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Best Duffel Bag of 2021

This duffel is more durable than your average lightweight duffel, and ...
Photo: Miya Tsudome
Wednesday May 26, 2021
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Throughout the last decade, our team of experts has bought and traveled with over 40 of the best duffel bags. In this update, we look at 16 of the most promising models that are available today. We hauled these bags across the globe for weeks at a time to evaluate their durability, weather resistance, and ease of packing and transporting. We've covered it all, whether you're looking for a bag for your next adventure or just a durable duffel for everyday travel. The right duffel bag should give you years of worry-free service, and we'll help you find the right model for you.

Related: Best Carry On Luggage of 2021

Top 16 Product Ratings

Displaying 6 - 10 of 16
 
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Numerous storage pockets, versatile carrying options, well-rounded designComfortable backpack straps, unique features, internal organization system and compression straps, durable, extra-large openingLightweight, comfortable, straps are removable or stowable, large interior pockets for organizationClassic rugged style, durable and water-resistant materials, removable padded shoulder strapLighweight, rugged build, easily removable shoulder straps
Cons Not as durable as others, backpack straps are thinly paddedExpensive, must attach straps together to make a grab handle, overkill for the everyday travelerNot as durable as others, must un-do compression straps to open bagHeavy, expensive, no backpack straps, no additional storage pocketsThinner materials than others, awkward interior pockets
Bottom Line A versatile duffel that balances solid all-around performance in every rating metricA proper expedition duffel bag that is durable, comfortable, and has unique packing features, but comes at a high costA lightweight, well-designed bag with versatile carrying systems and solid all-around performanceA rugged bag with a handsome design, but not as versatile as othersThis rugged duffel scores well across the board but lacks any standout features
Rating Categories Marmot Long Hauler Expedition Duffel REI Co-op Big Haul Filson Rugged Twill Duffel Mountain Hardwear Camp 4
Ease Of Transport (25%)
7
8
8
7
6
Storage And Ease Of Packing (25%)
9
9
8
7
7
Durability (20%)
7
7
5
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Weight (15%)
6
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Weather Resistance (15%)
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Specs Marmot Long Hauler Expedition Duffel REI Co-op Big Haul Filson Rugged... Mountain Hardwear...
Weight (Pounds) 3.8 lbs (105L size XL) 3.8 lbs (100L one size) 2.1 lbs (90L model) 4.5 lbs (75L size L) 2.9 lbs (95L model)
Volume Size Options (Liters) 35, 50, 75, 105, 125 Liters 100 Liters (one size) 40, 60, 90, 120 Liters 33, 43, 75 Liters 45, 65, 95, 135 Liters
Material 600-Denier 100% poly TPU laminate body with 600-Denier 100% poly TPU laminate bottom layer 840-Denier carbonate coated plain weave nylon 400-Denier TPU-coated nylon 100% Cottton twill, bridle leather straps and accents 420-Denier carbonate coated ripstop nylon, with 840-Denier ballistic nylon bottom layer
# of pockets (excludes main compartment) 4 3 4 0 2
Backpack Straps Yes Yes Yes No Yes
D or I opening D I D I D

Best Overall Duffel Bag


Sea to Summit Duffel


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 9
  • Storage and Ease of Packing - 25% 8
  • Durability - 20% 9
  • Weight - 15% 4
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 9
Weight: 4.3 lbs (90L model) | Volume options: 45, 65, 90, 130 Liters
Durable materials and construction
Burly yet smooth double zipper
Versatile carrying options
Easily removable straps
Only one interior separate storage pocket
Awkward briefcase-style carry
Expensive

The Sea to Summit Duffel Bag narrowly escapes with a repeat of our top ranking, beating out an impressive lineup full of worthy competitors from many of the top outdoors manufacturers. This bag stands out with remarkable construction quality and thick, burly 1000-Denier material, combined with a unique and versatile strap system. The two completely removable straps can be attached to 10 different mounting points around the bag, and are easily adjustable with built-in metal carabiner-style clips. Depending on your preference, they can be used either as backpack straps, a shoulder sling, or traditional briefcase-style carry handles.

One minor weakness of the Sea to Summit is that the briefcase-style carrying configuration feels a little awkward. This bag lacks traditional carry handles, but you can adjust the shoulder straps to carry it by your side, and the straps have small magnets embedded in them to keep the straps clasped together. While this is an innovative idea, the magnetic link is not very useful, and gripping the bag this way is less comfortable than with most other models. Further, it has just one pocket on the inside of the top lid, and its rugged material makes it one of the heaviest bags in our lineup. Overall, we can handily recommend this piece of luggage for its high-quality materials and construction.

Read review: Sea to Summit Duffel

Best Bang for the Buck


Gregory Alpaca


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 8
  • Storage and Ease of Packing - 25% 8
  • Durability - 20% 8
  • Weight - 15% 5
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 9
Weight: 3.8 lbs (90L model) | Volume options: 30, 45, 60, 90, 120 Liters
Simple and classy design
Durable and lightweight materials
Multiple zippered pockets
Includes several high-end features
Backpack straps are difficult to remove

The Gregory Alpaca has every feature you could want in a high-end duffel bag with a lower price tag than most of the top competitors, providing exceptional value. With a sleek and classy design and high-quality materials, the Alpaca has multiple storage pockets, full-length daisy chain attachment points on both sides, comfortable backpack straps, and water-resistant 900-Denier material. It successfully balances a large storage volume with convenient carrying options, durable and water-resistant material, and reasonably low weight.

The Alpaca scores well across the board and shows no significant weaknesses. The only notable drawback is that the backpack straps can be a bit tedious to remove. You must unweave one end through a doubled-back buckle and then slide the strap through a girth-hitch at the other end. While this is not necessarily difficult, it could test your patience and your dexterity when trying to remove or replace the straps at a busy airport. Overall, the Alpaca is one of our favorite bags and provides excellent value.

Read review: Gregory Alpaca

Most Comfortable Carrying System


Osprey Transporter


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 8
  • Storage and Ease of Packing - 25% 7
  • Durability - 20% 7
  • Weight - 15% 6
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 9
Weight: 3.3 lbs (95L model) | Volume options: 40, 65, 95, 130 Liters
Comfortably padded backpack straps
Backpack harness includes load lifters and chest strap
Heavy-duty padded grab handles
No traditional briefcase-style handles
Storage pockets not easily accessible

With a supportive and well-padded backpack harness design similar to their backpacks, the Osprey Transporter earns recognition for having the most comfortable carrying system. While most of the models in our lineup include backpack straps, the Transporter is one of the only options we tested with a chest strap and load lifter straps in addition to its comfortable and supportive harness. The entire harness can also be unbuckled and easily tucked inside a zippered pocket on the top lid for smooth airport transitions. The bag also has four heavy-duty grab handles for briefcase-style carrying, and high-quality materials and construction typical of Osprey products.

The Transporter is undoubtedly comfortable in backpack carrying mode but lacks traditional briefcase-style carry handles found on most duffel bags. While the comfortable and heavy-duty grab handles help compensate for this, we appreciate carrying systems with more versatile options. Also, while this bag has both an internal and external zippered pocket, they are in somewhat awkward locations that reduce their effectiveness. Built for hauling heavy loads in comfort and style, the Transporter makes an excellent choice for those who prioritize backpack carrying capabilities.

Read review: Osprey Transporter

Best Simple and Rugged Expedition Bag


The North Face Base Camp


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 7
  • Storage and Ease of Packing - 25% 8
  • Durability - 20% 9
  • Weight - 15% 4
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 9
Weight: 4.1 lbs (95L model) | Volume options: 33, 50, 69, 95, 150 Liters
Thick, durable material
Simple, time-tested design
Internal and external zippered pockets
Straps and handles thinner than others
Tedious to remove backpack straps
Material shows scuffs and dirt

A mainstay on remote expeditions around the world for decades and near the top of our lineup for several years, The North Face Base Camp is our favorite choice for a simple and rugged expedition bag. Its simple and classic design has remained mostly unchanged through the years, and its robust 1000-Denier material is among the toughest we've tested. Both an external and internal zippered pocket help sweeten the deal. These bags have withstood the test of time for decades on expeditions to all corners of the world. On our test team alone, we own several Base Camp duffels that have years of adventurous travel behind them.

The primary drawback of the Base Camp is its strap arrangement. The grab handles and traditional briefcase-style straps are permanently affixed and are straightforward to use, but you must thread the shoulder straps through a doubled-back buckle to remove or replace them. Many airlines require you to remove duffel bag straps, and so this adds a somewhat tedious task each time you hand off or collect your luggage. Also, the thick, burly material tends to show scuffs more than other models and has a more utilitarian look than some more refined options. But for a simple, dependable bag that can take you to all seven continents with ease, the Base Camp is a top choice.

Read review: The North Face Base Camp

Best On a Tight Budget


REI Co-op Roadtripper


57
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 4
  • Storage and Ease of Packing - 25% 5
  • Durability - 20% 6
  • Weight - 15% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 6
Weight: 1.6 lbs (100L model) | Volume options: 40, 60, 100, 140 Liters
Very light for its size
Packs down small
Simple and affordable
Not as durable as heavier-duty models
Thin straps are not as comfortable
Lacks backpack straps

While the Gregory Alpaca provides excellent value among the burlier, higher-end bags in our lineup, the REI Roadtripper offers excellent storage and utility at nearly half the price, giving it a massive bang for the buck. The Roadtripper is so affordable and straightforward that it stands out from the crowd. With its reliable lightweight construction, removable shoulder sling, single external zippered pocket, and basic daisy chain system, the Roadtripper provides tremendous value.

The Roadtripper's lightweight design is mainly due to simple construction and thinner material. It also lacks fancy features found on many higher-end models, like backpack straps, compression straps, internal pockets, or extensive daisy chains. While the fabric and zipper are sturdy enough for most general use, it won't stand up to the abuse that other more robust duffels will endure. But for general use, the Roadtripper is a versatile, lightweight, affordable option.

Read review: REI Roadtripper

Best Ultralight Packable Model


Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole


55
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 5
  • Storage and Ease of Packing - 25% 4
  • Durability - 20% 5
  • Weight - 15% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 6
Weight: 0.5 lbs | Volume options: 30 liters
Extremely lightweight
Packs down small
Inexpensive
Thin material lacks durability
Lacks comfortable carrying straps

Weighing just a half a pound and packing down to the size of a Nalgene bottle, the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole duffel bag earns the distinction of our favorite ultralight/packable model. With a simple and classic design, this bag is an ideal choice for general daily use around town, or to pack along in your suitcase for a secondary kit on more extended vacations. With webbing handles that are adjustable in length and can be used as backpack straps or as a shoulder sling, this bag is light enough and versatile enough for daily use.

While the UL Black Hole makes a great everyday bag, it falls short of the durability and carrying capabilities of many of the larger expedition type models in our lineup. Its lightweight material and constriction that make it easy to carry and compress into its pocket also lack the durability and weather resistance of heftier models. Its thin nylon straps are also not the most comfortable to carry over long periods, and sacrifices comfort for weight savings. Users looking for a versatile, featherweight bag, however, will appreciate the Ultralight Black Hole.

Read review: Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole

An Excellent Model with Top-Notch Overall Performance


Patagonia Black Hole


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 9
  • Storage and Ease of Packing - 25% 8
  • Durability - 20% 8
  • Weight - 15% 5
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 8
Weight: 3.8 lbs (100L model) | Volume options: 40, 55, 70, 100 Liters
Comfortable carry options
Durable, stylish, recycled material
Easily removable shoulder straps
Multiple zippered pockets
Fairly lightweight
Softer material doesn't hold its shape
Expensive

Consistently one of the top pieces of luggage on the market, the Patagonia Black Hole just misses out on our top ranking with its high-quality design and top-notch performance. We appreciate the comfortable backpack straps that are easily removable, and the high-end design details like an external zippered pocket, two internal zippered pockets, internal luggage compression straps, and external daisy chain attachment points. The 900-Denier recycled material is durable and water-resistant, and the reinforced bottom panel helps resist wear from dragging and hauling. This bag is durable enough for the most rugged expeditions, yet stylish enough for frequent business trips.

The Black Hole is an impressive and capable duffel bag, but just misses out on our highest honor. Our testers preferred the Sea to Summit for its slightly thicker and more durable material (1000-Denier vs. 900-Denier) and its more versatile and adjustable strap system. Others may prefer the Black Hole's style, its additional storage pockets, or its extra daisy chain attachment points. Both of these bags are excellent products, and the right choice comes down to personal preference.

Read review: Patagonia Black Hole

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
80
$180
Editors' Choice Award
A simple, burly duffel bag ideal for all kinds of adventerous travel
78
$180
An incredible all-around contender that falls just short of our top award
77
$150
Best Buy Award
A solid all-around excellent expedition bag, this model was built with remote adventures in mind
75
$149
Top Pick Award
Remains one of our favorite all-around models with its simple and rugged design
74
$180
Top Pick Award
A top performer with unmatched carrying comfort but a few quirks that limit its versatility
74
$159
This well-rounded duffel performs well across the board with no major weaknesses
73
$240
This expedition-style duffel bag is an excellent choice for the serious adventure traveler with a price tag to prove it
70
$139
Lightweight materials and solid construction make this bag a worthy choice
68
$425
Excellent durability and water resistance but lacks backpack straps and additional storage pockets
68
$150
A solid performer with no major weaknesses, but gets outshined by others
57
$65
Best Buy Award
A simple and inexpensive duffel with a great volume to weight ratio
55
$69
Top Pick Award
Not the largest or toughest bag out there, but suitable for daily light-duty use
54
$40
This small, lightweight duffel is a great everyday travel accessory
54
$50
One of the lightest duffel bags that we've ever tested
53
$110
A durable, lightweight, and affordable bag for the everyday traveler
47
$35
This duffel is a no-frills bag that is simple, affordable, and functional for everyday use or travel

Duffel bags are some of the most versatile pieces of luggage for...
Duffel bags are some of the most versatile pieces of luggage for every adventure from remote expeditions to family camping trips to epic road trips.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Why You Should Trust Us


This review is brought to you by longtime GearLab contributors Miya Tsudome, Nick Bruckbauer, Ian Nicholson, Jediah Porter. Nick has a competitive running background and has transitioned to an all-around outdoorsman throughout the past decade. In the last four years alone, he has snorkeled in Thailand and the Maldives, trekked in Nepal, skied in Alaska, and climbed and skied 14ers in Washington, California, and Colorado. Jed is a professional mountain guide who frequently packs huge piles of gear, and is based in Wydaho's Tetons and makes yearly visits to Alaska and South America. Each year, he regularly racks up hundreds of thousands of human-powered vertical feet and completes several multi-week wilderness trips. Miya is a climber and photographer based in California's Eastern Sierra and can regularly be found hauling gear to her favorite climbing crag.

The legwork for this review began by doing extensive market research, surveying nearly 60 of today's top duffels, before selecting 16 to purchase for this review and take to the field. In addition to surviving our at-home testing, some bags have gone on climbing trips to the French Alps, were dragged across glaciers in Alaska, were stowed in the forest in Patagonia, and hauled paddling gear to the Indian Ocean.

Related: How We Tested Duffel Bags

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Analysis and Test Results


To help you find the best duffel bag, we reviewed each of our 16 products across five essential performance metrics. While we used the overall weighted scores to determine our top rankings, we recommend examining each category and prioritizing which performance metrics best match your needs. Our five performance metrics are ease of transport, storage and ease of packing, durability, weight, and weather resistance.

Many of the duffel bags in our lineup are available in a wide range of sizes. To get the most accurate direct comparison, we bought and tested most models in a similar 90-liter to 100-liter size range.

Related: Buying Advice for Duffel Bags


Value


Duffel bags are an interesting product category when it comes to value, as there is not a very broad price spread among most of our highest-rated bags. For example, the Sea to Summit Duffel is one of the pricier models in our lineup, but only has a slightly higher list price than the high-value Gregory Alpaca. Aside from the more expensive Mountain Hardwear Expedition duffel, there is a very minimal price spread among the top six or seven scoring models in our lineup. All of these products have robust materials and high-quality designs, so it is easy to justify their expense.

On the other end of the spectrum, the REI Roadtripper is among the least expensive full-size duffel bag in our entire review. Although its durability and versatility are compromised compared to the more robust products mentioned above, its lightweight and affordable design make it an excellent choice for general use.

The small, ultralight models in our review also come in a much lower price range when compared to the full-sized bags. In the lightweight duffel category, there is a more significant price spread that is dependant mostly on the quality of materials used and the weight of the bag. When weight savings and quality matter, having to shell out some extra money is justifies their cost.

Ease of Transport


Part of what separates duffel bags from other luggage styles is that they are typically available in much larger sizes that can make them challenging and awkward to lug around. To make transport more manageable, each bag employs up to four distinct carrying systems: traditional briefcase-style carry handles, backpack straps, over-the-shoulder slings, and grab handles. Each of these carrying methods can be useful depending on the situation and length of travel. Grab handles are convenient for hauling into or out of vehicles or luggage racks, and briefcase-style grips and shoulder slings are ideal for carrying a shorter distance or when you have other luggage to haul. Backpack straps are the most comfortable and efficient method for heavier loads or over longer distances. Daisy chain attachment points make it easier to lash a bag to a vehicle, cart, or pack animal, and easily removable straps help protect your investment from wear and tear during air travel.


The Sea to Summit Duffel has an innovative adjustable strap system that adds to the pack's overall versatility. The two shoulder straps have removable metal carabiner-style clasps at each that can be attached to any of the 10 different mounting points around the bag, allowing it to be carried briefcase style, like a backpack, or over the shoulder. The bag can also be hauled via the grab handles when the straps are entirely removed and stowed for air travel. While the briefcase-style strap configuration felt a little awkward to handle, we appreciated the versatility of this adjustable design and the ability to remove the straps completely.

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Most of the duffels in our lineup are reasonably comfortable to carry with the included backpack straps. Different models have slightly different strap geometry, levels of padding, and ranges of adjustability. The Osprey Transporter has the most comfortable backpack carry system that includes well-padded shoulder straps, an adjustable chest strap, and adjustable load lifter straps, followed closely behind by the Mountain Hardwear Expedition 100 and its comfortable backpack straps. The entire backpack harness on the Transporter can be quickly unclipped and stowed inside its storage compartment on the top lid. While this bag does not include traditional briefcase-style carry handles, it has four heavy-duty padded grab handles — one on each end — the make it easy to lug around or to carry by your side for moderate distances.

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The Patagonia Black Hole, the Gregory Alpaca, the Gregory Supply Duffel, the North Face Base Camp, and the REI Big Haul also have reasonably comfortable shoulder straps for carrying heavy loads over longer distances. All five of these models also have traditional briefcase-style carry straps and reinforced grab handles for versatile carrying options.

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Most of the products we tested forgo a traditional single shoulder sling in favor of the more comfortable and efficient backpack straps. Sometimes it's just easier to sling the bag over your shoulder though — like if you're only carrying for a short distance or hauling multiple pieces of luggage at once. You can adjust the length of most of the backpack straps to make it easier to sling the bag over a shoulder, although frequently the padding may not line up correctly on your shoulder, or that balance may feel awkward. The Filson Large Rugged Twill Duffel and the value-oriented REI Roadtripper are some of the only models we tested with a dedicated shoulder strap.

The Rugged Twill duffel from Filson is one of the only models we...
The Rugged Twill duffel from Filson is one of the only models we tested with a traditional single shoulder sling.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

The Patagonia Black Hole has highly adjustable shoulder straps and extended padding, both of which help facilitate comfortable carrying on one shoulder. The highly-rated Sea to Summit and the Mountain Hardwear Expedition 100 also include a convenient shoulder sling carry option with adjustable strap systems.

Connect the straps together via the velcro attachment for a large...
Connect the straps together via the velcro attachment for a large grab handle or shoulder sling.
Photo: Miya Tsudome

Many of the lightweight and packable models like the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole, the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Duffel, and the REI Co-op Stuff Travel Duffel have more limited carrying options. However, they are still convenient to handle because of their lower weights and smaller sizes. Of the ultralight and packable models, the Ultralight Black Hole stands out for its adjustable dual grab handles and daisy chain attachment system. Our testers also appreciated the comfortable, padded shoulder strap that comes with the Osprey Ultralight duffel, as most lightweight models forgo padding in favor of saving weight.

The Patagonia Ultralight Black hole has handy grab handles on each...
The Patagonia Ultralight Black hole has handy grab handles on each end in addition to its main straps.
Photo: Miya Tsudome

If you've traveled to far-flung destinations around the world, you've probably seen your luggage strapped down to some form of transportation. During the years of testing for this review, we've had duffels carried by llamas, mules, horses, snowmobiles, motorcycles, campers, small prop planes, and helicopters. We've also pulled them ourselves, lashed to a sled deep in the Alaskan wilderness. Most of the products in our test group feature robust daisy chains (externally mounted webbing with sewn loops) that are versatile and easy to use to securely attach your duffel to various modes of transportation. Other single attachment loops, large grab handles, or permanently affixed shoulder straps are also useful when you need to secure your load.

When traveling to more remote regions, having a duffel that can be...
When traveling to more remote regions, having a duffel that can be easily and securely tied down to a bus or some sort of pack animal can be the difference between losing your bag or not.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Most of the highest-rated products in our lineup include daisy chains or some kind of external attachment loops. The Patagonia Black Hole, the Gregory Alpaca, and The North Face Base Camp all stand out for their robust and extensive daisy chain features. The REI Big Haul, the Mountain Hardwear Camp 4 Duffel, and the Mountain Hardwear Expedition 100 are all also noteworthy with their burly, reinforced daisy chain loops that are thicker and stronger than most. The Sea to Summit doesn't feature a full set of daisy chains but does have four smaller attachment loops in addition to its four heavy-duty grab handles. Out of the ultralight models, only the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole duffel has daisy chain attachments on its sides.

The Alpaca duffel has full-length daisy chains on each side of the...
The Alpaca duffel has full-length daisy chains on each side of the bag for easy attachment to a car, truck, or motorcycle.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Storage and Ease of Packing


While most of these duffel bags have plenty of capacity to haul heavy loads for extended durations, each model has different nuances that impact its storage efficiency, organization capabilities, and ease of packing. In this category, we first compared each bag's overall storage compartment and how easy it was to load with both typical travel items and oddly shaped equipment. We also analyzed how useful smaller pockets or compartments were for keeping gear organized, and the ease of accessing both the smaller pockets and the main compartment.


After dozens of trips to the field and direct side-by-side comparisons in the lab, we prefer the big D- or U-shaped zippered openings rather than the straight "I" style zippers. Most of the duffels we tested have U-shaped openings, which makes it much easier to access the contents of your pack and securely fit more cargo. Most options have heavy-duty zippers that can be locked, but the Sea to Summit stands out with its smooth and robust double-decker zipper that makes it more difficult for a thief to access. Our testers also appreciated the unique packing system of the Mountain Hardwear Expedition 100, which features a main zipper that zips all the way out to flaps on either side of the bag to create an extra large opening, as well as a stiff collar on the inside that can be folded out for easy, unencumbered access to the interior.

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A bag's ease of packing is an important feature, and everyone has struggled to zip closed a fully stuffed bag when it is overloaded just beyond its capacity. In this case, we appreciated the internal compression straps found on many of the bags, including the Osprey Transporter, the Patagonia Black Hole, the Marmot Long Hauler, the Mountain Hardwear Camp 4, and Mountain Hardwear Expedition 100. The Mountain Hardwear Expedition also features an exterior compression strap that helps even more when struggling to close an overstuffed bag — simply tighten the strap down and zip from either end for a stress-free packing experience.

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While most of these products feature massive internal storage compartments for hauling vast amounts of gear, a few internal or external zippered pockets go a long way towards keeping smaller items organized, or separating wet shoes or dirty laundry. The Marmot Long Hauler stands out with a large external zippered pocket on each end and two internal zippered pockets. Similarly, the Patagonia Black Hole, the REI Big Haul, the Gregory Alpaca, and the Mountain Hardwear Expedition 100 each have one external pocket and two internal pockets.

The Long Hauler features two external pockets (one on each end) and...
The Long Hauler features two external pockets (one on each end) and two internal pockets.
Photo: Miya Tsudome

While most of the bags have at least one internal pocket, our testers agreed that two smaller pockets are significantly more useful for organization. Flat external pockets that share the same space as the main storage compartment, like on the Patagonia Black Hole or the REI Roadtripper, are better than none but were hard to get our hands into when the bags were packed full.

While a slim side pocket might not fit bulkier items, it can...
While a slim side pocket might not fit bulkier items, it can definitely keep your essential supplies easily within reach.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Durability


Most of the contenders in our fleet are super durable, with robust materials, reinforced bottom panels, and heavy-duty seams. Most of the bags we tested are constructed from a high Denier laminate or a high Denier ballistic nylon. In general, Denier is the measure of a material's thread thickness and density, and a higher number corresponds to a thicker, sturdier, more durable fabric. Our lineup includes heavy-duty expedition packs with 1000-Denier materials with additional reinforcements, all the way down to silky smooth 30-Denier nylon bags that pack down to the size of a tennis ball.


The tried and true The North Face Base Camp Duffel set the tone for durability decades ago with its burly 1000-Denier body material, and a similar heavy-duty construction has spread to several other manufacturers. Many of the top models in our fleet used at least a 900-Denier nylon or polyester material throughout the duffel, with an additional reinforcement layer of at least 600-Denier nylon on the bottom or other high wear areas. The Sea to Summit also uses 1000-Denier nylon laminate for its primary body material, as well as beefy bar tacks on all of the critical stitching areas. Both the Sea to Summit and the Base Camp have an additional layer of material on the bottom panel. Gear tester Ian Nicholson has used a Base Camp duffel on over 20 expeditions, and it's still going strong.

The Base Camp duffel one of our longtime favorites that sets the...
The Base Camp duffel one of our longtime favorites that sets the standard for durability. We've taken previous versions of this bag on over 20 expeditions around the world and it's still going strong.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

The Patagonia Black Hole, the Gregory Alpaca, the Mountain Hardwear Expedition 100L, and the Osprey Transporter are all similarly sturdy but slightly less robust with fabrics in the 840- to 900-Denier range. All four of these bags should withstand almost any abuse you could throw at them.

The Transporter (left) and the Black Hole (right) models are plenty...
The Transporter (left) and the Black Hole (right) models are plenty durable to withstand rough handling.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

A unique offering in this lineup, the Filson Rugged Twill Duffel uses natural materials to achieve its robust build, with a 100% cotton rugged twill body and bridle leather accents and straps.

The Rugged Twill duffel uses heavy-duty natural materials, including...
The Rugged Twill duffel uses heavy-duty natural materials, including waxed cotton and bridle leather, to create a handsomely rugged design.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

On the other end of the spectrum, we have a handful of ultralight, packable models in our lineup that range from 30-Denier up to 70-Denier in material thickness. While these wouldn't stand up to the prolonged abuse of the heftier expedition duffels, they have different design applications. Their lightweight and packable designs make them ideal for daily use or as a secondary bag to pack along on a more extended vacation. Their versatility makes them incredibly useful, and their lightweight materials are just robust enough for their intended use. We used the Patagonia UL Black Hole and the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Duffels as daily gym bags, and used the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil to carry toiletries and dirty laundry on longer trips.

The incredibly lightweight Ultra-Sil duffel lacks the durability of...
The incredibly lightweight Ultra-Sil duffel lacks the durability of other models but makes a great choice as a second bag or for daily use during a long vacation.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Weight


This year's lineup has a selection of ultralight/packable duffel bags that each tip the scales at half a pound or less. The Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole, the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil, the REI Co-op Stuff Travel Duffel, and the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Duffel each pack into their tiny stuff sack and are all surprisingly durable considering their weight. These models easily pack away into your main luggage and make a great secondary bag for shorter day trips, grocery runs, beach outings, or picnics.

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The Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole has the most impressive strength-to-weight ratio, being made of 70-Denier ripstop nylon and weighing in at only half a pound. Of course, as weight increases, so does durability, so these ultralight, packable models obviously won't be as robust and dependable as the heavier-duty expedition duffels.


For the full-size duffel bags, we bought and tested products in the same general 90-liter to 100-liter size range to get a more accurate direct comparison for storage capabilities and measured weights. The Mountain Hardwear Camp 4 and the REI Big Haul are among the lightest full-size models in our lineup, both weighing in at 3.0 pounds or less in their 95-liter capacity. These bags are constructed from 400-Denier and 420-Denier material, providing a nice balance of durability and weight savings. They are not as robust as the 900-Denier and 1000-Denier products like the Sea to Summit and The North Face Base Camp, but they weigh over a pound less in the same size range.

The REI Big Haul is an impressively light, full-sized duffel bag.
The REI Big Haul is an impressively light, full-sized duffel bag.
Photo: Miya Tsudome

Providing an excellent blend of storage volume and durability in a surprisingly lightweight package, the REI Roadtripper clocks in at a mere 1.6 pounds in a 100-liter storage volume, while the Gregory Supply Duffel weighs 1.7 pounds for a 90-liter storage volume.

The Gregory Supply Duffel is a decent value for the everyday...
The Gregory Supply Duffel is a decent value for the everyday traveler looking for a bag with extra durability.
Photo: Miya Tsudome

While there is a relatively broad range of different pack weights within our lineup, keep in mind that many of these bags have a 90-liter to 100-liter storage volume. Once they are fully loaded, you might be hauling up to 50 pounds of gear, so an empty luggage weight difference of a pound won't be noticeable for very long.

Weather Resistance


Protection from the elements is crucial whether you're loading and unloading your car on a soggy day, watching your bag get driven around the airport tarmac, or hauling it through exotic locales with wet, muddy, or snowy conditions. To compare each model's weather resistance through the years, we hauled them around the world on expeditions to Denali, Bolivia, Aconcagua, Central Chile, and Patagonia. More recently, we used them on road trips, camping trips, and beach outings. Additionally, we ran systematic tests where we put dry towels or clothing inside each bag and sprayed them with a hose.


The rankings for weather resistance look relatively similar to our durability ratings, where bags with heavier-duty materials tend to score better. One difference is that models with multiple exterior pockets with additional zippered closure are a bit more vulnerable to the outside elements. Simpler designs with fewer openings offer better protection. The Sea to Summit and burly The North Face Base Camp both score well with their 1000-Denier material and limited vulnerabilities. The Sea to Summit has no external pockets and a burly double zipper, while the Base Camp has only one external pocket protected by a weather flap. Both bags have a 1-inch protective flap where the top lid overlaps the main zipper. While neither bag has sealed seams to make them waterproof, they both provide excellent protection from the weather.

With 1000-denier material, no external pockets, and a generous...
With 1000-denier material, no external pockets, and a generous weather flap protecting the main zipper, the Sea to Summit model provides excellent weather resistance.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Several of the remaining top contenders all scored similarly well in this performance metric. The Osprey Transporter, the Gregory Alpaca, the Patagonia Black Hole, the Mountain Hardwear Expedition, and the Filson Rugged Twill all provide exceptional protection from the elements. Most of the remaining bags in our lineup have waterproof or water-resistant fabrics but don't have sealed seams or waterproof zippers. All of these will repel some light rain, snow, splashes, and spills, but won't withstand extended downpours or complete submersion.

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Conclusion


Today's duffel bag marketplace includes several impressive products from top manufacturers that will perform well for general travel or rugged expeditions. While each model is capable of hauling your gear around town or around the world, distinct nuances between each design can significantly impact the comfort and convenience of hauling your gear. We hope that this review helps you find the right product for your needs, and we wish you luck wherever your travels take you.

The REI Stuff Travel Duffel is a fine bag for everyday needs.
The REI Stuff Travel Duffel is a fine bag for everyday needs.
Photo: Miya Tsudome

Miya Tsudome & Nick Bruckbauer