Adventure travellers are rarely the type that packs their house for a trip. Usually, you’ll have one or two pieces of luggage that need to reliably and comfortably hold all your gear. Duffel bags come in a range of sizes designed for all different activities and could be the perfect piece of luggage you need on your next adventures.
Backpack vs. duffel bags
Backpacks are usually the go-to for anyone outside of weekend sleepovers and trips to the gym. A lot of people are missing out, because duffel bags can be the perfect piece of luggage for hardcore globe trotters.
For people who need to carry their gear for long periods of time, either on treks or when backpacking through countries, backpacks are most likely the better choice. They are designed specifically to keep you comfortable when carrying a load over long periods of time. If you won’t be carrying your gear by foot over long distances however, take a look at duffel bags.
Duffel bags have a variety of features depending on your needs: wheels, shoulder straps, and can even be packable. They have a higher capacity than most backpacks, are more affordable, and are much easier to pack n an organized way. Their streamlined design is better suited than backpacks for using as luggage; no bulky straps that will get caught or prevent the bag from fitting in luggage racks.
Which duffel bag style is right for you?
When it comes to duffel bags for adventure travellers, you have a mountain of feature combinations to find the perfect one.
Options range anywhere from 25 L(litres) to 100+L. Up to around 30L is your average schoolbag; great for quick trips or ultralight travellers, but isn’t going to do the job if you have more than a few outfits (or gear). If you want to use your duffel as an airplane carry-on, you’re looking at roughly 40L. If you don’t pack it full, you could go up to 60L. However, airlines go by dimensions and not capacity, so check out airline allowances and the measurements of your new bag.
Anything above 60L and you can pack everything you need to survive a zombie apocalypse, but it may be overkill unless you need an abundance of gear for your adventures.
The design of duffel bags varies depending on their main use. Travel duffel bags are designed to be a streamlined shape that will fit under seats and in luggage racks, and easy to pack. If you’ll be doing expeditions, adventure races, or spending lots of time outdoors, consider outdoor duffel bags. They are heavy-duty, basically bombproof, and usually water-resistant or waterproof.
Our top picks
North Face Base Camp Duffel
Capacity: 31L – 150L
The North Face Base Camp Duffel is the ultimate all-rounder. It’s a well-made bag for a very affordable price that can handle a huge variety of conditions. The Base Camp Duffel is available in 6 different sizes ranging from the extra small 31L to the XXL 150L. You can choose from over 15 different colour combinations to get something that reflects your personality.
The bags come with detachable shoulder straps for ease of carry, however, they aren’t well-padded so this duffel isn’t an ideal option for carrying heavy loads over long distances. Four compression straps keep your items from shifting while decreasing the strain on the zipper. The water-resistant nylon is durable enough to survive being thrown around by eager baggage handlers.
Osprey Rolling Transporter
Capacity: 40L – 120L
A duffel bag with wheels is the best of both worlds; easy to pack and carry like a duffel, but the wheels will do the work when you’re on the move. However, you’ll take a weight penalty for the added features. If you’re not careful, it can easily push you over carry-on weight limits. Pictured is the 40L version, but it is also available in 90L and 120L versions.
Osprey is one of the top names in luggage, which the price reflects. It also means you’ll get an extremely well-designed, durable duffel that won’t let you down. The Rolling Transporter is better suited to urban adventures due to its extra weight. It’s not something you would want to carry over uneven terrain for long periods.
Seal Line Widemouth
Capacity: 25L, 40L, 70L
Most fully waterproof bags have a hefty price tag, but not the Seal Line Widemouth. It is designed with welded seams, 100% waterproof fabric, and a roll-top closure to keep the water out. No matter what weather you face, this duffel will keep your gear dry without the need for additional protection like dry bags.
The Widemouth comes in 3 different sizes and the wide opening provides easy access to your gear. You’re getting a quality bag at a low price because Seal Line has designed the bag without any bells and whistles. There are no shoulder straps, built-in organization, and the roll-top can take some getting used to.
Eagle Creek Packable Duffel
A packable duffel bag is the ultimate addition to your luggage collection. The 8oz bag packs down to 9.5 x 6.25 x 2.75 in so it’s no hassle to throw in your hand luggage. Not sure how many souvenirs you’re going to buy? Having a packable bag as a backup means there’s no stress about how you’ll bring home all the treasures from your trip.
Its light weight and packability come at a cost, however. This duffel is not as durable as the others on the list, so you’ll want to be cautious not to overpack it if it will be your main luggage.
Helly Hansen Duffel Bag
You’ll often see the HH logo of Helly Hansen worn by people who depend on weather-proof, reliable gear like mountain rescue, skiers, and trekkers. The top-quality gear is constructed for durability and function, and their duffel bag is no exception.
For an all-rounder that can handle wet outdoor conditions, this is one of the best. The bag has shoulder straps for ease of carry, but it’s worth noting that they aren’t designed for long periods. The bag has compression straps, can be used as a carry-on, and includes an external wash bag. The sport duffel is made with water-resistant material to handle your adventure travel.
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