Not every good product can snag a best-in-category title, but there are several more bags we’ve tested that get our thumbs-up and deserve a mention.
The North Face Base Camp for $129: Unlike most duffel bags these days, this is a cylindrical duffel bag. If you’re a folder, it can be difficult to keep everything straight and wrinkle-free as you pack it into the Base Camp’s curved bottom, although those who roll their clothes won’t have any problems. The materials felt cheaper than other duffel bags in this guide. It’s a workhorse used often by the outdoors crowd, so while the water-resistant fabric and the handles are durable, they just don’t feel as nice to the touch.
Patagonia Black Hole 40L for $159: This is another great adventure duffel with a water-resistant fabric coating and backpack straps. Compared to the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler, though, less of the external fabric is water-resistant, and it’s an inch and a half too thick in one dimension for US domestic carry-on requirements. But it’s a duffel, so you can squish it to fit in an overhead bin if it’s not completely packed full.
Gregory Alpaca 40 Duffel for $140: This one really impressed me. It weighs a scant 2.7 pounds, yet the water-resistant fabric and extraordinarily beefy (though plastic) buckles make it a solid bag for adventuring. It’s not quite as burly as the Base Camp, Big Haul, and Red Oxx bags, and it lacks triple-stitching, but it feels tougher than most, including the Eagle Creek below. There’s an exterior pocket for storing shoes or dirty clothes. The backpack straps don’t tuck away for storage—you have to unclip them—but might be the most well-padded, comfortable straps I’ve encountered on a duffel yet. Colors are limited to black, red, and green, but the few that exist are very stylish, inside and out. Exterior daisy chains and an interior zippered pocket round out the impressive features list.
Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 40L for $149: Two things jumped out about the Cargo Hauler. First, it weighs 1 pound, 13 ounces, which is only slightly heavier than air. Second, it has backpack straps that stow away in a front pocket. It’s less heavy-duty than the other duffels in this guide, but it doesn’t feel cheap by any means.
Skyway Epic Carry-On for $80: Cheap bags under $100 are usually dodgy junk. At 7.1 pounds, the Epic is on the lighter end of average. While it’s a fair bit cheaper than the Maxlite 5, our favorite budget bag, it’s also a couple of pounds heavier. The handle is a wee bit more finicky, and the Travelpro’s wheels glide a little more nicely. Still, for under $100, the Skyway’s zippers and wheels were of fine quality. These are areas cheap bags usually skimp on. I’d still encourage you to step up to the Maxlite 5 or wait for a sale if you can, but if you must spend less than a Benjamin on a bag, the Epic is a solid choice.
Solgaard Carry-On Closet Plus for $365: It’s a tiny bit over what most airlines list as the maximum dimensions, but the difference is so small that it’s accepted 95 percent of the time. WIRED reviewer Louryn Strampe praises its optional clip-in closet clothing organizer, which makes for efficient packing. The built-in TSA lock is easy to use, and there’s an internal power-bank pocket. This suitcase is included in our Favorite Upcycled Products guide.
July Checked for $325: This bag uses a polycarbonate shell with aluminum bumpers, striking a good compromise between weight and durability. It’s lighter than the 16-inch Monos checked bag that Adrienne So also tested by about a pound, and it showed fewer scratches and rub marks on a trip. However, the Monos’ telescoping handle has a much smoother roll-out, and the surface is smooth, not pebbled.
Away Bigger Carry-On for $335: Away’s larger size offers all the same handy interior organization modules as our top luxurious hard-shell pick, the Away Bigger Carry-On Aluminum Edition, but for less than half the price. And you can choose from a range of colors, from discrete navy blue to pink, green, or lavender. The optional, ejectable battery bank costs an extra $20.
Osprey Ozone for $280: Osprey’s 4.4-pound bag is basically a backpack mounted on a lightweight aluminum frame, with two wheels stuck to the bottom, and it zips open like a suitcase. It fits everywhere and also has a laptop sleeve compartment for your work accouterments. Just be warned that its 40-liter capacity is about the size of a large backpack, too, so you better be able to pack light.
Samsonite Outline Pro Carry-On for $200: This is a hard-side, four-wheeled spinner carry-on made from an outer shell of durable polypropylene. Standout features include an interior fabric made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles and a “WetPak” storage pocket for keeping damp items separated from the rest of your luggage. Product reviewer Medea Giordano, a notorious overpacker, was able to fit an entire long weekend’s worth of wardrobe in the Outline Pro.
Adidas Defender Duffel for $40: If you’re looking for an inexpensive duffel that’ll handle some light-duty traveling, this is a good way to save $100. The fabric is significantly thinner and less sturdy than that of other duffels in this guide, and it lacks backpack straps. If there’s a chance you’ll have to check it often, I’d look elsewhere. But for taking on the train or tossing into a car trunk, it’ll do the trick.
Paravel Aviator International Carry-On for $395: This carry-on has an interior lining made of recycled plastic bottles, a telescoping handle made of recycled aluminum, and vegan leather trim to help it stand out from all the plain black bags at the airport. Product reviewer Jaina Grey really fell in love with its roomy interior and durable, anti-scuff hard-shell exterior.