Taking a flight and want to avoid checking luggage? A carry-on duffel bag is the way to go! In this article, I’m going to walk you through the basics of how to choose a great carry-on duffel bag, plus give you recommendations on the best ones available in the market right now.
You see, duffel bags have and always will be my preferred choice of bag because I find them downright practical. You can fit an absurd amount in them, sling the bag over your shoulder and be set for an entire trip.
Keep reading to discover why these bags are the ultimate travel choice and our picks for the best carry-on duffels of this year!
Our Picks for Best Carry-on Duffel Bags 2021
- Best “Fit Everything” Duffel Bag: Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel Bag – Medium
- Best Weekender Duffel Bag: S-ZONE Travel Tote Duffel
- Best Duffel Bag for Organization: Kemy’s Canvas Duffle Bag
- Best Waterproof Duffel Bag: YETI Panga 50 Airtight, Waterproof and Submersible Bag
- Best Lightweight & Compressible Duffel Bag: Bago 60L Packable Duffel Bag
- Best Backpack Duffel Bag: The North Face Base Camp Duffel – Medium
- Best Duffel Bag with Wheels: Eagle Creek Expanse Wheeled Carry On Duffel
- Best Budget Duffel Bag: Plambag Large Canvas Duffel Bag
- Best Rugged Duffel Bag: Marmot Long Hauler Travel Duffel Bag – Medium
- Best-Looking Duffel Bag: Leathfocus Weekend Bag
Carry-on Duffel Bag: Comparison Table
Here you can compare the bags on this list, as well as some of their technical specs.
Keep in mind that because these are duffel bags, the dimensions only stand true if the bag is completely stuffed full, so remember that you have some leeway here!
|Duffel Bag||Price||Weight||Dimensions (LxHxW)||Reviews|
|Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel Bag Medium||$$||1.14 lbs||24" x 12" x 11"||Read Reviews|
|S-ZONE Travel Tote Duffel||$||4.5 lbs||21.7" x 14.8" x 10.2"||Read Reviews|
|Kemy's Canvas Duffle Bag||$||18 oz||22.4" x 9.1" x 11.8"||Read Reviews|
|YETI Panga 50 Airtight, Waterproof and Submersible Bag||$$$$||5.18 lbs||23.5" x 14" x 10"||Read Reviews|
|Bago 60L Packable Duffel Bag||$||1.3 lbs||23" x 13" x 10"||Read Reviews|
|The North Face Base Camp Duffel - Medium||$$$||3.8 lbs||25.4" x 13.9" x 10"||Read Reviews|
|Eagle Creek Expanse Wheeled Carry On Duffel||$$||5.6 lbs||22" x 14" x 8.75"||Read Reviews|
|Plambag Large Canvas Duffel Bag||$||2.82 lbs||19.7" x 11" x 9.9"||Read Reviews|
|Marmot Long Hauler Travel Duffel Bag - Medium||$$||2.2 lbs||25" x 10.5" x 10.5"||Read Reviews|
|Leathfocus Weekend Bag||$$$||10.4 oz||22" x 8.8" x 12"||Read Reviews|
Why Use a Carry-on Duffel Bag
First thing’s first: duffel bags are practical. The last thing you want to do is land in a foreign country and start dragging a cumbersome roller bag along uneven pavement, through crowded streets, and up flights of stairs.
Forget all of this, because with a duffel bag, you can just sling it over your shoulders and be on your way.
This will come in handy not only when you land, but for your entire trip! Duffel bags are the best for navigating train or bus stations, stowing away under a hostel bed or in a locker, and for taking on a quick overnighter without the rest of your stuff.
Seriously, you can use a duffel bag for pretty much anything where as other luggage can be rather restricting.
Plus, they’re ultra versatile. Weekend getaway? Duffel bag. Checked bag overflow? Duffel bag. Trip around the world but need something to supplement your backpack? Duffel bag. They can do it all!
Another reason why carry-on duffels are the best is you can really stuff them full. Gone are the days of having to pick and choose what you’re going to take with you. Duffel bags can fit them all!
Because of the typically flexible exterior, you aren’t limited by rigid bag parameters. Instead, you can fit as much or as little as you’d like and have everything you need. Doesn’t get much better than that now, does it?
Finally, using a duffel bag as a carry-on is convenient.
When you’re looking for something, you can simply unzip the bag (even if it’s still attached to you!), rummage around for a minute and come out with exactly what you were looking for. Alternatively, if you were carrying-on a roller bag, you’d have to lay that baby down, unzip it completely, and expose the entire contents of your luggage to all passerbys.
Basically, duffel bags are the real deal and are worth using as your carry-on bag.
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What to Look for in a Carry-on Duffel Bag
There are tons of different components of a carry-on duffel bag that you’re going to want to check out before deciding on the right one for you.
Here are some prime things to keep in mind to help aid you in your selection.
Shoulder Strap & Carry Handles
The straps of a duffel bag are arguably the most important component of the entire thing. Without sturdy, dependable straps, there’s no way you’ll be able to comfortably carry a full duffel bag through the airport and for your entire trip.
So, at the very least, you’re going to want to look for a duffel with both a shoulder strap (props if it has padding!) as well as carry handles. This way, you have a choice in how you want to maneuver with your bag.
Some duffels have additional straps for attaching to rolling luggage, wearing as a backpack, and god knows what else, but at a minimum, do yourself a favor and choose a bag with at least a shoulder strap and carry handles.
In my book, the more pockets, the better — and this absolutely holds true for duffel bags.
Having pockets in a carry-on is essential so you can stay organized, quickly find what you’re looking for, and avoid that last-minute rummaging and cursing under your breath while trying to find where you put your passport.
A solid duffel bag should have exterior pockets for stash’n’grab, as well as internal pockets to keep your belongings organized. You may even find ones that have laptop sleeves or pockets for wet items or smelly shoes!
Pro Tip: If you love a duffel bag that doesn’t have enough pockets, remember that you can always organize the interior of the bag with packing cubes!
While the flexible exterior of a duffel bag often works to its strengths, it can also be a major downfall if you experience a lil bit of Mother Nature. To avoid having the entire contents of your bag soaked if you’re caught in a downpour, it’s best to pick a duffel bag that at the very least has some weatherproofing.
Even if the bag isn’t 100% waterproof (which does exist, check out the reviews below!), it’s best to have something to protect your bag from the elements.
Weatherproofing can come in the form of specific materials that make up the bag (nylon wicks water marvelously), or having a coating applied to the bag itself to seal the textile from leakage.
Whichever you choose, choose something because a soggy duffel bag isn’t going to do you much good on your travels.
You must choose a duffel bag that’s made of durable materials. The last thing you want is the thing falling apart on you, either while in transit or at your final destination.
Choose a bag that’s strong, can stand up to being thrown around, and whose seams won’t burst when stuffed full. This way, you’ll be able to use the bag for this trip and many more trips to come!
Depending on what you have in mind for your carry-on duffel bag, you can choose one that has extra features that makes it more similar to other types of luggage.
Some carry-on duffel bags have wheels, while others have straps that enable it to be converted into a backpack. These enhancements are rather practical for those who aren’t completely sold on the idea of a traditional duffel bag but are looking for something similar.
Since there are so many different types of duffels, if you’re looking for one with a little something extra, you should be able to find exactly what is best suited to you and your travels.
Finally, because this bag is for carry-on use, you need to pay close attention to the size.
The size of bag you’re allowed to bring on an aircraft greatly depends on the airline you’re flying, but typically they can’t exceed 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches.
The beauty of duffel bags is if they aren’t stuffed completely full, you’re able to get away with bringing a bigger bag along. I’m not telling you to try your luck and end up having to check a bag, but duffel bags certainly allow you to be a little craftier than regular roller luggage…
Best Carry-on Duffel Bags 2021
Without further ado, here are 10 of the best carry-on duffel bags for all of your travel needs!
Each bag on this list was carefully chosen for its unique features, durable design, and reasonable price point. Give it a gander and hopefully you’ll find your next travel companion.
Best “Fit Everything” Duffel Bag:
Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel Bag – Medium
Dimensions (LxHxW): 24″ x 12″ x 11″
Pros: Ultra durable | Perfect size | Collapsible when empty | Lightweight
Cons: No internal pockets
Given the name “No Matter What” for a reason, you’ll be reaching for this Eagle Creek duffel bag no matter where your travels take you.
A solid medium size, this bag is small enough to work as a carry-on bag, but large enough for you to fit everything you need from a weekend away to a week-long trip.
Made of abrasion-resistant and weatherproof fabric, it doesn’t matter where you’re traveling with this bad boy as it will stand up to the elements. Its durability is only furthered by the reinforced seams and high stress areas. You also get dual carry handles and a shoulder strap.
This bag has a total capacity of 105 liters and collapses when not in use. And did we mention it comes with a lifetime warranty? It’s no wonder this is one of our top picks for carry-on duffel bags!
Best Weekender Duffel Bag:
S-ZONE Travel Tote Duffel
Dimensions (LxHxW): 21.7″ x 14.8″ x 10.2″
Pros: Fashionable | Durable canvas construction | Reasonably priced
Cons: No padding in bag | No pad on shoulder strap
Jetting off for a quick weekend away? Give the S-Zone weekender bag a go.
Made of durable canvas and finished with gorgeous leather trim, you’ll certainly find yourself falling in love with this bag, as it’s as practical as it is good-looking.
While it’s not huge in size and it comes with a fairly rigid exterior, this bag is big enough to fit everything you need for a short little trip, whether it’s for work or pleasure.
Complete with solid zine-alloy hardware and an outside pocket, you can wear this bag either on your arm or across your shoulders as you hit the airport for a few days away!
Best Duffel Bag for Organization:
Kemy’s Canvas Duffle Bag
Dimensions (LxHxW): 22.4″ x 9.1″ x 11.8″
Pros: Tons of pockets | Separate shoe compartment | Roomy
Cons: Doesn’t accommodate larger shoe sizes | Not weatherproof
Isn’t it best when everything has its own place? Well, with this duffel bag, you’re sure to find a place for each of your items with countless pockets and compartments throughout.
This canvas bag has all the pockets you could ever dream of — two on the front, two on the side, plus one on the back.
But wait, it gets better! Besides the D-shaped opening at the top of the bag, there’s also a side compartment that allows you to easily in slip a pair of shoes or some dirty clothes to keep them separate from the other contents of your bag.
The main pocket is roomy, and the the bag itself is comfortable to carry with a padded shoulder strap and carry handles that are able to be snapped together.
Look fresh and fly with the leather accents on this bag, but best of all, always be able to find what you’re looking for in this heavy duty duffel!
Best Waterproof Duffel Bag:
YETI Panga 50 Airtight, Waterproof and Submersible Bag
Dimensions (LxHxW): 23.5″ x 14″ x 10″
Pros: Completely waterproof | Extremely durable
Cons: Oddly shaped | Expensive
If you’re seeking a bag that will keep your contents dry no matter what, look no further than this Yeti sack.
Known best for their unstoppable coolers, Yeti doesn’t disappoint with this hardcore waterproof and airtight duffel. It’s so dependable that it can be completely submerged and your clothes will still be good as new!
The shell of the bag is made of high-density nylon that’s been covered in a thick laminate to prevent holes and abrasions and stops water from seeping in. Plus, the bag comes complete with a hydrolock zipper which means no water is getting in through the seams either.
Small enough to come on a plane with you but large enough to hold all of your adventure gear, this is the ideal bag for traveling in unpredictable conditions. It’s an awesome bag to accompany you on unstoppable expeditions.
Best Lightweight & Compressible Duffel Bag:
Bago 60L Packable Duffel Bag
Dimensions (LxHxW): 23″ x 13″ x 10″
Pros: Foldable when not in use | 16 color options | Lots of pockets! | Extremely spacious
Cons: No structure
Let me just start this one by saying that I take a lightweight, compressible duffel bag with me everywhere I go. I don’t always pack in it on the way there, but I’m carrying it stuffed to the brim on the way back 9 times out of 10.
Bringing a collapsible duffel bag along on your travels is a lifesaver because how else are you going to get all those souvenirs and new clothes home with you?!
Whether you want to use it for your main bag or for the purposes mentioned above, Bago makes a super solid packable duffel bag that is practical, ultra lightweight, and covered in pockets! Seriously, what more could you ask for?
It comes complete with two front pockets, a pocket for shoes and laundry, reinforced seams and high stress areas, and water-resistant fabric! It also comes with a shoulder strap that’s able to be adjusted to completely detach.
Plus, you’ll get to choose from 6 different colors.
Made of highly durable ripstop material, this bag will remain tear-free no matter how many trips it accompanies you on. This is something worth having for carry-on purposes and beyond. Trust me on this one!
Best Backpack Duffel Bag:
The North Face Base Camp Duffel – Medium
Dimensions (LxHxW): 25.4″ x 13.9″ x 10″
Pros: Handles, shoulder and backpack straps | Extremely durable & rugged | Roomy
Cons: Lack of pockets
We all know that North Face makes some pretty kickass gear, and this duffel bag is no exception.
Made of extremely durable nylon, this bag can travel anywhere with you as it’s the perfect size, easy to carry, and perfectly practical no matter the weather.
With a solid D-zip opening, you have easy access to your clothes or gear as needed, and it’s a good carry-on size without being too bulky, even stuffed completely full. It doesn’t have much by way of pockets, but there is a single zippered mesh one in the main compartment.
What sets this carry-on duffel apart from the rest is all the options you have for carrying it. With grab handles on the sides and the top of the bag, you can throw it around as needed, but best of all, it has backpack straps so you can put it on and go, hands-free!
If you’re looking for versatility in a bag, this is it, as the Base Camp duffel is as rugged as it is practical.
(Editor’s Note: I’ve had this duffel bag for over 5 years now, and it’s a firm favorite! Great for both city and outdoor adventures, the Base Camp Duffel fits a lot, is comfortable to carry, and super durable.)
Best Duffel Bag with Wheels:
Eagle Creek Expanse Wheeled Carry On Duffel
Dimensions (LxHxW): 22″ x 14″ x 8.75″
Pros: Carry straps & wheels | Internal compression straps | Telescoping handle | Outter fabric protection
Cons: Heavy | Unable to wear crossbody
Duffel bags certainly aren’t for everyone as they require carrying everything you’ve packed instead of dragging it along, like you do with traditional luggage. But what about a hybrid duffel bag that you can carry and roll?!
This bag from Eagle Creek is exactly that: a rolling duffel bag. This duffel is as close as you can get to traditional luggage without crossing the line to actual roller bag. It opens like a suitcase, has compression straps to keep everything inside in place, and a large padded laptop sleeve.
The exterior of the this number features lockable zippers, outside compression straps and anti-scuff and stain protection on the fabric. In addition to the telescoping handle, there are also grab straps on the top, bottom and side of the bag.
Eagle Creek is known for making world-class travel gear that’s built to last and keep you organized on the go. This bag was designed to perfectly fit packing cubes, making it a practical all purpose bag for any kind of adventure.
Best Budget Duffel Bag:
Plambag Large Canvas Duffel Bag
Dimensions (LxHxW): 19.7″ x 11″ x 9.9″
Pros: Lots of pockets | Inexpensive | Feet on bottom of bag | Dual zippers
Cons: Little bottom support
Looking for a carry-on duffel but don’t want to spend a ton? This Plambag gives you the best of both worlds: a durable and solid option that doesn’t break the bank.
Coming complete with a spacious main compartment, four external pockets (two on the side and two on the front) and slip pockets inside, there’s room for everything you need to take along on for a lengthy or shorter trip.
It’s made of high density cotton canvas so it’ll hold up to anything your travels throw at it. It also comes with plastic feet on the bottom of the bag to avoid extra dirt or tears from coming along with you as well.
The best thing about this bag (besides the low price point) are the dual zippers on top that allow you to smoothly zip your bag closed, no matter how full it is.
Best Rugged Duffel Bag:
Marmot Long Hauler Travel Duffel Bag – Medium
Dimensions (LxHxW): 25″ x 10.5″ x 10.5″
Pros: Extremely durable | Very spacious | Reinforced throughout | Backpack straps
Rugged may as well be Marmot’s middle name, and this carry-on sized duffel does not disappoint.
With a large D-shaped opening, it’s easy to access anything you’ve packed with a quick pull of one of the durable and smooth zippers. There are plenty of options when it comes to storage here, with a spacious main compartment with mesh pockets, a hanging pocket for shoes or laundry, and two zippered pockets on the side of the bag for smaller items and accessories.
Besides all the basics, this bag is extra rugged. It’s made of coated polyester, and has reinforced haul loops so you won’t have to worry about throwing the bag around. There’s also a double bottom to combat any basic wear and tear.
Take it on any and all adventures and you can see how durable it is for yourself!
You can carry this bag with the shoulder strap, or convert it into two backpack straps for ease of carrying. Coming in three different colors, this bag is the ultimate rugged duffel bag.
Best-Looking Duffel Bag:
Leathfocus Weekend Bag
Dimensions (LxHxW): 22″ x 8.8″ x 12″
Pros: Extremely sleek | Genuine leather | Side pocket for shoes
Cons: Slightly rigid (especially at first) | Not many pockets
Finally, when it comes to the best-looking carry-on duffel bag, this Leathfocus bag made of genuine leather takes the cake.
This bag has everything a good carry-on duffel should… and then some. Complete with a spacious main compartment, there is also a side pocket designed for shoes, as well as interior pockets for keeping smaller items like a tablet or accessories safe and organized.
This is a classy number, making it ideal for both work and pleasure. The full-grain leather has a timeless look and feel, as well as being extra durable and lasting for years to come.
Carry it by the top handles or sling it over your shoulder with the padded strap. No matter what you choose, you’re sure to turn heads as you walk through the airport with this carry-on bag by your side!
So what do you think? Sold on using duffel bags as your carry-on luggage? Honestly, with all the perks that come along with using a duffel bag, you’d be hard pressed to not even give one a try on your next trip.
No matter if you’re looking for something that’s rugged and durable, or stylish and classy, there’s a carry-on duffel bag out there that’s right for you!
PS: Once you’ve picked out your perfect carry-on duffel, read our guide on how to best pack your carry-on.
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