What is the REI Roadtripper Duffel best for? It makes a great gear hauler for those who need space and protection without the bells and whistles. We’ve used the 100-liter version on a number of big trips including going all the way down to Patagonia (4 flights plus bus rides) and came away impressed. The bag is well built, functional, and has withstood quite bit of use and abuse. At the same time, it’s definitely not a fully-featured bag. If you want conveniences like backpack straps, internal storage, and side compartments, we’d recommend the Patagonia Black Hole above instead.
I’ve been carrying the Pacsafe for years, paired with the Pacsafe travel wallet. The wallet has anti-scan, and velcro and zippers (multiple subtle pockets mean I can hide most of my cash), and it clips to a loop in my Pacsafe bag. The stuff I use frequently (phone, wallet) go in one section while super important items (passport, tickets) go in a separate, locked by zipper clip, section. The bag is worn cross body (as I always carry my bags) with my arm resting on it and a hand grasping the strap.
For those who are able to throw their bag over their back and walk with it, backpack straps are our preferred carrying method. Many of the high-end bags on this list have backpack straps that are lightly padded and often removable. One duffel in particular, the Osprey Transporter, has many similarities to an actual backpack and is great for those planning to cover longer distances. Keep in mind that carrying comfort does vary, which is one reason why some bags are ranked higher than others. When not in use, many backpack straps simply detach for storage in the main compartment (this keeps them out of airport conveyor belts). Sometimes, simply tightening down the straps flush to the bag can be enough.
NOMATIC was born and raised on Kickstarter. We have successfully funded and delivered 5 projects through crowdfunding. In 2014 we launched the BASICS Wallet, in 2015 the BASICS Notebook, in 2016 The NOMATIC Travel Bag, in 2017 The NOMATIC Backpack and Travel Pack, and the beginning of this year The NOMATIC Messenger and Laptop bag. All of these past products are available at www.nomatic.com
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Although we do like the Base Camp line and have used them for years, we prefer the Black Hole for a few reasons. First, the outer fabric on The North Face shows scuff marks more easily than its Patagonia counterpart. Second, at 3 pounds 8 ounces, it’s more than a pound heavier. Finally, we found the backpack straps on the Base Camp Duffel to be slightly more difficult to detach than those on the Black Hole, making your airport check-in a bit more frantic. But for a bit more versatility in terms of size and colors, the Base Camp from The North Face is a solid duffel choice.
I always try to blend in like a local. I don’t talk loudly or draw attention to myself even when I am lost. I always keep my valuables in two safe places, one being a discrete Anti-theft mini cross body bag and had no problems all over Italy and Berlin last year. I have just purchased a Travelon messenger bag for an upcoming trip to Europe, where I will travel alone for most of it.
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Compression straps, both internal and external, can help make a duffel’s load more compact. Internal straps remove strain from the zipper and compress your gear inside the duffel to keep it from shifting during transit. We see these on models like the Patagonia Black Hole and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Duffel. External compression straps can be on the ends (such as with the Gregory Stash) or sides (The North Face Base Camp) and tighten the duffel after the zipper has been shut. External straps are especially useful on large duffels that might not be stuffed to capacity, and they help make your bag less unruly for travel. Additionally, if you plan on frequently carrying your duffel as a backpack, we encourage you to consider a model with compression straps—it makes the whole operation a lot more comfortable.
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Within its weight class, the Cargo Hauler is comparable in function and design to Granite Gear’s Packable Duffel, but comes in 4 ounces heavier and lacks features like top carry handles and internal organization pocket. Both duffels are made with 600D water-resistant fabric, a less durable (yet lighter weight) material than many of the more rugged models on the list. And it’s obvious at first glance that the Cargo Hauler simply is not as burly and water resistant as a bag like The North Face Base Camp, nor is it as comfortable of a backpack (it has a tendency to droop even when loaded). But for a nice all-around travel duffel at a reasonable price, give the Eagle Creek a look.
If retiring your ratty old gym bag took a real toll on your psyche, try replacing it with this gym bag-adjacent duffel from United by Blue. The elevated carry-all features interior and exterior pockets for easy organization and a removable crossbody strap. PS: the bag comes with a lifetime manufacturers warranty, so you can send it in for repairs years from now.
More than anything, a superior luggage set will elevate any on-the-go experience, allowing travelers to breeze through an airport, hotel, or conference center with ease. Our editor-approved travel bags take into consideration all the main concerns of anyone setting off for a big trip: dimension (no carry-on should be more than 22” x 14” x 9”), mobility, and functionality. At Travel + Leisure, we spend large amounts of time on the road—just like you—and know the importance of stylish, lightweight luggage with plenty of room for all your belongings.