The main goal of this blog is to help its readers to travel smart and to travel light. In my opinion, which pieces of luggage you use speaks volume about how smart of a traveler you are. Simply put, each traveler should have at least one collapsable duffel in its luggage collection.
Most travelers own a cabin-sized regular trolley on wheels. This might be a very good choice for those traveling on a formal business trip when the luggage path is going to be mostly smooth like airports terminals and hotels corridors. If, however, you are traveling on less predictable paths, wheeled luggage are not necessarily your best choice (far from it). When your trip involves going up and down steps (think subway in Paris) walking on cobbled streets or making your way through a crowded market, you are likely to be better off with something you can carry alternatively on your side by the handles, on or over your shoulder or on your back. In all of these instances, a collapsible duffle bag should be part of your traveling arsenal because it adds three advantages : small size and weight when empty, various carrying options, and versatility of fitting in lots of tight spaces while providing ample storage.
To be complete, there is another GREAT advantage to owning a collapsible duffel bag and this would be true even for the die-hard luggage on wheels travelers. If you buy items on your trip to bring back home, having a small collapsible duffel bag in your trolley will avoid trying to find another piece of luggage at the last minute and/or having to carry (or check) extra pieces of wheels to bring back the extra stuff.
There are many duffel bags out there but not many great ones (btw the ones you usually find at the airports are often lousy). Even some otherwise reputable brands have some lousy products. The one made by Sea to Summit, for instance, is tiny but has straps which are so uncomfortable that it is almost impossible to carry , even on very short distances. and you can forget folding it back to its original size. For years, I used a very good one made by Marmot but this item has been discontinued.
I have tested more than two dozens of those duffels and can say with confidence that I would only recommend two references that are widely available in North America or Europe.
One is the Osprey transporter duffel bag 40. The transporter series comprise five different sizes but of course only the 40 liters is both easy to carry when full and be carried-on on the plane. . The bag is light, well-made, has several outside pockets (which is a must-have feature for any travel bag as far as I am concerned) and ample storage for its size. The bag can be carried three ways. by hand using the handles, on the shoulder on a strap or over the shoulder ( my favorite way of carrying it) because the straps are wide enough to be worn that way
It is available in three colors : grey (here), a dusty red (here) and a blue (here).
The normal price for this duffel is $69.95 but all links provided above reflect a somewhat lower price depending on the color.
While the Osprey is a very good choice, I have to admit I prefer the second option : the GREGORY stash 45. Gregory is a very famous brand for backpacks and hiking bags. The stash collection includes four different sizes (45, 65, 95 and a humongous 115 liters version !). Obviously, the 45 liters is the smallest one and the only one you can carry-on board.
The Gregory duffel may look a little bit less “fancy” than the Osprey but it is really amazing how much can be fit into this bag. The only advantage of the Osprey is that the Gregory only has one outside pocket while the transporter 40 has three. In my experience what makes this bag superior to the Osprey is how snug the bag can be adjusted with the compression straps. These are the best compression bags I have seen on a collapsible duffel : instead of running across the width of the bag (like every single other travel duffel I have ever tested) the compression straps run along the width of the bag and allow the bag to be tightened really snug (and without effort) depending how stuffed it is.
The Gregory Stash collection comes in three different colors : a Safari green (think army kakis), a bright red, a dark grey (called tarmac black but it is grey) and a bright red (sunset red)
The Gregory stash 45 normally retails for around $85 to $90 but currently there is a BIG promotion at amazon on the blue one that can be had for $49.95 only (here) There is also a black version available at this price but as a smart traveler of course you know better than to get a black piece of luggage, do you ?
It looks like the Gregory stash collection is going through a cosmetic change and this price is so low because this is the remaining stock of the current look. This version I think is at least as good as the next one and there are ONLY ten bags left. I think you should grab one while you still can. The newer version has a more bland mainstream look. If you prefer the latest version you can get it here (grey) (orange) and (olive) As you can notice there is no more blue color in the newer look so one more reason to get the one on sale listed above if you like the blue color.
Whichever version you choose and whether you buy one as a main travel carry-on bag or as a additional bag to store in your wheeled luggage in case you got more stuff on the way back , these two duffels will provide you with years of service and allow you to keep on traveling smartly and efficiently.
Happy travels !