"I recently tested this smart carry-on for a weekend trip and it impressed me from the get-go. For starters, it's only about 9 lbs. and has a built-in weight sensor, a USB charging port, and a lock that's activated by an app on your phone. I found it to be roomier inside than other smart suitcases I've tested, and love the added front pockets for exterior storage on a hard-sided case. Plus, the charger pack includes a set of converters, allowing for easy charging worldwide." — Richelle Szypulski, Assistant Digital Editor
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Thankfully, the duffel has remained immune to the feature-packing epidemic. The design hasn’t deviated too far from the canvas sacks travelers used to throw over their shoulders before heading off to lands unknown. Improvements like weatherproof zippers and padded backpack straps are utilitarian, not gimmicky. Materials technology has made duffels all but bomb-proof, which is ideal for poor-weather adventures, but canvas has not been forgotten. Oftentimes the only “feature” is a simple zippered interior pocket. And that’s the way it should be. You already have enough stuff to bring with you; you shouldn’t have to worry about the bag that carries it all.
Hands down, the easiest duffels to pack, unpack, and rummage around in are those with a large, U-shaped opening. Duffels such as the Patagonia Black Hole feature this design: a zippered flap extends around three of the four sides of the top of the duffel and opens to reveal most of the contents. These bags provide easy access whether in a hotel, tent, or on the road. Other bags, such as the Filson Field Duffel, open in a more traditional style, with one zipper that extends across the top of the bag. With a smaller opening, access to the contents is more limited, and especially when full (this means more rummaging and disorganization). If you’re looking to prioritize convenience above all else, large roller duffels like the Osprey Shuttle offer the most rigid structure and largest opening for packing and unpacking.