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

How We Tested Duffel Bags

Friday May 1, 2020

The vast majority of our duffel testing is done in "real life". We travel, organize, and live out of these duffels for weeks and months at a time. Our test team moves around a ton and largely lives on the go. If this team can't find a weakness or perk, we don't know who can. On top of the day-to-day use, we conducted a few objective tests.

Ease of Transport


We examined each bag for its carrying options. We consider grab handles, suitcase handles, backpack straps, long shoulder strap, and integrity when dragging along the ground. The primary asterisk here is that it is not our habit to test gear to failure. Dragging bags with a standard load until the fabric wears through would be excellent testing, but that would be wasteful. We can deduce dragging durability from real-world use and material selection.

To test portability  we lugged the packs all over the Americas. Here  autumn in the Tetons.
To test portability, we lugged the packs all over the Americas. Here, autumn in the Tetons.

Ease of Packing


Regular use draws out the pros and cons here. Further, we look for the main opening shape and size, stiffness of the fabric (does it stand up when empty, for packing and unpacking? Does the fabric fight back as you try and stuff it full?), and accessory pockets.

Loading up the bags  and organizing our gear into them  serves as the best way to test packability.
Loading up the bags, and organizing our gear into them, serves as the best way to test packability.

Durability


Most of our information on durability is deduced from the team's long and thorough understanding of materials and construction techniques. Since we do not test to failure, we cannot fully assess durability. However, we are confident in our assessments based on deduction and abundant real-world use.

Durability examination. Expedition life is hard life  for duffels and for people. If it holds up on an expedition  it will hold up elsewhere.
Durability examination. Expedition life is hard life, for duffels and for people. If it holds up on an expedition, it will hold up elsewhere.

Weight


We weighed 'em. On a calibrated hanging scale. In communicating weight in the review text, we also correct for volume. Since not all bags are offered in the same volumes, it is difficult to compare all options directly. Nonetheless, we can make very astute deductions to help you select a product that isn't any heavier than you need.

We assessed weight with a scale. But weight matters under any sort of human power.
We assessed weight with a scale. But weight matters under any sort of human power.

Weather Resistance


Routine use of virtually every single one of the tested bags involved exposing valuable contents to wet weather. We learned good things about them therein. Further, we filled each with towels and bedding and hosed them down in the driveway. When a bag claims to be submersible, we drive it down to Idaho's Teton River and dunk it under for testing.

To test weather resistance we mainly relied on our hose test. However  throwing them in puddles in northern Patagonia is pretty fun too.
To test weather resistance we mainly relied on our hose test. However, throwing them in puddles in northern Patagonia is pretty fun too.

Conclusion


Our methodology is thorough but not overly clinical. We emphasize "real world" use and find that we can make the best assessments this way.