20 Best Carry-On Duffel Bags for Travel

A duffel bag is like an empty canvas, ready for you to toss in all your stuff. The best carry-on duffel bags are much more than that, though.

The duffel bag has been the tote of choice for travelers for decades. The right duffel is easily packable, easily squishable, and very robust. For some people, it’s an essential item that can be stuffed, tossed, and stored in just about any space.

Although I generally prefer carry-on backpacks for my travels, sometimes a carry-on duffel bag is just a better option⁠—especially if you’re the type of person to just toss your belongings into your open duffel bag without any kind of organization.

Or maybe you just prefer the style.

There are so many choices out there. Different sizes, materials, features, and quality levels create an overwhelming environment that can leave new travelers in indecision.

That’s why I’ve picked out the best of the best and compiled this list of top picks, so you’ll find the best duffel bag for your travels!

1

Matador SEG42: Best Overall Carry-On Duffel

Matador SEG42 Travel Pack

This backpack-duffel hybrid combines functionality and versatility to create one of the best bags on the market for travelers.

The Matador SEG42 made of 840D nylon and 420D nylon (with waterproofing), as well as ultra-durable 100D Robic Dynatec for the interior, so this thing is tough. There are lots of handy storage pockets that are zippered for ultimate organization, plus the straps are stowable for easy travel.

The clamshell opening gives you easy access to the interior, which is an ideal place to store larger items or dirty laundry. It also comes with an external-access padded laptop sleeve that’ll keep your laptop or tablet safe from the elements.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Waterproof zipper and materials
  • Apocalypse-ready construction
  • Versatile enough for both urban and outdoor trips
  • Backpack straps don't have much padding or comfort
  • The mostly-black interior makes it hard to find things inside
  • It's expensive
Dimensions22" x 13.4" x 10.3"
Capacity45L
Weight2.8 lbs
2

COOLIFE Travel Duffel: Best Budget Carry-On Duffel

COOLIFE Travel Duffel

COOLIFE is an up and coming budget travel brand that is best known for their sleek polycarbonate suitcases that are available on Amazon at a fraction of the price of higher-end luggage brands.

They also make a full range of functional and affordable travel gear, and the COOLIFE Travel Duffel is no exception. This carry-on duffel bag impressed us with the level of functionality it offers at such a low price point.

Surprisingly, this duffel isn’t just a floppy sack with a zipper and some handles. It’s made with a pretty burly outer material and has plenty of padding and structure throughout. It stands up on it’s own when empty, which makes it much easier to pack.

There’s also a padded laptop sleeve, multiple exterior pockets, and a luggage-handle pass-through so you can carry it on top of a suitcase.

It doesn’t look super cheap either. It looks professional enough to take on business trips.

To be clear, you aren’t getting high-end materials or innovative features here. This is still a pretty simple budget duffel bag. The zippers aren’t the highest quality, and the interior materials feel a bit cheap. But for the price, it’s hard to be disappointed.

Can you find even cheaper carry-on duffels out there? Absolutely. But this one balances affordability with a truly functional design and durable construction. If you’re on a budget, the COOLIFE Travel Duffel is a great choice that won’t fall apart on your first trip.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Classic design looks nice enough for work travel
  • Lower cost than other duffel bags on this list
  • Plenty of zippered external pockets
  • Great quality for the price
  • Cheaper materials
  • Doesn't have much internal organization
Dimensions19.1’’ x 9.6’’ x 11.6’’
Capacity345L
Weight2.0 lbs
3

Peak Design Travel Duffel 35L: Best Duffel Bag for International Travel

Peak Design 35L Travel Duffel

For those that want to match functionality with style, the Peak Design Travel Duffel is one of the best carry-on duffel bags on the market. Peak Design is known for its specialized camera bags, but they aim to appeal to all travelers with this product.

Best of all, this duffel bag can be carried as a duffel, messenger bag, and backpack. The Cord Hook quick-connection system allows you to customize how each strap links to the bag.

Both the shoulder strap and top handles are padded, and the removable backpack straps increase the versatility of this duffel bag. The  400D nylon is extremely durable, but the added 800D nylon padding at the bottom is a thoughtful design feature that protects the most heavily-impacted part of the bag.

Style-wise, we love the color pairings and the touches of leather. The metal clasps and zippers also add to the sophisticated look of the bag!

If you’re interested in other Peak Design bags, check out our review for the Peak Design Travel Backpack.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • This duffel is the perfect blend of elegance and functionality.
  • Removable backpack straps.
  • The leather accents are a beautiful addition, especially on the sage green bag.
  • For the eco-conscious travelers, this bag is made entirely from recycled materials.
  • The magnet clasp in the handles are pretty weak.
  • Not as water-resistant as some options on this list.
35L65L
Dimensions22″ x 14″ x 10″29.9″ x 13.4″ x 12.6″
Weight2 lbs2.9 lbs
4

North Face Rolling Thunder: Best Carry-On Duffel Bag with Wheels

The North Face Rolling Thunder 22

This 22″ rolling duffel fits around 40L worth of items and is the only one of two rolling duffel bags on this list. This design bridges the gap between a suitcase and a duffel bag. The soft yet durable nylon exterior is flexible enough to fit gear of all shapes without the restrictions of a hard-shelled suitcase, and the main compartment is simple, without pockets or padding.

The wheels on the Rolling Thunder are built for all conditions—they are larger with more tread than a traditional suitcase, so they can handle rougher terrains like cobblestone or unpaved paths. This rolling duffel bag is definitely built to go places you’d never dream of taking your shiny spinner suitcase.

Keep in mind that the wheel system makes this wheeled duffel bag heavier than a standard duffel. Although you won’t be carrying the Rolling Thunder, keep in mind that the weight of this bag with wheels could be an issue when it comes to airline weight restrictions.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Ultra-durable exterior material
  • Rugged, oversized wheels roll easily on rough surfaces
  • North Face products come with a lifetime guarantee
  • Expensive
  • No compression straps to secure the load
  • No padded pockets for laptops or other electronics
  • No removable shoulder strap
Dimensions22" x 14" x 8.5"
Capacity40L
Weight7 lbs
5

Halfday Garment Duffel: Best Carry-On Garment Duffel Bag

Halfday Garment Duffle

If you need to travel with a suit, dress, or other formal hanging clothes, a dedicated garment bag is the best way to keep them looking fresh and unwrinkled. But what if you also want the carry-all functionality of a duffel bag?

That’s where the Halfday Garment Duffel comes in. This unique hybrid design combines a full-size garment bag for hanging clothes with the versatility of a duffel. In a world full of duffel bags that all look the same, this innovation really stands out!

So how does it work?

The entire bag unzips to lay fully flat and open. This makes it easy to pack in suits, dresses, or other formal wear without taking them off the hanger. A protective panel then zips over the top of your hanging clothes to keep them from shifting around.

Once the garment bag section is packed, you zip up the sides to transform it into a duffel. It has a super wide opening that makes it really easy to pack in all your stuff. Plus, there are dedicated shoe pockets on either side to keep shoes separate from all your clean clothes.

Once you see it in action, the design is actually pretty simple; it’s just totally different from anything else I’ve seen on the market. And it works!

Now, if you want a more general do-everything duffel, the Halfday Garment Duffel probably isn’t the best choice. You wouldn’t want to use it as a gym bag or gear hauler for adventurous travel, but for anyone needing a more versatile garment bag, this is an awesome choice.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Versatile 2-in-1 design
  • Hanging garment storage keeps suits, dress shirts, and dresses looking good
  • Plenty of room for 3+ days of clothes
  • Not as general-purpose as other duffel bags
  • Can’t access the hanging storage without unpacking everything else
  • Not-so-comfy shoulder straps don't work well for long carries
Dimensions22" x 12" x 12"
Capacity45L
Weight2.3 lbs
6

KÜHL Eskape 50 Kanvas: Best Men's Carry-On Duffel Bag

KUHL Eskape Kanvas Duffel

When KÜHL decided to create the Eskape 50 Kanvas, they were going for the toughest, most durable duffel on the market—something that would hold up for years of adventuring while still being usable for weekend trips or as an overnight bag. They nailed it. The durability, features, and rugged styling make this one of the best duffel bags for men.

KÜHL uses an incredibly tough TPU-laminated nylon for superior weatherproofing, meaning you could get caught in an unexpected rainstorm or snowstorm and your belongings will stay safe and dry. Even the double zippers are water-resistant. The nylon is tough enough that you could drop this duffel out of a moving vehicle, and it’ll stand up just find.

There are also a bunch of fun additional features, like two compressible dirty item pouches so you can keep your smelly laundry and shoes separate from the clean stuff. Lots of pockets add extra organization and stowable backpack straps will help you to avoid any snags while in transit.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Superior laminated nylon and other weatherproofing features keep your belongings super safe.
  • It comes with a side pocket that converts to a water bottle pocket.
  • Surprisingly comfortable shoulder straps
  • Expensive (but it'll last for ages)
  • Too big to be comfortable for smaller folks
Dimensions25" x 14" x 11"
Capacity50L
7

Monos Metro Duffel: Best Women's Carry-On Duffel Bag

Monos Metro Duffel

The streamlined, sleek Monos Metro Duffel is made with ethically sourced, ultra-microfibre vegan leather. At 23L it’s one of the smaller duffels on this list, but it’s truly a duffel bag you can take with you from the office to the gym, or from your co-working space to a weekend trip (or wherever you please, really).

There’s an internal sleeve that fits up to a 15″ laptop, and inner pockets for a water bottle or other valuables. This duffel also has a pass-through sleeve to secure to your main bag. The best thing about this duffel? It’s designed to work with the signature QuickSnap Modular Kit System so you can easily snap off and on the Classic Kit with all your essentials.

Finally, it comes in a handful of different colors. The Mahogany is particularly drool-worthy.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Works with the nifty QuickSnap Modular Kit System
  • Comes in a wide range of colors
  • The trolley sleeve turns into an extra pocket when not in use. Who doesn't love extra pockets?
  • Fits up to a 15" laptop
  • This duffel is one of the more expensive on this list.
  • This small duffle bag won't work for trips longer than 3 days or so
Dimensions16.3" x 11.2" x 7.2"
Capacity22L
Weight3 lbs
8

Timbuk2 Impulse Travel Backpack Duffel: Best Duffel Bag Backpack

Timbuk2 Impulse Travel Backpack Duffel

Is it a travel backpack or a duffel? The Timbuk2 Impsulve Travel Duffel serves as both, with adjustable backpack straps that tuck away so you can convert it into a duffel bag.

This hybrid bag comes equipped with several features that many standard duffel bags lack: namely, internal compression straps, a water bottle pocket, and a padded laptop compartment.

Zippered mesh pockets on the U-shaped lid keep your small items in separate compartments from the main compartment, while external zipper pockets allow you to stow wet or dirty gear.

The harness system on this duffel backpack is more extensive than anything else on this list. Not only does it have shoulder straps, but it also has a hip belt complete with mini pockets to store your chapstick or a snack. The back panel is made of breathable polyethylene foam, and the sternum strap distributes weight so that carrying this duffel on long walks is a breeze. This is one of the best duffel bags if you prefer a backpack-style carry.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Laptop compartment fits 17-inch devices
  • Great lifetime warranty
  • Easy-to-clean material keeps this pack looking new for longer
  • Comfortable padded shoulder straps make it easier to carry long distances
  • Zippers tend to be sticky and hard to maneuver, but they seem to ease up with time
  • No traditional over-the-shoulder strap option
  • It's only available in one color—black.
Dimensions22.4" x 13.4" x 6.2"
Capacity45L
Weight3.7 lbs
9

Aer Travel Duffel: Best Duffel for Digital Nomads

Aer Travel Duffel

This Aer Travel Duffel is minimalistic, spacious, and carry-on compatible. The clamshell opening provides suitcase-like access for easy packing rather than the U-shape opening that’s so common in this list.

However, this travel duffel bag looks incredibly professional—in fact, it looks almost more like a briefcase. You can easily transition from a work trip to a weekend adventure with this duffel bag in tow.

The interior pockets are intuitive, with a front organizational pocket, a padded sleeve for laptops up to 15.6 inches, and a mesh pocket in the main storage compartment. There are top compression straps and lockable zippers for extra security at the airport, and even a pocket for your water bottle. The functionality of such a minimalistic bag is seriously impressive, and it’s perfect for digital nomads.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Comes with a laptop pocket for devices up to 15.6 inches.
  • Plenty of external pockets
  • Easy-to-pack clamshell opening
  • Lockable zippers make this bag super secure.
  • Gets uncomfortable to carry when it's fully loaded
  • It looks a bit too briefcase-y
Dimensions21.3" x 12.6" x 9.1"
Capacity35L
Weight2.5 lbs
10

Patagonia Black Hole 40L: Best Adventure Duffel Bag

Patagonia Black Hole 40L Duffel Bag

The Patagonia Black Hole Duffel may be one of the most highly regarded options out there. It’s burly yet lightweight, and it has an impressive water-repellant finish. It has two straps for backpack-style carry, so you can throw in all your gear without worrying about it being too heavy. The reinforced bottom makes this duffel bag extra durable, so you never have to worry about your equipment.

This duffel backpack has just the right amount of pockets: the large compartment has a U-shaped lid, where zippered mesh pockets allow you to store small gear on the underside. Exterior pockets provide easy access to all your travel essentials, so you don’t have to search through the black hole for your boarding passes in the security line.

And true to its name, the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag is deceptively large. For the light-packer or one-bag traveler, you can fit enough stuff for a multi-week trip. And for those that bring a lot of stuff, the external daisy-chain links let you add other attachments.

This duffel bag comes in multiple forms: from various sizes to an array of colors (and even a rolling duffel option), there’s sure to be a version that fits any traveler’s needs.

The Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag has a bit of a cult following, and for good reason. If bomb-proof durability and straightforward functionality are what you’re after, this is one of the best duffel bags out there.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • The straps make this perfect for lugging around heavy gear without worrying about sore shoulders.
  • Multiple color options appeal to many travelers.
  • Versatile design gives traveler's many options, but we love the classic 40L option as a carry-on duffel bag.
  • This bag is on the pricier end. But for those willing to invest the money, this duffel is built to last.
  • Traditionalists may miss the standard over-the-shoulder strap.
  • Only exterior pockets; there's no internal pockets for compartmentalizing clean and dirty clothing.
Dimensions21" x 13.7" x 10.6"
Capacity40L
Weight2 lbs
11

Rains Hilo Weekend Bag: Best Waterproof Carry-On Duffel

Rains Hilo Weekender Bag

Rains is a modern outerwear brand that specializes in waterproof jackets and bags. They combine minimalist Scandinavian design with durable waterproof materials. Take a look through their website and you’ll find some really unique styles, plus products that are just straight-up functional.

If you get caught in a rainstorm while traveling, you don’t want to have to worry that your bag is going to soak through and leave you with a sopping wet pile of clothes. The Rains Hilo Weekend Bag uses the same signature PU-coated fabric as their rain jackets, making a waterproof duffel bag that will keep your personal belongings dry in wet weather.

Rains gives this bag a W3 on their “Water Performance Level” rating (their own rating system). Essentially that means it’s designed to stand up to light-to-moderate rain. It’s perfect for getting caught out in a storm, but you definitely wouldn’t want to take it on a rafting trip or leave it out all day in a monsoon.

Beyond the waterproof performance, the design is very simple. There are no exterior pockets, extra zippers, or random features to get in the way. Just one big main compartment, a carry handle, and a removable shoulder strap. Really, I wish they had added at least one external zippered pocket for things you want quick access to.

If you like lots of features, this isn’t the bag for you. There’s definitely something appealing about it’s simplicity though.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Waterproof protection from rain and snow
  • Sleek, stylish look
  • Simple, easy-to-pack design
  • Durable materials
  • One of the lightest bags on this list
  • No pockets or organization features
  • The adjustable shoulder strap doesn't offer much padding
Dimensions20.5" x 10.6" x 10.2"
Capacity37L
Weight1.8 lbs
12

Everlane ReNew Transit Weekender: Most Stylish Duffel

Everlane Renew Weekender

The Everlane ReNew Transit Weekender is perfect for city traveling, as it’s small enough to navigate the busy subway and light enough to sling over your shoulder as you walk down the street. This intelligently-designed minimalist travel bag comes with two top straps to grab and go and a longer shoulder sling.

The bag’s main pocket is roomy and zippered, and there are two exterior pockets, one with a zipper and one without. The zipper pocket also doubles as a luggage handle pass-through when fully unzipped!

The interior features a protective laptop sleeve, two water bottle holders, and a spacious main compartment.

This bag comes in four sleek neutral colors—its exterior is 100% recycled polyester with a water-resistant finish. It’s super lightweight, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t durable! If you want to keep it simple and classy, this is the duffel.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • This duffel bag is one of the most affordable on this list!
  • Great for balancing style and functionality
  • Multiple ways to carry: in hand, cross-body, or over the shoulder.
  • Lacking in interior organization—could use smaller pockets.
  • I'd prefer more comfortable shoulder straps
Dimensions19.5" x 14.2" x 7.3"
13

MAHI Classic Duffel: Best Leather Carry-On Duffel Bag

MAHI Classic Duffel

MAHI started as a premium leatherworking factory in India in the 1800’s. They employ expert craftspeople and emphasize durability and quality in everything they make. Not to mention their products look amazing.

While not everyone will be interested in a leather duffel, for anyone who loves the timeless style and craftsmanship of well-made leather products, the MAHI Classic Duffel is a great choice. No, it doesn’t have the high-tech materials and nifty features of many other duffel bags, but it’s well-made and looks great.

The biggest advantage of this duffel is that the high-quality leather used means it will last a long time. You could easily be handing this down to your grandkids. Of course, leather does require a bit more care than synthetic materials (I recommend using Nikwax Leather Restorer).

My biggest complaint is that it doesn’t open very wide, which can make it a bit harder to pack if you’re stuffing it to the brim.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Timeless genuine leather style
  • Durable materials and construction that will last a lifetime
  • Amazing value for the price you pay
  • External pocket is great for quick-access items
  • Smaller main opening zipper
  • Shoulder strap isn’t very comfy
Dimensions21" x 11" x 11"
Capacity42L
Weight2.8 lbs
14

Langly Weekender Duffel Bag: Best Duffel for Photographers

Langly Weekender Duffel Bag

If you’re a professional or amatuer photographer who carries a lot of camera gear on your trips, you need a duffel that is up to the task. That means lots of structure and padding to keep your expensive equipment safe from harm.

The Langly Weekender Duffel Bag is designed specifically for traveling photographers. It’s got plenty of space for hauling around camera gear, and it’s built with protection in mind.

This bag starts with a sturdy base that’s 9mm thick. It’s made of a combination of HDPE board and EVA foam. This creates a very structured foundation that’s easy to pack on, and it ensures all your gear is protected from impacts. This bag feels very sturdy.

The main material is a heavy-duty rugged twill fabric that is water-resistant and tough. It also looks great.

My biggest gripe is that there is no built-in camera organization. You’ll have to opt for a separate camera cube to hold your camera and lenses. I highly recommend the Peak Design Camera Cube.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Burly materials and construction
  • Padded sides and rigid base for extra protection
  • Classic styling
  • Doesn't include a camera cube
Dimensions21" x 12" x 13"
Capacity50L
Weight3.97 lbs
15

Thule Subterra 45L: Best Minimalist Duffel Bag

Thule Subterra Duffel Bag 45L

The Thule Subterra Duffel bag has a simple design with an almost geometric shape. Its slim profile is accentuated by the lack of external handles or attachment points. Corner flaps fold up and down so you can decide how you carry it, as a tote-style duffel bag or sleek duffel.

Thick, magnetic handles in the middle help to keep this pack balanced as you carry it through the airport. The extra-padded shoulder strap is comfortable to carry, and straps cinch down the bag, so you can pack extra gear while keeping the duffel carry-on compliant.

It comes in three colors: dark shadow, ember, and mineral. They’re neutral enough to be professional, but the geometric design also makes the Thule Subterra one of the most unique bags on this list.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Sleek and modern design
  • Great structure and padding
  • Internal mesh pocket for organization
  • Magnetic handle feature doesn't work well
  • Not very water-resistant
Dimensions22" x 13.8" x 9.9"
Capacity45L
Weight1.9 lbs
16

Osprey Transporter Duffel 40: Most Durable Duffel Bag

Osprey Transporter Duffel 40

Osprey’s Transporter Duffel 40 is the ideal pack for adventurers who need a pack as rugged and tough as they are, especially in those wetter climates.

Osprey hails this pack as great for short gear-intensive trips. It is built from recycled polyester with dual-sided TPU coating inside and out, sturdy hardware, overlapping zipper, and a DWR coating that protects your gear from the elements.

The main compartment features a YKK zipper with an overlapping rain flap for extra protection against weather. The pack can carry up to 40L, which is the perfect weekender size to fit all your gear and be able to carry onto an airplane.

A deployable harness with a sternum strap allows you to backpack carry when desired and offers a sleek, classic duffel carry design when tucked away.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Extremely durable and weather-resistant.
  • The main compartment is large and zippered.
  • Comfortable backpack straps
  • A heavier option die to the durable materials.
Dimensions21.7" x 14.6" x 10.2"
Capacity40L
Weight2.5 lbs
17

Monarc Settra: Most Eco-Friendly Duffel Bag

Monarc Settra Duffel

Monarc is a new brand on the block, and they’ve taken a unique approach by building their entire brand around reducing plastic waste. In fact, they are certified plastic-negative, which means they remove more plastic from the environment than they use in their products.

The Monarc Settra Duffel Backpack is made using ocean-bound plastic, and Monarc is clearly proud of that. The main zipper has a lanyard proudly proclaiming that it’s “made with 50 recycled plastic bottles.” With this bag, you’ll be making a statement that sustainability matters to you.

It’s not just about sustainability, though. This duffel bag is also really well-built and well-thought-out. The materials feel very burly and tough. I haven’t put it through long-term use yet, but it definitely feels like it will last a long time. The tradeoff is that it’s heavy; at almost 5 lbs it’s one of the heaviest on this list.

My favorite feature is that the Monarc Settra can convert into a backpack for longer carries. It has nicely padded shoulder straps and even a hip belt, which isn’t common. I’ve been impressed with the comfort and load-carrying ability in backpack mode. Is it as good as a dedicated backpack? No. But it works really well for what it is. The backpack straps also stash away neatly when not in use.

Finally, this duffel is absolutely packed with features and pockets. There’s a removable shoe pocket, stash pockets inside and out, a long admin-type pocket on the side, a deep pocket for water bottles, and a padded laptop sleeve that fits up to 17-inch devices. Honestly, I think there are too many pockets—more than I’d ever use, anyway.

It’s probably a bit overkill for many people, but the Monarc Settra Duffel Backpack is awesome if you want a solid duffel bag while also doing good for the planet.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Made from recycled ocean-bound plastic
  • Burly, high-quality materials and construction
  • Tons of organization and pockets
  • Surprisingly comfortable in backpack mode
  • Works as a laptop duffle, travel bag, or outdoor adventure bag
  • Features are a bit over-complicated
  • Heavy
Dimensions24" x 13" x 11"
Capacity40L
Weight4.5 lbs
18

Osprey Ozone 2 Wheel Carry-On: Best Lightweight Rolling Duffel Bag

Osprey Ozone 2 Wheeled Carry-On

The Osprey Ozone 2 Wheel Carry-On is one of the lightest rolling bags on the market, clocking in at just 4.5 pounds. It carries up to 40 liters and is under 22″ high, meeting most airline carry-on requirements. Osprey bags are built for adventure, and their wheels are designed to take a beating, so you’ll be able to wheel this duffel everywhere—across train platforms and over cobbled roads—with little hassle.

This bag with wheels also has tons of organization, including a main compartment with a giant opening for easy packing/unpacking. There’s a separate zippered panel area for your dirty clothes, and other pockets to keep things sorted.

The lightness of the bag is key here, especially when you’re trying to shove this duffel into an overhead bin. The durable fabrics match those of Osprey’s alpine packs, ensuring this duffel will last you forever.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • Despite only weighing 4.5 lbs, this duffel carries 40L.
  • The durability of this duffel means you can haul it just about anywhere.
  • The giant main compartment and liquids pocket make it easy to dig things out while in the security line-up.
  • The handle locks at one height.
  • This is definitely one of the more expensive bags on this list.
Dimensions21.5" x 14" x 10"
Capacity40L
Weight4.5 lbs
19

Boundary Supply Errant Duffel: Most Versatile Duffel

Boundary Supply Errant Duffel

Boundary Supply certainly loves giving their customers lots of options, and the Errant Duffel is no exception. It doesn’t just convert from side-carry to backpack carry, you can even wear it crossbody like a messenger bag. This makes it ideal for all types of usage, whether it’s going to the gym or taking a quick trip out of town.

This duffel bag comes with a ventilated wet/dry compartment, a luggage pass-through, quick-access pockets, and two exterior lash straps to attach other Boundary Supply items to your bag. Like the brand’s other products, this duffel bag is made of incredibly durable 500D Cordura, YKK StormGuard zippers, and magnetic hardware to keep your things safe and dry.

At 35L, you can do a lot with this duffel bag, but it’s simpler than Boundary Supply’s other modular gear. You’ll get the usual awesome quality product, but without overcomplicating it.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • You can side-carry this duffel, wear it like a backpack, or carry it crossbody
  • Very stylish
  • The padded straps are great for heavy loads
  • Water-resistant materials
  • Small-ish capacity
  • The shoulder strap may get uncomfortable when packed with heavy gear.
  • Expensive
Dimensions20" x 12" x 9"
Capacity35L
Weight2.6 lbs
20

The North Face Base Camp Duffel: Best Large Carry-On Duffel Bag

The North Face Base Camp Duffel

As you might have guessed from its name, the North Face Base Camp Duffel is built for expeditions and holds up perfectly in some incredibly challenging terrains, including winter trips. It’s literally a base camp duffel.

The Base Camp Duffel is made up of 840D Recycled Ballistic Nylon designed to withstand the roughest elements you’ll encounter on your travels. The extra bartacks and double stitching are nice durability features, too.

Keep in mind that this bag ranges in size small to quite large—some even hold over 100L. Make sure you’re going for the size small if you want to keep it carry-on-friendly. Otherwise, this thing (and its haul loops) can really haul some gear.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Technical Specs
  • The interior has pockets for excellent organization.
  • Built with durable and water resistant fabric.
  • Ideal for expeditions, including winter trips.
  • The alpine-cut straps are detachable and adjustable for a perfect ergonomic fit.
  • Padded handles make this duffel easy to carry/haul.
  • The straps aren't very padded, so they can be uncomfortable at times.
Dimensions25" x 14" x 14"
Capacity71L
Weight3.9 lbs

What is a Carry-On Duffel Bag?

Duffel bags are simple, soft-sided packs that maximize useable space by keeping design features to a minimum. Depending on their size and build, they make great weekend or carry on duffel bags or extended travel packs for a variety of terrain.

Duffle bags come in multiple forms. There’s no such thing as a traditional duffel bag anymore. Some are waterproof, while others double as travel backpacks. Some are made of leather (or leather accents), or heavy-duty nylon, or cotton. Some are sleek city companions, while others are built for carrying your climbing gear around rugged mountain environments.

man carrying a Peak Design Travel Duffel
This Peak Design Travel Duffel is one of the duffel bags on this list!

As travelers realize the joy of traveling without checked luggage, companies are beginning to make duffel bags that are intentionally carry-on friendly.

Major airlines generally allow carry-ons to be  22 x 14 x 9 inches, while budget airlines have a restriction of 22 x 16 x 8 inches. However, each airline has its own carry-on size restrictions, so check before you go! Generally, most 40L or 45L duffel bags will fall within these airline regulations.

For other options, be sure to read our post about the best carry-on luggage for every kind of adventure.

The Ultimate Question: Duffel Bag vs. Suitcase?

Duffels aren’t inherently better than suitcases, but they are often more versatile. They offer ease of travel as you hop from train to plane to bus. They can be carried in a variety of ways, picked up and heaved into the back of a car, and then thrown over your shoulder as you rush to catch your flight.

You can avoid the hassle of roller wheels when you’re walking on cobblestone streets in Europe or across snowy trails on your next ski trip. They are often more waterproof and tougher than their suitcase counterparts, so they’re better suited for more adventurous travels. Additionally, the soft exterior shell makes these bags perfect for bulky or oddly-shaped items that may not fit in hard-shelled rolling luggage.

However, duffel bags aren’t known for being exceptionally comfortable or secure. But they have come a long way in the last few years, and many of the models offer the same secure storage features as suitcases. Also, companies have been paying more attention to the carrying comfort of these bags, and many now incorporate backpack straps or well-padded straps. for your shoulders.

Also, these bags are remarkably simple. We love them for their lightweight nature, versatility, and ease of transport.

What Makes A Carry-On Duffel Great?

So now we know which luggage items are on the radar, but what features truly set the best duffel bags apart from the rest? Well, let’s dive in and take a look at some of the most essential buying considerations for when you want to travel the world with a carry-on only.

Durability

Your travels may take you from the airport to public transit to your hostel and any number of places where your duffel bag could be scuffed, scratched, or damaged. Durability is important! Keep a sharp eye out for sturdy materials like double ripstop nylon, leather, and tarpaulin.

Also, remember that the ‘D’ for material thicknesses (such as 400D) stands for Denier), and the higher that number, the thicker and more robust your material.

Packability

Carry-on duffels should have a less rigid construction. Bulky or oddly-shaped parcels slide right in while the duffel bag itself is easy to heave, shove, squeeze, or pack into just about any space imaginable – including overhead compartments on airlines. So don’t underestimate the importance of less-rigid sides, and look twice at hybrid items that try to incorporate rigid sides into what’s marketed as a duffel.

Organization

Luggage is built on organization, but many duffels shine by not overcomplicating the process. We love quick access to one large packing space without being overwhelmed by a plethora of pockets, mesh, and zipper that could just as easily hinder a search for a particular item. That said, several of the ultimate duffel bags will include a handy shoe compartment or a laptop pocket. Keep an eye out for these organizational aids, and consider your personal travel preferences when you begin your search for new travel luggage.

Weatherproofing

Don’t let nasty weather ruin your clothing and travel gear! The best duffel will incorporate at least some level of weatherproofing to help protect your gear, including reinforced seams. This may be a basic Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish or a Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) coating. To make the leap from water-resistant to waterproof, keep an eye open for leather and tarpaulin on the material list as both of these are both rugged and waterproof.

There you have it! We’ve covered the very best carry-on duffel bags for travel along with essential buying advice. From classic city jaunts to rugged adventure-ready luggage, we have you covered. So go ahead, take your carry-on bag pick, and travel like a champ.

Carry-On Duffel Bag FAQs

What size duffle bag is good for carry-on?

In general, look for a duffel bag that is less than 22 x 13 x 9 inches.

Is a duffel bag OK for carry-on?

A duffel bag makes a great carry-on as long as it fits the size requirements.

Who makes the best travel duffle bag?

Matador makes one of the best duffel bags for travel.

Is a backpack better than a duffle for carry-on?

Backpacks are better for comfort, but duffel bags often have more space and are easier to pack.

Is a 32-inch duffel bag too big for a carry-on?

A 32-inch duffel bag is too big for a carry-on.

About the Author

Jeremy Scott Foster

Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today.
2 comments
  1. Hi – Your review includes a product by Boundary Supply, so I thought I’d drop a comment on the off chance you’re being sponsored by them for this post.

    Right now they are having significant issues in shipping and customer communication, resulting in a range of tweets, trustpilot reviews and facebook comments about them operating as a scam business… taking money but not actually delivering anything.

    If you have a sponsorship agreement with them then I’d recommend getting in touch with them to see what’s going on.

    1. Hi Jay,

      Thanks for the heads up. I don’t have any sponsorship agreement with any companies here—these are my honest opinions, reviewed as a third party. However, I do personally own multiple products from Boundary Supply, so can attest that the company is not a scam.

      I haven’t spoken with anyone from Boundary Supply, but since I do have industry insight, I can at least say that, worldwide, there are supply chain issues and product shortages, and I’m seeing it a lot with backpack manufacturers in particular since most are made in countries like Vietnam.

      Good to be aware of, so thanks for letting us know!

      Jeremy

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