The latest camera bags, waterproof duffels, and rollers make getting there that much easier.
Crumpler Vis-à-Vis Trunk
Sometimes there’s a bag… Oh heck, I lost my train of thought. I was mesmerized by this shiny black monolith ($445) from Crumpler’s first series of hard-sided luggage. Sometimes there’s a bag that just makes you feel good all over—the satisfying sensation of pulling it along on its smooth omnidirectional wheels, the simplicity of its two single-piece shells, and the calm of knowing that your stuff is protected inside that polyurethane-ABS exterior. While we can’t recommend trying to drag it down a dirt road, the Vis-à-Vis makes wheeling a large load more pleasant than ever, especially when what you’re carting can’t get crushed. 11.5 lbs
L.L.Bean Field Canvas Duffle
BEST FOR: Going out of town, vintage style.
THE TEST: We tested dozens of high-tech bags and found ourselves returning to this one time and time again. Aside from its utility as a road-trip weekend bag, it was also ideal for holding helmets, tubes, shoes, and wrenches on a cycling outing. Constructed from a heavier-duty version of the canvas that Bean uses in its field coats, the 44-liter, 20-inch duffel ($99) offers a surprising amount of protection, even from light rain and blowing dust. And while the shoulder strap didn’t adjust down as far as our more diminutive testers would have liked, the way it slings over your shoulder like an old jacket promotes a reassuring analog feel.
THE VERDICT: Like your classy uncle growing up, it instills a sense of security. 3.3 lbs
Chrome Knurled Welded Excursion Rolltop 37L
BEST FOR: Biking in any conditions.
THE TEST: From the maker of the world’s most badass messenger bags comes the Knurled Welded ($160), which features ultrastrong seams and an ultralight waterproof design. We rode into foul weather with a 15-inch laptop, plus books, an MP3 player, and an extra fleece, and the roll-top closure didn’t let in a hint of moisture. The comfy shoulder straps secure across the sternum with the company’s trademark belt buckle, and multiple lash points let you affix it to your commuter’s rack. The Excursion holds 37 liters with the roll top fastened completely and even more when rolled over only once.
THE VERDICT: Ride to work in the morning, hit a cyclocross course on your way home. 2.4 lbs
F-Stop Millar Smoky Mountain
BEST FOR: Undercover photographers.
THE TEST: The six-liter Smoky Mountain ($125) is stealthily high-tech. Inside, it has a bottom compartment stuffed with thick padding to protect your DSLR and two lenses. On the top half, a separate compartment has room for a soft shell and your lunch. (We’d love to see a future version with a laptop sleeve.) And that plain canvas exterior is actually water-resistant. The unpretentious look is deliberate—as one tester put it, “For the tourist or the pro, it’s that one thing a photographer should be above all else: inconspicuous.” If you’re looking for a larger, more technical pack for hardcore adventures, we also tested (and really liked) F-Stop’s 37-liter Loka pack (from $279).
THE VERDICT: Quality meets understated style. 1.7 lbs
Helly Hansen Travel Trolley 50L
BEST FOR: Weekends.
THE TEST: The 50-liter Trolley ($230) is like a lot of well-made business carry-ons. It’s sized to fit in overhead bins, its water-resistant nylon shell will tolerate years of abuse, and the stretch zones around the zippers allow you to squeeze in that extra sweater. But give it bonus points for tough polyurethane wheels and a sturdy frame that holds its shape better than most. A spacious padded sleeve in the front compartment can protect not just a 15-inch laptop but also an iPad and a stash of green chile for the folks back home. Nice: the telescoping handle pulls out as far as 44 inches, meaning Shaq could practically grasp it without bending over.
THE VERDICT: Better looking and better built than the average carry-on. 7.5 lbs
High Sierra AT7 32" Wheeled Duffle
BEST FOR: Long-distance voyagers.
THE TEST: It looks like your typical department-store discount luggage, but this bag ($320) quickly won our respect. Tough zippers stood up to overpacking; thick, water-resistant Duraweave fabric put up with baggage-claim abuse and showed no wear; and the big inline-skate wheels banged into curbs and rolled over gravel without complaining. But world travelers will really love it for two reasons: its gaping 129-liter compartment can swallow up a small apartment—we fit ski boots, helmets, and coats for two people—and when you need to go overland, two strong, well-padded straps pull out from a pocket for quick conversion to a backpack.
THE VERDICT: A versatile and massive long hauler. 11.5 lbs
Aquapac 40L Upano Waterproof Duffel
BEST FOR: The life aquatic.
THE TEST: From car camping to rafting to hut skiing, this tough yet superlight duffel ($120) has you covered. We dunked and power-sprayed all the waterproof bags in our test, and the Upano proved impenetrable. And whereas most duffels this element-resistant are bulky, the polyurethane-coated, PVC-free nylon fabric is only about as thick as a rain jacket while hardly sacrificing durability. (Be careful with sharp edges.) Padded clip-on straps turn it into a highly functional backpack, and the Velcro roll-top closure worked beautifully, though it takes some time to snap the four securing clips. (It also comes in two larger sizes: 70 liters, $135; and 90 liters, $145.)
THE VERDICT: A workhorse that will see you through a gale. 2 lbs