We learned a lesson in the cruise ship’s departure line: wheels on your bag help. My husband carried his duffel bag, and by the time we got through customs his shoulders ached. It would have been great if he’d been able to roll his bag along instead of carrying it. A wheeled duffel bag is the best of both worlds: a versatile, roomy duffel that you can pull behind you. In this article, we’ll discuss how to select the best rolling duffel for your next trip.
(Sneak peak: Our favorite is the Eagle Creek Gear (Load) Warrior.)
These are our favorite rolling duffels for 2020:
- Travelpro Bold
- Olympia 8-pocket
- AmazonBasics Ripstop
- Eagle Creek Gear (Load) Warrior (our favorite)
- Timberland Luggage Twin Mountain
What is the difference between a duffel bag and a suitcase?
You might be wondering how to define a duffel bag. Traditionally a duffel bag is made of strong cloth, tied at the top, and carried over the shoulder. That definition has expanded to cover a range of soft-sided bags. Many duffel bags now have wheels for convenience.
By the way – did you know that both “duffel” and “duffle” are correct? It seems that generally “duffel” is used more commonly in the US while “duffle” is used in the UK.
Since a rolling duffel bag has wheels, is it any different from a suitcase? Although similar, there are a few distinctions between duffel bags and suitcases.
Size is the most obvious difference between duffels and suitcases. Duffel bags often come in bigger sizes than suitcases, so they can hold more. Just remember that a big duffel bag can get quite heavy when filled. If you plan to carry your bag instead of rolling it at any point, be mindful of the weight.
Suitcases have more rigid sides than duffel bags. A suitcase might do a better job of protecting fragile items, but it’s also not as flexible. Some duffel bags have a built-in frame, but they fold nearly flat and can squeeze wherever you need them to go.
Both duffel bags and suitcases offer varying degrees of organizational features. They might have details like dividers, pockets, and compression straps. Or they might have just one or two main compartments. Packing cubes provide a solution for organizing duffel bags and suitcases alike.
Finally, suitcases usually have wheels, but not all duffel bags have wheels. Wheels make it easier to transport your luggage. This article is about rolling duffel bags, so all the duffel bags reviewed in this article do have wheels.
How do I choose a rolling duffel bag?
There are several categories to consider when choosing a rolling duffel bag.
Duffel bags are available in many different sizes and shapes. The length of the duffel bags we saw varied from carry on size (around 22 inches) to oversize (37 inches or more).
When choosing your duffel bag size, consider how much you need to pack. The bigger the bag, the greater the capacity. How long is your trip? Determine if you need enough space for a few days or a few weeks. Also, if you have extra gear to pack you will need a larger bag.
Also remember to consider the total weight of the bag. The bigger the bag, the more it will weigh when filled. The largest duffel bags might qualify as over-sized and cost you extra.
Material & design
Duffel bags were originally made of a soft, strong cloth. In fact, the duffel was named after the town where the fabric was originally made. These days duffel bags are often made of synthetic material like polyester or nylon. Ripstop fabric, which is often used, makes your duffel more durable. For more protection you can look for water-resistant or waterproof material. And some fabrics resist stains or wipe down easily, which is a plus.
Structured duffel bags can stand upright, making packing and finding items easy. Unstructured bags won’t stand by themselves, but they compress for storage and transport. Whether your bag is structured or not, you’ll want to pack the heaviest items on the bottom so your bag won’t topple over.
Some duffel bags have just one or two main compartments. This might seem fine, but if you lose a favorite pair of socks at the bottom of your bag, you’ll reconsider. Organization is the solution.
The best duffel bags keep you organized with compression straps, dividers, and pockets. One of the most common helpful features is a divider in the middle of the large section. You can keep your often-used items on the top for easy access and your less frequently needed items on the bottom.
You can still make a one-compartment bag work, though. If you’re going to be living out of your suitcase, get some packing cubes to organize your things.
It can be hard to find a rolling duffel bag that will perform well when traveling. No one wants their zipper or wheels to break in the middle of their trip!
We put forth our best effort to find wheeled duffels that should last longer than a trip or two. We’ve noted the weaknesses so you can make an informed decision even if you’re on a budget.
Which is the best rolling duffel bag?
Best rolling duffel bag for long trips and international travel: Travelpro Bold
The Travelpro Bold is a large duffel bag. With enough room for ten or more days, it is perfect for international travel. The rugged fabric has a water resistant coating. Reinforced wheel housings and skid guards protect the wheels. Its aluminum telescoping handle stops at 38” and 42” for users of different heights. Cushioned neoprene carry handles join together so you can lift the bag comfortably. There is no shoulder strap. There are compression straps and pockets, including an exterior wet pocket for damp or dirty items. And Travelpro offers a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.
Dimensions: 31″ x 16.5″ x 17″ with 118 L capacity. (64.5 linear inches)
- Durable and good quality.
- Zippers and wheels both function well and seem sturdy.
- Easy to lift with cushioned carry handles.
- High-density polyester fabric has coating that repels rain and resists stains.
- Functional design, with easily accessible compartments and zippered separator.
- Stands up on one end.
- It is possible to add two standard locks for security.
- Large capacity: holds clothes for 10+ days or two sets of dive gear.
- Heavy. Easy to pack over airline’s 50 lb. limit.
- Big. If you don’t pack it well, it might topple over or items might move around the bag.
- Doesn’t have a shoulder strap for carrying.
- One user claimed the zipper split on the first use and the warranty wasn’t honored.
Best budget rolling duffel bag: Olympia 8-pocket
The Olympia 8-pocket duffel is a solid choice for the budget conscious traveler. As the name suggests, it features eight pockets for organization. It is available in four sizes: 22, 26, 29, and 33 inches. A U-shaped top opening provides easy access to the main compartment. Its retractable push-button handle hides away in its own zippered pocket.
|22 inch duffel||22″||12″||12″||5.1 lbs|
|26 inch duffel||26″||13″||14″||5.8 lbs|
|29 inch duffel||29″||14″||15″||6.8 lbs|
|33 inch duffel||33″||14″||15.5″||7.1 lbs|
- Large capacity. Some users say the smallest (22″) bag holds enough for any trip.
- Great value. Most users say it performs as expected for the price.
- Makes packing easy. Can stand up if packed evenly. Huge zippered opening.
- Very lightweight.
- Easy to wipe off if it gets wet or dirty.
- Collapses to 1” tall. Will fit under bed.
- Fabric is thin. Heavy items stretch the fabric enough that it will touch the ground on the bottom of the bag and wear out.
- Pockets are on the small side and there are no interior pockets.
- Wheels collapse when rolling over bumpy surfaces. (They can pop back out.)
- Telescoping handle could use 2 or 3 more inches for taller users.
- Some users say there was an unpleasant odor when the bag was new.
Best basic rolling duffel bag: AmazonBasics Ripstop
The AmazonBasics Ripstop rolling duffel is a no frills duffel bag that meets a variety of needs. The bag is available in three lengths: 28 inches, 32 inches, and 37 inches. Like most rolling duffels, it has inline wheels and a telescoping handle. The removable shoulder strap is a plus if you need to carry your bag on your shoulder over uneven terrain. There are several zippered compartments and exterior pockets for quick access.
Dimensions (including wheels):
|28 inch duffel||28.5″||15.2″||13.5″||70 L||10 lbs|
|32 inch duffel||32.5″||16.5″||14.5″||92 L||10.9 lbs|
|37 inch duffel||37.5″||18.2″||16″||137 L||12.1 lbs|
- Ripstop material is water resistant (but not waterproof).
- Durable. Sturdy zippers, frame, and wheels.
- Users claim it works well for international travel and as a checked bag.
- Well-placed handles for carrying and lifting.
- Great organizational features, including a net divider in the middle. You can use the two main sections independently by opening from the top.
- Collapses for storage. Fits under a bed.
- Even though it is soft-sided, users claim it protects gear. The 37” bag can hold two sets of dive gear.
- Biggest caution: the rails on the bottom of the bag are hollow. Many users said they shattered and then the fabric wore through.
- Only the central zipper accommodates locks.
- The 37” bag is very large. It might not meet airline limits and/or will be oversize.
- Bags can’t stay upright by themselves.
- Bags fall over when making sharp turns.
Best wheeled duffel bag for carry on: Eagle Creek Gear (Load) Warrior
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior (or Load Warrior) is compact but has a lot of features. The fabric is 100% recycled PET ripstop, which resists scratches and repels water. A laminated exo-skeleton further protects high-wear areas against scratches and scuffs. The oversize wheels have a protective housing and treads for traction. The anodized aluminum handle stows away and the carry handles are comfortable. This bag has a padded tablet sleeve, a piggyback clip for add-a-bag versatility, and a gear attachment to hold items on the top. Users say it holds enough for a two- to four-day trip. Eagle Creek offers an industry-leading warranty. They will repair or replace the bag if it fails during its lifetime, regardless of the cause.
Dimensions: 22″ x 9″ x 14″ with 38 L capacity. 4 lbs 13 oz
There is another similar style of duffels in larger sizes (26, 30, 34 inches). Check the price on Amazon for the larger duffel.
- High quality and durable.
- Treaded wheels work even on cobblestone.
- Compact enough to fit in overhead bins and similar spaces. One user said it fit overhead on trains in Italy.
- Great handles: sturdy, comfortable, enough carry handles. Telescoping handle can hide away in zippered compartment.
- Front laptop sleeve makes it easy to take your laptop out for security screening.
- Top compartment makes it easy to retrieve items while your bag remains in the overhead bin.
- A few users claimed that the telescoping handle was flimsy and fell apart the first time they rolled it. (This is not a common complaint.)
- Storage space in pockets is less than some users would desire.
Rolling duffel bag with the best appearance: Timberland Luggage Twin Mountain
The Timberland Luggage Twin Mountain rolling duffel bag is stylish and functional. It is available in several colors and sizes. The polyester material is ripstop and treated for water resistance. The wheels are protected by rubber shock absorbers to make them last longer. An interior cinch system secures and compresses your gear. The top compartment has a large mesh pocket and double zipper. And a secret zippered pocket keeps sensitive travel documents safe.
Dimensions: Available in various lengths/heights from 22 inches to 32 inches. Exact dimensions vary by color.
- Durable. Many users say it lasted for years.
- Stylish appearance. Several users say they received compliments on their bag.
- Front zippered pocket allows easy access to travel documents and liquids for flying.
- Interior organization is functional. Has a net in the middle on one side and straps on the other side. The zippered compartment allows you to separate dirty and clean laundry.
- Roomy. The 22” size can hold clothing for 5+ days. The 26” size can hold enough for up to two weeks.
- The bag’s shape can make it challenging to squeeze into the overhead bin.
- When the main compartment is full, the outside pocket can’t hold much.
- One user claimed that the telescoping handle became bent and non-functional.
- A few users said that the zippers or stitching failed after a few uses.
Of all the bags, our favorite is the Eagle Creek Load Warrior. Even though this bag is small, it has enough organizational features to allow you to pack a lot. (And you can find a bigger version of this bag too.) The bag is water resistant, which makes it a good choice for all types of weather. We think this bag’s reliability is one of the best things about it. With its protective features like wheel housings and laminated exo-skeleton, it should last a long time. And the warranty gives extra assurance that this will meet expectations.