Best Carry-On Duffel Bags for Travel & TOP 9 Bag Reviews 2019

Even if you’re a backpack fan, there are times when you find out (like I did) that a duffel bag is the best choice for traveling comfortably.

There are so many models out there and each is suitable for a specific type of traveler and destination.

Let’s see which are the best carry-on duffel bags.

But what options do we have?

There are:

  • Normal duffel bags, usually used for sports, lightweight carry-on duffel bags which are also good for light traveling,
  • Stroller type also called wheeled or rolling duffel bags which can be handy when flying and going on city breaks, usually these are bigger and won’t fit as carry-on cabin baggage in the plane.
  • There’s also strap-on duffel bags or backpack style shoulder-straps duffel bags which can go perfectly on some camping or hiking trips.

carry on duffel bag for travel

When to Consider that Your Best Option for Travel is a Duffel Bag?

Using a backpack is not great for quick access to your items.

Also if you have to fly out, a decent sized backpack will probably not fit as cabin-bag and surely won’t be easy to check-in either, cause if you want your stuff to stay dry, you’ll have to wrap the backpack up in plastic foil and your shoulder straps will no longer be usable.

Moving through the airport with that wrapped huge thing won’t be a pleasure, I can assure you.

Why wrap it up?

Well, I can tell you from previous experience that checked-in bags get wet sometimes. Yup, they do, a LOT!

Imagine arriving at your destination in rainy, cold weather, with everything wet while you’re wearing nothing but a t-shirt. Ihh… not the best start for your trip, isn’t it?

On the other hand, you can opt for a stroller case, but we all know how uncomfortable and stiff these are.

No real globe-trotter ever uses these. They are good only for business trips or family holidays.

Duffel bags are flexible, that’s the great thing about them, you can carry them everywhere and they come in all sizes, so you have the same amount of storage space as in a backpack or normal travel case, but flexible, portable and comfy.

Isn’t that the ideal for all travelers?

Ok, so let’s see features to have in mind when picking a carry-on duffel bag.

Features to Have in Mind when Picking a Carry-On Duffel Bag

girl with a leather duffel bag for travel

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?

Zippers

Yup, these are important. If you want to access something in your bag you need to use them a lot.

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?

Please say no.

Again, think of space, weather and time-consuming breaks. Zippers quality as well as how they are incorporated in the bag are two important factors: are there double zippers? D-shaped zipper, or a simple pocket-like zipper?

That influences how you take your stuff out of the bag (and how you put it in, of course).

Pockets

They are good for separating your stuff, quick access and practical travel experience. If you ask me, I’d say the more, the merrier.

I bet all the ladies will agree on this right away. But then so will men, the organized ones who learned it from traveling.

Material

It’s made of: most bags are textile but there’s also leather and other innovative materials, and if you plan on going in a long trip with unpredictable weather I suggest it’s best to choose the best carry-on duffel bag you find out there that is waterproof.

Check carefully the specs when you buy a bag, it might make a big difference for a rainy trip.

Yet, at this point, you might find more textile waterproof duffel bags that suit your needs than leather duffels.

Weight

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

Weight should always matter cause you have to hold on to that bag for long periods of time when traveling.

Then there’s also the price factor: if you check in your bag, they usually weigh it. You’ll need the extra weight for personal items.

Volume and Size of the Bag

Volume: I know it’s tempting when you go on a long trip to pack a lot of stuff, but think of it this way: the more you have, the more it will weigh and that means the more you get shoulder strains from carrying it.

So if you plan to move a lot with your bag on you, check out some articles on how to pack light and sufficient for all situations. Lonely Planet’s article here might be a good start.

It’s good to think of everything you take with you as multipurpose objects. That will help. And then decide how big your bag has to be.

Size: think how you travel, if you want to have it as a carry-on bag on the plane, there are plenty of duffel bags that fit the size requirements, so make sure you check the specs of the airline company and match them with your bag (some of them are listed here).

To be sure, pick the ones that are smaller and fit in most companies’ specs.

Oh, right: make sure to note what items you’re not allowed to bring in a carry-on bag, there are many restrictions there, differing based on destination.

That’s it! Well, most of it. Your own needs might add more to the above list. Plus the price, since sometimes budget is an issue.

But that’s not even worth mentioning at this point since you will figure it out anyway when you choose your future traveling companion bag.

See what others have to say about choosing a duffel bag: here or here.

Ready to Pick Up the Best Carry-On Duffel Bag for International Travel?

Top 9 Best Travel Carry-On Duffel Bags for 2019

I’m picking a one-off each type of model and will review it for you, will of course look at the most practical models, this is purely for functional points of the items, the good looks being a perk on the side.

Getting into the details why do I think these are worth as the top choices?

Read on for reviews of the above bags, or jump to the one that interests you most.

Shacke’s Travel Duffel Express Weekender Bag

A simple duffel which might be used in all circumstances, with all the basic needs covered.

  • 19.5x9x13.5 inch

PROS

  • Water resistant.
  • Shoe compartment: really good for smelly, wet, dirty shoes (you have a bag out of your way).
  • Wet compartment inside, good for sweaty items.
  • Trolley Strap.
  • Affordable price tag.

CONS

  • Seems a bit small, despite the measures.
  • Few pockets.
  • Outside pouch has no zipper, only elastic.

TAKEAWAY

Good for a rookie who has no big expectations from travel, yet does want a bit of separation in his luggage.

Kemy’s Canvas Duffle Bag

Good for a traveler who likes to have some style, not good for long carry-ons since it has no waterproof options and it might give you a bad surprise in wet weather.

On the other hand, on warm days it might be great because it has the padded shoulder strap that makes it comfy for long walks.

  • 22×9.1×11.8 inches

PROS

  • Classy and cool look.
  • Shoe compartment.
  • Has a broader option on pockets hence keeping your stuff organized.
  • Thick padded shoulder strap.

CONS

  • No waterproof material or pockets.
  • A bit tedious on cleaning (wash by hand).
  • No options for trolley strap, and no double straps for using as a backpack.

TAKEAWAY

For what it offers in terms of pockets and separation I think it’s not too pricey, but I for one would prefer something waterproof.

It’s not a very cheap model, but not that expensive either.

EleSac Canvas Style Duffel Bag

This one caught my eye, seems sporty and elegant. Casual actually, which is a good choice for combining city breaks, business and other travels too.

Has most features you would need: waterproof, shoe compartment and looks…too bad it’s missing on the zipper access and pockets side, otherwise it would be a clear 5-star rating from me.

  • 19.5x10x11 inches

PROS

  • The look has a bit more of a contemporary yet retro design combo.
  • Shoe compartment.
  • Good waterproof canvas material.
  • Inside material is easy to clean.
  • Seems to meet size requirements for on-board carry-on under the plane seat.

CONS

  • Not that many pockets on the outside.
  • The main zipper is in a straight line, hence harder to unpack or find things in the bag.

TAKEAWAY

For what it offers, the price is great in my opinion, really affordable.

Thomtery Canvas Travel Duffel Bag

This is a very good looking duffel, caught my eye from the start as it has the backpack straps and investigating it more and more, seems the best option.

You guessed it, it’s a 5-star rating for what I am looking for!

  • 19.7×9.6×11 inches

PROS

  • Casual look with canvas-style material that is waterproof.
  • Shoe compartment.
  • Aired compartments for shoes and dirty gear (you’re gonna love this!).
  • Good choice of pockets.
  • The zipper is in D-shape, which makes everything easily accessible.
  • Seems to meet size requirements for on-board carry-on under the plane seat.
  • Padded shoulder straps DOUBLE: hence you can use it as a backpack too! And they have a nice design.
  • 55L of packing volume.

CONS

  • Having a bit of trouble finding cons here!

TAKEAWAY

It has it all, except for wheels, but who needs wheels if you can carry it on your back?

Oh, I forgot to mention: it even has an anti-theft lock.

The price range is quite on the low-side so, honestly, I’m thinking to order this!

A good alternative to the above bag, with what appears to be the exact same design, is this duffel bag (link to Amazon.com)

It has the exact same specs as the above, a very small price difference, but it comes in leather and has back-straps for carrying as a backpack too, which I’ll always find useful and cool.

Speaking of that, are you into leather?

Trying to pick a bag on the leather side, I am having trouble finding one that would be the classic look of a duffel bag, old-fashioned kind.

But there’s plenty of new designs made with leather, so I’ll just find an alternative.

Doreamaloe Leather Travel Weekender Duffel Bag

If you want a leather, old-fashioned looking duffel bag, this is it. Has almost the same classic looks and durable design.

PROS

  • Classical look, but a bit more clean than the original all-round pocket duffel bag.
  • Has a few pockets strategically placed.
  • Shoe compartment.
  • The zipper is in D-shape, which makes everything easily accessible.
  • Seems to meet size requirements for on-board carry-on under the plane seat.
  • Padded shoulder strap.

CONS

  • The placement of the pockets could be a bit better, but to keep the design clean, they had to make a compromise on that, I totally understand.
  • It’s made of PU leather but really looks genuine.

TAKEAWAY

I would vote this one as the best men’s carry-on duffel bag for travel in case you don’t want a modern look.

So that’s it for men, but what about women?

Trying to find a classy leather duffel for women turns out to be quite a task. If you’re ok with the unisex looks, then there’s plenty, but if you want something that has that women’s delicate touch, you’re in trouble.

I won’t be looking into the pink or blue or stripped bags, cause this is a travel bag. Pink bags pick up everyone’s looks, but then again, that would make you an instant target for thieves.

Bet you don’t want that, right? Especially if you’re traveling alone.

All the ones which I seem to find as being cool for women seem to be marketed as “men’s” bags or unisex, which is a bit odd.

What do you have to say about that, guys? Fashion’s gone crazy, right?

So this is what I think is a best leather duffel carry-on for women:

Hezon Outdoor PU Leather Large Capacity Duffel Bag

This is the single leather duffel that I think is designed elegantly, for women.

As mentioned before, there’s plenty of bags that are man and women (including the leather one above), but the ones that I find to have more of a lady look, are missing the shoe compartment, and thus I’m disqualifying them.

  • 17×9.5×9.5 inches

PROS

  • Has a bit of woman’s touch.
  • Shoe compartment, which for women is a must as well, in my opinion.
  • Meets size requirements for on-board carry-on under the plane seat.
  • Being leather, it’s waterproof.

CONS

  • The zipper is placed in a line but seems to expand when open. So maybe not a big Con.
  • Doesn’t have that many pockets, which in a way might make it more attractive to women as it looks like a big travel purse, but is bad on the accessibility side.

TAKEAWAY

I believe ladies need more comfort in their bags, they need the padded shoulder strap(s) and plenty of pockets. Which I’m not seeing even in this bag or any bag that’s labeled for women.

Bottom line: ladies, seems you should choose textile duffels, those have more options than the leather ones. But if you like the rugged look of the unisex duffel, you’ll find for sure one to use.

And an interesting nice design found for a backpack-like duffel here:

MagiDeal Outdoor Canvas Travel Duffel Bag

This is a fine-looking duffel, but the looks come with a downside sometimes, and this is one of these times.

I would totally take this one ‘cause I prefer carrying my luggage like a backpack to have my hands free for taking photos or for other activities, but I am not totally sure that I would pick a non-waterproof backpack duffel in which I have to spend a lot of time to take-out or put back in an item.

  • Size S: 10.2×7.9×17.7 inch
  • Size L: 11.8×7.9×21.7 inch

PROS

  • Casual, army-like look.
  • Has several pockets strategically placed.
  • Designed as a duffel backpack.
  • Seems to meet size requirements for on-board carry-on under the plane seat.
  • Padded shoulder straps.
  • For some reason, I find this one more spacious than other duffels.

CONS

  • The access is from the side (as we normally think of a duffel bag being a long bag).
  • Has no zippers to close it tight, but the alternative might be good enough to keep water out.
  • No shoe compartment, and not water-proof either.
  • Hard access to your items due to the closing option.

TAKEAWAY

A good choice if you like this kind of style, might even be improved if you want: use some water-repellant treatment on it, it could raise its rating a bit.

Back to you ladies, the next one is for you, one of the favorite bags for women I see:

Adidas Studio Duffel Bag

This is a practical bag, for home and away, and would be the best option for ladies which don’t want to give up style when traveling.

Although it’s not mentioned in the specifications, this seems like a waterproof material, but can’t guarantee that.

  • 9x24x15 inches

PROS

  • Sporty and elegant.
  • Has several pockets strategically placed.
  • Inside is a big separated pocket, which can be used for shoes or sweaty items.
  • Looks like a purse, but has more to offer, you might have it as cabin bag.
  • Has a single line zipper but when open the bag expands broadly so you can access every item easily.

CONS

  • No dedicated easy access shoe compartment.
  • No padded strap.

TAKEAWAY

It does have a few minuses, but you can overcome these anyway in favor of the pluses it has. This is a really cool bag!

Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Rolling Duffel Bag

And last but not least: let’s check out the wheeled duffel. After checking around I believe this is the best rolling carry-on duffel bag at an affordable price.

This one is not for cabin luggage (yet there is an alternative in small size, just read on), but has a lot of pluses and if you have a longer trip, you’ll love it for sure.

  • L size: 32×13.5×15.75 inches

PROS

  • Has all the good pockets you would need.
  • Has double shoulder strips and padded!
  • Has a D-lined zipper for easy access.
  • It is waterproof, or water repellant as they say, and abrasion resistant.
  • Has handles on almost all sides, so you can carry it in any way you want.
  • All zippers have the lock option.

CONS

  • No dedicated shoe compartment with easy access, but has two big compartments at both ends which can be used for shoes or dirty gear.
  • Quite large, but there are several sizes, and they have also the small-size (without wheels, boo! But has 22.75×8.75×12.5 in) which might be a good choice for traveling light.

TAKEAWAY

Considering you’ll need a trustworthy duffel for your stuff in your travels, this might be worth the prize and might be one of the best carry-on duffel bags with wheels, if you don’t want to invest in professional backpacks and are keen on versatility.

Hope you’re not bored yet?

No worries, I’m done.

Summing up

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

The above list should be giving you the best carry-on duffel bags for travel at affordable prices.

Tell us about your experience or preferences with duffel bags, as surely everyone has other needs and requirements of use.

Once you picked your option and start planning a trip, make sure to read our ebook for travel safety, remember: better safe than sorry!

The world is a rough place, be ready for it!

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