Much like dressing for the transitional months — when it is neither too hot nor not too cold — there are times when packing that a suitcase feels too cumbersome, while a backpack is simply inadequate.
And this is why we should all give thanks to the Belgians, for it was in the small town of Duffel during the 17th-century where the eponymous duffel bag was born. A sack made out of a heavy woollen cloth, today it’s the go-to cargo for everything from workouts to weekends away.
“A duffel bag is generally a large holdall,” says Eastpak product director Domitille Parent. “It should be large enough to hold all of your things for a weekend getaway and is also the perfect for those who play sports.”
The heavy woollen cloth is not so much a pre-requisite for the style anymore. But for the most part, this type of bag should be crafted out of a hard-wearing fabric so it can withstand the wear and tear of travel.
“It’s also ideal for a duffel to have a padded shoulder strap [and] slightly oversized carry handles, as this allows users to carry the duffel like a backpack,” adds Parent. “A small extra inside or outside pocket is also always useful for stashing your essentials and keeping them easily accessible.”
For those reasons (and so many more), many believe the duffel to be the only getaway bag a man needs. Need more convincing? Check out these 15 brands that do them best.
The Best Brands For Duffel Bags
Herschel Supply Co.
A relative upstart compared to heritage luggage brands, Herschel Supply Co. has more than made up for lost time since it was founded in 2009. The Canadian firm’s duffel bags are aimed at stylish millennials, available in patterned and block colour Cordura fabric that makes them more resistant to scrapes and tears, and finished with details like internal laundry bags.
Eastpak started life making duffel bags for the US Army in the 1950s but changed tack two decades later, becoming a consumer-facing brand and transforming into the luggage giant it is today. So it goes without saying that all your packing needs are covered here, with a range of styles and price points in the simple, clean aesthetic the brand has become known for.
When it comes to duffel bags, you don’t get more Mariah-Carey-sipping-Champagne-in-a-bubble-bath fancy than luxury American label Coach. Top dollar fabrics like calf leather and multiple pockets for optimum organisation may result in a pretty expensive investment, but you’ll slot right into the first class cabin swinging one of these by your side.
Norwegian outerwear maker Helly Hansen designs products to survive mountainous waves and freezing tundras, so you can be pretty confident one its duffel bags can more than handle an errant bag handler chucking it around at the airport. The range is packed with colour and bold logos, and each style is waterproof with remarkably deep compartments to put all your wares in.
For the gym bunnies toing and froing between work and the weights room, there’s the ever-reliable duffel bag from Adidas. The US brand’s styles are simple and sporty with convenient additions like a slip-in smartphone pocket that lets you keep your concentration on your kettlebell workout and not those incoming email notifications.
Come for the novelty monkey keychain, stay for the soft, cushion-like duffel bags in more colours than a pack of Skittles. Named after The Jungle Book writer Rudyard Kipling (hence the ape), this Belgian brand is still going strong after three decades, and it’s no surprise with luggage thats handsome as well as durable and water-resistant.
An expert at mixing premium materials with innovative, contemporary designs, Troubadour is at the forefront of the British leather goods industry. So confident of its goods is the bag maker that each comes with a five-year guarantee. Cut from a single piece of leather and with limited seams, the weekend bag design is lighter and less bulky than most, while the shoulder straps are engineered to eliminate pressure points for easy carrying.
If you couldn’t guess by the name, protecting against showers is what Scandi minimalist brand Rains does best. As well as its signature raincoats, that ethos extends to its line of duffel bags, which are made from a water-resistant fabric, with durable rubber trimmings to ensure not even a drop will make it inside.
A variation on the Finnish name for the Arctic Circle, Napapijri designs its products with extreme travel and the region’s constantly changing environment in mind. Now encompassing the whole of the wardrobe, the Italian brand started out as just a manufacturer of one product, the Bering: a waxed canvas duffel bag, which is still a specialty with a ripstop outer fabric and a simple but effective design.
Can’t decide between a duffel bag, backpack or messenger? H&M offshoot Arket has just the solution, a duffel bag that easily converts into the other two. Let’s not overlook the recycled polyester lining either, nor the set compartments for your laptop, passport, tablet, charger and book.
Let’s start with a quick PSA and say no moles were harmed in the making of this duffel bag before swiftly moving onto the brand, a Milan-based manufacturer renowned for its luxury stationery. Moleskine brings that same academic rigour to its practical and discreet luggage which, of course, has a little pocket for your notebook.
Putting all that waxed cotton it uses to make its iconic jackets to good use, Barbour also does a fine line of duffel bags. As is to be expected, luggage by the British heritage brand retains the same upmarket, yet outdoorsy style that makes its coats so popular, with functional details like a number of slip pockets.
Despite all those umlauts giving us a headache, one thing we stand by is the quality bag-making expertise of Swedish outdoor firm Fjällräven. Its bags were initially crafted out of tent fabric, and that same sturdiness against the elements remains in a bold, kaleidoscopic colour palette that comes pre-waxed to protect against getting mucked up like a pair of wellies at Glastonbury.
With a history that stretches back to 1935, Japanese accessories brand Porter-Yoshida takes its bag-making very seriously indeed. The company slogan, “heart and soul in every stitch”, tells you everything. Its duffel bags are all handmade by a single worker, usually in a black ripstop fabric and with a lightly padded outer for a beefy looking beast.
For those keen on a bit of branding, Ralph Lauren is a good bet. We all know what that polo player means, and boy don’t the American clothiers like to flash it about. Add in the brand’s recent 50th-anniversary celebrations, and, well, you have to pay your dues. Expect simple, classic designs in luxury fabrics, as always with Ralph.