Keep in mind that with the Carrier, you don’t get the full-on waterproofing of the Yeti Panga or SealLine WideMouth, and the similarly water-resistant Hyperlite is made with tougher Dyneema materials. Further, the ultralight build means that you have to give up pockets and padding, and the bag lacks structure when unpacked. But you do get backpack carry straps and an expedition-ready weight for those trips when every ounce counts. If you don't like the design of the Arc'teryx, Patagonia makes their 30 and 45-liter Black Holes in lightweight models—and the 1-pound 2-ounce 45-liter version is over half the price of the Carrier at only $99.
Smaller than a suitcase, bigger than a tote, the classic duffel is a perfectly sized carryall for a long weekend. Peer out at a train platform full of city dwellers fleeing town on a Friday afternoon and you’ll see all varieties of duffels — from waxed-canvas bags harking back to the style’s military roots to luxe versions in buttery leather. To discover the best travel duffel bags out there, we asked frequent travelers — including writers, photographers, and a hotel exec — to recommend their favorites, and then sought out more bags that fit the experts’ requirements across a range of styles and price points.
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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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.