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.
Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 40L ($119) was my former favorite duffel bag, but it’s been displaced by the REI Co-op Big Haul and bumped down a notch. It’s still a great duffel bag. Two things jumped out about the Cargo Hauler. One: It weighs 1 pound, 13 ounces, which is only slightly heavier than air. Two: It has backpack straps that stow away in a front pocket. It feels less heavy-duty than the other duffel bags in this guide, although it’s not cheap-feeling by any means.
Solgaard Carry-On Closet Plus ($295) is 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.
Away Bigger Carry-On ($295) 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 discreet navy blue to pink, green, or lavender. The optional, ejectable battery bank costs an extra $20.
Ebags CTS Carry-On Spinner ($200) wasn’t bad, but there are much better options for the money. Its hard plastic sides felt more brittle than the hard-sided plastic Away suitcases, so although I didn’t break it during my use, I’d worry about its resistance to shattering if checked by an airline. The handle rattled a lot, and it didn’t roll quite as smoothly as the other bags. Still, its strong suits were that it came with several interior organizing cubes, and the exterior pocket had three sleeves with which to organize and separate small travel goods, such as tablets and toiletries.
Samsonite Outline Pro Carry-On ($200) 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.
Patagonia Black Hole 40L ($159) 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.
Adidas Defender Duffel ($40) isn’t a dedicated travel bag, but if you’re looking for an inexpensive duffel that’ll handle some light-duty traveling, it’s 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 ($345) 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.
The North Face Base Camp ($129) is a cylindrical duffel bag, unlike most duffel bags these days. 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.