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Allow us to stake a potentially sweeping claim: the best bag for adventure travel is a duffel. Compared to their wheeled suitcase counterparts, duffels are known for better versatility and durability (if you get the right one). Plus, you don't have to fear cobblestone streets, icy sidewalks, or dirt roads with a duffel. You never know where you'll end up when you hit the road—that's kinda the point—so your best bet is to invest in a bag that can handle it all, and that's a duffel (or a duffle, if you prefer).
Our main criteria for judging the best travel duffel bags are durability, or how well they handle the toughest conditions; portability, because what's the point of investing in a high-quality bag if it doesn't transport well; and good design and quality materials, so that you're not left struggling with a poorly placed zipper, losing gear inside the bag, or longing for easy-acess exterior pockets on the move.
With these features in the bag, the primary factor to consider when choosing a duffel is its size, and its weight once it's fully loaded (you will be carrying it, after all). Here's one key tip: 50-60 liters is the biggest that will fit in an airplane's overhead bin as carry-on luggage. And probably the largest you can "comfortably" carry. Whether you're flying commercial, catching a heli, traveling by camel, or simply driving, you're gonna need the right bag.
The following seven top picks have been thoroughly vetted and approved by a team of Field Mag editors and contributors, sure to keep your gear organized and protected throughout your next journey.
The 60L Black Hole Duffel has been my go-to travel bag for the past several years, for a variety of reasons. Likely the most well-known bag on the list, it's made from 100% recycled polyester ripstop with a TPU-film laminate, a fabric that's durable and abrasion-resistant but still pliable enough that the duffel can fold into its own small interior pocket.
A large zipper, tucked underneath the lid, gives full access to the main compartment of the bag, though there are also two small, zipped pockets on the inside of the lid, perfect for stashing small items like chargers, valuables, water bottles, cords, or toiletries. Two padded, removable shoulder straps help transform the duffel into a travel backpack during longer backcountry hauls, and a series of daisy chains on each corner provide ample access for lashing the bag down to, say, the top of a car, or a burro.
(This bag and the North Face Base Camp duffel both survived an 18-hour drive from Michigan to Colorado in my hitch basket cargo carrier, and arrived in better condition than I did after the drive.)
Empty weight: 2 lbs 9 oz (55 liters)
Available sizes: 40, 55, 70, and 100L
At first glance (and handle), these dry bags seem a bit overbuilt—and pricey. But they do their job well. Built with a laminated, high-density nylon that Yeti calls Thickskin and a Hydrolok zipper, the Panga is for the toughest, wettest conditions (there's even an EVA-molded "landing pad" on the bottom of the bag). This duffel features carrying options aplenty, with six total lash points, grab handles on each end, and two removable backpack straps that double as the carrying handles (and allow for crossby wear, too).
All that tough hardware comes at a price, however—the Panga weighs 5.2 pounds when empty, which is heavy for a duffel, and rings up at $300 for the 50-liter version. But if you're heading out on a canoe, raft, or sailboat trip (or any other adventure where the water is nearby), a few extra pounds and dollars might be an easy price for the peace of mind this bag provides.
Empty weight: 5 lbs 3 oz (50 liters)
Available sizes: 50, 75, and 100L, plus a 28L backpack
This trendy and colorful brand has been making splashes all over social media. Is the hype worth it? As someone who owned one, and then now four, I can safely say yes it is. Coming mini, small, and large these are the perfect bags for an airplane carry-on or checked luggage. Whether you're on the go from in your home city or internationally you can choose your ideal size and colorway.
Empty weight: 3.5 lbs
Available sizes: 32, 40, and 60L
There's a reason North Face athletes pile these onto airport landing strips when heading out on expeditions—or upcycle them into a working shelter—they're dang tough. Built similarly to the Black Hole, the Base Camp opens into one roomy main compartment with a zippered mesh pocket on the inside of the lid. Two detachable shoulder straps allow you to carry the bag as a travel backpack, and four exterior compression straps help cut down on size if you don't fill up the space.
The Base Camp's body is 1000D recycled PVC nylon with a non-PFC durable water-repellent finish, giving the bag a nice structure that also collapses into a small carrying case. Two sets of daisy chains running horizontally underneath the opening ensure that you can secure the bag to any surface, like the roof of a car or the back of a kayak.
The medium size (a 71-liter volume) weighs in at 3.9 pounds, offering 16 more liters of space for the same weight as the Patagonia Black Hole. The duffel comes in 50, 71, and 95-liter options, so whether you're headed on a weekend trip or an expedition, The North Face has you covered.
Empty weight: 3 lbs 9 oz (71 liters)
Available sizes: 50, 71, and 95L
Best known for its bike racks and overlanding equipment, Thule's line of luggage and duffel bags is built for the same sort of rugged adventures.
The Crossover's sleek slim design, makes it perfect for navigating the narrow asiles of an airplane. The bag opens in a drop-down opening, providing full access to interior pockets divided by mesh into separate compartments to seperate outdoor gear from everyday wear. It also features two oversized exterior pockets with a PowerPocket chord managment system for easy charging on the go. It has a back panel to easily fit over any rollerboard bag for easy transport. For additional organization, Thule's Crossover 2 line also includes a travel organizer and a toiletry bag.
Empty weight: 2 lbs 14 oz
Available sizes: 44L
Black Diamond's StoneHauler Pro 45L is the perfect duffle for a quick weekend trip but has enough space for longer adventures as well. Like many of the bags on this list, it has a padded body construction to protect the essentials and uses abrasion-resistant fabric. It also features removable straps that can convert it from a duffle bag to a backpack and interior and exterior pockets—including a dedicated laptop sleeve—to ensure you stay organized. Black Diamodn also makes a non-pro version of the Stonehauler if you want a little less weight, but you'll be sacrificing the internal compression system and laptop pocket.
Empty weight: 2 lbs 9 oz
Available sizes: 45L
This no-nonsense bag from Sweden's Klättermusen is perfect for transporting a lot of stuff from point A to point B. A large zip opening makes for easy access to the large main compartment, and inside there's an internal divider pocket that helps make separate storage areas in case you're hauling wet clothes from a weekend getaway surfing (or dirty clothes to and from the laundromat, or you just want to keep a water bottle seperate from your computer).
Klättermusen designed the Glitner to favor several carrying options, either by hand or over the shoulder with large adjustable shoulder straps attaching to the top and bottom. A line of looped webbing across the outside of the duffel offers endless options for attaching extras, like a Nalgene or pair of climbing shoes, or you can use it to secure the bag to other surfaces. The duffel itself is constructed from 60% recycled polyamide, a strong nylon material that's lightweight, quick-drying, and wind-resistant.
Empty weight: 1 lb 2 oz (60 liters)
Available sizes: 30, 40, and 60L