Reviews You Can Rely On

The 6 Best Duffel Bags of 2022

We tested the most promising duffel bags on the market from The North Face, Sea to Summit, Patagonia, Thule, Osprey, REI, Cotopaxi, Eagle Creek, and more to find the best
Best Duffel Bags of 2022
We're here to show you which features to look for to help you find the best duffel for your next adventure.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer
Tuesday October 25, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

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.

If you're looking for a travel bag that's a little small or more structured inside, we've also tested the best carry on luggage and the best travel backpacks, as well as a huge variety of the best backpacks of all shapes and sizes. Whether you're traveling near or far, we've got you covered.

Editor's Note: Our team updated this article on October 25, 2022, to add three new products, tested side by side with our lineup of the best duffel bags on the market.

Top 16 Product Ratings

Displaying 6 - 10 of 16
 
Awards  Top Pick Award    
Price $160 List
Check Price at REI
$185 List
Check Price at REI
$107.37 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$240 List
$239.99 at Backcountry
$150 List
Check Price at REI
Overall Score
74
75
74
73
68
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Tons of organization, comfortable carry system, durable design, good weather resistanceTop-notch backpack carry system, excellent weather-resistanceNumerous storage pockets, versatile carrying options, well-rounded designComfortable backpack straps, unique features, internal organization system and compression straps, durable, extra-large openingLighweight, rugged build, easily removable shoulder straps
Cons No sizes larger than 70L, backpack straps difficult to removeNo traditional carry handles, thinner fabric than top models, extra closure buckles get in the wayNot as durable as others, backpack straps are thinly paddedExpensive, must attach straps together to make a grab handle, overkill for the everyday travelerThinner materials than others, awkward interior pockets
Bottom Line If you like a big bag but still want to stay organized, this durable, comfortable bag is an excellent choiceA high-quality duffel with a comfortable and thoughtfully designed backpack harnessA 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 costThis rugged duffel scores well across the board but lacks any standout features
Rating Categories Cotopaxi Allpa Duo... Osprey Transporter Marmot Long Hauler Mountain Hardwear E... Mountain Hardwear C...
Ease of Transport (25%)
8.0
8.5
7.0
8.0
6.0
Storage and Ease of Packing (25%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Durability (20%) Sort Icon
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Weight (15%)
5.0
6.0
6.0
5.0
7.0
Weather Resistance (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Cotopaxi Allpa Duo... Osprey Transporter Marmot Long Hauler Mountain Hardwear E... Mountain Hardwear C...
Measured Weight 3.1 lb (70L model) 3.3 lb (95L model) 3.8 lb (105L size XL) 3.8 lb (100L model) 2.9 lb (95L model)
Size Options (volume) 50, 70 Liters 40, 65, 95, 130 Liters 35, 50, 75, 105, 125 Liters 75, 100, 140 Liters 45, 65, 95, 135 Liters
Material (main body) 840-denier ballistic nylon panels, TPU-coated 1000-denier polyester main body 840-Denier double-coated TPU nylon 600-Denier 100% poly TPU laminate body with 600-Denier 100% poly TPU laminate bottom layer 840-Denier carbonate coated plain weave nylon 420-Denier carbonate coated ripstop nylon, with 840-Denier ballistic nylon bottom layer
Number of Pockets (excludes main compartment) 8 + full-length laundry compartment 3 4 3 2
Backpack Straps Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
D or I-Shaped Opening D D D I D


Best Overall Duffel Bag


Sea to Summit Duffel


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport 9.0
  • Storage and Ease of Packing 8.0
  • Durability 9.0
  • Weight 4.0
  • Weather Resistance 9.0
Weight: 4.3 lbs (90L model) | Volume options: 45, 65, 90, 130 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Durable materials and construction
Stocky yet smooth double zipper
Versatile carrying options
Easily removable straps
REASONS TO AVOID
Only one separate interior pocket
Briefcase-style carry is awkward
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 1000D material, combined with a unique and versatile strap system. The two completely removable straps can be attached to 14 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 joined together. While we love this 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 heartily recommend this piece of luggage for its high-quality materials and construction.

Read more: Sea to Summit Duffel review

best overall duffel bag
The Sea to Summit beats out some seriously stiff competition to remain our favorite duffel bag to travel with.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Best Rolling Duffel


REI Co-op Big Haul Recycled Rolling Duffel 34"


Weight: 9.6 lb (109L model) | Volume options: 87 & 109 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Rolls well over mixed terrain
Good organization and compression
Durable construction
Large capacity for weight
REASONS TO AVOID
Easy to overpack
Not waterproof (just water resistant)

If you prefer to wheel your duffel rather than carry it, there's none we like more than the REI Co-op Big Haul Recycled Rolling Duffel. This hefty bag has everything we want in a duffel, plus beefy wheels that cross any terrain with ease. Like your favorite suitcase, this oversized bag has a retractable handle, sturdy handles on all four sides, and plenty of internal and external organization to keep your smaller items from getting lost. It's made of 400D recycled ripstop nylon with 1680D reinforcements, daisy chain lash points, and even a piggyback clip for attaching smaller bags during transit.

If you're heading to a rainy climate or need to roll your bags through puddles, the REI Rolling Duffel can't guarantee your belongings stay dry. Its nylon exterior is water resistant, but not waterproof, like some of the carry-only models we tested. While we love its spacious interior, with so much room inside, we found it all too easy to far exceed the 50 pound limit for checked bags followed by most airlines. But if you have more self-control when packing and need a bag you can just as easily roll through the busy streets of Manhattan, across the ancient cobblestones of Rome, and through the Egyptian sand dunes, the Big Haul Rolling Duffel is the bag for you.

Read more: REI Co-op Big Haul Recycled Rolling Duffel review

duffel bag - best rolling duffel
Walking across grass, gravel, and other uneven terrain is no problem with the REI Big Haul Rolling Duffel.
Credit: Myrha Colt

Great Value for a High-End Bag


Gregory Alpaca


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport 8.0
  • Storage and Ease of Packing 8.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Weight 5.0
  • Weather Resistance 9.0
Weight: 3.8 lbs (90L model) | Volume options: 30, 45, 60, 90, 120 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Simple and classy design
Durable and lightweight materials
Multiple zippered pockets
Includes several high-end features
REASONS TO AVOID
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 900D 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 may test your patience and dexterity when trying to remove or replace the straps at a busy airport. Overall, the Alpaca is still one of our favorite bags and offers excellent value.

Read more: Gregory Alpaca review

duffel bag - great value for a high-end bag
There's so much we love about using the Gregory Alpaca - and its price makes it a great value item.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Best On a Tight Budget


REI Co-op Roadtripper


57
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport 4.0
  • Storage and Ease of Packing 5.0
  • Durability 6.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Weather Resistance 6.0
Weight: 1.6 lbs (100L model) | Volume options: 40, 60, 100, 140 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Very light for its size
Packs down small
Simple and affordable
REASONS TO AVOID
Not as durable as heavier-duty models
Thin straps are not as comfortable
Lacks backpack straps

While the Gregory Alpaca stands out for its great value among the sturdy, high-end bags in our lineup, the REI Roadtripper offers excellent storage and utility at nearly half the price, making it an exceptional value for a duffel bag on a budget. The Roadtripper stands out from the crowd by being so affordable and straightforward. With its reliable lightweight construction, removable shoulder sling, single external zippered pocket, and basic daisy chain system, the Roadtripper has tremendous value.

The Roadtripper's lightweight design is mainly due to simple construction and thinner material. It also lacks some of the "fancy" features found on 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 more: REI Roadtripper review

duffel bag - best on a tight budget
The Roadtripper is a very handy bag that costs less than a lot of others.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Best Simple and Rugged Expedition Bag


The North Face Base Camp


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport 7.0
  • Storage and Ease of Packing 8.0
  • Durability 9.0
  • Weight 4.0
  • Weather Resistance 9.0
Weight: 4.1 lbs (95L model) | Volume options: 33, 50, 69, 95, 150 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Thick, durable material
Simple, time-tested design
Internal and external zippered pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
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 1000D 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 material shows scuffs more than other models and has a more practical look than some more elegant options. But for a simple, dependable bag that can take you to all seven continents with ease, the Base Camp is our top choice.

Read more: The North Face Base Camp review

duffel bag - best simple and rugged expedition bag
The Base Camp duffel features beefy daisy chains and grab loops on all-four sides that help facilitate lashing the duffel to a variety of vehicles and animals. Photo in route to Illimani, Cordillera Real Bolivia.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Most Comfortable Carrying System


Osprey Transporter


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport 8.5
  • Storage and Ease of Packing 7.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Weight 6.0
  • Weather Resistance 9.0
Weight: 3.3 lbs (95L model) | Volume options: 40, 65, 95, 130 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortably padded backpack straps
Backpack harness includes load lifters and chest strap
Heavy-duty padded grab handles
REASONS TO AVOID
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 quickly unbuckled and easily tucked inside a zippered pocket on the top lid for smooth airport transitions. The bag 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 its backpack mode but lacks the 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 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 more: Osprey Transporter review

duffel bag - most comfortable carrying system
Built-in load lifter straps help keep the Osprey Transporter balanced and well supported on your back.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

An Excellent Model with Top-Notch Overall Performance


Patagonia Black Hole Duffel


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport 9.0
  • Storage and Ease of Packing 8.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Weight 5.0
  • Weather Resistance 8.0
Weight: 3.8 lbs (100L model) | Volume options: 40, 55, 70, 100 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable carry options
Durable, stylish, recycled material
Easily removable shoulder straps
Multiple zippered pockets
Fairly lightweight
REASONS TO AVOID
Softer material doesn't hold its shape
Expensive

Consistently one of the top pieces of luggage on the market, the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 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 900D 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 rating. Our testers preferred the Sea to Summit for its slightly thicker and more durable material (1000D vs. 900D) and its more versatile and adjustable strap system. However, others may prefer the Black Hole's style, its additional storage pockets, or its extra daisy chain attachment points. Both of these top-scoring bags are excellent products, and the right choice comes down to personal preference.

Read more: Patagonia Black Hole Duffel review

duffel bag - the patagonia black hole is another one of our favorite duffel bags...
The Patagonia Black Hole is another one of our favorite duffel bags, with its extensive daisy chains and beefy build.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
80
Sea to Summit Duffel
sea to summit duffel duffel bag review
$180
Editors' Choice Award
78
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel
patagonia black hole duffel duffel bag review
$219
77
Gregory Alpaca
gregory alpaca duffel bag review
$160
Best Buy Award
76
Thule Chasm Duffel Bag
thule chasm duffel bag
$170
75
The North Face Base Camp
the north face base camp duffel bag review
$159
Top Pick Award
75
Osprey Transporter
osprey transporter duffel bag review
$185
Top Pick Award
74
Cotopaxi Allpa Duo Duffel Bag
cotopaxi allpa duo duffel bag
$160
74
Marmot Long Hauler
marmot long hauler duffel bag review
$179
73
Mountain Hardwear Expedition Duffel
mountain hardwear expedition duffel duffel bag review
$240
70
REI Co-op Big Haul
rei co-op big haul duffel bag review
$149
68
Mountain Hardwear Camp 4
mountain hardwear camp 4 duffel bag review
$150
57
REI Co-op Roadtripper
rei co-op roadtripper duffel bag review
$65
Best Buy Award
54
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Packable
sea to summit ultra-sil packable duffel bag review
$50
53
Gregory Supply Duffel
gregory supply duffel duffel bag review
$120
49
Eagle Creek Migrate Duffel
eagle creek migrate duffel duffel bag
$119
47
REI Stuff Travel Duffel
rei stuff travel duffel duffel bag review
$35

duffel bag - you might never intend to submerge your duffel bag, but you'd be...
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.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Why You Should Trust Us


The legwork for this review began by doing extensive market research, surveying nearly 60 of today's top duffels, before selecting 17 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, got dragged across glaciers in Alaska, found themselves stowed in the forest in Patagonia, and hauled paddling gear to the Indian Ocean.

We divided our testing into five metrics, weighted according to their overall importance to duffel bag performance:
  • Ease of Transport (25% of overall score weighting)
  • Storage and Ease of Packing (25% weighting)
  • Durability (20% weighting)
  • Weight (15% weighting)
  • Weather Resistance (15% weighting)

This review is brought to you by three longtime GearLab contributors: Maggie Nichols, Miya Tsudome, and Nick Bruckbauer. Maggie is an avid adventurer and backcountry guide of 15 years. She has taught courses and skills in the Galapagos and South Africa, guided trips in the Virgin Islands and the American West, and spent months visiting far-flung places like Svalbard and Senegal. Miya is a climber, professional mountain guide, and photographer based in California's Eastern Sierra and can regularly be found hauling gear to and from her favorite climbing crag. Nick has a competitive running background and currently lives life as an all-around outdoorsman. He has snorkeled in Thailand and the Maldives, trekked in Nepal, skied in Alaska, and climbed and skied 14ers in Washington, California, and Colorado. Maggie, Miya, and Nick all regularly use duffel bags to haul their belongings and gear on their adventures around the world.

Related: How We Tested Duffel Bags

This bag stayed comfortable hiking up an approach trail full of...
This bag stayed comfortable hiking up an approach trail full of climbing gear.
We thoroughly tested each duffel's different carrying methods, like...
We thoroughly tested each duffel's different carrying methods, like the heavy-duty grab handles shown here.
After purchasing our lineup of duffel bags at retail just like you...
After purchasing our lineup of duffel bags at retail just like you, we compared each model side-by-side in our home lab and out in the real world.

Analysis and Test Results


To help you find the best duffel bag, we reviewed each of our products across five essential performance metrics. While we used the overall weighted scores to determine our top rankings, to learn how each bag performs in specific areas, keep reading.

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: How to Choose the Right Duffel Bag for Travel


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. 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 seven or eight top 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 bags 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 a good choice for general use and an excellent value product. 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 dependent mostly on the quality of materials used and the weight of the bag. When weight savings and quality matter, shelling out some extra money does seem to bring higher performance, based on our testing.

duffel bag - the gregory alpaca (black, left) and the sea to summit (blue, right)...
The Gregory Alpaca (black, left) and the Sea to Summit (blue, right) are two duffel bags that boast both exceptional quality and exceptional value.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

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 difficult and awkward to lug around. To make transport more manageable, each bag we tested may employ up to four distinct carrying systems: traditional briefcase-style carry handles, backpack straps, over-the-shoulder slings, and grab handles (wheeled duffels are in our best suitcase review). 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 and when you have other pieces of 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. If you want to go extra fast and light, one of the best travel backpacks may be the way to go.


The Sea to Summit Duffel has an innovative adjustable strap system that adds to this pack's overall versatility. The two shoulder straps have removable metal carabiner-style clasps at each that can be attached to any of the 14 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.

Easily adjustable and removable straps are a hugely beneficial...
Easily adjustable and removable straps are a hugely beneficial feature. These metal carabiner-style clips are strong and user-friendly.
The Sea to Summit's adjustable strap configuration is very...
The Sea to Summit's adjustable strap configuration is very convenient, but the briefcase-style carry option is not quite as comfortable as others.

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. 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 — that make it simple to lug around or to carry by your side for moderate distances.

The Transporter has a comfortable backpack carrying system that has...
The Transporter has a comfortable backpack carrying system that has similar features as Osprey's high-end backpacks.
The Transporter's heavy-duty padded grab handles are among the best...
The Transporter's heavy-duty padded grab handles are among the best in the lineup and make for comfortable and efficient carrying.

The Thule Chasm is another impressively comfortable backpack carry model. Though it lacks the load lifters and chest strap that the Osprey Transporter has, the Chasm's backpack straps are very comfortable and they quickly detach with a T grip at the top and plastic buckles at the bottom, for quick conversion. It also features snaps on the sides to hold the suitcase style handles out of the way when you don't need them.

Easily snap the suitcase style handles out of the way when you don't...
Easily snap the suitcase style handles out of the way when you don't need them.
The Chasm backpack straps come off so quickly and easily.
The Chasm backpack straps come off so quickly and easily.

Not far behind is the Mountain Hardwear Expedition with its supremely comfortable backpack straps. The Patagonia Black Hole, Gregory Alpaca, Gregory Supply Duffel, The North Face Base Camp, Cotopaxi Allpa Duo, and the REI Big Haul also have reasonably comfortable shoulder straps for carrying heavy loads over longer distances. All of these models also have traditional briefcase-style carry straps and reinforced grab handles on their sides and ends for versatile carrying options.

Demonstrating the ease of carrying the Alpaca with the adjustable...
Demonstrating the ease of carrying the Alpaca with the adjustable backpack straps.
The Base Camp duffel has supportive straps and more rigid material...
The Base Camp duffel has supportive straps and more rigid material that make it easier to support a heavier load.

Most of the products we tested forgo a traditional single, messenger-style 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 if you're 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 doesn't line up correctly to protect your shoulder, or the bag's balance feels awkward. The value-oriented REI Roadtripper and REI Stuff Travel Duffel are some of the only models we tested with a dedicated shoulder strap.

duffel bag - the rei stuff travel duffel is one of the few bags we tested with a...
The REI Stuff Travel Duffel is one of the few bags we tested with a single messenger-style shoulder strap. You can carry this bag over the shoulder with its removable, nylon strap.
Credit: Miya Tsudome

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 also include a convenient shoulder sling carry option with adjustable strap systems.

duffel bag - 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.
Credit: Miya Tsudome

Many of the lightweight and packable models like the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil and the REI Co-op Stuff Travel Duffel have more limited carrying options. However, they are still convenient to handle because of their ultra-low weights and smaller overall sizes. Of the ultralight and packable models, the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil stands out for its overall simplicity and its strong handle design.

duffel bag - 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.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

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.

duffel bag - 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.
Credit: 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, Gregory Alpaca, Cotopaxi Allpa Duo, and The North Face Base Camp all stand out for their robust and extensive daisy chain features. The Thule Chasm, REI Big Haul, the Mountain Hardwear Camp 4 Duffel, and Mountain Hardwear Expedition are all also noteworthy with their sturdy, 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 lash loops in addition to its four heavy-duty grab handles.

duffel bag - 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.
Credit: 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 a smooth and robust — and unique! — double-decker zipper that makes it more difficult for a thief to access.

The doubled zipper of the Sea To Summit is just one of the details...
The doubled zipper of the Sea To Summit is just one of the details that sets it apart and earns it high marks.
The Mountain Hardwear Expedition 100L zips open all the way to the...
The Mountain Hardwear Expedition 100L zips open all the way to the end of the wings on either side creating a large and accessible opening.

Our testers also appreciated the unique packing system of the Mountain Hardwear Expedition, 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.

duffel bag - the cotopaxi allpa duo (blue, left) and thule chasm (orange, right)...
The Cotopaxi Allpa Duo (blue, left) and Thule Chasm (orange, right) have some of the most pockets of any duffels we tested.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

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, Patagonia Black Hole, Marmot Long Hauler, and Mountain Hardwear Camp 4 and Expedition. The 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.

The Transporter's internal compression straps make it easy to...
The Transporter's internal compression straps make it easy to compress and secure your cargo.
The Marmot Long Hauler has an abundance of features, including...
The Marmot Long Hauler has an abundance of features, including internal luggage compression straps.

The majority of bags we tested feature massive internal storage compartments well equipped to haul a ton of gear. While that's all fine and dandy, a few internal or external zippered pockets are crucial for avoiding smaller items getting lost in the abyss. It's even more necessary for separating wet shoes or dirty laundry. The most impressive bag we tested when it comes to pockets is the Cotopaxi Allpa Duo, which has eight extra pockets (3 internal and 5 external), plus a full-length laundry compartment on the bottom.

duffel bag - the cotopaxi allpa duo has eight pockets - two inside the main...
The Cotopaxi Allpa Duo has eight pockets - two inside the main compartment, another inside the full-length laundry compartment on the bottom (not included in the pocket count), and 5 more on the outside of the bag.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

The Thule Chasm has two massive mesh pockets on the bottom side of the lid and a third hanging inside — plus an external pocket on top. We also love the Marmot Long Hauler's 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.

duffel bag - 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.
Credit: Miya Tsudome

The inclusion of at least one internal pocket is a common feature most of these models share. However, all the testers were in agreement that two small pockets are far more beneficial for organizational purposes. Meanwhile, flat external pockets that come with models such as the Patagonia Black Hole or the REI Roadtripper were hard to search around in when the bags were jam-packed. While it's certainly better than no external pockets, these pockets are less user-friendly.

duffel bag - 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.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Durability


A ton of the contenders in our lineup are super durable, made from robust materials, with 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 (also denoted as "D" behind a number), 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 a wide range of possible bag fabrics, from heavy-duty expedition packs made of 1000D materials plus additional reinforced areas, to silky smooth 30D nylon bags that compress 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 1000D 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 900D nylon or polyester material throughout the duffel, with an additional reinforcement layer of at least 600D nylon on the bottom or other high wear areas. The Sea to Summit also uses 1000D 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. One of our testers has used a Base Camp duffel on over 20 rugged expeditions, and it's still going strong.

duffel bag - 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.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

With fabrics ranging from 840D to 900D, the Patagonia Black Hole, Gregory Alpaca, Thule Chasm, Mountain Hardwear Expedition, Osprey Transporter, and Cotopaxi Allpa Duo are similarly sturdy. This level of fabric thickness is still very robust and can withstand a lot of abuse. All of these bags also have strongly reinforced seams and include sturdy hardware. The Black Hole and Alpaca also feature ripstop fabric, to hold you up against a worst case scenario.

duffel bag - 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.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

On the other end of the spectrum are the ultralight, packable models in our lineup that are as thin as 30D in material thickness on the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil. While these ultralight bags won't likely 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 Ultra Sil and the REI Stuff Travel Duffel as daily gym bags, and to carry toiletries and dirty laundry on longer trips.

duffel bag - the rei stuff travel duffel easily fits shoes, a water bottle, and a...
The REI Stuff Travel Duffel easily fits shoes, a water bottle, and a change of clothes with room for more.
Credit: Miya Tsudome

Weight


Once you've filled a duffel bag full of gear, you may not notice the initial weight of the bag. However, it can make a difference when you're trying to stay within an airline's weight limits. This lineup includes both heavier bags weighing up to 4.5 pounds, as well as several ultralight and packable duffel bags that weigh half a pound or less.


The Sea to Summit Ultra Sil and the REI Co-op Stuff Travel 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.

duffel bag - the rei co-op stuff travel duffel packs down even smaller than the...
The REI Co-op Stuff Travel Duffel packs down even smaller than the size of a 32-ounce Nalgene.
Credit: Miya Tsudome

For the non-packable 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. 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.

duffel bag - 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.
Credit: Miya Tsudome

The Mountain Hardwear Camp 4, REI Big Haul, and Eagle Creek Migrate are the next lightest full-size models in our lineup, both weighing in at 3.0 pounds or less in their 90 and 95 liter capacities. These bags are constructed from medium thickness fabrics, providing a nice balance of durability and weight savings. None of them are as robust as the 900D and 1000D models, but they weigh over a pound less in the same size range.

duffel bag - the eagle creek migrate weighs just over 3 pounds - pretty light for...
The Eagle Creek Migrate weighs just over 3 pounds - pretty light for a 90 liter bag made of 900D fabric!
Credit: Maggie Nichols

Weather Resistance


Whether you're loading up the vehicle on a damp day, anxiously cringing as airport personnel toss around your bag on the tarmac, or slogging through boggy or snowy conditions, protection from mother nature is crucial. We took these bags on worldly expeditions to challenging climates like Denali, Bolivia, Aconcagua, Central Chile, and Patagonia. Additionally, we tested them on road trips, camping trips, and beach outings. We also put them through the wringer by running systematic tests involving drenching them with a high pressure garden hose with dry towels and clothes inside.


The rankings for weather resistance look relatively similar to our durability ratings — bags with heavier-duty materials tend to perform better. One difference is that models with multiple exterior pockets with additional zippered closures are a bit more vulnerable to the outside elements. Simpler designs with fewer openings offer better protection. The Sea to Summit and The North Face Base Camp both score well with their 1000D material and limited vulnerabilities. The Sea to Summit has no external pockets and a seriously strong 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.

duffel bag - 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.
Credit: 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 Thule Chasm all provide exceptional protection from the elements.

duffel bag - the thule chasm has a waterproof zipper on its external pocket.
The Thule Chasm has a waterproof zipper on its external pocket.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

Most of the remaining bags in our lineup have waterproof or water-resistant fabrics but don't have sealed seams or waterproof zippers. The Chasm does have a waterproof zipper on its external pocket, but its main zipper is just protected by an external storm flap. All of these bags will repel some light rain, snow, splashes, and spills, but won't withstand extended downpours or complete submersion.

duffel bag - the rei stuff travel duffel is a fine bag for everyday needs.
The REI Stuff Travel Duffel is a fine bag for everyday needs.
Credit: Miya Tsudome

Conclusion


Today's duffel bag marketplace includes numerous impressive products from top manufacturers that perform well both for general travel and 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 our intensive testing and side-by-side comparisons help you find the right bag for your style of packing and travel, and we wish you luck and safety wherever your new bag may accompany you.

Maggie Nichols, Miya Tsudome, & Nick Bruckbauer


You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More