Duffel bags used to be somewhat of an afterthought — they were bulky, boring, and really didn’t differ that much across the market.
But now there are tons of unique duffels out there. Some outdoor brands are making super burly, water-resistant gear-haulers; others are making bags that have the classic styling of older duffels, but with modern-day features; and then other companies are offering super-sleek bags that can transition from work to the airport, and won’t make you look like a wannabe expedition guide in the city.
So we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite duffels, with each offering something a bit different from the others. Check out the options.
Patagonia Black Hole
Available Sizes: 45L, 60L, 90L, 120L
MSRP: $119, $129, $149, $169
Carrying Options: Traditional handles; removable backpack straps
Outer Material: 15-oz 900-denier polyester ripstop with a TPU-film laminate and a DWR finish
Best For: Reliable gear-hauling in any condition
Patagonia’s venerable Black Hole duffels have been around for over a decade, and the current iterations are still some of the best options for any sort of travel, whether through the airport or the mountains. The Black Hole’s highly water-resistant, 900-denier ripstop fabric is lighter than previous generations, and when combined with the duffel’s pretty minimal pocket layout, it makes the Black Hole lighter than you’d expect given its burly feel and excellent durability. The Black Hole’s backpack straps do their job for quick hauls on your back, though its lighter fabric means that you don’t get much support from the bag while carrying it as a backpack.
The Black Hole duffel is not the best option if you love to organize your stuff in a bunch of different pockets, as it only has some thin mesh pockets under the lid and one exterior pocket. But if you just want a cavernous bag to toss a bunch of your gear in and want it to hold up to years of abuse, the Black Hole duffel is an excellent choice.
And if you want the same water resistance of the standard Black Hole duffels but at a lower weight, check out Patagonia’s Lightweight Black Hole duffels, which use a 210-denier version of the standard Black Hole’s TPU-coated fabric and are available in 30L and 45L sizes.
Mystery Ranch Mission Duffel
Available Sizes: 40L, 55L, 90L
MSRP: $130, $165, $195
Carrying Options: Traditional handles; stowable backpack straps; removable shoulder strap
Outer Material: TPU-coated 1000-denier nylon
Best For: Carrying lots of gear comfortably & keeping everything organized.
The Mystery Ranch Mission Duffel has a lot of features that make it stand out from the other bags here. First, the Mission Duffel uses a long, U-shaped zipper that spans nearly the entire length of the bag, making it very easy to access everything inside. Second, it uses a burly, TPU-coated 1000-denier nylon fabric and big zippers that make us confident that it will last a very long time.
The Mission Duffel also features our favorite backpack straps of the bags here. The Mission Duffel’s backpack straps feel very comfortable and supportive, stow away cleanly in a zippered compartment on the bottom of the bag, and since they’re not situated over the bag’s opening, the Mission Duffels’ backpack straps don’t get in the way when you need to get to your stuff. Plus, the Mission Duffel has a pretty supportive foam bottom, making it carry better as a backpack than the Black Hole and Gregory Alpaca duffels.
In addition to the Mission Duffel’s excellent backpack straps, it also offers a ton of organization options. It has separate zippered compartments on each end which are perfect for shoes and / or dirty clothes (the 90L’s larger shoe pocket can even fit a pair of ski boots). On the inside, the Mission Duffels have zippered mesh pockets under the lid, and on either side of the bag.
The Mission Duffel’s only downside is its price — it’s about $10-45 more expensive than the comparable sizes of the other options here. But for that bump up in price you get a very burly duffel with a ton of organization options, excellent backpack straps, and an easy-to-access main compartment.
Aer Duffel Pack 2
Available Size: 24.6L
Carrying Options: Side and top grab handles; fixed backpack straps
Outer Material: 1680D Cordura® ballistic nylon
Best For: Use both as a backpack and as a duffel (especially for shorter trips).
The Aer Duffel Pack 2 doesn’t really look like the other options here — it’s more of a backpack than a duffel. And since it’s only available in a 24.6L size, it’s obviously not designed for hauling a ton of gear on long trips.
But for quick trips to work, the gym, the coffee shop, etc., the Duffel Pack 2 is an excellent everyday-carry option. And when it comes to features, the Duffel Pack 2 has a whole bunch of them:
- Large main compartment with vertical, water-resistant zipper
- Separate, padded laptop compartment that fits up to a 15.6” laptop
- Separate ventilated compartment for gym clothes / shoes
- Expandable exterior water bottle pocket
- Top exterior accessory pocket
- Side exterior accessory pocket
- Internal mesh organization pockets.
- Fixed (and very comfortable) backpack straps
So if you like to organize everything you take with you on a daily basis, the Duffel Pack 2 will happily do so. That does come at a cost though — at $170 for a 24.6L bag, the Duffel Pack 2 is quite pricey. But if you’re looking for a bag that can carry all your daily essentials while also working as a gym bag or carry on, the Aer Duffel Pack 2 is certainly worth a look.
Topo Designs Classic Duffel
Available Size: 42L
Carrying Options: Traditional handles; removable shoulder strap
Outer Material: 1000D Cordura
Best For: Carrying stuff with classic, made-in-USA style.
The Topo Designs Classic Duffel is the most minimal bag here, and the only one here that’s made in the USA. It features a 1000-denier Cordura fabric which feels quite burly, though it’s not quite as water resistant as the TPU-coated fabrics on the bags from Mystery Ranch, Patagonia, and Gregory. But since the Classic Duffel is also fully lined with coated pack cloth, it’ll still hold up to a bit of moisture.
The Classic Duffel features a removable seat belt webbing shoulder strap, but no backpack straps. As a result, it’s not the most comfortable bag to carry a bunch of stuff in for long periods of time. But for taking it to and from the car, or across the airport, it works just fine.
The Classic Duffel’s tubular shape also isn’t ideal for packing rectangular or odd-shaped items. But the Classic Duffel’s interior pockets help keep smaller items organized, and its vintage styling makes it stand out when you’re trying to find your duffel among the dozens of boring, black, rectangular bags on the baggage carousel.
So if you prioritize simplicity and classic styling over maximum carrying comfort and water resistance, the Topo Designs Classic Duffel is a great choice.
Gregory Alpaca Duffel
Available Sizes: 45, 60, 90, 120L
MSRP: $115.95, $129.95, $149.95, $169.95
Carrying Options: Traditional handles; removable backpack straps
Outer Material: 300 x 600-denier diamond ripstop Duralite fabric with TPU coating
Best For: Simple, durable, and water-resistant hauling.
The Gregory Alpaca Duffel, much like the Black Hole, is an extremely durable gear hauler. The Alpaca’s very burly, TPU-coated 300×600-denier diamond ripstop fabric instills confidence when passing it along to over-zealous airport baggage handlers or when tossing it in the back of your car.
Huge, lockable coil zips open in a U-shape on the top of the Alpaca and provide easy access to the main compartment. It has two mesh pockets on the underside of the lid, but otherwise not much in the way of internal organization. There is a single exterior zip pocket on one end of the Alpaca that can hold small items, but isn’t quite big enough for a pair of shoes (at least in the 60L size). Like the Black HOle, the backpack straps on the Alpaca are pretty minimal and fit over the main compartment which can make accessing your gear tricky when using the bag as a backpack. For bigger loads, the 90 and 120 liter versions of the Alpaca have external compression straps to keep things tightened down.
Large daisy chains extend down both ends of the Alpaca and offer plenty of options for lashing bags together or lashing packs to llamas, donkeys, or the pack animal of choice in your destination (dare I say, Alpacas?).
Simple, durable hauling — that’s the Alpaca.