Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Patagonia Black Hole Duffel bag

If you’re a frequent traveler who cares about carrying comfort, but also tends to bring a lot of stuff with them on their adventures, chances are you’ve spent some time pondering the age-old question: is a duffel bag better than a backpack for travel?

We understand how hard it can be to make this decision, so we want to offer our advice and help demystify which type of luggage is right for you.

This blog post will give an overview of all the pros and cons of both bags when traveling – from practical aspects like durability and efficiency in packing to convenience considerations such as ease of carrying or access to your items.

So instead of endlessly searching things like “duffel vs backpack” on Google, read on and soon you’ll have all the answers you need!

With that being said, let’s get started!

In our opinion, we think it is better to travel with a backpack, rather than a duffel bag! This is because backpacks are more comfortable, lightweight, and extremely versatile which makes them suitable for almost any type of trip imaginable! With two straps to evenly distribute weight across your shoulders, backpacks are easier on your body for long-distance trips than duffel bags.

Plus, backpacks come with an array of pockets and compartments that ensure that everything stays organized throughout your travels – something that duffel bags do not offer!

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : a backpack and duffel bag placed side by side

While both have their advantages, we think backpacks are generally better suited for travel than duffel bags.

Here’s why:

In this section, we will discuss in detail, how backpacks beat out duffel bags for traveling:

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : a lady wearing a REI backpack

Backpacks provide comfortable carrying that reduces strain on your body.

This is because backpacks distribute the weight of your items evenly across your shoulders and back, making them much more comfortable to carry than duffel bags when traveling on foot.

This means that you won’t feel as drained after walking all day with your backpack in tow.

Additionally, many travel backpacks feature adjustable straps and hip/chest belts that help take some of the weight off your shoulders and onto your hips, which provide even more support and make long journeys less cumbersome.

It also helps that they usually feature padded shoulder straps, which makes them more comfortable to carry than traditional duffel bags.

Duffel bags, on the other hand, provide no way to evenly distribute weight, so travelers with heavier luggage usually find themselves awkwardly lugging their load to keep it balanced.

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : a highly organized backpack with lots of pockets and compartments
Credit: amazon

Backpacks offer a level of organization that most duffle bags simply cannot match.

Most travel backpacks typically feature multiple pockets and compartments which help keep everything organized while also providing easy access to frequently used items without having to dig around inside the bag itself.

For instance, the Tortuga Outbreaker features a clamshell opening with a separate and padded laptop sleeve, a 45l main compartment with mesh pockets and side pockets, two external water bottle pockets, and more.

A pack with both internal and external pockets makes it easier for travelers to pack efficiently without having any items jumbled up together!

Some duffle bags on the other hand usually lack these features and thus require users to manually organize their belongings before every journey – something that can take hours depending on how much stuff needs sorting through!  

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Level8 backpack

When it comes to packing options, backpacks offer travelers more versatility than duffel bags.

With most duffels, you can fit one large item or several smaller items side-by-side.

Backpacks have pockets and compartments specifically designed to hold different types of items, giving you more control over how you organize your things and allowing you to pack more efficiently while still keeping everything organized in its designated place.

For instance, there are laptop sleeves, water bottle pockets, hidden pockets for passports, pen holders, and more.

This makes them especially helpful when traveling through airports or other crowded spaces where an efficient organization is key.

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Peak Design backpacks

Another reason why it is better to travel with a backpack over a duffel bag is the convenience you get with the former.

For example, if you ever find yourself needing to take the stairs with several items in tow, backpacks are much easier to maneuver with their adjustable straps and lighter weight.

This makes them perfect for travelers who need to stay mobile while carrying their possessions with them at all times. 

And most travel backpacks come with adjustable shoulder straps so that you can adjust them to your height and body shape for maximum comfort.

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Everlane backpack

If your hands are full, you don’t have to worry about dropping your backpack; it stays put, on your back!

This is especially useful when boarding public transportation or making your way through airports.

Also, hands-free transport is perfect if you need to do something else like take pictures or look at maps while carrying your pack.

Duffel bags, on the other hand, must be carried by either one or both hands, meaning that you have to continually adjust your grip to avoid arm fatigue. 

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Peak Design backpack

Backpacks also offer more versatility and convenience than duffle bags because they can be used in almost any situation!

They can be worn while running errands or going on hikes or even used as carry-on luggage when flying!

They can also be used for biking, business trips, or even sightseeing!

Plus, the larger-sized packs give you plenty of room for extra items such as souvenirs or gifts when traveling abroad!  

Of course, nothing is perfect.

there are some drawbacks to using backpacks over duffels.

They include the followings: 

Backpacks have limited storage space compared to duffels, especially larger ones.  

As such, a big backpack may not have enough room to fit everything you need if you’re going on a long trip, while a large backpack can.

You also need to be careful when packing as overstuffing your backpack can throw off the balance and cause discomfort while carrying it around. 

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Bellroy backpack

Due to their shape and restricted openings, backpacks can be challenging to pack and unpack since it is difficult finding items at the bottom of a stuffed bag.

Also when worn for long periods, backpacks can cause discomfort by leaving your back sweaty and your shirt wrinkled.

This may not seem like much but after hours in transit, this discomfort adds up quickly! 

Not everyone is a fan of backpacks.

Duffel bags are becoming increasingly popular with travelers who want convenience, comfort, and ease of use.

Let’s explore the aspects in which duffel bags may be better than backpacks for travel.

The most obvious benefit of duffels is that they offer much more space than a typical backpack —which makes them an ideal choice if you are going on an extended trip or just like having plenty of room to pack a lot of gear.

According to Tripsavvy, there’s almost no limit on the size and shape of duffel bags. You can anything from a 40l carry-on to 200+ liters (12,000+ cubic inches) of a duffel bag.

Depending on the size you choose, you can often fit several days’ worth of clothing and other items in a single bag—no need to worry about running out of room!

They also offer some advantages like being able to fit bulky gear easily (such as camping equipment) due to their large size and shape.

Plus, if you don’t end up filling it, it still won’t take up too much space in your car trunk when not in use.

The larger sizes even have wheels so you can pull them along like a piece of luggage—which makes them especially useful for airport trips and longer journeys. 

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Bellroy weekender bag

Duffels are much easier to pack and unpack compared to a backpack since you don’t have to worry about unpacking the entire contents just to get something from the bottom of your pack.

They often come with a large opening that lets you easily organize and see everything inside the bag.

All you have to do is just zip open the main compartment and access all your items without having to dig around in individual pockets like with backpacks.

Additionally, because they don’t have many distracting internal compartments as backpacks do, they offer more flexibility when it comes to packing.

With most duffels, you can fit one large item or several smaller items side-by-side.

You can even make use of packing cubes or simply arrange all your clothes and travel gear in a way that best suits you. 

Another major advantage of using a duffel bag over a backpack is that they are much more flexible.

Duffel bags can be stuffed, tossed, and squished into small spaces, making them ideal for packing into tight spots on buses or trains or even in overhead compartments on airplanes when flying. 

In this section, we’ll be looking at some of the drawbacks of duffel bags: 

The downside of duffel bags is that they don’t provide the same level of comfort as a backpack would when full or big.

They tend to be awkwardly shaped and difficult to carry when loaded up with gear (the bulkier the bag is, the more awkward it becomes).

Additionally, since most duffels don’t feature waist straps or chest straps like many backpacks do, heavier loads may cause strain on your arms, shoulders, and neck when carrying them around for a long time.          

So, if you pack too much stuff in them they can get uncomfortable to carry over long distances because all the weight is concentrated in one spot on your body rather than distributed across both shoulders like with a backpack. 

Another downside with duffel bags is that they don’t offer nearly as much organizational space as backpacks do.

This means that it’s harder to find items quickly when needed since everything is just thrown into one big compartment rather than separated into smaller pockets like with a backpack.

If you need separate pockets for various items such as electronics or toiletries then backpacks have it all figured out already but with duffle bags, you have to figure out creative ways of separating items yourself (i.e., packing cubes, Ziploc bags, etc.). 

Since most duffle bags don’t have shoulder straps they can be awkward to maneuver in cramped spaces such as buses or trains.

Plus, they require more maneuvering since they aren’t hands-free like backpacks are.

For instance, a duffel bag requires one or two hands while backpacks allow you to keep your hands free for balance or holding onto railings/handles, etc., making them far more convenient when traveling in cramped quarters.

If you’re planning on doing a lot of commute or sightseeing, you might want to opt for a backpack instead.  

Deciding whether to go with a backpack or duffel bag depends on several factors, from intended use to style and personal preference.

Let’s take a look at some of the key factors that should be taken into consideration when deciding between these two popular luggage pieces.

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Patagonia Black Hole Duffel bag

It’s important to pay attention to the size and weight when choosing between a duffel bag and a backpack.

Generally, backpacks tend to be smaller than duffels.

Duffel bags come in various sizes, from tiny gym bags to large travel bags that can hold up to 200 liters of stuff!

The same applies to backpacks.

There are models ranging from small daypacks (around 20-30 liters) up to large expedition packs (80+ liters).

The size of your luggage will depend on how long you plan on being away from home and what type of items you will need to carry with you.

So, if you need a bag that can fit enough clothing for multiple days away, you have to consider the size that will fit your items and would be easy for you to manage.

For instance, if you’re looking for a travel bag that counts as a carry-on, I’d recommend backpacks or duffel bags between 30-50L because they tend to be big enough to hold all of your gear but still small enough to be comfortable and manageable.

And of course, bags within this size often fit into carry-on dimension requirements, so you won’t have to deal with checking your bag.

But for extended trips, we’d suggest you do not go over 60-70 liters because of your back and carrying comfort.

However, a big duffel bag that is above 50L is only a good idea if you’ll not hauling it around yourself.

As such, you can go for duffel bags with wheels and a retractable trolley handle that allow them to be transported like a suitcase.

In terms of weight, both duffel bags and backpacks can range from lightweight models up to large bags that can be very heavy to carry around on your own.

So make sure that whatever type of luggage you choose can accommodate your items comfortably without weighing too much or being too bulky.

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Bellroy backpack

Another key factor when comparing duffel bags and backpacks is the features offered by each type of bag.

Backpacks usually come with more features like adjustable straps, padded laptop compartments, easy access pockets, hidden pockets, water bottle pockets, USB charging ports, compression straps, expandable zippers, and lumbar support systems, etc., whereas duffels are often just simple bags without much bells or whistles attached.

Very few duffel bags come with some of these features.

The organization of a bag is another important factor that’ll guide your decision.

Duffels offer more space compared to backpacks but they lack internal organization pockets which makes it harder to find items quickly while on the go.

On the other hand, backpacks have lots of zippered compartments as well as pockets specifically designed certain items while traveling.

By having pockets and compartments, you can easily grab what you need without having to dig through your entire bag.

Additionally, compartments help keep things organized so you know exactly where everything is, rather than dumping everything into one big open area.

So if you’re a fan of keeping your items neat and compartmentalized, you’re better off with a backpack, but if you prefer the space to arrange things how you like, a duffel bag is a safe bet.

Comfort is another important factor when choosing between a backpack and a duffel bag.

Backpacks often come with adjustable straps that help distribute weight evenly across your body, while duffels don’t provide as much support and can be harder on your back if they’re loaded with too many heavy items.

Furthermore, some backpacks come with lumbar support and hip belts which offer additional comfort for those long treks through airports or train stations! 

If you do decide on a backpack, look for one made with padding along the back panel as this helps create airflow between your body and the bag which makes carrying it more comfortable over long periods.

Duffel bags on the other hand come with removable straps which allow them to be carried as a shoulder bag or by haul by the handle, depending on your needs!

Unless you’re going for a small duffel bag, backpacks win again when it comes to carrying comfort.  

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Patagonia Black Hole rolling Duffel bag

The cricial factor to consider when choosing between a backpack and a duffel bag is what you plan on using it for.

What kind of trip you are taking and what types of items do you plan on bringing with you? Are you going on an overnight trip, or do you need something for longer travels?

Do you plan to carry it on your back, or would you prefer wheels?

These are all important questions to ask yourself before making a decision.

Consider your needs carefully before making a decision; think about where you are going, how long your trip will be, and what type of activities/weather conditions may arise during your travels to choose wisely between a duffel bag or backpack! 


What’s the difference between a duffel bag and a backpack?

The main difference between a duffel bag and a backpack is that a duffel bag is designed to be carried by hand, whereas a backpack is designed to be worn on your back. A backpack has straps that go over the shoulders, while a duffel bag typically has two handles on top.

Another difference is that duffel bags are often larger than backpacks, and are better for carrying heavy loads or bulky items because they are wider at the base and can stand up on their own. Backpacks are typically smaller and have more pockets and compartments for organization, making them better for keeping small items organized. 

Can you wear a duffle bag like a backpack?

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : Patagonia Black Hole Duffel bag

Yes, you can wear a duffle bag like a backpack if it comes with shoulder straps. A lot of duffle bags like the Black Hole Duffel Bag 55L come with shoulder straps these days because people like to use them as backpacks when they’re traveling because of weight distribution.

Just make sure the straps are comfortable and that the bag is not too heavy for you to carry.

Duffel backpacks are a great way to carry your duffle bag hands-free.

However, you need to make sure the weight is evenly distributed between your shoulders and hips, and that the straps are tight enough so the bag doesn’t bounce around as you walk.

Duffel bags are definitely worth it, especially if you’re looking for a versatile and durable piece of luggage. They’re perfect for travel because they are usually spacious and they come in a variety of sizes to fit your needs.

Plus, fabrics of quality duffel bags are usually water-resistant or even waterproof, so your belongings will stay safe and dry during your trip. 

Can a duffel bag be an everyday bag?

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : a duffel bag

A duffel bag can be an everyday bag, but it depends on the size and features of the particular duffel bag. A small, lightweight duffel bag would work well as an everyday bag, but a large, heavy-duty duffel bag would not be as suitable.

Just make sure it’s comfortable to wear over your shoulder or across your body so you can easily take it with you wherever you go.

Why do people like duffel bags?

Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? : a duffel bag

Duffel bags are popular with travelers because they are versatile and can be used for a variety of activities. They can be used as carry-on luggage for air travel, and as a daily bag to carry your belongings to the gym, beach, and more.

Duffel bags are also durable and can withstand rough handling. The small options are also lightweight, making them easy to transport.

And finally, duffel bags come in a variety of colors and styles, so you can find one that suits your needs.

Closing Thoughts

So, are duffel bags better than backpacks?

No, we think backpacks are better than duffel bags for travel. This is because backpacks offer many advantages in terms of mobility, convenience, hands-free transportability, and organization capabilities over duffel bags when it comes to traveling.

If you’re looking for something comfortable with good weight distribution, then opt for a backpack—particularly one with adjustable straps so you can customize it to suit your needs perfectly.

However, if packing space is more important to you, then go with a duffel bag instead; just keep in mind that heavier loads may cause strain if carried around for extended periods without adequate support from shoulder straps or chest straps.

But ultimately it’s up to each traveler’s needs as well as their preferences in terms of size and style when deciding which type of bag is best suited for any given journey.

Weigh out all the pros and cons before deciding so that you can make the most informed choice possible!       

Good luck!

1 thought on “Is a Duffel Bag Better Than a Backpack? Everything You Need to Know”

  1. Hi Femi,

    Interesting article on the comparison of duffel bags and backpacks.

    I have to say that my preference is a backpack as I use one for travelling to work and when I travel out of the city. Duffel bags to do not appeal to me really.

    Thank you for sharing such a comparitive article and keep up the great work.

    All the best,



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