There are times when you just have to hoist some gear. Either camping, going up a steep mountain, or with your car for a weekend getaway. The classic duffel was no more than a sturdy strap and a barrel shaped cavity where you could cram all your belongings. Nowadays, the modern duffel is taking precedent. Pimping out the classic concept, the new duffels added several compartments, backpack straps and so much hardware fit for exploring Kilimanjaro. Yet, we are still waiting for manufacturers to build one that provides long-distance carry comfort, because to their core, duffels are just an oversized sack with a strap.
You need painless and fast access, get a duffel. If not, just buy a trekking pack. You want a wide opening, double zipper or a U-shaped one work best. This way you can find whatever you’re looking for without scattering all your equipment on the ground.
You’ll get caught up by the weather eventually. Give the appropriate attention to the base of the duffel, because you'll want to drop it when it becomes an encumbrance to you. And you won't care if it's on wet grass or snow. Just make sure you're not bathing your belongings in water.
You won't get the comfort level of a trekking pack or the carrying convenience of a backpack with two-straps, so it would be nice to get a second strap for splitting the hauling load on both your shoulders. You still need to carry it for a little while. Why not make yourself a little bit comfortable as the weight starts to impair you.
Duffel bags are more or less designed to have only one volume, larger or smaller it's the same. The largest duffels seldom work well, because the straps are fastened too low and the bag twists and twirls in the middle. While the smallest generally are too cramped for their own good. Pay attention to the size you are buying and make sure the elements work for your benefit.
All the unnecessary embellishments added to duffels for fashion's sake will turn out be be a cluster of confusion. Keep it simple and make sure the straps don’t hinder your easy access to the bag.
Do you want your equipment rolling down a hill? Of course you don't. So add some durability to your duffel. If the fabrics are too flimsy the base is not strengthened, or the zippers are little 8's, you’re going to rip your duffel apart. Do make sure the straps are well attached with good stitchings, the base looks like you can put it on nails and it won't break, and the zippers are at least size 10's. It won't last you for a lifetime, but at least it will last you longer than expected.