TOP 11 Best Carry-On Duffel Bags for Travel Reviewed 2021

A duffel bag can be a convenient, practical and comfortable carry-on option for air travel.

If you’re just going for a short trip, you may even find you can fit everything you need in your carry-on duffel and not even require checked-in baggage.

This article will introduce you to 11 of the best carry-on duffel bags available in 2021 with a range of styles to suit all travelers.

If you’re not sure what you should look for when making your choice, I’ve included a few pointers at the end to help you out.

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TOP 11 Best Travel Carry-On Duffel Bags for 2021

Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel

Review: If you’re looking for something practical, durable and waterproof, this is the duffel for you. It’s lightweight and can be rolled up and packed into your suitcase or used as your carry-on luggage.

It also comes with a storage pouch which can be used for the bag itself, or as a separate wet bag for shoes inside the bag.

Note that this bag comes in different sizes but only the small will be suitable for carry-on luggage.

  • 18 × 12 × 11 inches

Pros

  • Has a trolley sleeve for convenient airport use.
  • Waterproof.
  • Plenty of handles and straps for different grab and carry options.
  • External zippered pocket.
  • Separate storage pouch doubles as internal pocket.
  • Lightweight.

Cons

  • Material might be a little noisy.

Takeaway

This is a top-quality, highly rated carry-on duffel bag that is the perfect size for weekend or 3 day trips while also being highly durable and waterproof. It could be the best carry-on duffel bag for international travel.

The North Face Berkeley Duffel

Review: Weighing just over 1 lbs. 5 oz, this lightweight but top quality duffel bag is practical and versatile. Its 35L capacity is perfect for carry-on luggage with enough space for all your stuff while the soft shell will make it easy to stuff under the seat in front of you or into the overhead lockers.

The wide, removable shoulder strap is comfortable to wear while some external pockets allow for easy access.

As with the Eagle Creek bag above, this bag comes in different sizes, and only the ‘small’ is likely to qualify as a carry-on for most airlines.

  • 19.25 x 9 x 11 inches

Pros

  • Reliable North Face quality.
  • Separate shoe compartment.
  • Lightweight but durable design.
  • Removable shoulder strap.
  • Doubles as a large gym bag.

Cons

  • None.

Takeaway

It doesn’t get much better than this for carry-on duffels if you’re looking for a balance between quality, practicality and price point. It’s simple, practical and durable.

Mouteenoo Travel Duffel Backpack

Review: This is a slightly different option, being a twist to the classic duffel bag. It’s a duffel backpack. This basically means it’s a duffel bag that can be converted into a backpack to be comfortably carried on your back.

You’ve still got the option of using the shoulder strap, but you also get the benefit of being able to unzip the whole thing open for easy access rather than being restricted to a top only entry backpack.

  • 24 x 11.2 x 10 inches

Pros

  • Separate shoe compartment.
  • Water-resistant nylon outer.
  • Zips are against your back when you wear it as a backpack to prevent petty theft.
  • Many pockets including a fleece-lined pocket for valuables.
  • Comfortable to wear as a backpack.

Cons

  • Shoe compartment is a little awkward to access.

Takeaway

This is the best carry-on duffel backpack if you’re looking for versatility and practicality for traveling.

Seyfocnia Leather Travel Bag

Review: This handsome PU leather bag is the ideal size for carry-on luggage and has some great travel-friendly features while not looking at all like a carry-on bag.

It has a separate, external access shoe compartment, it’s waterproof and has a couple of small interior pockets and a removable shoulder strap.

It fits everything you might need for a 3 day trip including a 15” laptop, shoes, clothes and small personal items.

  • 20.5 x 11.3 x 11.7 inches

Pros

  • Durable and waterproof PU leather.
  • External access shoe compartment.
  • High quality zipper.
  • Removable shoulder strap.

Cons

  • None for its price.

Takeaway

This is a bag that will look like you’ve spent a lot more on it than you have while still being excellent quality and durable, practical design.

MyMealivos Women’s Canvas Weekender Bag

Review: This great looking canvas duffel is an ideal carry- on bag or weekend bag, with space for everything you need and a convenient 7 separate pockets (including a shoe compartment) for organization.

The faux leather carry handles and shoulder strap are strong and durable while certain well-thought-out features, like the metal studs on the bottom to keep it off the ground, make for a user-friendly experience.

  • 20 x 13 x 10 inches

Pros

  • Comes in different colors.
  • Separate shoe compartment.
  • Lockable zips.
  • 7 different pockets and compartments.
  • Metal corner studs on the bottom keep it off the floor.

Cons

  • Shoulder strap is a little too thin for use over extended time periods.

Takeaway

This well-designed bag is durable and practical while also coming in 2 different attractive boho designs with its mix of faux leather and patterned canvas.

Bluboon Women’s Weekender Duffel Bag

Review: This versatile weekend bag is designed with organization and convenience in mind. It has a separate shoe pocket with exterior access and a large semi-circle shaped zipper provides easy access to the main compartment without having to rummage.

A hidden side zipper can be undone to temporarily increase the capacity of the bag, and the bag has a slightly stiff bottom that will help it hold its shape when it’s not completely full.

  • 21.3 x 12.6 x 10.6 inches

Pros

  • Comes in a range of colors and designs.
  • Will double as an excellent gym bag.
  • Comes with detachable shoulder strap and padded carry handles.
  • 2 exterior pockets.
  • Separate shoe compartment.

Cons

  • Zippers could be smoother.

Takeaway

This duffel bag ticks all the boxes for a practical but stylish carry-on option, with waterproof compartments, extra pockets and multiple handle options.

ONboard Underseat Carry On Duffel Bag

Review: Specifically designed to fit under airline seats, this duffel still manages to offer a lot of storage space with plenty of pockets and compartments to help you stay organized.

It’s tough and durable, made with an 840D ballistic nylon bottom with an overall rugged construction to stand up to the wears and tears of regular travel.

  • 16 x 9 x 8.5 inches

Pros

  • Large main compartment.
  • Plenty of pockets.
  • Interior dividers.
  • RFID blocking technology.
  • Designed for overhead/underseat storage.
  • Smart, practical style.
  • Lightweight.

Cons

  • Inner lining material won’t please everyone.

Takeaway

Compartments and pockets galore is always a good look for a travel bag, and this one certainly delivers on that score. It’s roomy yet lightweight, and specifically designed for air travel.

Shacke’s Travel Duffel Express Weekender Bag

Review: Another duffel designed especially with air travel in mind, this bag has TSA approved locks, a trolley sleeve, 4 additional pockets including a shoe compartment, and a lightweight design.

It has good quality YKK zippers and a slightly firm base to give it some structure when freestanding and not fully loaded. And maybe the best part, it’s affordable and excellent value for money.

  • 19.5 x 9 x 13.5 inches

Pros

  • Water-resistant.
  • Separate shoe compartment and 3 additional pockets.
  • Wet compartment inside, good for sweaty items.
  • Trolley strap.
  • Affordable price tag.

Cons

  • Few pockets.
  • Outside pouch has no zipper, only elastic.

Takeaway

Simple but efficient, this neat little duffel is everything you need in a carry-on bag without breaking the bank.

Kemy’s Canvas Duffle Bag

Review: This stylish men’s canvas and leather duffel bag is very spacious with plenty of pockets and a high quality, durable design. A second main zipper allows easy access to one part of the main compartment without having to open the whole thing up, and a separate shoe compartment keeps your clothes and shoes separate.

The only thing it doesn’t have are some kind of feet so help keep the base of the bag off the ground, so you’ll want to be a little careful where you put it down as this bag isn’t machine washable.

  • 22 × 9.1 × 11.8 inches

Pros

  • Classy and cool look.
  • Shoe compartment.
  • Thick padded shoulder strap.
  • Plenty of pockets.

Cons

  • Shoe compartment doesn’t fit large size shoes.

Takeaway

For men who want the maximum capacity they can fit in their carry-on while still being stylish and top quality, this is one of the best carry-on duffel bags for men.

EleSac Canvas Style Duffel Bag

Review: This unisex bag is sporty and elegant making it a good choice for combining city breaks, business or weekend trips away.

It has most of the features you would need including being waterproof, having a shoe compartment, an adjustable shoulder strap with a padded sleeve and multiple pockets and internal compartments.

It’s also well-priced and comes in multiple different color options so there’ll be an option for everyone.

  • 5 x 10 x 11 inches

Pros

  • Shoe compartment.
  • Inside material is easy to clean.
  • Internal toiletries compartment.
  • Durable 100% polyester outer.
  • Metal clasps connect the shoulder strap to the bag.

Cons

  • None for this price point.

Takeaway

This duffel is an excellent value for money option. It’s durable and practical while being the ideal size for carry-on luggage with extra internal compartments which is rare for a duffel.

Thomtery Canvas Travel Duffel Bag

Review: This is a very good looking duffel. Sleek and minimalist but with everything you need to keep your carry-on luggage safe and organized, it’s also super affordable, though you could expect some quality issues over time as a result.

It’s lightweight, water-resistant, has multiple different pockets including a separate shoe compartment and a wide, padded shoulder strap.

  • 9 x 10.2 x 10.2 inches

Pros

  • Shoe compartment.
  • Good choice of pockets.
  • The zipper is in D-shape, which makes everything easily accessible.
  • Padded shoulder strap.
  • 20L of packing volume.

Cons

  • Lower quality zippers.
  • There may be a chemical off-gassing smell to begin with.

Takeaway

This is the best budget carry-on duffel.

What to Consider when Choosing a Duffel Bag for Travel?

Duffel bags are the most versatile and convenient form of luggage for a wide range of travel.

You don’t have to worry about wheeling a heavy suitcase over cobbled streets or up stairs when there is no elevator. They are easy to zip open and access everything inside unlike a backpack. And when you’re home from your travels, they can double as a gym bag or overnight bag.

If you can restrain yourself and pack just the essentials, you can experience a whole new level of freedom and independence traveling with just a carry-on size duffel bag.

Sold?

I am!

So how do you choose between the myriad different options available?

There are a few things to consider:

travel duffle bag in a train station

Straps

What kind of straps do you need? Will you carry your bag in your hand all the time?

Will you prefer having it on your shoulder or on your back?

Look for adjustable straps (especially the shoulder strap!) with a nice padded section for your collar bone. It also pays to choose metal attachments where the strap meets the bag as plastic ones tend to break.

Zippers

Positioning, shape and quality of the zippers are important.

Can you get straight to the item you need? Do you have to take everything out of the bag if you need one t-shirt?

At the very least look for double zippers that allow you to choose which end you open your bag from. But choosing a U-shaped zipper will save a lot of rummaging and give you a clear view of everything in your bag.

Lastly, you want smooth sailing, good quality zippers that won’t get snagged or break.

Pockets

Pockets and compartments can be a game-changer when it comes to conveniently being able to organize and keep track of all your stuff.

Duffel bags don’t traditionally come with lots of internal compartments, but luckily this is becoming more common.

A separate shoe compartment with external access is a huge plus, keeping your dirty shoes away from the rest of your things. Plus, some separate interior pockets for smaller items can help keep these things easy to find and harder to lose.

However, you should be wary of what you put in any external pockets as items here are easy pickings for opportunist thieves at the airport or once at your new destination.

Don’t put any valuables in these exterior pockets – keep them for things like lip balm and snacks.

brown duffel bag for travel

Material

Duffel bags were traditionally made from durable canvas which came with the added bonus of being waterproof.

Many duffel bags are now still made of canvas, but there are also plenty of polyester and faux leather options too.

These days, the material of the bag is arguably less important than the quality and workmanship that has been put into the bag. But being able to cope with the odd rain shower can still be a massive bonus when you’re traveling so look for a duffel bag that claims to be at least water-resistant.

We have a list of more great waterproof duffel bags here if that’s a priority for you.

Weight

Like everything else you carry with you, if your bag is heavy when empty, imagine how it feels when it’s full?

Look for a duffel bag that is lightweight to start with (ideally less than 2 lbs) so that it’s not cutting into your baggage allowance and won’t be a hassle to carry on your shoulder once you reach your destination.

In saying that though, there is one feature that can help with a heavy bag, and that’s wheels. There are some great options for duffel bags with wheels on the market if that’s something you think you might be interested in.

Size

If you want to have your duffel as a carry-on bag on the plane, make sure you check the specs of the airline you’re flying with and match them with your bag (some of them are listed here).

Not so keen on duffels after all?

If after reading all this, you’re not so sure whether a duffel bag is for you after all, there are plenty of other options that might suit your travel style better.

For more carry-on options for bags that will fit under the seat in front of you, have a read of this article.

Alternatively, if after reading this you think that a backpack might be more your style after all, that’s completely understandable. We have a great guide to the best carry on backpacks that so there’s sure to be something there that will work for you.

girl with a leather duffel bag for travel

FAQ

Can I bring a duffle bag as a carry-on?

Provided it fits within your airline’s carry-on baggage size restrictions, yes, you can definitely take a duffel bag as carry-on.

What size duffle bag can I carry on a plane?

This depends on your airline and whether you’re flying domestic or international. A good guide is roughly 22 x 14 x 9 inches, or 22 x 16 x 8 inches.

Can I bring a backpack and a duffel bag on a plane?

Some airlines allow you to have two carry-on items, however, this will depend on the airline.

How do you pack a duffel bag for travel?

There are many ways to pack a duffel bag but this video has some great tips.

What is the best travel duffel bag?

There are so many to choose from, it’s impossible to choose one! But the North Face’s duffel on the list above is a reliable choice.

Are duffel bags allowed as personal item?

If your duffel bag is small enough to be considered a handbag then you will most likely be able to bring it on board as a personal item provided your airline permits personal item as well as your carry-on bag. But you should double-check the sizing restrictions to be sure!

Should I use a duffel bag or a suitcase?

This really comes down to personal preference, what kind of trip you’re going on and how much baggage you have.

Some people will be much better suited to a suitcase (for example if they’re going for a long trip to just one destination) while others will much prefer the convenience of keeping everything in a compact duffel bag. There’s no right or wrong answer here.

Summing up

When you choose your duffel, be aware of your needs. Think of how many items you’ll be taking with you and which of these you want to access all the time, not just at your accommodation.

This list of the best carry-on duffel bags in 2021 should have something for everyone at affordable prices.

We’d love you to tell us about your experience or preferences with duffel bags in the comments below.

And remember, once you’ve picked your bag and started planning a trip, be sure to read our ebook for travel safety before you leave.

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Karlis Kikuts

Karlis Kikuts

Coffee addict. Digital nomad. Solo traveler and blogger. Camping and hammocking enthusiast. Tiny book worm. In other words, the guy behind independentwolf.com