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The Best Expedition Duffel Bags – Reviewed

The Best Expedition Duffel Bags

Expedition Duffel Bags & Holdalls – Reviewed

When you’re heading away on an adventure involving gear intensive sports, you need luggage that’s roomy, easy to pack, water resistant and tough enough to withstand being dragged through airports and loaded on and off buses. Enter the expedition duffel bag.

Brands like The North Face, Patagonia and Osprey have been making these robust travel bags for years and have refined their range with some well-thought-out features. When choosing a holdall or duffel bag, the main things you’ll want to think about are how easy it is to pack, whether you need separate wet and dry compartments, how waterproof you need it to be, and the weight of the actual bag.

If weight isn’t an issue because you’ll mainly be lugging it on and off planes and trains, then you could consider buying a wheeled duffel bag. But if you’ll be loading your duffel onto a mule in Morocco, you’ll want a lighter traditional duffel. Whichever kind you go for, it’s worth investing in a good quality bag. The top brands produce highly durable holdalls and you’re going to get a lot of use out it for many years.

Here we review some of the best expedition duffel bags available:

Osprey Transporter Duffel Bag

Osprey Transporter 40 Duffel Bag

Osprey are synonymous with quality and the Transporter is no exception. The hard-wearing fabric may not be quite as durable or have the same level of water resistance as the urethane-coated Base Camp, but it will withstand baggage handler abuse on long-haul trips, and the beefy size 10 zip will certainly stand the test of time. A heavy-duty reinforced base also helps to protect your gear. This 40 litre model is the smallest of the four sizes in the Transporter range and conforms to EU standards for carry-on baggage, so it’ll fit in the overhead locker. The large D-shaped opening makes it easy to pack and access your stuff and there’s good options for storing smaller items including a mesh pocket on the underside of the lid, a separate internal zipped compartment and a large zipped pocket on the front of the duffel. A highly recommended travel companion.

Capacity: 40 litres
Backpack straps: Yes
Price: £60
Available from: Amazon.co.uk

The North Face Base Camp Duffel

The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag

Bomb-proof construction and well thought out design makes the Base Camp holdall an expedition classic. The North Face uses a polyurethane coated fabric giving the bag great water resistance and making it robust enough for a round the world adventure. The Base Camp has a cavernous main compartment, a zipped mesh pocket for smaller items and a separate compartment at one end to keep wet clothes, dirty shoes or extra gear away from your main luggage. Detachable padded shoulder straps mean the duffel can be used as a backpack, or the straps can be removed and stowed when travelling by plane.

Capacity: 95 litres (L)
Backpack straps: Yes
Price: £130 (L)
Available from: Amazon.co.uk

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Travel Bag

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag

This duffel will quickly become your go to bag when you need to pack a lot of gear for a trip. The bag is made from robust ripstop polyester fabric which provides good waterproofing and feels like you couldn’t trash it if you tried. The glossy finish might not be to everyone’s taste though. A large D-shaped opening provides access to the main compartment which has two mesh compartments on the underside to help keep small items from getting lost, and on the front of the bag there’s a good sized stash pocket. An internal compression system helps you get a few extra t-shirts into the main compartment and daisy chain loops on the outside make it easy to lash on extra gear. Like the Base Camp, the Black Hole also has comfy removable shoulder straps, but it’s missing the separate compartment for wet gear.

Capacity: 60 litres
Backpack straps: Yes
Price: £85
Available from: Amazon.co.uk

Helly Hansen Duffle Bag 2

Helly Hansen HH 70L Holdall

The Helly Hansen Duffel Bag II comes in a 30, 70 and 90 litre versions. The 70 litre is a good size for most trips and offers the versatility of removable shoulder straps which turn the holdall into a backback. Helly Hansen describe the fabric as being waterproof but with the zippers and stitching, the bag is only water resistant. A good sized external pocket gives you easy to reach storage for small things and there’s another pocket inside and a wash kit pouch which doubles as a stuff sack to stow the holdall.

Capacity: 70 litres
Backpack straps: Yes
Price: £80
Available from: Amazon.co.uk

Karrimor 70L Duffel Bag

Karrimor 70L Duffel Bag

The Karrimor duffel feels well made and robust but the zips aren’t as beefy as the size 10 zippers used on the North Face Base Camp or Patagonia Black Hole. The main compartment has a huge 70 litre capacity, making it a good size for anything from long weekends to extended trips away. Removable backpack straps are easy to get on and off and a waterproof internal pocket protects your travel documents and electronic gadgets from the elements. There are daisy chain loops on the outside for lashing gear, but it’s missing an external zip pocket.

Capacity: 70 litres
Backpack straps: Yes
Price: £80
Available from: Amazon.co.uk

Mammut Cargon Duffel Bag

Mammut Cargon Duffel Bag

The rectangular shape of the Mammut Cargon duffel means it doesn’t come tumbling down if it’s stacked with other luggage. An exterior pocket at either end of the bag and a pocket on the underside of the lid means there’s lots of options for stashing smaller items. A large D-shaped opening gives great access to the main compartment. Tough, easy to find zipper pulls mean you can get into the bag even with cold, wet fingers. The Cargon isn’t waterproof, but it is water resistant and has a reinforced and waterproof bottom panel in case you need to put it down on wet ground.

Capacity: 90 litres
Backpack straps: Yes
Price: £100
Available from: Amazon.co.uk

Marmot Long Hauler Duffel Backpack

Marmot Long Hauler Duffel Backpack

The Marmot Long Hauler has everything you need in an expedition duffel. Quality materials and strong stitching means no more broken zips or busted seams, and the water-shedding polyester fabric will keep your gear dry in all but the worst rainstorms. A D-shaped opening gives easy access to the main compartment and Marmot have designed the shoulder straps not to get in the way when you need to get at your gear. A separate compartment at one end of the bag let’s you store smaller items you need to access quickly, or gives you somewhere to keep wet or dirty gear away from your clean clothes. And with a zipped pouch in the main compartment and two internal zipped mesh pockets there’s loads of options for organising your stuff.

Capacity: 38 litres (S), 50 litres (M), 75 litres (L), 110 Litres (XL)
Backpack straps: Yes
Price: From £75
Available from: Amazon.co.uk

The North Face Rolling Thunder 36 Wheeled Duffel Bag

The North Face Rolling Thunder 36 Wheeled Duffel

The huge 155 litre capacity and rugged construction makes the Rolling Thunder a great choice for extended trips and serious expeditions. This bag swallows gear like a grizzly bear swallows salmon. Fully loaded, it’s a beast, but the sturdy wheels make it easy to get from the bus to the plane. Lots of travel-savvy features are packed into the design like the separate zippered compartment to keep dirty shoes away from your main luggage, a quick-access external zippered pocket and a large mesh pocket on the underside of the lid with compartments for smaller items. The materials used in the bag’s construction are the same as the Base Camp but with the addition of a sturdy frame to add rigidity when wheeling. Plastic bumpers on the underside of the bag provide extra abrasion resistance, but it’s a shame these aren’t on all four corners. On my older model the top corners are the only part of the bag showing wear and tear after innumerable trips and heavy usage.

Capacity: 155 litres
Backpack straps: No
Price: £260
Available from: Amazon.co.uk