Duffels aren’t the sexiest gear, but I always use one when traveling in the United States. They’re easy to schlep off-road but classy enough to haul into a five-star hotel. Most are built to take an absolute beating. Here are my five favorites.
Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel S ($70)
The No Matter What Duffel is what you take to celebrate Christmas at your in-laws’ house across the country: When empty, it packs down to stash in another bag. On the way home, it fits nicely into the overhead compartment, even stuffed full to bursting with all your loot. The included packsack doubles as a dirty-underwear case and slips over the handle of a rolling luggage case. Bonus: All that functionality for less than $100.
Gregory Alpaca Duffel 60L ($149)
The Alpaca wins in the versatility category. Integrated padding on the straps helps it transform into a backpack, while gear loops on the exterior hold everything from water bottles and sandals to an extra layer or reading materials. A waterproof tarpaulin material keeps everything dry inside, and super heavy-duty handles proved extremely durable after several seasons of use.
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 45L ($99)
I have a decade-old Black Hole Duffel that’s seen dozens of raft trips, been driven across the country, and currently lives full-time in the trunk of my car, filled with kayaking gear, just in case. Like my trusty steed, the new bags are super tough, thanks to a 900-denier fabric, and easy to carry, with grab handles and a shoulder strap. At 45 liters, this bag is just big enough for the essentials but small enough to carry on a plane. The best part? The bag packs into one of its own pockets for storage.
The North Face Base Camp Duffel XS ($100)
There’s a reason you see many of the Everest climbers using big Base Camp Duffels. These trustworthy bags are absolute workhorses—and damn near indestructible. That same dependability carries over to the extra-small Base Camp Duffel (33 liters), which is my main go-to for domestic travel. I’m a big fan of the small zippered mesh pocket inside the bag that easily holds my smaller items—license, tickets, and receipts. I also love the built-in clear patch on the top where you can stick a business card. This becomes useful when you forget your bag in the cab.
Osprey Transporter 40 ($70)
The U-shaped zipper on this bag splays the body wide open, providing easy access to nearly everything inside. The Transporter, like the No Matter What (above) has padding on the handles, which helps it sit comfortably on your shoulders when carried as a backpack. The spacious front-zip pocket, plus three more on the outside, keep everything from toiletries to dirty laundry tidy.
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