While duffel bags are starting to fade away in favor of wheeled suitcases, there are still plenty to be found in every luggage store. If you’re in the market for one, here’s how to focus on what matters and pick the best duffel for your next trip.
Size and Weight
Size matters when it comes to any piece of luggage, and duffels are no exception. Decide if you want to travel carry-on only, or whether you’ll need to check your bag.
In either case, double-check the exterior dimensions of your intended purchase against the maximum luggage sizes of your favorite airlines.Weight is also a factor – the lighter the luggage itself, the more stuff you can fit in it before bumping up against the airline limits.
While the stereotypical duffel bag is cylindrical, a rectangular version lets you pack more into the same space. Flat bases are also useful, for the same reason. Don’t buy a duffel that’s much bigger than you need – unless the sides are particularly rigid, duffel bags have a tendency to lose their shape and flop around if they aren’t mostly full.
There are many kinds of luggage out there, and it’s not always easy to know which option is best. Here I cover the differences between suitcases and duffel bags, to help you decide which to take on your next trip.
Pros and Cons of Duffels
Security: Many duffels aren’t particularly secure. Look out for models with proper lockable zips – if you can’t find one, threading a padlock or cable tie between the holes in the zipper pull tags is a less effective alternative. External pockets are also a cause for concern – it’s easy for contraband to be slipped into them by a third party without you knowing.
Transport: Duffels are primarily good for one thing – stuffing a lot of gear into a (typically) weatherproof bag, and carrying it short distances. This is great if you’re going on a sports or diving trip, but not so much for general travel. Whether using the handles or strap, duffels become painful to carry within a few minutes.
Realizing this, manufacturers have tried to bridge the gap with ‘travel duffels’ – essentially a duffel bag with wheels and a handle grafted onto the back.