You might be surprised to find a wheeled duffel bag is a more versatile solution for you than a suitcase, here's why...
Our ‘this vs that’ blog series has been a way of bringing the in-store shopping experience online, where we address our most commonly asked customer questions. Questions such as ‘soft vs hard suitcases’ or ‘wheeled backpack vs backpack’ come up regularly (click the links to check out our thoughts!), the suitcase vs wheeled duffel bag comes up less frequently, and in all honesty, it’s usually our staff asking the customer this rather than the other way around. The simple reason for this is people mostly go straight to suitcases, the logic being that if you’re going on a holiday or flight a suitcase is your most essential item. Fair enough, it usually is. However, the arrival of duffel bags, wheeled duffel bags, wheeled backpacks and hybrid suitcases means there is more than one solution to your packing needs, and one that may be better suited to your needs.
Today we’ll investigate a suitcase vs. wheeled duffel bag, looking at the pro’s and con’s of each and working out which is better for different types of traveller. It may surprise you that a wheeled duffel bag could be the better option for many travellers.
Before we get into it, it’s always worth remembering that you should shop for the type of travel you usually do, a bag will outlast one trip, so think beyond your next holiday and pick something that suits all your travel needs.
Wheeled Duffel Bags
- The non-rigid design is far better suited to loading into cars, boats, trains etc. So, if you are hiring a car, doing safari, catching a tour bus or plan on some road trips in the next little while, a duffel bag may be the way to go. This is of particular importance if you’re travelling with your family or a group – it is far easier to manipulate 4 softer bags into a boot than 4 boxy suitcases.
- Open packing space – the main drawcard for duffel bags is they generally have one main packing cavity that can be huge, this suits people travelling with bulky clothing or equipment. Duffel bags are very suited to camping, skiing, surf trips or activity-based trips.
- Flexible packing space – on a similar note, they are more adaptive to unusual shaped items. Suitcases are very unforgiving to ski boots or a helmet for example
- Lightweight – given they don’t have all that structure, duffel bags are normally very lightweight
- Easy to store – Often they can flatten right down allowing you to store them under your bed or at the top of a wardrobe when not in use.
- Rugged Construction – duffel bags are generally made from a hard-wearing fabric and have 2 wheels, they cope pretty well with being dragged and banged up across various surfaces. Suitcases can get scratched and often have more delicate parts.
- Pack more in – if you consider a soft cabin size bag, you can definitely squeeze more gear in than a cabin size suitcase, and you also get checked/weighed less often. Worth considering to avoid paying for large luggage or extra baggage fees.
- Less protection for your gear - the soft structure of a duffel bag provides no impact resistance like many of the suitcases, so not only does your gear normally end up more crumpled, if you have any breakables they are more at risk.
- Less secure – Being made from fabric and zips, duffel bags are easier to break into
- More difficult to pack and organise – whilst large compartments are great for bulkier gear and shoving loads in, they are harder to find things in and keep organised
- Less stable – whilst stability of the wheeled duffel bags has improved, if they are not well packed they can fall over a lot which can be a pain whilst transiting
- Less stylish – and this is a considerable factor! Luggage has a very practical function but it’s a bonus if they look great, duffel bags tend to have a very ‘practical’ sense to them where suitcases exist in every colour and design to suit your style. And, more importantly, if you are travelling for business you may need a more professional aesthetic for client meetings or conferences.
We’ll avoid relisting everything said above just on the inverse and instead touch on unique aspects.
- Ease of use – the latest suitcases really do make travelling a breeze, from loading your gear to sailing through security, they are so easy to pack, wheel, pull, push, check in and out and generally just maneuverer around regardless how big and heavy they are. Wheeled duffel bags are definitely harder to pack and are more cumbersome.
- Easier to manage multiple bags – 4 wheels makes a world of difference if you’re managing more than one bag. It makes it easy for one person to manage two large suitcases, two soft bags on top, and have a child strapped to you. If you’re travelling with small children this should be considered.
- Greater features range – suitcases tend to have more features to choose from, such as expanders, security zips, built in TSA locks, name tags and so on.
- Security – you can choose a suitcase to suit the level of security you need, from less secure soft suitcase right through to clip closure hard suitcase, there’s plenty of options
- Protection – and on a similar note, the more rigid the suitcase the more protection it offers the goods inside, so you can carry fragile items if needed.
- If you have more than one large suitcase you will need a 4WD or a van and forget getting taxis! We know we mentioned this above, but it needs rehashing, if you need to take shedloads of gear and need to get in cars, consider duffel bags
- Difficult to carry – whilst we like to think we won’t need to lift a finger on holiday, often even luxury holidays come with cobblestones, a gravel drive or a set of stairs that your suitcase will need to be carried over. They can be awkward to carry comfortably.
- And yep – 2 points repeated, they are heavier. The extra frame work and wheels do mean extra weight. And they are bulky to store. When not in use suitcases take up a lot of room, something that needs to be considered for apartment dwellers.
So, with those points for consideration it is easier to see where a wheeled duffel bag may in fact be a great option for some travellers. Anyone who goes on ski trips between their Fiji holidays or a US road trip then a Euro summer may benefit from a wheeled duffel.
We’ve picked out our favourites, and also some interesting options for those who want the best of both worlds.
Best Wheeled Duffel Bag: Victorinox VX Touring Range
From $359.40 - $479.40 on sale
The Victorinox VX Touring Wheeld Duffel Range are premium quality duffels designed for all types of travel with some terrific benefits. They are amazingly lightweight, they have multiple compartments including a wet/dry compartment and are a terrific soft and narrow shape that is easy to manage. Victorinox has also worked in some typical suitcase features such as an expander, a wide suitcase style opening and contrast interior so you can see your gear and they come with a TSA combination lock and name tag. These bags suit everything from business trips, road trips, ski trips, resort holidays and everything in between.
Shop them here
Best Suitcase: Delsey Belmont Plus Suitcase Range
From $149.40 - $209.40 on sale
It’s difficult to pinpoint the ‘best’ suitcase as there is such a big range to suit different needs, however the Delsey Belmont Plus is a terrific all-rounder, great value suitcase. Setting it apart from similar suitcases, the Belmont plus has an expander, ultra-durable break in resistant zips and is available in 4 sizes.
Shop them here
Best Crossover Bags – get the best of both worlds with these hybrid bags
High Sierra AT8 Range Wheeled Backpacks
From $209.30 - $279.30 on sale
This is a drop bottom duffel bag which means the bottom half opens out and packs like a suitcase and the top half packs like a duffel bag. It quite literally is the best of both worlds! As an added bonus, these bags also have a backpack harness giving it amazing versatility.
Shop them here
Lipault Original Plume Suitcases
From $149.40 - $197.40 on sale
These are ultra-soft suitcases which gives you the packing and handling convenience of a 4 wheel suitcase but a more ‘squashable’ design that allows you to ‘shove more in’, ‘squash it down’ and stack a couple in a car. A terrific option for those who like the practicality of a duffel but want the easy of use and style of a typical suitcase.
Shop them here
Prices correct at the time of publishing and subject to change.
Images via instagram - @lipaultparis_official, @victorinox, @highsierra_ausnz, @delseyofficial