Duffel bags (also spelled duffle) are oblong carrying bags. Users traditionally carry duffel bags via two large, sturdy hand straps placed along the middle. However, some duffel bags also sport backpack straps, wheels, and additional carrying handles or straps.
These uniquely-shaped bags come in a variety of sizes. Some are shoebox-sized portable compartments for athletic wear, including tennis or sports shoes. Others are true behemoths that stand at about the height and width of a three-year-old child.
Duffel bags are used for various purposes, though they tend to be most popular among athletes, travelers, and campers. In the United Kingdom, many people call duffel bags ‘kit bags’ due to their popularity among soccer players.
Still, you don’t necessarily need to be a sports star, nature enthusiast, or a frequent flyer to enjoy a high-quality duffel bag. These handy items are useful for pretty much anyone!
Why Choose a Duffel Bag?
There are several reasons why you might choose a duffel bag over a backpack or suitcase. Some of the most common reasons why people choose these bags are:
- They’re more flexible than standard suitcases, allowing them to fit into tight spaces more easily
- Duffel bags are typically longer than suitcases and without constrictive corners that might cause stored equipment to snap or break
- They might allow you to carry more belongings with you than a traditional suitcase
- They’re easier to access than backpacks, making for secure storage for those who enjoy parking near their camping spot
- Duffel bags come in a wide variety of sizes and styles, ensuring that you can use one just as easily for grocery shopping as you can for primitive camping
- Many duffel bags have internal storage compartments that users can organize for improved packing efficiency
To select the best duffel bag, you’ll likely need to hone-in on a size. Fortunately, there are only three major size categories when it comes to duffle bags. After considering your intended usage (camping, sports, travel, everyday errands), you’ll be able to pick the right size and feel proud of your purchase!
Duffel bags come in many sizes, a feature that can make it challenging to compare them. However, these various sizes are an excellent opportunity for consumers to choose a bag that’s perfectly suited to their needs.
For example, if you are looking for a new duffel bag for carry-on airline travel, you won’t want to invest in one of the roomier options. Equally, if you’re going to use a duffel bag for multi-night camping, a tiny one might not be able to carry all of your gear and supplies.
Generally, duffel bags fall into one of three size categories. These categories are:
- Small (25 to 50 liters)
- Medium (50 to 75 liters)
- Large (70+ liters)
Before selecting your new duffel bag, consider what you’ll use it for. You’ll want to choose one that’s the perfect size for your intended uses, whether it be picnicking at the park, taking business trips to foreign lands, or storing your ski gear.
Quick Reference Guide
Without further ado, let’s explore our top nine duffel bag choices for 2021. Each of these options has unique advantages and features, allowing you to choose the model that best fits your needs and preferences. Let’s explore:
- Best Overall Duffel Bag: Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag
- Best Rolling Duffel Bag: OGIO 2015 Stealth Terminal Bag
- Best Lightweight Duffel Bag: The North Face Large Berkeley Duffel
- Best Carry-On Duffel Bag: Travelpro Maxlite Underseat Tote Bag
- Best Budget Duffel Bag: Herschel Sutton Duffel Bag
- Best Waterproof Duffel Bag: Seal Line Pro Zip Duffel
- Best Adventurer Duffel Bag: OGIO Endurance Bag
- Best Duffel Bag for Features: BRASS TACKS Leathercraft Men’s Waxed Canvas Duffel
- Best Backpack Duffel: Fjallraven Splitpack
Best Overall Duffel Bag: Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag
Patagonia is a brand known for quality, the great outdoors, and comfortable clothing. These qualities are perfectly exemplified in the Black Hole duffel bag. With a 55-liter capacity, this pack is a medium-sized option fit for trips to the gym, outdoor adventures, and plastic-bag-free shopping.
In total, this duffel bag sports one pair of carrying handles, two standalone handles, and two backpack carrying straps. This abundance of options allows users to grab this bag and go, no matter what’s inside! And with a large side pocket, you could store miscellaneous items with ease.
- 55-liter capacity makes this a great option for international travelers who need to bring along several days worth of clothing and hygiene items
- Equally appropriate for hikers, campers, and those on lengthy road trips
- Primary zippers are protected by a flexible flap to reduce accidental damage or theft
- Made of water-repellent materials to prevent excess mold and mildew
- Could be too large for petite adults or teens
- Pocket zippers easily catch on surroundings, resulting in accidental openings
Check current prices on Amazon: Patagonia Duffel
We also recommend this great duffel from North Face: North Face Camp Duffel
Best Rolling Duffel Bag: OGIO 2015 Stealth Terminal Bag
This unconventional duffel bag could be the ideal airport bag for the avid air traveler. At 29in x 16in x 13in, it’s just slightly too large for most airlines to be considered carry-on luggage, but it makes a fantastic checked bag option.
Unlike most duffel bags, this model has reinforced corners, so it can easily survive some time in the cargo hold. While you’re traveling through the airport, you can relax your shoulders and let this bag’s dual rolling wheels handle the weight. There might not be a better option for those traveling on international or domestic flights.
- A smart checked bag option for air travelers everywhere
- Rear handle is made of tough plastic and doubles as a stand
- Includes three mesh interior pockets for improved packing efficiency and organization
- Smoothly spinning wheels reduces physical stress on users
- Too large (for most airlines) to qualify as a carry-on bag
- May not be large enough to accommodate extended travel plans
For current pricing, click here: OGIO 2015 Stealth Duffel
We also recommend: Travelpro Dropbottom Rolling Duffel purchase direct from Travelpro, get a free set of packing cubes ($40 value)
Best Lightweight Duffel Bag: The North Face Large Berkeley Duffel
While The North Face is well-known for its outdoor apparel, sometimes folks forget that The North Face also offers an expansive line of camping gear and bags. This 72-liter duffel bag is vast enough to keep a full week’s worth of clothing safe and dry, but it weighs less than one pound.
Consequently, this bag could be the perfect lightweight pack for camping getaways. The primary compartment is roomy, but some of the most notable features of this duffel are the exterior pockets. There’s a shoe-sized pocket at the top and two medium-sized pockets on one side.
- A massive duffel bag that’s ideal for long-term camping trips, road trips, and outdoor adventures
- Four carrying handle and two backpack straps for increased versatility
- Weighs less than one pound despite its size
- Has a shoe pocket to keep hikers’ feet dry and comfy
- Metal eyelets in handle snap closure are prone to falling off
- Thinner material may be more prone to tearing and fraying
Check out current pricing here: North Face Large Berkeley Duffel
Another notable option: Carhartt Legacy Gear Duffel
Best Carry-On Duffel Bag: Travelpro Maxlite Underseat Tote Bag
As many travelers can attest, carry-on bags can be awkward. Sometimes they’re just an inch or so too large to qualify as unchecked baggage—Not so with the Travelpro Maxlite Underseat Tote Bag.
This efficiently small duffel bag is uniquely designed for convenient airplane travel, and it might even be compact enough to qualify as a personal item, allowing you to bring along another, slightly larger carry-on duffel! But don’t let this tiny duffel bag’s size fool you—It’s not short on storage space.
- One of the most compact travel duffel bags that also (typically) qualifies as a carry-on
- Has a back sleeve that slides over your wheeled luggage’s extendable handle for easier hands-free carrying
- Plenty of tiny pockets for keys, credit cards, and electronic devices
- Inappropriate option for camping trips or week-long road trips
- Included side pocket is too small to hold shoes, tablets, or other medium-sized items
Shop this item here: Travelpro Maxlite Tote Bag
We also recommend: Herschel Novel Duffel
Best Budget Duffel Bag: Herschel Sutton Duffel Bag
If you’re looking for an affordable duffel bag, then this Herschel Sutton bag might do the trick. Not only is it one of the most wallet-friendly options on the market, but it’s also one of the smartest-looking.
This duffel bag is made of durable, mold-resistant polyester, ensuring that even your sweatiest gym towel is safe. It also has a messenger-style chest strap for more comfortable carrying and is neatly-sized for compact storage.
- Messenger-style chest strap to keep your hands available during travel
- An affordable option that’s bound to please your wallet
- Made of mold-resistant polyester materials
- Only one main compartment; No additional storage pockets
- Metal clip attached to messenger strap breaks and bends easily
For current pricing click here: Herschel Sutton Duffel Bag
Another notable we like: HiKiss Travel Duffel
Best Waterproof Duffel Bag: Seal Line Pro Zip Duffel
Not every journey is going to be a terrestrial one. If you’ve developed your sea legs or enjoy taking to the water with some camping gear in tow, the Seal Line Pro Zip Duffel might just be the bag for you.
It’s made of thick polyester coated in a waterproof polyurethane solution, ensuring that any accidental overboard situations don’t spoil the journey. Are you worried about your bag ripping open after snagging on some river rocks? This duffel bag has an abrasion-resistant bottom built to withstand accidental plunges.
- Waterproof, making it an ideal option for those who enjoy waterborne adventures
- Can store 40 liters worth of items, ensuring that users can transport plenty of supplies
- Lash point for easy kayak or boat attachment
- Durable bottom doesn’t rip or tear, even after coming into contact with rough river rocks
- One of the pricier travel duffel bags
- Slightly heavier than standard nylon duffel bags
- Not an aesthetically-pleasing model
Check pricing here: Seal Line Pro Waterproof Duffel
We also like the: Gonex Large Waterproof Duffel
Best Adventurer Duffel Bag: OGIO Endurance Bag
If you prefer to enjoy land-based adventures, you might not need a duffel bag that can survive underwater escapades. Instead, it might be smarter to choose a pack that’s durable, comfortable to use, and made of breathable materials. This duffel bag earns its name by checking all of those boxes.
Avid campers and hikers tired of conventional backpacks may find themselves gravitating toward the OGIO Endurance Bag. It has a storage capacity of about 36 liters, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by just picking it up. In total, there are seven distinct compartments within this pack. There’s even a highly-ventilated portion designed for storing wet, dirty clothing.
- One of the most lightweight duffel bags at less than three pounds
- Has seven individual compartments to help you organize your possessions
- Ventilated compartment is designed to help wet items dry faster, reducing mold and mildew build-up
- Made of a reflective nylon material to keep users visible in darkened areas
- Not the best bag for packing efficiency thanks to an abundance of zippers and closures
- May be too large for short-term travel
For the latest pricing, click here: OGIO Endurace Duffel
Another great option: The North Face Basecamp Duffel
Best Duffel Bag for Features: BRASS TACKS Leathercraft Men's Waxed Canvas Duffel
Vintage-style duffel bags can be challenging to find, especially ones that have as much to offer as the BRASS TACKS Leathercraft duffel bag. While it is a little on the heavier side at almost four pounds, it’s also crafted of rugged leather that won’t soon crack or tear.
That’s because this bag’s materials are weathered and strengthened long before being cut and sewn together. While this duffel’s style might harken back to the 19th and 20th centuries, its utility is entirely modern.
- Dedicated compartments for shoes, clothing, and electronic devices, helping travelers organize their belongings
- Snap enclosure over primary carrying handles for easier transport
- A smart, sophisticated duffel that’s appropriate for a road trip or an international flight
- Messenger-bag style strap to reduce arm strain
- Doesn’t have any mesh interior compartments to keep items separate
- No small pockets for tiny items
- Not a waterproof duffel
Shop this item here: Brass Tacks Leathercraft Duffel
We also recommend: Vioso Malibu 22 Travel & Sports Duffel
Best Backpack Duffel: Fjallraven Splitpack
This duffel bag’s name pretty much says it all—It’s a split between a duffel bag and backpack, making it a Splitpack. This roomy 35-liter backpack-duffel only weighs about half a pound, making it easy to tote around.
When you couple this with the padded straps, it’s challenging to imagine a more relaxing duffle-backpack experience. The material for this bag is a combination of new and recycled fibers, and the sleek design exudes a sense of confidence and style.
- Clippable keychain to attach extra items
- Made of new and recycled fibers, making it a relatively eco-friendly option
- Zipper location makes theft nearly impossible
- Wraparound front pocket is small
- Carrying handles can be awkward to use
For current pricing, click here: Fjallraven Splitpack Backpack Duffel
We also like this other notable: Solo New York All Star Hybrid Backpack Duffel
Duffel bags might be popular among athletes, but they’re also a favorite of travelers, campers, and pretty much anyone who needs a little help carrying their stuff! Because duffel bags are oblong and virtually cornerless, they’re flexible, spacious, and a little easier to use than suitcases or backpacks.
We’ve shared our top picks for the best duffel bags for travel during 2021, and we hope that one of these stellar options piqued your interest. While we can’t stop marveling over Patagonia’s classic craftsmanship and innovative design, we wonder: Which of these duffel bags would you get the most use out of?
Looking for a backpack instead? Check out our picks for the best travel backpacks here.