The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Sea to Summit 90L Review

The best darn duffel bag for all kinds of adventuresome travel.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $180 List | $163.85 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Rugged, stiff and wide opening, variety of carry options
Cons:  Only one smaller pocket, heavy
Manufacturer:   Sea to Summit
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 21, 2019
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OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 12
  • Ease of Transport - 22% 9
  • Ease of Packing - 22% 9
  • Durability - 22% 9
  • Weight - 24% 5
  • Weather Resistance - 10% 7

Our Verdict

We are confident that the Sea to Summit Duffel is the best on the market. We will continue scouring, and eagerly anticipate the day when a bag displaces the Sea to Summit, but we are also content to use and abuse this excellent product for years to come. It displaces the first winner of our Editors' Choice award, breaking seven years of precedent. For all-around travel and day-to-day transport and organization, a sturdy duffel like this, maybe even owned in a variety of sizes, will clean up your systems and give you great peace of mind. We tested the 90-liter version, but you can extrapolate all of what we say to Sea to Summit's 45, 65, and 130L versions. There are lighter options, and there are more waterproof options, but others suffer in various significant ways compared to the Sea to Summit duffel.


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Sea to Summit 90L
Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $163.85 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Rugged, stiff and wide opening, variety of carry optionsEasy to pack, comfortable shoulder straps, excellent pockets, super durableExcellent shoulder straps, thick waterproof coatingDurable, waterproof, comfortable backpack strapsHighly weather resistant, easy to pack, comfortable shoulder straps
Cons Only one smaller pocket, heavyNot super light, fabric is a little stiffRelatively thin fabric, extra unnecessary featuresExpensive, narrow main opening, only two organizational pocketsExternally accessed pocket is on the smaller side, shoulder straps take a little more work to remove
Bottom Line The best darn duffel bag for all kinds of adventuresome travel.While it faces stiffer competition than it used to, it remains the duffel that all others are compared against.Carries on your back better than any other duffel we’ve assessed and is a top contender.A burly, waterproof sack that comes in a few sizes, all with nice backpack straps; it has a narrow niche, but is the only product we’ve found that checks the boxes it checks.From its streamline design to its top notch weather resistance and multitude of lashing options, this is a solid duffel.
Rating Categories Sea to Summit 90L The North Face Base Camp Osprey Transporter 130 YETI Panga 100L Gregory Alpaca
Ease Of Transport (22%)
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7
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7
Ease Of Packing (22%)
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5
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9
Durability (22%)
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Weight (24%)
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Weather Resistance (10%)
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6
Specs Sea to Summit 90L The North Face... Osprey Transporter... YETI Panga 100L Gregory Alpaca
Weight (Pounds) 4.30 pounds (90 liter model) 4.20 pounds (95 liter model) 3.44 pounds 5.83 pounds (100 liter model) 3.72 pounds
Volume Size Options (Liters) 45, 65, 90, 130 Liters 33, 50, 69, 95, 150 Liters 40, 65, 95, 130 Liters 50, 75, 100 Liters 30, 45, 60, 90, 120 Liters
D or I opening D D D I D
Back Pack Straps Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
# of pockets (excludes main compartment) 1 3 3 2 2
Info window Yes Yes Yes ID tag Yes
Material Tarpaulin Laminate 1000D nylon 1000D phthalate-free TPE laminate body with additonal 840-denier Jr. ballistics nylon on the bottom 840D Nylon TPU Double Coated Laminate, high-density nylon, EVA 900D TPU diamond rip-stop material with additional layer of 630D nylon on the bottom

Our Analysis and Test Results

For all kinds of usage, the Sea to Summit Duffel is our top scorer and our most strongly recommended piece. It is very sturdy, simply constructed, made of the stoutest materials, and has just the right amount of innovation to smooth the otherwise straightforward use. Innovation shows up exactly where it is appreciated. A doubled zipper that acts as one? Brilliant. Straps that can be configured in all the conceivable orientations, yet still stowed easily entirely away? We'll take it.

The look is unobtrusive, while the inside is light-colored for easier organization. The fabric stands up tall so you can throw stuff into the wide u-shaped opening. We've literally dragged the bag down the road, testing for fabric integrity and have nothing more than minor scratches to show for it. Other bags come close, but this edges ahead for our Editors' Choice award.

Performance Comparison


The long walk between short tempered taxi drivers  or a short walk to a post trip hot shower hotel room. Either way  having carry options in your duffel goes a long ways.
The long walk between short tempered taxi drivers, or a short walk to a post trip hot shower hotel room. Either way, having carry options in your duffel goes a long ways.

Ease of Transport


A fully loaded duffel bag is tough to move around. There's no real way around that. Short of wheeled luggage, you are going to do some wrestling when traveling with a duffel. You can't escape this fact. However, as Sea to Summit shows us, you can integrate and innovate just enough to give your bag the right carry options.


The Sea to Summit bag is equipped with two adjustable padded straps, each with a carabiner-style clip on each end. There are a total of 10 anchoring positions on the bag itself, and a couple on each strap. The 14 anchor loops can be used, with the included straps, to arrange backpack carry, regular "briefcase" style carry, and long, over-one-shoulder style carry. Further, each end and each side is equipped with a semi-stiffened, protruding grab loop for short term transport.

It is incredibly well thought out, and we couldn't ask for more or better-configured transport options. Finally, in certain (fairly common) circumstances, dragging a fully loaded bag is the way to go, regardless of how you grab it, its gotta hold up to the abrasion. The fabric and overall construction of the Sea to Summit is proving to be the most durable we've ever tested.

Backpack carry is the best way to move heavy loads. The straps of the Sea to Summit are contoured  stiffened  and adjustable.
Backpack carry is the best way to move heavy loads. The straps of the Sea to Summit are contoured, stiffened, and adjustable.

If the plethora of carrying options sounds intimidating, note that the inside of the lid of the Sea To Summit is printed with the various carry configuration options. Also, note that this Editors' Choice winner has a simple ID card holder, protected by a clear cover that is, in turn, protected from damage by, but not obscured from view by, one of the grab handles. This little detail alone indicates the thought that Sea to Summit put into this bag.

The id tag holder on the Editors Choice Sea to Summit.
The id tag holder on the Editors Choice Sea to Summit.

Ease of Packing


What does it take to get your stuff into your duffel bag? It is really a function of three different variables. How big is, and what is the shape of, the main opening? Does the fabric and construction "stand up" when empty so as to receive your stuff? Finally, what is the configuration and availability of the smaller pockets?


First, the main opening of the Sea to Summit, is large, pulls open and closed smoothly, and is shaped like the letter "D" for maximum opening size. It is big enough to allow large items in, but not so big that you have to partially close it before topping the bag off. Next, the fabric is stiff enough that it stands up entirely unsupported. This may seem silly and minor, but we find that rigid construction like this makes a huge difference when loading and unloading.

Also, seemingly minor and something we hadn't thought of until reading other online reviews of the Sea to Summit, the light-colored fabric inside the bottom of the bag helps keep things from disappearing in the folds and behind dark-colored socks. We noticed this benefit on a number of occasions.

A main drawback of the Sea To Summit's ease of packing is the minimal extra pockets, and we aren't the only ones to comment on this. There is only one extra pocket, a fairly simple fabric affair inside the lid. More options would be nice, as would a divided inside the lid pocket. Mesh, instead of fabric, to see the contents more readily, would also be our preference. Fortunately, these are small complaints in the grand scheme of things.

Printed right on the inner pocket  instructions for the various configurations possible with the Sea to Summit.
Printed right on the inner pocket, instructions for the various configurations possible with the Sea to Summit.

Durability


The Sea to Summit is a very robust bag. In months of dragging it around the US Mountain West, on planes and in cars and RVs, we have made no real marks on the entire thing. The fabric is super robust and augmented in all the right places. Our experience with other Sea to Summit gear, primarily their smaller stuff sacks, indicates that the stitching and seam reinforcement will hold up even better than most.


The bottom of the tested bag is three layers. There is the outside heavy-duty nylon fabric, a sturdy, stiff and padded layer out of sight, and those above lighter colored (in our case, yellow) fabric inside. None show any wear at all. The webbing used to anchor straps and serve as grab loops and compression straps is the type we are more accustomed to seeing on climbing harnesses than on bags and packs.

We've never seen a double zipper configuration like this. Having that redundancy has already lent great peace of mind to our travels.
We've never seen a double zipper configuration like this. Having that redundancy has already lent great peace of mind to our travels.

Weight


All the durability adds up; this isn't a lightweight bag. We tested the 90L version and found it, on our calibrated scale, to weigh 4.30 lbs. For the robustness and performance, this weight is forgivable, but we wouldn't call it ultralight.


If you are knocking on the edge of your airline baggage weight allowance, the weight of your bag itself can make a difference. It is uncommon to move a bag like this very far exclusively with human power, but in that scenario, weight also matters. In all other situations, the weight is unimportant and something we largely overlook when durability and function are so high.

Weather Resistance


In a refreshing move, Sea to Summit themselves temper their promotion of the weather resistance of this duffel bag. Our experience in use and testing is exactly consistent with their statement. We find their honesty so uplifting that we can't help but quote it here.


The Sea To Summit website (remember that we have no obligation to equipment manufacturers. We thoroughly research other reviews and manufacturer's claims, which almost always includes a visit to the product's website) says, about waterproofness of this bag, "laminate is waterproof, but seams aren't taped, and the zipper would admit water. Light rain=not an issue. Monsoon=wet contents." This could describe most of the duffel bags we test, but few manufacturers are so candid.

You might never intend to submerge your duffel bag  but you'd be surprised at when weather can try and infiltrate. Here  getting dropped off by a bush plane. The plane propeller blasts you and your pile of junk. The Sea To Summit does as well as most in keeping the harsh out.
You might never intend to submerge your duffel bag, but you'd be surprised at when weather can try and infiltrate. Here, getting dropped off by a bush plane. The plane propeller blasts you and your pile of junk. The Sea To Summit does as well as most in keeping the harsh out.

Value


All the above praise describes a bag that doesn't come cheap. For the size, this Editors' Choice costs more than most. However, the function and durability are excellent, and the range of prices in duffel bags is remarkably low. Tested all-purpose bags range from 115 dollars to 180 dollars. When compared to other categories of equipment, this is a remarkably small spread. The most expensive duffels aren't too far above the least expensive, all things considered.

The strap  slip  and labeled anchor points. Here  the low end of the backpack strap configuration.
The strap, slip, and labeled anchor points. Here, the low end of the backpack strap configuration.

Conclusion


It didn't take much testing to start considering the Sea to Summit for our Editors' Choice award. We've done our due diligence, packing and dragging and traveling the Americas. The conclusion is that this is the best darn all-purpose duffel bag we've used.


Jediah Porter