Duffel vs. Backpack for Travel

Traveling light is simple… All you need is a nice backpack, a solid duffle bag, or even a rolling case to carry your stuff. However, with so many different varieties of luggage available on the market, which one should you choose? Backpacks and duffle bags may seem interchangeable (after all, they’re just meant to carry your supplies), but choosing the wrong one could be frustrating and uncomfortable. So what should you do? For starters, you should learn the pros and cons of both types and make an educated decision for your purchase.

But where can you find this information, you might ask? Well, here is a comprehensive list of the benefits and downsides to backpacks and duffels, to help you make the right decision.


Backpacks are infamous targets for pickpockets and thieves. But, depending on the type of backpack you chose, the levels of security the offer vary between “okay” and “zero.” While some high-end backpacks have zippers that can lock or multiple hidden pockets that store away valuables, all backpacks should offer these features. However, even if all backpacks were all capable of locking, a determined thief could still get inside easily, making this option not the best in terms of overall security.

Duffle Bags aren’t that much more secure than backpacks. It is best when buying a duffel bag to look for ones that offer lockable zippers. Also, military style duffle bags are made of stronger materials that can withstand attacks better than backpacks.

Durability and Resistance

A high-end backpack can travel with you to ends of the world, but you’ll have to make sure you buy the right brand. The best ones are made from materials that are impermeable and can keep the contents inside dry even during storms. While shopping, be sure to look at the weight limits of each backpack before you buy it. There is no point in buying a bag only to have it rip during your trip.

Duffle Bags are pretty durable. Depending on the quality of the material, you could potentially have one that lasts for decades. Also, the military grade ones have good water resistance. Make sure you check the sturdiness of the stitching, and be careful with the ones that have small wheels as these are likely to break.

Carrying Capacity

You can find backpacks in all sizes. But, there are obviously going to be certain limitations to what can be packed inside of one. For example, while a duffel bag might be able to carry a hockey stick, there is really no way to fit one inside a backpack. Backpacks are typically used for traveling light – 2-3 days at most.

A good duffle bag will carry almost anything due to their general shape (a cylindrical rectangle). But, the type of gear you’ll carry will ultimately be the deciding factor between what you want to bring and what you’ll actually pack. Fortunately, military style duffle bags are known to carry over 70 pounds of equipment, and can easily fit all of the items that soldiers typically need for the field. Note: carrying a half-full duffle is harder than carrying a fully packed one. This is because some duffle bags can’t maintain their form if they aren’t filled up completely.


Nothing quite beats backpacks when it comes to traversing through tough terrains. As long as you can carry it, and you haven’t exceeded the bag’s limitations, you should have no problems traveling through anything. However, if you’re going backpacking through a country like Japan, where cities are modern, you might actually find that rolling luggage is more effective. For other locations, a backpack will let you travel much further and with ease.

While the military is known to travel for long periods of time with duffle bags full of 30 pounds of equipment strapped to their backs, they aren’t quite as good an option for the general population. Most people choosing duffle bags will usually be carrying larger equipment for different activities like sports, fishing, diving, etc. However, duffle bags can sometimes be painful and uncomfortable.. Practicality is also an issue, because normally you’d want to fill up the bag as much as possible to avoid the half-full collapse issue mentioned before. But, some manufacturers have started creating duffel bags with wheels that can help with carrying stuff for longer distances and without the discomfort.

Flexibility and Organization

Backpacks are definitely more flexible than other forms of luggage. They generally featuring multiple pockets and are typically spacious (depending on the size you pick). You can uses these features to sort out your items into different sections in the bag, which is great because it means you won’t have to empty everything in order find that toothbrush all the way at the bottom. Additionally, the pack’s ability to fit comfortably on your back allows you to carry them through a variety of terrains. Furthermore, you can put a backpack in almost any small space such as a locker or underneath plane seats due to their moldable shape.

Duffle bags, on the other hand, are usually less versatile. Even the military style ones only feature a small pocket on the side that you can place a few things inside. Finding items is also difficult, as most of them only have one opening. That means if your stuff is all the way on the bottom, you’re going to have to do an awful lot of digging. As mentioned before, carrying one can become painful, especially after traveling for an extended period of time. However, unlike backpacks, you do have the option of carrying it in a variety of ways (i.e. on your back , over the shoulder, across the body, and with your hands). Also, you’re also limited to the places where you can store them, as they tend to be larger and bulkier than backpacks.

Overall, It’s easy to sing the praises of backpacks for their versatility over duffle bags, but duffles have their place in the realm of traveling. Ultimately, the purpose of your trip, the locations you travel to, and what you need to bring will be the biggest determining factors as to whether you need a duffle bag or a backpack.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Emmanuel "Dash the Bomber" Barbosa

Emmanuel Barbosa, AKA Dash The Bomber, is currently serving in the 7th fleet, and has over 8 years of experience in the military. A writer with a penchant for the humorous and informative, he loves to share his stories with those who would be willing to listen. Having served in deployments that have taken him around the world, Dash has seen and heard about many things that would be hard to believe. A loving father and a faithful husband, he is dedicated to protecting his family and country. For fun he enjoys cosplaying, videogames, and writing for online magazines.

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