The foundation of any business trip or vacation is the luggage. Bags, packs, and suitcases are necessary to get our stuff from one place to the next. Even a weekend trip requires a pack of some kind, especially if you’re traveling by bus, plane, or cruise.
Which bag you choose can make the difference between enjoying a memorable vacation and surviving a living hell.
You may have found the right suitcase, but it doesn’t fit the carry-on requirements so it has to be checked, where it’s stolen. Perhaps you have a messenger bag, laptop case, or school backpack that can store a few essentials but is useless for longer trips.
I reached out to luggage and bag companies to obtain their latest technologies. Click here for a more in-depth look at the camping and backpacking packs we collected, or read on to learn more about the duffles, messenger bags, totes, packs, and more that make hauling your stuff easier.
Topo Designs Mountain Duffel ($229 at TopoDesigns.com)
Topo Designs is based in Colorado and dedicated to creating high quality outdoor bags, packs, and clothing. The company calls the Mountain Duffel the ideal haul bag, and I can’t say I disagree.
Made from 1000d Cordura fabric with a ballistic Cordura base and coated cloth liner, this 61.4 liter duffel is available in bold colors or a clean, basic black. Everything on this duffel is high quality, and if you’re tired of carrying it, there are even backpack straps inside that can be attached to use the duffel as a backpack.
Be wary that wearing this duffel as a backpack should only be done for short term usage to go easy on your back, neck, and shoulders. There’s no hip belt or contoured back design, so you’ll feel the load a lot more than you would a standard backpacking pack. It’ll move around quite a bit as you walk too.
Still, for a multipurpose bag with a lot of room and multiple ways to carry it, you can’t go wrong with this oversized Mountain Duffel from Topo Designs.
Granite Gear Cross Trek 26″ Wheeled Duffel ($189.99 at GraniteGear.com)
Granite Gear is the preferred travel bag for explorers and adventurers all around the world. That’s because whether you’re hauling equipment for school, flying around the world, or trekking through the most extreme conditions on the planet, these bags hold up.
The Cross Trek 26″ (also available in 22″, 32″, and a 22″ version with a removable pack) shows exactly why. Although labeled a duffel, it’s a wheeled suitcase with sturdy wheels neatly tucked into the body.
It also has hidden backpack straps that can be pulled out and attached (don’t forget the load-bearing straps up top shown in the picture below) so you can wear it on your back. This is extremely useful when you have a short layover and need to rush to another terminal where wheeled luggage becomes more of a hindrance than help.
Unlike the Mountain Duffel, these straps include a hip belt and sternum strap to stabilize the load, which is nice since it ups the ante with 74 liters of storage space. Also if you pick up a few things when you’re already overpacked, that red zipper in the photo above extends the pack out another few inches to provide more space to pack.
If you travel a lot and need a sturdy all-in-one bag, The Cross Trek series from Granite Gear is about as close as you’re going to get. Convertible, water resistant, and with what the company calls Gear-Tec technology (along with water repellant zippers) keeping your electronics safe.
Cotopaxi Nazca 24L Travel Pack ($139.95 at Cotopaxi.com)
Cotopaxi was created by a group of designers and adventurers in Utah seeking better ways to travel. The Nazca Travel Pack is one of the coolest laptop bags I’ve come across.
Not only is it roomy inside the water-resistant nylon/cotton canvas shell, but it also has all the organization you need – a padded laptop sleeve, zippered, fleece-lined front pocket, and more.
Also, it can easily be converted from a messenger type bag to a backpack to be carried however is most convenient for you.
This bag is sturdy, lightweight, and small enough to carry with you in any situation (including meeting carry-on guidelines for any airline). It’s professional looking but also casual and a great pack to transition from school backpacks to the professional world.
If you have a lot of small electronics or need your laptop/tablet with you everywhere you go, Nazca is a great bag to consider. Lawyers, teachers, and other professionals who still deal with paper will appreciate it too. Whether a briefcase or backpack, this creation from Cotopaxi covers all the bases.
Cocoon Urban Adventure 16″ Backpack ($99.99 at CocoonInnovations.com)
While most luggage, pack, and bag companies these days include accommodations for modern technology, they’re typically focused on the travel aspect first. Cocoon Innovations was created with the sole idea of traveling with gadgets and tech.
That’s why the company created the Grid-It technology it uses in its Urban Adventure laptop backpack. Not only can it hold a 16″ laptop, all your small electronics and personal items can be organized in the front pocket for easy access without all the tangling, misplacement, and other issues you’ll face with other packs.
Urban Adventure can also hold a tablet on top of the laptop inside the water-resistant, wax-canvas shell. Organization of multiple small electronic devices is the name of this game, and Cocoon plays it very well.
Timbuk2 Robin Pack ($179 at Timbuk2.com)
Timbuk2 was started in 1989 by San Francisco bike messenger Rob Honeycutt with the idea of supporting the local community with intuitive designs being locally manufactured. Creativity and customization is Timbuk2’s specialty, and each bag type can be created with a variety of textiles and patterns.
While the Robin Pack looks simple, it’s actually a very well designed pack with a lot of great hidden features I don’t often see. For starters, there’s the magnetic flap clips inside the fabric and an adjustable magnetic sternum strap. It’s also reflective, making it perfect for wearing on a bike.
Instead of a zipper, the Robin Pack uses a rolltop with snaps, making it weatherproof. It’s small in size (it can fit a 13″ laptop), but can be expanded for extra storage space if necessary (though can still only fit a 13″ laptop).
Designed with cyclists in mind, this is the bag to get if you’re going to be riding a lot on your trip. Clean and classic enough to be used for business as well as pleasure, it’s also one of the most affordable packs on this list, giving you wiggle room to customize it to fit your own personal style.
Kelty Dodger Duffel ($74.95 at Kelty.com)
Kelty has been making some of the best outdoor and camping gear out of Boulder, Colorado for decades. The Dodger Duffel is the company’s latest duffel bag with a lot of innovative features (and available in a variety of bright colors).
The exterior is fully padded, protecting whatever gear you pack into the 40L main compartment. An AirMesh shoulder strap is sturdy enough to carry heavy loads, but there’s also handles on all four sides so it can quickly be picked up from any angle.
If you’ve never been to Colorado (or Oregon, Washington – pretty much anywhere with trees in the American west coast), cannabis (and other drug) usage is quite popular out in the woods for people of all ages. That’s why Kelty even added a hidden safety pocket for your stash, although you’ll need a smell-proof insert to truly be safe.
With tons of pockets, plenty of space, and a solid exterior that can keep things safe, Kelty designed one of the best duffel bags on the planet. Use it as a gym bag, for your yoga equipment, or for your next camping or road trip. Regardless of where you go or what you plan to do when you get there, you’ll be happy you have this duffel.
TravelPro 21-inch International Expandable Rollaboard ($149.99 at TravelPro.com)
TravelPro has been designing luggage for flight professionals and frequent travelers for over twenty years, and this experience shows in the expandable 21-inch rollaboard suitcase featuring the company’s latest innovations.
This basic suitcase is small enough to fit carry-on restrictions and has a simple, all-black look that’ll look good wherever you go. Self-aligning magnetic wheel spinners, integrated USB port, aluminum extension handle, leather handles, and reinforced zippers add the final touches to this masterpiece of luggage.
Inside, you’ll have everything you need to pack and compress your clothes and gear, including compression straps, a garment bag, mesh and waterproof pockets, and easy-access pockets. Handles on both the top and side allow you to carry this bag however you want, and the rubberized wheels can roll across a lot of surfaces.
TravelPro is the luggage you want if you fly a lot. You can rest easy knowing you don’t have to check it and it’s sturdy enough to last a lifetime.
Waterfield Designs Vitesse Duffel ($149 at SFBags.com)
Another San Francisco-based company, Waterfield Designs uses high-end materials to make quality, small-batch cases that won’t break down on you over time. These things are built to last a lifetime and add a layer of protection to your favorite mobile devices.
The company also designs bags, and we were able to get a hold of this canvas and leather cycling bag, which is small enough to fit most airline carry-on size restrictions. It’s either a small duffel or oversized murse, depending on how you want to look at it.
Room inside and hand-stitched from the best materials, this bag is a great way to make a statement while matching your gear cases. This 3DS XL case, for example, adds a level of style and makes you feel a bit more adult while carrying around your games and equipment.
Not nearly as technologically advanced as the rest of the bags on this list, Waterfield Designs is typically more focused on cases anyway. The bag has a nice, old-school feel to it, however, and is a great soft case for carrying tools and other gear.
Mission Workshop Transit: Duffel ($265 at MissionWorkshop.com)
Yet another San Francisco-based company, Mission Workshop was created in 2009 to create innovative bag designs for the modern urban environment. The Transit: Duffel expands on the laptop bag design for an expandable shoulder bag, duffel, and even a backpack with the optional $25 backpack strap.
Made of 1000d Cordura nylon with a waterproof liner, this 31 liter duffel can fit a 15-inch laptop and fit in an airplane’s overhead bin. It can also attach to a front porteur-style bike rack.
For daily usage, this is a great laptop carrier. I’ve often used my Samsonite laptop bag as an overnight or weekend bag, so I appreciate the expandable pockets and options to convert this into a proper duffel.
It’s not the most comfortable backpack, but having the option for an on-the-spot conversion is nice. There are many times carrying a shoulder bag I just want to sling it over my back to relieve shoulder strain – Mission Workshop makes that possible with the Transit: Duffel.
Mission Workshop Helmsman Rolltop Duffle ($265 at MissionWorkshop.com)
The problem with most bags is they’re not expandable, so you’re somewhat limited in what you can carry in them. By integrating a rolltop design into the Helmsman, Mission Workshop created a duffel that is easily expandable into a tote bag.
It also rolls down with a velcro design that makes it weatherproof and easily able to keep your gear dry while biking through urban environments. The Bay Area is a big biking community and only the best gear survives there.
Constructed of an HT500 outer shell and urethane-coated nylon liner that’s resistant to tears. The handles hide away and allow you to use either the removable shoulder strap or the optional $25 backpack harness.
The harness works on both Mission Workshop bags, so it’s interchangeable between them if you have more than one.
The Helmsman is designed with cyclists in mind and can attach to a bike as well. Each of the Mission Workshop duffles was designed for a different usage, and both do it well. Bikers should consider these packs for cross country trips and long-distance endurance races.
Uncharted Supply Co The Seventy2 Backpack ($349.99 at UnchartedSupplyCo.com)
Back in 2014, Christian Schauf, the founder of Uncharted Supply Co., had an epiphany – most of us are grossly unprepared for an emergency situation. What would you do if you found yourself broken down in the middle of nowhere with nothing but what’s in your car to survive?
Unless you’re one of the small group of trained survivalists, doomsday preppers, or rampant outdoor enthusiasts, odds are you don’t have everything on hand and readily available for an emergency. That’s why Uncharted Supply Co developed The Seventy2, a 72-hour survival pack filled with everything you need to survive an emergency situation.
Pulling the inner pack out, you’ll see labeled compartments for easy access to gear and tools for warmth, first aid, water filtration, charging, repair, starting a fire, finding food, and more. There’s even an emergency ration to keep you going long enough to survive.
I’ve seen several emergency preparation kits, and they’re often filled with shoddy tools you wouldn’t buy individually. The tools break, matches rarely light, and all sorts of problems occur when these corners or cut, The Seventy2 doesn’t do this – each item is of high quality, and I’ll have a more in-depth review up soon.
The Seventy2 isn’t necessarily a travel backpack (although the outer shell is made of high-quality waterproof fabric) but instead a survival device. Every bit of it has a use – the outer shell can be used for personal flotation, the PVC insert can be used to create snowshoes or used as a sling, and there’s even room to store a few personal belongings like a cell phone and cash.
This is the bag you leave in your car for every road trip in case things go down. It’s the perfect bug-out bag for the zombie apocalypse.