (photo/Chris Carter)

The last thing you want to worry about on an expedition or long adventure is your precious cargo. Expedition duffels are the more burly, specialized bags of the bunch, and are often decorated with fancy technology and features for specific outdoor pursuits. They are designed to be light enough for fast missions while withstanding abuse from the elements, and must be easily carried, packed, and unloaded — all while protecting important technical gear.

Bags like the Rab Expedition Kitbag, Black Diamond StoneHauler, and Gregory Alpaca fit this bill. They prioritize durability, weather resistance, and useability, featuring elements like TPU-coated waterproof fabrics, and reinforced lashing points.

Expedition duffels will often be hauled to basecamp on pulk sleds, strapped to the backs of pack mules, or thrown on top of janky overland trucks as they bump along remote dirt tracks. They need to be malleable to fit these various modes of transportation, durable enough to fight abrasion, and fitted with attachment points that are rated to hold heavy loads.

Expedition duffels are often crammed full of clunky, spiky climbing and adventure gear and need to be strong enough to fight abrasion from both outside and inside the bag; (photo/Chris Carter)

The Black Diamond StoneHauler, for instance, is lined with thick tubular webbing loops that are each rated to 2kN, and sports a bomb-proof 1,500-denier outer shell. This allows it to be easily affixed to anything and instills confidence that your only tent and cooking kit won’t slide off into a couloir whenever your mule stumbles.

You can expect to find thoughtful additions, like waterproof zippers and storm flaps, unique storage compartments, cushy backpack straps, and compression straps, on expedition duffels. The amount of fancy add-ons makes these bags a bit overkill for a simple weekend getaway, and their durability will often add some significant weight.

Travel/Casual Use Duffel Bags

Trotting around town with the stylish but functional Cotopaxi Allpa; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

If you’re scoping out a bag for shorter trips, lugging around the gym, or flights home for Christmas, these are the duffels you want. While not as stalwart as their battle-ready cousins above, these often still boast excellent storage, weather resistance, and carrying capabilities. Travel and casual duffels focus on comfort and useability over rugged durability.

You probably won’t find many adventure-specific features of technical expedition duffels on these, such as DWR-treated fabrics, storm flaps, and stout daisy chains. This means they are generally lighter, easier to handle, and may be more stylish for use around town. We narrowed in on the sleek Peak Design Travel Duffel as our top pick for casual use.

Living out of the Cotopaxi Allpa 50L while traveling around Mexico; (photo/Chris Carter)

Many duffels on our list function as solid crossover pieces, and their versatile nature makes them good for casual trips, with enough gumption for demanding adventures. The Patagonia Black Hole and Cotopaxi Allpa fit this description. They’ll look great while tramping between gates in the airport, but boy will they perform when you need them to.

While some designs may be better suited for casual trips, most of the bags on this list would be fine in just about any scenario. You don’t need to be trekking to a far-off base camp to merit the use of Black Diamond’s StoneHauler on your travels.

Waterproof Duffel Bags

Waterproof duffel bags keep your gear safe and dry in torrential downpours or accidental spills in the river; (photo/Chris Carter)

Long paddling expeditions, snowy winter excursions, or a family fun day at the lake — these are the bags for the job. Though the selection is sparse, some brands have developed entirely waterproof duffels for trips where keeping your gear dry is paramount. Their higher weight, minimal features, and hefty price tag make them a pretty niche bag, so we wouldn’t recommend snagging one for everyday use.

It’s important to note that most duffel bags, including casual-use models, are already crafted with a high degree of water resistance. Some face fabrics may even be waterproof, but water will still be able to get through the unsealed seams or zippers.

It takes a good deal of prolonged rain to breach the beefy TPU-coated fabric of Gregory’s Alpaca or Osprey’s Transporter. For most of what you’ll encounter on your travels, this will suffice.

But if you really plan on getting wet, models like YETI’s Panga will fend off a downpour, with technical Hyrdolok zippers, minimal stitching, and impenetrable fabric. Waterproof duffels are great for keeping sensitive gear or technology dry on long outdoor trips through wet climates, or anything involving extended time on a boat.

Waterproof duffels are great for long trips on the river or short hikes through rainstorms with camping gear you need to keep dry; (photo/Chris Carter)

Rolling Duffel Bags

Rolling duffels merge the convenience of a duffel, with the ease of standard wheeled suitcases, and are great for carrying heavy loads over smooth surfaces. These designs caught on quickly, and you will often see wheeled versions of popular models, like the wheeled Patagonia Black Hole or Osprey Transporter.

Rolling duffels are good choices for trips where you won’t be navigating a variety of different environments, as their designs are restricting in many travel scenarios. You’ll rarely see backpack or shoulder straps on rolling duffels, limiting how easy it is to carry them yourself.

The North Face Voyager Roller stood out as our favorite rolling duffel for a variety of different travel scenarios; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

If you’re touring around South America and will be shouldering your baggage onto busses, or hiking through small towns to your next hostel, it may be best to go with a traditional duffel. Trust us — trying to roll a wheeled bag down a rocky dirt road is less than optimal.

However, if you’ll be keeping to controlled environments with a lot of pavement and nice walkways, these can alleviate a lot of stress on your body. Many brands also offer rolling duffels that hover around 40 L, making them suitable as carry-ons.

We found the North Face Voyager Roller to be one of our favorite rolling duffels for a diversity of environments and surfaces. Its sturdy wheels and chassis instill confidence over bumpy cobblestone or broken-up sidewalks, and the burly materials and lash points make it somewhat adventure-ready.

Volume Selection

The volume of the duffel bag you choose depends on the different demands and length of your trip; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Duffel bag models are frequently available in a variety of volume options, usually on a spectrum of 40 to 120 L. And 40L duffels will often be carry-on compatible, which is perfect for weekend trips where you don’t want to check a bag. At the higher end, 100L or 120L bags are for seriously long trips or gear-intensive expeditions.

The volume you decide to go with will obviously depends on the length and intensity of the trip you plan to bring it on. A 90L model is probably overkill for weekend getaways, and will be uncomfortably floppy with a few changes of clothes and an overnight kit inside.

We’ve seen duffels with volumes of up to 150 L (like the gigantic XXL North Face Base Camp Duffel), which are great for clunky outdoor gear on long trips like tents, ropes, crampons, or backpacks. It’s easy to bump the weight of these duffels above what is allowed for checked baggage on a plane, so pack with care. Black Diamond’s 120L StoneHauler has been one of our favorite hardworking large-volume duffels for serious missions with technical gear.

Osprey’s Transporter 95L (left) is a good travel-sized duffel for medium loads, while Rab’s Kitbag 120L (right) could haul an entire basecamp; (photo/Chris Carter)

Medium-sized duffels in the 50L to 70L range are our favorite versatile volume, as they work for long weekend adventures, or international trips that last for months. Patagonia’s 70L Black Hole and Osprey’s 65L Transporter are some of our top picks in this range. They swallow enough gear to travel comfortably, but aren’t overly bulky and unwieldy.

Smaller duffels can dip as low as 25 L, and can be solid day packs or weekend carry-ons. We love the North Face Base Camp Voyager 40L rolling duffel as a carry-on for short flights, or the stylish Peak Design Travel Duffel 35L for spontaneous overnight trips.

Weight and Packed Size

Many duffels, like The North Face Base Camp, come with their own stuff sacks and pack down small; (photo/Chris Carter)

Most people don’t plan to haul duffel bags on their person for very long like they would a traditional backpack, so weight isn’t a huge concern for many travelers. Sure, you may have to carry your duffel like a backpack from the airport to your hotel across town, but you won’t be trekking up a mountain with it on your back.

You want your gear to be protected by thick, durable materials, with hefty zippers and straps. That said, most duffel bags maintain a relatively low weight and are often surprisingly packable. Many of the duffels on this list come with their own stuff sacks, and cram down to the size of a small throw pillow.

Matador’s Freefly 30L is the smallest and lightest duffel bag on our list, easily fitting in the palm of your hand; (photo/Chris Carter)

Nothing holds a candle to the packed size of Matador’s Freefly 30L duffel though, which fits in the palm of your hand when shoved into its tiny stuff sack, and weighs a scant 8.5 ounces. Duffels like this are great solutions for throwing into larger suitcases to be used on shorter missions during your trip, or as backup luggage.

While a duffel bag’s weight doesn’t matter as much as that of an ultralight backpack, it is still an important consideration when planning your trip. Rolling duffels, for instance, can have dry weights north of 8 pounds (like the Patagonia Black Hole wheeled duffel), which is a significant chunk out of the 50-pound weight limit of checked baggage on most airlines.

Straps and Carrying Comfort

Duffel bags need to have a variety of handles and straps for hauling them comfortably from different angles during hectic mid-trip duffel shuffles; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

This is where duffel bag manufacturers truly flex their creative muscles. Simple side handles with a shoulder strap, removable backpack harness that stows into a pocket, or handles that transform into backpack straps and snap together with a magnet — this feature can get complicated. It is an admittedly difficult conundrum for these brands. How do they keep the bag streamlined and easy to throw around, while making it comfortable enough to carry long distances?

Versatility is key when handling duffel bags, and different situations require you to carry them in different ways. You may just need a small handle on the side to transport your bag into another room or pull it from the bed of a truck. A single shoulder strap while lugging it between airport gates may suffice, while it makes sense to use a full backpack harness when walking across town. A good duffel bag can be grabbed from any angle and carried with ease.

Carting your duffel across town? Those backpack straps better be comfortable; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

You’ll see a lot of variety in the strap designs of duffel bags. Most will have some way of either carrying the bag slung over your shoulder with a single padded strap, or as a traditional backpack with two shoulder straps (generally found on models with larger volumes). 

Our favorite layout for easy handling is two top carry handles, two haul handles on the top and bottom, and removable padded backpack straps. For us, this allows for maximum carrying comfort and quick organization during the duffel shuffle.

These bags get chucked around a lot, so the fewer loops and straps that could get snagged on things the better. For that reason, shoulder straps will usually be fully removable, or able to be tucked away in a pouch on the lid or side.

Peak Design’s 35L Travel Duffel allows you to configure its straps in a variety of different ways depending on how you want to carry it; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

The Sea to Summit Duffel features one of the more unique carrying designs we’ve seen. Cozy, contoured harness straps easily clip to the top and bottom of the pack, and have above-average padding for heavy loads. When you want to pick the bag up without wearing it on your back, magnets in the shoulder straps quickly snap together to form an effective carrying handle.

Peak Design’s Travel Duffel also has a good deal of modularity and allows you to configure its straps in different ways depending on how you want to carry it throughout your trip.

No matter how fancy the strap system is on a duffel, they will almost never be as comfortable as an actual backpacking backpack, so don’t plan on clocking serious miles with them. Though some will have hipbelts, without a backpack frame, beefy foam shoulder straps, or ventilation systems, they tend to wear you down pretty fast.

Materials and Weather Resistance

Duffels, particularly those catered for expedition use like The North Face Base Camp, need to have extremely durable shell fabrics to hold up to the wear and tear of tough adventures; (photo/Chris Carter)

If duffels need to be one thing — it’s durable. These bags often find themselves being tossed about, drug through the dirt, or strapped to the outside of trucks, and they need to keep expensive gear safe through it all.

The denier of a duffel’s material (often written as a number followed by “D”), is a good general way to determine the durability and weather resistance of a bag. Denier is a unit of measurement that indicates the thickness of the yarns that are used to construct a fabric. The number represents the actual amount of yarn within each thread. So the durable 900-denier polyester shell of Patagonia’s Black Hole contains 900 yarns within each of its threads, plus a TPU-film laminate for water resistance.

Most of the brands in our lineup employ some combination of tough ballistic nylon, polyester, or TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) laminate for their duffel’s face fabrics. TPU is a plastic-like film used to laminate and waterproof fabric — it is not a fabric itself. These materials will often be ripstop to help fend off large tears, and many duffels have reinforced areas that get particularly abused, like the bottom.

Picking up some of the best duffel bags of 2023 from baggage claim
Picking up a load of duffels from a luggage carousel in the Chattanooga Airport. Durable fabric is a must, as these bags get chucked around a lot while flying, and thrown in and out of the belly of planes; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Vinyl or laminate finishes are common on outdoor duffels and will keep the bag’s contents dry in light to moderate rain, but water will eventually leak through zippers and seams that aren’t taped. Fully waterproof models obviously don’t have this weakness.

From hard-working expedition bags with face fabrics boasting 1,000-denier or more, to ultralight casual duffels with flimsy 70-denier nylon shells, we cover a wide range of options on this list. While denier and fabric choice aren’t the only determining factors in a bag’s durability over long trips, it’s a good, quick way to compare different models and narrow in on the best pick for your travel needs.

Ease of Use and Packing

A variety of features contribute to a duffel bag’s ease of use while packing and unpacking your gear. Below we’ve outlined some extra features that boost a bag’s useability.

Main Compartment

The Osprey Transporter has a large U-shaped opening to access its voluminous main compartment; (photo/Chris Carter)

In case you haven’t caught it by now, our favorite lid design for duffels is definitely a large U-shaped opening. Nothing beats it for quickly accessing everything in the bag’s main compartment while maintaining structure and weather resistance. It is easier to add storm flaps to this design than it is on a single center zipper, as the lid flap naturally overlaps the zipper, protecting the zipper from moisture.

The Sea to Summit Duffle Bag has one of the larger, easier-to-open U-shaped lids we tried. We love being able to quickly see and rummage through piles of climbing and camping gear immediately after pulling it open.

Center zippers make it more difficult to pack things in an orderly fashion and access that gear when the bag is filled to the max. They do tend to be shorter than U-shaped zippers though, so can save some overall weight.

Some U-shaped openings hinge from the sides of the duffel, while others, like Osprey’s Transporter or Rab’s Expedition KitBag, hinge from the top. This means the lid is longer and thinner when opened, which isn’t our favorite design, particularly if there are mesh pockets on the lid. They tend to be harder to hold open, and feel a bit floppy while accessing the pockets.

Bags like Patagonia’s Black Hole feature our favorite U-shaped opening that hinges from the side; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

The main compartments of duffels will often have a couple of mesh zippered pockets inside or on the lid (like on Gregory’s Alpaca), or removable dividers to boost internal organization (like on Eagle Creek’s Cargo Hauler), but they are generally quite basic.

The fabric and design of a duffel help dictate how easy it is to pack with clothes and gear. Duffels that have stiffer sides and thicker fabrics are much easier to load up, as they stay firm even when empty, and don’t fold over on themselves while holding them open with one hand and packing with the other.

Our main complaint with our top pick, Patagonia’s Black Hole, lies in its flimsy fabric. Models like The North Face Base Camp Duffel or Black Diamond’s StoneHauler, on the other hand, boast solid structure with stiff materials and padding to hold the bag open. However, this can come at the cost of a higher weight.

Extra Internal and External Pockets

External pockets provide quick access to gear or documents you need to be able to easily grab; (photo/Chris Carter)

With your bulky gear and clothing items inhabiting the main compartment, you’ll want some smaller pockets for loose items like toiletries, passports, and electronics. Internal pockets help with organization, and external ones provide quick access to essentials while on the go.

We found that the vast majority of duffels have a couple of zippered mesh pockets on the inside of their lids. This isn’t our favorite design, as we prefer to have pockets in the main compartment itself, since heavy items in the lid make it unwieldy when opening and closing the bag. This does make it so that you can grab those items without having to shove other gear aside, but those pockets generally go unused by us.

Patagonia’s Black Hole features one of our favorite pocket designs, with the ability to access one of its extra pockets from both outside or inside the bag.

Many duffels will have one or two zippered compartments on either end of the bag, which are often big enough for larger items like rain jackets or hiking shoes. These are great for keeping dirty clothes separate from clean ones as the days go on, or for stashing gear you need to easily access.

Lashing Points

Lashing points are important elements of a duffel, as they allow you to easily attach your bag to various modes of transportation — like motorcycles; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

You may never have to tether your duffel to a muggy jeep bouncing down a dirt road, or a smelly yak teetering over a mountain pass — but you definitely want it to be secure if you do. Bags for light travel and casual use might never see these conditions, but expedition duffels will often be put to the test atop a variety of different modes of transportation. These can be some of the most important elements of a duffel bag.

Most bags designed for outdoor use feature some layout of daisy chains or nylon straps along the sides of the bag. Our favorite daisy chain design is a horizontal configuration that runs the length of the bag, allowing for a more even tie-down of the load. Gregory’s Alpaca, The North Face’s Base Camp, and Black Diamond’s StoneHauler sport this setup.

Sea to Summit’s Duffle Bag only has a couple of small lash points on each side, and Patagonia’s Black Hole has two daisy chains that run vertically up the side, limiting your tie-down options. These aren’t our favorite configurations, but still get the job done.

Lashing points need to be extremely strong in order to hold duffels securely to unstable vehicles; (photo/Chris Carter)

No matter the layout, lashing points need to be robust enough to hold serious weight while tied to unstable vehicles and animals. You don’t want your gear tumbling down a slope mid-adventure because the stitching popped out.

Black Diamond nudges the bar high with the StoneHauler. They put its tie-down loops through the same load tests as their carabiners and cams, and rated each one to 2kN. The daisy chains on Gregory’s Alpaca also inspire lots of confidence, and are great for strapping to pulk sleds or roof racks.

Waterproof duffels often forgo lashing points to reduce the amount of stitching on the bag, and casual-use duffels may leave them off, opting for a simpler, lighter design. If you plan on tying your bag down during your travels, make sure it’s ready for the job.

Internal and External Compression Straps

Black Diamond’s StoneHauler features some of our favorite internal compression straps for keeping awkward adventure gear in place while traveling around; (photo/Chris Carter)

These are some of our favorite features of duffels, and we bemoan the design of a bag if it doesn’t have them. Aside from rolling duffels, most models on this list don’t have a lot of internal structure to speak of. For that reason, loads that don’t entirely fill the bag jostle and shift around a good deal during travel and can make the duffel unwieldy and floppy — particularly when carrying it like a backpack.

Both internal and external compression straps help snug down the load, making it a tighter, easier-to-transport package. External compression straps are rarer, but can be found on bags like Rab’s Kitbag, or The North Face Base Camp.

Internal straps help keep things organized and compact while on the road. This means clothes stay folded, shoes stay together, and you won’t find a tossed salad of gear when you zip open your bag at the end of the day.  

Flying With Duffel Bags

Charging through the Chattanooga airport baggage claim loaded down with bulging duffels; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Duffel bags can be great flying companions, and many brands offer 30L to 40L models that are carry-on compatible if you’re looking to dodge checked baggage fees. Patagonia’s Black Hole, for instance, comes in the popular 40L option that meets most airline and train carry-on requirements.

Bag dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches are standard for carry-ons on many common airlines such as United, American, and Delta. Some airlines, like Delta, do not have weight limits for carry-ons to most destinations. Others, such as Frontier, put a cap at 35 pounds. Keep this in mind as you are loading up your bag. We found the 21” North Face Voyager wheeled duffel to be our go-to carry-on model for domestic and international flights alike.

Flying out of Nairobi, Kenya with a few of our favorite duffel bags crammed full of hiking and rock climbing gear; (photo/Chris Carter)

Duffels make great checked bags as well. Since they weigh less themselves, you can often fill them with more heavy gear than regular suitcases, and they are built to be thrown around and handled roughly.

United, American, and Delta have weight limits of 50 pounds for checked bags, with common international airlines like Qatar, Turkish, and British Airways enforcing similar restrictions in the 51- to 55-pound range.

Airlines generally have checked bag size limits of around 35 x 30 x 17 inches, which is plenty big enough for most duffels you’ll throw in the belly of a plane. Rolling duffels obviously provide some of the greatest ease of transport while navigating airports on a long trip.

If the entirety of your trip will accommodate a bag with wheels, we’d definitely recommend them. But be careful — these are heavier duffels and you won’t be able to pack quite as much before hitting 50 pounds.

Be sure to always check the baggage regulations of your airline before packing for your flight, as the above figures could change over time. Interested in how we pack our duffels, backpacks, and suitcases for various trips? Check out our tips and tricks for both domestic and international travel.

Larger duffel bags make great checked bags for bulky expedition gear; (photo/Chris Carter)

Value

While there are some great budget options out there, you do get what you pay for with duffel bags. In the midst of an adventure, duffel bags serve as the barrier between your valuable cargo and the unforgiving elements. Make sure you can travel with confidence.

Expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $300 for a quality duffel bag. Additional features and bleeding-edge technology boost the value and useability of a duffel bag — along with its price tag.

Simple cheaper models like REI’s Roadtripper will get you a basic polyester tube with webbing for $65, which may be just what you need for occasional weekend jaunts. Staring down the barrel of a full-on expedition up Denali? You’ll need to shell out a bit more cash.

Duffel bags at the higher echelon of quality, functionality, and durability — like Black Diamond’s StoneHauler — will run up your tab ($230). If you’re seeking total confidence when toting your gear on truly rugged missions, the price tag may be justified. Burly SuperGrid ripstop fabric ain’t cheap, but it won’t break under pressure, preventing your cargo from spilling across the mountainside.

Down the middle of the road, you have casual-use models like Peak Design’s Travel Duffel, which aren’t crafted for wild expeditions but will still hold up to moderate abuse. These duffel bags will run you anywhere from $100 to $200 and are great versatile options for a variety of different travel scenarios.

Duffels can cost a pretty penny, but are important investments for keeping your baggage safe as it gets tossed around during your travels; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

No matter which duffel you go with, every bag on this list has proven to be dependable on far-flung overseas tours, and short overnight excursions alike. We feel confident recommending each of them for any journey you’ve penned down on your bucket list.

FAQ

What is the best duffel bag?

After years of stuffing climbing, camping, and expedition gear into the Patagonia Black Hole and hauling it to far-off places, we feel that it is the best all-around duffel bag on the market right now. While different models may serve you better for more niche needs, the Black Hole is one of the more versatile bags we tested, and performs incredibly on both tough outdoor missions and casual trips. It features our favorite strap layout, main opening, and fabric choice, and is just fantastic to travel with.

The Patagonia Black Hole is our favorite duffel bag for both casual travel and long adventures; (photo/Honey McNaughton)
How is a duffel bag different from a regular suitcase?

Duffels are flexible, light, extremely durable pieces of luggage that offer greater versatility than traditional suitcases. They are often cylindrical tube-like bags made with tough ballistic nylon or polyester and are quite weather-resistant, with zippered or drawstring openings at the top. 

Suitcases, on the other hand, are usually rectangular rigid cases with a large hinged lid to access your possessions. They may not offer as much weather resistance, but will have more structure and often have wheels to help roll them long distances. 

Duffels are the better option for outdoor and expedition use, as they are much easier to transport through difficult terrain, or to lash onto various vehicles or animals.

Most duffels have comfortable carry options for walking around town or big airports; (photo/Honey McNaughton)
What are duffel bags used for?

Travelers use duffel bags for various reasons, and the type of trips you have on the docket will help dictate the duffel you decide to buy. Some use them for simple weekend travel, while others depend on them to protect sensitive gear in harsh landscapes on wild adventures. Regardless of where you intend to bring your duffel, you want it to be reliable and durable enough to keep your gear protected from the elements.

Duffel bags make great travel luggage because of their malleable, versatile nature, and ability to be easily strapped to different modes of transportation. This makes them perfect for trips that go through a wide variety of landscapes and environments.

Duffel bags have a multitude of different uses, and are valuable pieces of luggage for any type of journey; (photo/Chris Carter)
What are the different types of duffel bags?

We highlight a number of different categories of duffels in this guide, and each one is catered to different types of trips. All of the duffels we tested fall into the following designations: expedition duffel bags, travel/casual use duffel bags, waterproof duffel bags, and rolling duffel bags.

Many of the bags above fit into a couple of different categories. The Cotopaxi Allpa, for instance, could easily be used for both casual use and expeditions in harsh settings.

Can you use a duffel bag as a carry-on?

Many models of duffel bags come in carry-on sizes, and can be used to cut down on the cost of checked baggage. Most airlines enforce dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches for carry-on bags. Usually, a duffel bag in the 30-40L range will fall within these restrictions.

The ultralight 30L Matador Freefly easily passes as a personal item or carry-on and fits perfectly under the seat in front of you on a plane; (photo/Emily Malone)
Can you carry a duffel bag like a backpack?

Most duffels with volumes of 50 L or more will have either removable or stowable backpack straps to help with carrying your bag long distances. Not all backpack straps are created equal, though, and some are much more comfortable than others.

The Osprey Transporter has the most cozy backpack system of any of the duffels we tried, and we had no problem carting it across town to a bus stop or standing in line for hours in the airport with it on our backs.

No matter how fancy the backpack straps are on a duffel bag, they will almost never be as comfortable to carry as backpacking backpacks. You shouldn’t plan on having to trek for long periods of time with your duffel, as it could wear you down fast.

As a backpack, slung across the shoulder, or hauled by a handle — duffel bags can be carried a multitude of different ways; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Subscribe Now

Sign up to receive GearJunkie content direct to your inbox.

Subscribe Now

Sign up to receive GearJunkie content direct to your inbox.