For short trips, travel light. The duffle — aka a carryall or weekender bag — is designed to hold enough clothes to keep you looking fresh, whatever grooming products you require (within reason) and a few other daily essentials (e.g. laptop, reading materials, headphones). When deciding on the best duffle bag for your lifestyle, first analyze function, then hone in on an aesthetic.
Do you need a bag for professional business trips? What about a weekend at the lake with your friends? Maybe you’ll be on the slopes for 48 hours? No matter the type of excursion, one of these weekenders will keep your necessities organized and compact, all without compromising classic styling.
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What to Look for
Your preferred luggage doesn’t need to be on four wheels, because while most duffle bags make sense for shorter trips, there are bigger ones, too, which could easily replace a carry-on suitcase if asked to. As such, it’s important to understand the bag you’re buying before you, well, buy it. There’s a big difference between a weekender bag (small) and a road trip rucksack (massive).
Volume is the easiest way to gauge how big a given duffle bag is. The higher that number, the bigger the bag. Sure, the dimensions might give you a better picture of the bag’s true shape, but a 27L bag will always be smaller than a 45L bag.
The carry-on dimensions for airlines is 14 by 10 by 22 inches, which is usually plenty of room for most duffles. Ones bigger than this, though, won’t be allowed on the plane. And duffle bags don’t offer nearly as much protection from irreverent airline workers, however few there are.
If your duffle bag is smaller than 18 by 14 by 8 inches — i.e. it’s about the same size as a standard backpack or a big tote — it could work as your personal item. It’s your call whether you want to push it, especially on an airline that charges a fee for carry-on bags.
There are three ways to carry a duffle bag: over your shoulder, across your body or in your hand. Each way requires different straps. As such, be mindful of which your bag comes with and whether they’re removable. If the shoulder strap comes off, for example, you can carry the bag by hand using the shorter handles, which typically don’t come off.
When they’re at their heaviest, I find duffle bags easier to carry by hand. If it’s overfilled, it causes undue pressure on your shoulder, and it typically bounces against your side as you walk. In hand, sure, it’s harder on your arms, but it’s easier on the rest of your body.
It’s probably smart, especially if you’re planning to check the bag at any point, to pick out a duffle bag that’s both waterproof and abrasion resistant. This way the bag can withstand a light drizzle on the tarmac or a toss into a sharp corner. Plus, it helps keep the contents of your bag… in your bag.
If not waterproof, simply seek out durable — like waxed canvas, tin cloth or nylon.