10 Travel Duffel Bags Our Frequent-Flying Editors Won’t Leave Home Without

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Whether it’s your standard carry-on or a smaller bag to fit underseat, we appreciate a well-made piece of luggage. One of our most used bags offers the perfect blend of lightweight construction, durability and surprisingly attractive styling: the travel duffel bag. Many of our well-traveled PureWow colleagues love their duffels, so we got them to share their tips for choosing and traveling with the right duffel.

What should you look for when buying a duffel bag?

First, clearly identify what you’ll be using your duffel for, then work backwards. For example, if you’re a tried-and-true checked luggage refusenik, make sure your bag fits into the standard domestic airline carry-on dimensions (22 x 14 x 9 inches). Or maybe you’d like a duffel to act as your one personal item; in which case the bag should fall within 18 x 14 x 8 inches. Additionally, you may want a duffel that’s large enough to carry a week’s worth of gear, which would call for the Big Gulp of duffels. Note: Some airlines like American Airlines allow checked bags that are a combination 62 linear inches and 50 pounds by paying an oversized baggage fee. If you’re considering a large duffel, check out the ones with wheels, such as the LL Bean. (Your back will thank you.)

Are duffel bags good for traveling?

According to Travelpro (which makes an excellent underseat duffel, by the way), travel duffel bags have evolved since your summer camp days, and now they offer lots of bonus perks for the grown-up traveler. They are spacious and flexible, and ultra-lightweight. Unlike rolling luggage, which needs a smooth surface to navigate over, duffels can be slung over a shoulder or worn like a backpack so you can get them over rocks, muddy terrain or other hazards without missing a step. Their tough ballistic nylon or canvas is durable, and the soft-sided design lets you squeeze extra items into every inch. Finally, many duffels have curved zippered openings that allow you to root around inside your bag without having to unpack everything.

What size duffle bag can I bring on a plane?

While each carrier has its own limits, the general rule of thumb for U.S. airlines is not to exceed 45 linear inches (height plus length plus width combined). Internationally, the rules change a bit, so check with your airline before you pack for your trip.

The Top 5 Travel Duffel Bags at a Glance

Best Lightweight

1. Longchamp Le Pliage Original Travel Bag


• Why We Love It: Comes in seven colors, folds into tiny size
• Weight: .98 lb.
• Capacity: 42 L
• Material:  Polyamide canvas with inside coating

“It's stylish and incredibly roomy. I'd pack it for a three-day weekend (or even a week!),” says Associate SEO editor Marissa Wu. “There are dual pockets, one on each side, for important trinkets, and the leather handles are classic. I love that the brand uses recycled materials and the canvas is easy to clean; I just wipe it down with a disinfectant cloth. Plus, the fact that it folds up into basically nothing makes storage super easy.”

Best Backpack

2.  Calpak Terra 26L Duffel


Why We Love It: Detachable shoulder strap, 17-inch padded laptop pocket
Weight: 2.7 pounds
Capacity: 26.5 L
Material: Recycled ripstop polyester with TPU laminate/coating

“I’m suddenly seeing this Calpak backpack duffel everywhere,” says editor Abby Hepworth. “From the shiny patent-leather looking polyester exteriorin fun colors that look like Jelly Bellys (vivid blue, pastel orange, pistachio and black) to the practical details like side compression straps with big buckles, I want to buy one.” Add to that the brand’s one-year limited warranty and padded shoulder straps that you can fasten over your sternum, too, and this backpack is set to become the Next Big Thing.

Best Underseat

3.  Beis The Weekender Bag


• Why We Love It: Separate bottom compartment for shoes and toiletries, has a trolley sleeve
• Weight: 3.86 pounds
• Capacity: 49 L
• Material: Cotton/polyester body, PVC trim

“I won’t go anywhere without my Béis The Weekender bag!,” says assistant editor Stephanie Meraz. “Not only is the beige fabric and gold hardware combo chic, but the bag itself is also incredibly functional. There are so many compartments inside to organize your goodies like a leash for your keys, a padded laptop sleeve and a large, zippered pocket where I stash anything that might leak (like sanitizing wipes or liquids). Plus, it has a removable bottom compartment to store extra shoes or you can forgo it for an extra light pack. The best part IMO? The trolley pass through sleeve. This part saves me from carrying a heavy bag in the airport. I just stick it right on my carry-on roller luggage and voila, the perfect travel combo that also garners a million compliments.”

Best Wheeled Duffel

4.  L.L. Bean Rolling Duffle Bag, Extra-Large

LL Bean

Why We Love It: Telescoping handle, reinforced bottom
Weight: 9 lb. 3 oz.
Capacity: 137 L.
Material: 420-denier nylon with water-resistant polyurethane coating

I love my LL Bean extra large duffel because it has easy-to -maneuver back wheels, and comes in a cute red that coordinates with all my other luggage. But most of all I love it because it fits so, so, so much stuff—enough for 10 days—and I can just unzip it and dig in there looking for that other sock much easier than I can than when I’m using a huge suitcase. Senior food editor Katherine Gillen agrees: ”Someone bought me the largest size when I was a kid and I could zip my whole body inside it was so big. I still have it.”

Best Water Resistant

5.  The North Face Camp Duffel

The North Face

Why We Love It: Detachable shoulder straps, water resistant ID window
Weight: 3 lb 9.1 oz.
Capacity: 71 L
Material: Recycled 1000D polyester with phthalate-free PVC coating

“I have this classic North Face duffel in the XL size but now really want it in either M or S as well,” says senior editor Abby Hepworth. “I love that it can be carried by the top handles or by its removable backpack straps. And the top zips so far back to truly give you easy access to the entire inside compartment. It’s wonderfully durable and water-resistant. (Seriously, I’ve tossed this thing around a ton, brought it on backpacking and camping trips, packed sharp ice axes and crampons in there and there is essentially zero wear and tear.) The only thing I’d add is for the XL size I bought a luggage lock to affix to the zipper for extra security.”

Best Canvas

6.  Lo & Sons Small Catalina Deluxe

Lo & Sons

Why We Love It: Can be rolled up for easy storage, separate shoe compartment
• Weight: 2.6 pounds
• Capacity: 18 × 16 × 8 inches
Material: Eco-Friendly Canvas (Recycled nylon options available)

“I bought this duffel many years ago after I got served an ad on Instagram,” says senior food editor Katherine Gillen. “That being said, it's held up nicely over time and it's a great size for shorter trips. I like that it has a separate compartment on the bottom where I can keep crusty shoes and a removable, adjustable shoulder strap to make it easier to carry. It also has a sleeve, so you can slide it onto the handle of a rolling suitcase, if you want to use it as a carry-on bag.” 

Why We Love It: Comes with two matching bags that count as your personal item and carryon, lifetime warranty
Weight. 3.2 and 3.5 pounds
Capacity: 32 and 40 L
Material: Phthalate-free PVC fabric and polyester lining

“I have the Go-Bag Small (40L) from Baboon to the Moon and it’s heavenly,” says editorial assistant Delia Curtis. “Say goodbye to boring luggage. These bags come in beautiful colors and the brand often does artist collabs, where the lining of the bag features that designer’s work. The bag’s got SO many pockets on the inside for storing away smaller things. Plus, the company measures out their bags in liters and by how many days’ worth of clothes the average person should be able to fit in it. It’s also made from a malleable cloth material so you’re not struggling to squish things into a hardened shell that won’t budge. And finally, it unzips fully so you have access to the entire bag when you open it.”

Best Foldable

8. Paravel Fold-Up Bag


Why We Love It: Folds for packing, optional embroidered initials and pattern
Weight: 1 pound
Capacity: 18 x 11.5 x 11 inches
Material: Nylon made from 22 upcycled water bottles

“This Paravel duffle is my favorite because it folds up to the size of a pouch (8" x 9.75" x 2.75 inches) when not in use, but it's actually very spacious,” says VP of branded content Angela Pares. “It's great for weekends, kids, and it's the perfect bag to pack on trips where you might be doing some shopping and need an extra bag to carry everything home.”

Most Versatile

9.  Calpak Luka Duffel


• Why We Love It: Trolley sleeve, doubles as a gym bag
• Weight: 1.95 pounds
• Capacity: 22 L
• Material: Nylon

Senior editor of branded content and Royally Obsessed podcast cohost Roberta Fiorito covets this bag. “On a recent trip, my friends had matching Calpak bags and they were so lightweight and roomy and fit perfectly atop their trolleys without falling off all the time, so I got one for upcoming travel plans,” she says. “We mostly use ours for shorter trips, but it also doubles as a gym bag since the separate bottom compartment is perfectly suited to store sweaty clothes post-workout.”

Best Classic Styling

10. Hartmann Tweed Legend Travel Duffle


• Why We Love It: Classic styling, 10 year limited global warranty
• Weight: 3.8 pounds
Capacity: 21 × 13.5 × 12 inches internal measurements
• Material: Nylon tweed

Assistant editor Stephanie Meraz says “I have a very very old version of this Hartmann. It may be over two decades old and it still looks like new. That said, I dream of having this updated version. The quality of a Hartmann is unmatched, from the leather to the stain resistant tweed, the materials are top notch, classy and timeless. And Hartmann has a 10-year warranty, so you won’t have to worry about broken zippers or threads unraveling.”

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dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...