Best Duffel Bags

Updated January 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

31 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
400 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best duffel bags

Last Updated January 2020

Regardless of what you pack, where you go, or how you get there, a duffel bag is easily one of the most versatile luggage pieces you can own. From travel essentials to sports gear, the roomy, unstructured interior of a duffel bag swallows it all. And unlike the simple drawstring varieties of yesteryear, many modern duffel bags now come with convenient features like pockets, compartments, backpack straps, and wheels.

While most duffel bags are excellent multitaskers, different lifestyle needs often call for vastly different feature sets. Size, materials, and weight also require careful consideration — and, of course, it never hurts to have a bag that complements your style.

If you need help navigating the world of duffel bags, you've come to the right place. Our duffel bag buying guide is packed with all the information, tips, and product recommendations you need to find the best duffel bag for your lifestyle.

Duffel bags are great for stuffing in those last minute extras but be careful not to go overboard. Unless you have a wheeled model, it's best to only pack as much as you can comfortably carry.

Key considerations

Regular vs. wheeled

Easier to carry than a suitcase and more spacious than the average backpack, duffel bags are becoming an increasingly popular choice for travel. With a growing demand for improved portability, many duffel bag manufacturers are rolling out wheeled models. But is a wheeled duffel bag right for you? This section will help you make an educated decision.

Regular duffel bags: At their most basic, regular duffel bags consist of carry handles, a shoulder strap, and a large zippered compartment. With a flexible body and no additional hardware, regular duffel bags can easily squeeze into cramped overhead bins or gym lockers — and many come in designs that will follow you from the airport to the gym without raising eyebrows. If you like the idea of a multipurpose bag, a regular duffel bag is a solid choice.

Wheeled duffel bags: Wheeled duffel bags are just that: duffels with wheels attached. While wheeled duffels tend to be heavier and more rigid than their regular counterparts, they offer some unique benefits. Wheeled duffel bags deliver all the packing flexibility of regular duffels, combined with the rolling convenience of a structured suitcase. If you're packing heavy, have a bad back, or simply like the idea of alternating between carrying and rolling your luggage, a wheeled duffel bag might be for you.

Size and capacity

Duffel bags come in a wide variety of sizes. While smaller duffel bags can be ideal for use as a gym bag, weekender, or carry-on bag, you'll likely need a roomier option for outdoor adventures or longer trips. These guidelines can help you choose the most appropriate size. Note: duffel bag sizes are often measured in liters of volume since the dimensions often vary greatly.

  • Small (25 to 50 liters): Most duffel bags in this category will comfortably fit a gym kit or around two days' worth of clothing. Models of this capacity are also generally suitable for use as a carry-on bag.
  • Medium (50 to 75 liters): If you're embarking on a longer journey or need additional packing space for bulky clothing, a medium duffel bag will accommodate extras without being too cumbersome to carry. If you're flying, keep in mind that most medium duffels will need to be checked in.
  • Large (75 liters and over): If you're headed on an outdoor adventure or need to haul bulky sports equipment, a large duffel bag with a capacity of 75 liters or more will accommodate gear of all shapes and sizes.

Durability

Whether it's in the airport, at the train station, or on a dirt trail, split seams and broken straps are a travel nightmare. Robust stitching, sturdy self-repairing zippers, and rugged construction materials like thick vinyl, or heavy-duty nylon can help prevent unexpected product failure. For heavier loads, handles that wrap around the bag’s body and cradle the base (known as cradle webbing), are essential.

EXPERT TIP

If you anticipate having to put your duffel down on dusty, damp, or dirty surfaces, a solid set of feet can help keep the base of your bag clean.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Strap and handle variations

Having a variety of carrying and lifting options is undeniably convenient. Duffel bags that come with removable backpack straps allow for hands-free carrying and can help make heavier loads more manageable. You'll probably also need to lift your duffel bag out of a trunk or onto a conveyor belt at some point, and a sturdy set of tote handles shouldn't be overlooked. While some duffel bags only feature handles on the top, others come with handles on either side of the bag as well. This dual-sided design allows you to share the load with a partner.

Pockets and compartments

Smaller items can be nearly impossible to find within the roomy interior of a duffel bag. Luckily, most models have at least a handful of pockets and compartments to assist with organization. Some high-end duffel bags even come with expandable storage compartments to keep soiled clothing or footwear separate from the rest of your belongings.

Water resistance

Most duffel bags are made with materials that provide at least some measure of water resistance. However, a quick dash through the rain and getting caught in a downpour on a hiking trail are two very different things. If you'll be lugging a duffel on your next outdoor adventure, a water-repellent coating or waterproof materials like vinyl will go the extra mile to keep your gear dry. To stop wetness from working its way in through nooks and crannies, look for a model with welded seams.

Color and style

Duffel bags are available in a multitude of colors with designs that range from elegant to rugged, so there's no reason to settle for something that doesn't mesh with your style. While buttery leather duffel bags can add a touch of luxury to business trips, sporty designs and vibrant colors reflect an energetic personality and a go-getter attitude.

EXPERT TIP

The absence of frames and compartments means most duffel bags are considerably lighter than other luggage options.


Staff  | BestReviews

Duffel bag prices

Inexpensive: Small or medium duffel bags with functional designs typically start out at around $10 to $20. If you're looking for a simple gym bag or a compact carry-on, this price bracket offers a decent selection of options.

Mid-range: For $20 to $40, you'll have a host of styles and size options. Whether you need a bigger bag, extra compartments, comfortable padded straps, or like the idea of a wheeled duffel bag, this price range can deliver it all.

Expensive: Large wheeled duffel bags, luxury designs, and heavy-duty models that can follow you off the beaten path will typically cost from $50 to $150. Luxury brand name options can push the price even higher.

EXPERT TIP

Duffel bags with U-shaped flaps open wider and offer faster and easier access to contents than those with a zipper running straight down the center.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Place infrequently used items at the bottom. Packing according to priority can save you the trouble of having to dig through your duffel every time you need a change of clothes. Place less-used items like heavy jackets at the bottom and everyday gear like T-shirts and undies toward the top.
  • Roll your clothes. Rolling your clothes can limit wrinkling while also allowing you to pack in more items and organize them better.
  • Consider using packing cubes. Packing your clothes into packing cubes and arranging them in order of size or importance is a great way to keep a duffel bag organized.
  • Resist the urge to overpack. Duffel bags can hold quite a bit, but that doesn't mean you should stuff them to the point of bursting. Sticking to essentials can go a long way toward keeping your bag from becoming a jumbled mess.

Other products we considered

With so many amazing duffel bags out there, there are plenty of worthy options beyond our highlighted favorites. We like the classy KomalC Leather Travel Duffel Bag, which is ideal for frequent flyers. This premium buffalo leather duffel offers ample packing space in carry-on friendly dimensions.

For those trying to stay as organized as possible, the classically styled Plambag Canvas Duffel Bag is a nice option that comes with two pockets and two expandable side compartments to help you keep track of smaller items.

If adventure is on your itinerary, the Skog Å Kust Duffelsåk Waterproof Duffel Bag won't have any trouble keeping up. Between a heavy-duty PVC construction and welded seams, you can count on this duffel to keep your gear safe and dry. And with two handles, a padded shoulder strap, and steel D rings, there are plenty of ways to lug it, too.

For extra security while flying, look for a duffel bag with lockable zippers and fit it with a TSA lock.

FAQ

Q. Can I wash my duffel bag?
A.
This depends entirely on your duffel bag's construction materials. While many fabric bags can be washed, harsh soaps and high temperatures may damage water-resistant coatings. For the best results, always check manufacturer care instructions before cleaning your duffel bag.
 

Q. Are there any particular qualities to look for when choosing a duffel bag for carry-on luggage?
A.
At the end of the day, any duffel bag that's large enough to accommodate your belongings and compact enough to meet your airline's carry-on size regulations will work. While most airlines accept carry-on bags smaller than 22 x 14 x 9 inches, size regulations can vary from airline to airline, so it's absolutely essential that you check with your preferred airlines before choosing a bag. Similarly, you should seek out a bag with lightweight construction to help keep your duffel under airline weight limits. Also, keep in mind that a soft bag is easier to cram into an overhead bin on crowded flights. There’s nothing worse than having to check your carry-on bag at the last minute.
 

Q. What are daisy chains, and do I need them?
A.
Daisy chains are simply a series of webbing loops attached to the outside of a bag. While they're not a make or break feature for most, outdoor enthusiasts may appreciate having the option to hang extra gear or dirty shoes on the exterior of their bag.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Erica
    Erica
    Writer
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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