One of the basic rules of traveling light is to have a piece of luggage for just what you need on your trip. But there are instances when you have extra stuff to bring back on your return journey (like maybe some large textiles from the local craft markets, some large gifts for your friends…). Of course, you could take with you a half empty luggage (especially if you have an idea of the size and weight of the extra stuff you intend to travel back with) but it is an unnecessary hassle, and exposes you to potential luggage fees or difficulties to find room for your luggage in the train, bus, plane…
One better option in my opinion is to travel with one expandable soft bag. When collapsed, they take little space and add virtually no weight. There are many models available but not all are equal. One thing to check is the carry option. Most of them have just handles and often a removable shoulder strap.
Being very light, these are not really designed for long haul with heavy loads.
The sea to summit model is one of the smallest when collapsed but is also very uncomfortable to carry (only handles). I have used dozens of them from Patagonia and, in my opinion, here are the 2 best ones :
- The Marmot kompressor duffle (see picture). This super-extra light (only 1 pound , i.e 450 grams) collapsable duffle bag has a side pocket in which the bag packs itself. This side pocket is great for carrying gels when using it as a carry-on on the plane. The bag offers three carrying options. Handles, removable shoulder pad, but the best way is to use the large and comfortable handles to carry it over one shoulder. I cannot count how many trips I have made with my Marmot kompressor. The bag, despite being leightweight is very durable. Only problem is the bag is being discontinued so you should hurry and grab one (or two) while you still can. At the time of this writing, there are four left available through masseysoutfitters.com (regular price was around $79 and now the few items can be had for less than sixty).
- Another great option is the Gregory stash duffel in its 45 liters option. Its dimensions are 21.5×13.5×11 in. It has a thicker fabric than the Marmot (but weight remains very reasonable at only 700 grams) and takes more space when folded but might be better suited for heavy loads and wetter climates. It is now being discounted in one of the three colors (green-kaki, ted, dark grey) and you should be able to get it for less than 70 USD.
The Gregory stash has a small zippered pocket on the outside. Remember outside pockets (at least one) on a travel bag are an absolute must-have feature.
Both bags have compression straps, solid handles.