If traveling has taught me anything, it’s the value of good luggage, especially when traveling solo or trying to keep your luggage limited to one bag or case. In this sense, I find that a good duffel bag is one of the best pieces of luggage you can go for.
A good travel duffel bag is more practical than even the best travel backpack and adds a little bit of sophistication to your aesthetic. They’re also infinitely easier to live with than rigid suitcases, which can have trouble fitting in overhead bins and are less malleable.
Recently, I received a new duffel bag from Peak Design just in time for a much-needed trip – this was the third longest winter in Minnesota’s recorded history, and an escape to warmer climes was warranted. In this Peak Design Duffel review, I’ll talk about the 65L Travel Duffel, its features, whether or not it’s a versatile bag, and how it fared on my trip.
What is Peak Design?
Peak Design is a California-based luggage company, and simply put, they’re travelers who make luggage and gear for travelers.
Peak Design got its start in 2010, first by manufacturing pouches and travel accessories for camera gear. After a few successful rounds of crowdfunding, Peak Design expanded its scope and began manufacturing larger luggage items as well as gear and accessories for cameras and cell phones.
Part of Peak Design’s appeal to me and many others is that it is a pretty ethical company. It believes in creating a good product that is good value for money, using renewable or recycled materials. Peak is also a carbon-neutral company, and it’s all about treating its staff, suppliers, vendors, and customers right.
Today, Peak Design carries a pretty broad range of gear, accessories, and luggage, and you can find the travel duffels right here.
See Related: Peak Design Tech Pouch Review
Peak Design Travel Duffel
Peak Design’s Travel Duffel comes in a smart black or a cool sage green and can be purchased as a 35-liter or 65-liter size travel bag. As an homage to the retro, green sausage-shaped military duffel bags of yesteryear, I opted for the 65L Travel Duffel in sage – and also because you’re getting more bang for your buck with the big boy.
It seems my desire to keep the memory of the classic duffel alive is what Peak Design was aiming for, as they describe the bag as an “ode to the timeless and utilitarian duffel bag, the Travel Duffel is as beautiful as it is simple.” Well, as duffel bags go, it certainly is a looker, really dripping with minimalist, military chic. But simple? Not quite – a lot is happening here, and most of it’s damned good.
On first inspection, it’s relatively lightweight and feels incredibly sturdy. It’s rugged without being rough to the touch.
The zippers are high quality, and the external carry straps are comfortable in the hand or over the shoulder(s) – plus, these straps have a little trick up their sleeves, which I’ll get onto later. It’s also got two internal mesh pockets and four external pockets to maximize packing space and organization. And already, it’s one of the coolest duffels I’ve seen.
Do note that Peak Design’s “Travel Duffel” is not to be confused with the “Peak Design Travel Duffelpack 65L”, which is a similar, more expensive product that comes with padded backpack-style shoulder straps, among other features. If you’re interested in that, you can find it here.
See Related: Best Travel Duffel Bags For Your Next Trip
Design and Features
Upon receiving my new duffel bag, I was excited to compare the advertised features to what I found in real life. The first thing I noticed is that 65 liters is a lot of bag, meaning if you’re all about single-bag travel, this is a good contender.
Having a soft-sided bag can be a turn-off for a lot of folks, so it’s good to know that the Peak Design Travel Duffel is pretty sturdy in addition to being weather and water-resistant. Its weatherproof 100% recycled 600D nylon canvas shell and the 900D waterproof bottom liner are both pretty thick.
The bag also has generous exterior pockets on both sides, maximizing storage capacity and allowing more access to frequently-used items while on the go. Not only that, the zippers of the external pockets offer a little extra rigidity to the bag, helping it hold its form.
Another big pro is the main zipper for the bag, which, again, is high-quality and durable. Best of all, it’s long, stretching along the entire bag length. This ultra-long zip path makes it easier to open the bag wider and cram in larger items.
Straps and Carrying Options
The key feature of the Peak Design bag is the customization possibilities provided by the versatile strap system. This is the bag’s coolest feature and potentially its biggest drawback.
With metal and plastic hook designs and rugged nylon D-rings, users can attach, detach, and rearrange straps based on their personal carrying preferences. This can really help you carry the bag in the best way for you and also affix it to other things like rolling suitcases or the back of your Jeep while you buzz around Denali.
The customization options are vast. You can remove the big shoulder strap entirely and use the hand straps as shoulder straps, reconfigure the big shoulder strap to emulate the retro sausage duffel or a cross-body strap. You can even remove all the straps completely and go full sausage, like some sort of lunatic.
I’m not going to lie; I had way too much fun chopping and changing the straps around when I was unboxing this thing. Nonetheless, I did have some concerns about how easily these straps could come loose, and during testing, my concerns were confirmed.
The hooks can potentially detach with just a simple twist using one hand. Considering the knocks and bumps that all luggage suffers in transit, it’s possible that they could come detached. According to reviews, this has been an issue for some customers.
Despite concerns with the hook system, the rest of the handles and straps are very well-made and durable, resembling and feeling like up-cycled seatbelt material. The main over-the-shoulder strap boasts comfortable padding and adjustable length, while the padded grab handles offer additional grip with stylish, comfortable nubuck leather accents.
See Related: Best Travel Backpacks & Carry-On Options
Interior and Pockets
The inside of the Peak Design Duffel Bag is lined with two removable rods that are the main source of the bag’s rigidity. They are a little tricky to remove and reinsert, but the option of having a more rigid or more malleable duffel is a nice touch.
Running along these rods, the interior is equipped with two sturdy and smooth silicone-coated mesh internal pockets, which allow for better visibility of their contents. These internal zippers also help give the bag a little extra rigidity.
The internal volume of the 65L somehow feels larger than the advertised 65 liters. I’m starting to feel like my old Bergens did me dirty. Oddly enough, and above all else, I really appreciate the color of the interior.
It’s a small touch, but the light gray interior also enhances the ease of finding objects, providing a light-colored backdrop to the bag’s contents. It’s a simple thing, but it really does help, even in dimly lit spaces—more proof that these guys are travelers designing their products for travelers.
See Related: BÉIS Luggage Review: Are They Worth the Price?
Comfort and Aesthetics
The Peak Design Duffel excels in terms of aesthetics – I just love how this bag looks. Whether you’re in a boardroom, barrack room, backpacking, or beach bumming, you will look the part with this duffel.
The comfort factor isn’t to be sniffed at either. Outside of the metal and plastic parts of the straps, there’s very little to get snagged on. There are no sharp edges, rough corners, or exposed stitching; it’s a silky smooth bag to the touch and tangibly sturdy.
Additionally, the combination of leather grip handles and the padded shoulder strap makes for a comfortable carry regardless of the method—hand carry, shoulder or cross-body, or backpack mode. Not only is it practical, but Peak Design has also managed to create a visually appealing, comfortable, and modern-looking duffel bag.
Modularity with other Peak Design Products and more!
A key selling point of many of Peak Design’s bags, pouches, and packing cubes is how well they all work together. The 65L Travel Duffel is designed to fit four Peak Design packing or camera cubes (the smaller 35L duffel can fit three packing/camera cubes), and there are options for affixing extra cubes for additional storage to the bag’s exterior using the D rings.
These items are sold separately, and I didn’t personally go for any cubes. That said, reviews about using the bag in combination with PD’s own packing cubes seem to confirm that they work well together for easier packing and the customizable organization of your gear.
And hey, no one is saying you have to buy Peak Design’s packing cubes, pouches or other accessories. I found the external D rings to be might handy for clipping on some of my own stuff, like my keys.
See Related: Away vs BÉIS: What is the Better Suitcase?
Pros & Cons of The Peak Design Travel Duffel
Alright, so we know the basics. Do I like the Peak Design 65L Travel Duffel? How was it on the journey? Is it worth the price? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons.
Pro: Rugged & Handsome
Firstly it’s pretty lightweight, and carrying fewer pounds means moving more miles – this is an important factor for any bag you carry on your person. It’s about as important a factor as the bag’s strength.
The bag’s relative light weight belies a durable construction. The tough nylon and polyester fabrics are clearly made to withstand years of wear and tear while being smooth enough to prevent compromising comfort. The duffel’s zippers and the woven nylon straps are also incredibly tough.
The bag is rugged and raring for travel – it did everything I needed of it, and every time I glanced down at the bag in my hand, it made me smile. I mean, just look at it!
Based on looks alone, this is an amazing bag.
See Related: Osprey Backpacks Review: Are They Worth It?
Pro: Practical Design & Awesome Carry Capacity
The 65-liter version of this bag has a huge carry capacity without compromising comfort or versatility. And with the additional internal and external pockets, the 65-liter bag is a real monster gear hauler, ideal if you’re packing for a week-long trip, or hauling some heavy kit.
The extra-long zipper path is also a nice feature and allows for superior access. With such a large opening, it really helps you to work the bag around larger items as you pack them or if you need to root around in there for an item.
As a practicing packrat, I also really like the options for augmenting the duffel with other Peak Design packing systems, as well as other pouches and gear.
Pro: Sustainable Materials, Ethical & Eco-friendly
If you’re eco-conscious, it’s not easy to travel with a free conscious – especially considering the amount of liquid dinosaur required to fuel an airliner from A to B. So any travel product that is made with a neutral carbon footprint gets 5 stars from me.
Peak Design’s Travel Duffel is made using 100% recycled and sustainable materials and zero carbon footprint. Not only that, but these bags come with a 100% Fair Trade certification, meaning everyone involved in the bag’s manufacture has been fairly paid.
If you’re concerned about ethical manufacture and sustainable practices, this duffel is just what you’re looking for.
Pro/Con: Value for Money
Here’s where it starts getting a bit more vague. Do I think that the 65L is good value for money? Yes, and at about $170 as of writing (minus tax and shipping), I actually think it’s a bit of a steal.
Do I think the 35L is good value for money? Not so much. As of writing, the 35L is around $140, and only just over half the size of the 65L for $30 less.
Now yeah, you might be fine with that conversion, especially if you’re looking specifically for a carry-on duffel. But if you pack smart (and especially if you remove the rods), you can easily squash down the 65L for use as a carry-on. Personally, I’d prefer the option of having the larger bag – especially when it’s at this price.
Pro/Con: The Straps
The customizable strap system is a really cool feature. It’s fun to play around with and configure a system of handles and straps that works best for your needs. They are extremely well made, comfortable to handle, and the way the hook and ring system works is pretty seamless.
But it’s not perfect, and some reviews do mention the hooks coming free from the nylon D rings. Overall, I think it’s a gooid idea that is let down by the execution.
And it’s worth mentioning while I did and still do have concerns about the straps, I have not currently run into the issue of the hooks coming loose from the D rings without deliberate effort – even if it’s not much deliberate effort.
Verdict: Is The Peak Design Travel Duffel Worth The Hype?
I love duffel bags because they combine the style and storage capacity of suitcases with the versatility of backpacks. In this case, the Peak Design Duffel Bag offers numerous pockets and storage solutions, with added rigidity thanks to rods and zippers and an attractive, rugged exterior.
The modularity and customization options are another huge draw for me, and I’m looking forward to seeing how I can chop, change and add to this bag to meet future travel needs. I’ve really enjoyed getting to grips with my new duffel bag, and I think the 65L is fantastic value for money.
Overall, the Peak Design Travel Duffel Bag is a great spin on traditional duffels, and thus far, I’ve found no hard drawbacks to it. It’s a stylish, versatile, and practical luggage option, and it’s clear that it was designed by people who understand the nuances of travel and smart packing.
And to be honest, Peak Design is a really cool company, coming from humble beginnings, shaking up the luggage scene, and working with ethical practices. That alone is reason enough to check them out. For more information about Peak Design and its products, visit the official website.