I should start this post by stating that I have spent 3-ish years on the road and have used many different travel bags. And while I’m fairly certain I’ve finally found the best fit for my travel style, I’ve made more than a few mistakes along the way. And I *think* I’ve finally developed some expertise on the subject…
Many would-be travelers have misconceptions about what luggage is best to carry on their adventure. Some feel strongly that they must invest in a suitcase with wheels and others feel that a traditional “trekking backpack” is the best choice. I would argue that your choice of luggage should really depend on several factors:
- How long you plan to be away
- Where you are going
- How much you’re packing
- Whether you’re renting a car or using public transportation to get around
- Whether you’d prefer to look like a “stylish traveler” or a “dirty backpacker”
I would not recommend a bag with wheels if your destination includes uneven sidewalks (Egypt), cobblestone streets (Germany, Spain) or lots of stairs (Morocco).
And I generally do not recommend a traditional “trekking backpack” for general non-hiking travel for a few reasons. They limit your options for a carry-on bag (you can bring a smaller backpack but you’ll have to wear it on your chest), it’s incredibly difficult to get to anything that is not right on top, and you’ll just look like a “backpacker”.
I currently carry a 45-liter Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag (described below) and a purse that has detachable backpack straps so I can wear it either way. Nick travels with a 60-liter REI duffel bag that has sadly been discontinued and a Peak Design Everyday Backpack (also described below). We prefer duffel bags as they make it easy to access all of our belongings and don’t make us feel like we should be hiking up the side of a mountain when we’re just walking from our taxi to our hotel.
So I’ve compiled a list of our favorite luggage pieces that are attractive, durable, lightweight, and reasonably priced to keep you traveling in style!
- Duffel Bags
- Roller Bags
- Photography Bags
- Day Packs
- Large “Trekking” Backpacks
The Best “Can’t Decide if I Want a Duffel or a Backpack” Bags
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag
The durable Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag combines the carrying ease of a backpack with the accessibility ease of a duffel bag. The backpack straps are easily removable if you’d rather use it as a duffel. And the U-shaped lid makes it easy to find what you’re looking for without having to dump everything out as you would with a traditional backpack.
- Highly water-resistant
- Made of burly polyester ripstop material
- Stuffs into it’s own pocket for easy storage
- Small mesh pockets to easy access important items
- Padded bottom for extra protection
- Four daisy chains for attaching extras to the outside of the bag
Osprey Packs Transporter 65 Expedition Duffel
The Osprey Packs Transporter 65 Expedition Duffel is easy to carry as a backpack, over your shoulder, or in your hand. The fabric is built tough and it includes overlapping zipper rain flaps to keep it securely water resistant. Your things will be safe inside, not matter what the weather may bring.
- Weather-protected with overlapping rain flaps
- Stowaway harness and yoke
- 8 side lashing points for extra gear
- Internal zippered mesh side panel pocket
- Adjustable shoulder strap included
Marmot Long Hauler Travel Duffel Bag
The Marmot Long Hauler Travel Duffel Bag has detachable handles that convert into shoulder straps so you can carry it as a duffel or as a backpack. The large, D-shaped top opening allows easy access to all of your belongings. Plus it has lots of little pockets inside for laundry and smaller accessories.
- 75 liters in size
- Rain flap to keep your gear dry
- Zippered end pockets to keep you organized
- Full-length locking two-way zipper
- Double-bottom for increased durability
The Best Quality Leather Duffel Bag
Kodiak Classic Weekender Duffel
This Kodiak Classic Weekender Duffel started as a successful Kickstarter campaign and is now available for purchase on their website. It is 100% buffalo leather with a large interior compartment to hold 60 liters worth of your important travel gear. It even has a separate shoe compartment on the bottom of the bag to keep you organized.
- Large, 21″ x 11″ x 11″ interior compartment
- 100% buffalo leather
- Detachable and adjustable padded leather strap
- 2 exterior pockets side pockets and 1 front zipper pocket
- Interior zippered pocket
- 5 solid brass feet to protect bottom
- Brass hardware
- YKK zippers
The Best Lumbersexual Bag
Carhartt Legacy Gear Bag
If you’re the type of traveler that’s generally pretty rough on your stuff, you’ll love the super durable Carhartt Legacy Gear Bag. Made from heavy-duty synthetic fabric and coated to repel both dirt and water, this bag won’t stain or tear. And weighing only 2.3 pounds, it’s easy to carry and to store when you’re not on-the-go.
- 30w x 14h x 15d inches in size, only 2.3 pounds in weight
- Triple needle stitching and reinforced seams
- Rain and dirt repellent coating
- Heavy-duty Duravax abrasion-resistant base
- Removable, adjustable shoulder strap
The Best “Easy to Spot” Roller Bag
Fochier Luggage Expandable Spinner Suitcase
Fochier Luggage offers bright colors so that your bag is easily spotted on the luggage belt. It is also extremely durable but with a fully lined interior to protect your belongings from aggressive baggage handlers. If you plan to be traveling in cities with well-paved sidewalks, rolling this baggage along will be a breeze!
- 2-year warranty
- TSA approved
- Locking handle system
- Multi-directional spinner wheels
The Best Lightweight but Durable Roller Bag
Travelpro Maxlite3 International Carry-On
If you’re looking for just a simple, lightweight, easy to maneuver piece of luggage, then the Travelpro Maxlite3 International Carry-On is a great choice. The Honeycomb Framing System and foam construction ensure that it’s extremely durable while remaining lightweight. And the corner guards and crash-guard wheel housings keep it from getting damaged, even if you’re rough on it.
- 23.6 x 16 x 11 inches in size
- Polyester fabric with water repellent coating
- Protective skid guards, corner guards and crash-guard wheel housings
- Tapered expansion capability of up to 2″ so you can fit all of your souvenirs
- Limited lifetime warranty
The Best Backpack-on-Wheels
Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Luggage
Can’t decide if you want a duffel, a backpack, or a wheeled bag? No problem! The Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Luggage is all three in one convenient package! Use it as a roller bag when on smooth ground and then convert it to a backpack or carry it in your hand when the terrain gets rough.
- 80 liters, 28 inches in size
- High-rolling clearance for a smooth ride
- Deployable harness, hip belt, and back panel so you can wear it long distances comfortably
- Ventilated backpack suspension system that is adjustable for multiple torso sizes and removable for additional space
- Compression straps to secure contents
- Aluminum frame
The Best Travel Photographer’s Backpack
Peak Design Everyday Backpack
The Everyday Backpack by Peak Design is perfect for the traveling photographer! It is a sleek and stylish backpack with padded dividers to keep all of your camera gear protected as well as separated. It also has both top and side access so you can always find what you need quickly and easily.
- Available in 20 or 30 liters depending on your sizing needs
- Holds 2 DSLR camera bodies and several lenses
- Weatherproof side zips
- Weatherproof 400D nylon canvas shell
- FlexFold dividers to keep your gear protected and organized
- Suited both for daily commuting or extended travel
- Padded sleeve for up to 15″ laptop or tablet
The Best Travel Camera Messenger Bag
Evecase Urban Life Messenger DSLR Camera Bag
The Evecase Urban Life Messenger DSLR Camera Bag is the perfect photography bag both for long-term travelers and weekend warriors. It will keep all of your gear protected while remaining stylish and organized. Plus it’s water resistant so you don’t have to worry about your camera if you get caught in the rain while out adventuring!
- Fits a camera body, 1-2 standard lenses, and a 10.1-inch tablet securely
- Water resistent
- Closed cell foam padding and inserts for gear protection
- Front pocket with zippered mesh divider and double side pockets
The Best “City Living” Day Pack
Fjallraven No. 21 Medium Rucksack
If you like the classic Fjallraven style but also want something large enough for your laptop and other travel essentials, then the Fjallraven No. 21 Medium Rucksack is the perfect choice! It’s large enough to be your carry-on and fit all of your plane travel essentials but also trendy enough to be the bag you wear around the city.
- One large front pocket and side pockets
- Top loading main compartment
- Padded laptop compartment
- Removable seat pad
The Best Anti-Theft Backpack
Pacsafe Venturesafe 15L GII Anti-Theft Daypack
If safety is a primary concern when choosing your travel luggage, then the Pacsafe Venturesafe 15L GII Anti-Theft Daypack is the day pack for you. It is lightweight, extremely durable, and the fabric is embedded with a stainless steel wire mesh to stop it from being slashed. You can travel around the city with ease knowing that your pack is protected from pickpockets!
- 6.3 x 17.7 x 10.2 inches in size
- Fabric embedded with eXomesh Slashguard to keep your bag from getting slashed
- Carrysafe Slashguard shoulder straps with wire running through to prevent straps from being cut
- Turn and Lock Security Hook for added security
- RFID blocking pocket for data security
- Padded laptop sleeve for 13-inch laptop
- 2 side stretch pockets for water bottles
The Best Convertible Strap Bag
Bostanten Casual Leather Satchel
Depending on your travel plans for the day, you may want to carry either a backpack or a regular purse. Instead of bringing multiple bags with you, simply opt for a convertible strap option like the Bostanten Casual Leather Satchel. You can wear it as a backpack while walking around the city by day and then as a purse for going out in the evenings.
- Made of full grain leather
- Removable shoulder strap
- Large compartment with 2 cell phone pockets, 1 inner zip pocket, and 2 outside pockets
- Large enough for a 10-inch tablet
The Best “Outdoorsy” Day Pack
Osprey Packs Daylite Plus Daypack
If you expect to be doing a lot of outdoor adventuring during your travels, then you’ll need a comfortable pack to carry on your treks. The Daylite Plus Daypack by Osprey will suit your needs while wandering around a city or climbing up the side of a mountain. Plus Osprey offers an “All-Mighty Guarantee” to repair any damage or defect free of charge, regardless of when it was purchased.
- 18 x 10 x 10 inches in size, 1.19 lbs in weight
- Mesh-covered foam back panel provides comfort and ventilation
- Large main compartment with large zippered panel
- Side mesh pockets for water bottles
- Front pocket with mesh organizer and key clip
- Interior sleeve for a tablet
- Front panel “Shove-It Pocket”
Large “Trekking” Backpacks
The Best “Backpacker” Pack
Osprey Aura 50 and Atmos 65
As we mentioned earlier, we would only recommend these traditional “trekking” backpacks if you are actually going on a trek. The benefit of these packs is that you can carry a lot of weight a long distance because it takes the pressure off of your shoulders and puts it onto your hips. Which is great when you’re climbing up the side of a mountain, but totally unnecessary when you only need to get your things from the bus or taxi to your hotel room.
If you do decide to buy a “trekking” backpack anyway, we recommend Osprey brand packs because they are a great quality, they won’t break the bank, and they have a solid quality guarantee. The Aura 50 is made specifically for women and the Atmos 65 for men.
Please let us know if you have a travel bag that you absolutely love that should be added to the list!
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