Duffel vs. Suitcase

Pros and cons for what suits your travel needs best.

April 1st, 2024 by Reverie & Rove

In this article. 

1. Weekend warriors: the case for duffels

2. Suitcases: the stalwarts of long travel 

3. The verdict: choosing between a duffel and a suitcase.

We are off to Mexico this month which got us thinking what's the best travel companions for us given we're all about the weekend travel. From someone who spend close to 10 years backpacking the world, choosing the right luggage can make a world of difference to your travel experience. While both duffel bags and suitcases are popular options, they each have unique advantages and disadvantages. This guide will help you decide whether a duffel bag or a suitcase is the better choice for your weekend getaway or extended adventure.

Weekend Warriors: The Case for Duffel Bags

For short trips, duffel bags offer a relaxed and convenient way to pack. Here's why they might be the perfect weekend companion: 

Lightweight Champion: Duffel bags are generally lighter than suitcases, especially soft-sided options like our weekend duffel weighing in at 800 grams. This translates to less weight to lug around on airports and train stations, making them ideal for quick getaways with minimal packing.

Flexibility is Key: Duffel bags, with their unstructured design, can conform to odd-shaped items and maximize packing space. This is particularly useful for weekend trips where you might pack bulkier items like jackets or sports equipment.

Carry-On Contender: Many duffel bags come in carry-on approved sizes, allowing you to avoid baggage fees and streamline your airport experience. This is especially convenient for weekend trips where you might only need a few changes of clothes. The Drift Weekend Duffel is sized to the maximum approved Australian carry-on standards, making it ideal for short trips when you don't want to check luggage. 

Shoulder to Shoulder Comfort: Duffel bags often come with comfortable shoulder straps, making them easy to carry over short distances. This is ideal for weekend trips where you might be navigating crowded streets or hopping on and off public transport.

Casual Cool: Duffel bags exude a more casual and relaxed vibe, which can be a perfect match for a weekend escape to a beach town or a music festival.

However, duffel bags also come with some drawbacks for weekend travel:

Organizational Odyssey: Unlike suitcases with compartments and dividers, duffel bags can quickly become a jumbled mess due to have one main compartment. Packing cubes or separate pouches can help, but staying organized within a duffel can be a challenge. Some duffel bags, ours included now provide compartments for tech and shoes, giving you more options when you need a bit of organization.
Fragile Finds Beware: Duffel bags lack the hard-shell protection of suitcases. This might not be an issue for weekend essentials, but it's a concern if you're packing delicate items like souvenirs or expensive electronics.

Limited Maneuverability: When fully packed, duffel bags can become bulky and awkward to carry. This can be a problem if you're navigating crowded spaces or have long walks to your accommodation and can weigh on your shoulders over long distances. 

Suitcases: The Stalwarts of Long Travel

For extended journeys, suitcases offer a more structured and organized approach to packing. Here's why they might be the better choice for long trips:

Packing Powerhouse: Suitcases offer significantly more packing space than duffel bags if your looking for long haul travel. This is crucial for longer trips where you need to pack a wider variety of clothes and essentials, think anything over 4 days. 

Organization at Your Fingertips: Suitcases often have compartments, dividers, and pockets, allowing you to keep your belongings neatly organized and easy to find. This is a lifesaver on long trips when you don't want to waste time rummaging through your luggage but can be painful at the airport. We've all been that person searching for something important and having to open every pocket on the floor just to find it. 

Fortress for Fragile Items: Hard-shell suitcases provide excellent protection for delicate items like souvenirs, electronics, or toiletries. This peace of mind is invaluable when traveling for extended periods.

Wheeling Wonder: Suitcases with wheels make navigating airports and long walks to your accommodation a breeze. This is especially beneficial on long trips where you might be carrying heavier luggage or multiple bags though not ideal for countries that lack paved roads like most parts of South East Asia.

However, suitcases also have some downsides for long travel:

Weight Woes: Suitcases themselves can be heavier than duffel bags, adding to the overall weight you need to manage. This can be a concern for travellers with weight restrictions or those who plan on doing a lot of walking. With airlines charging more everyday for checked baggage, managing both checked and carry-on weights is crucial. 

Bulk vs. Flexibility: Suitcases with their rigid structure might not be ideal for squeezing into tight overhead compartments or navigating crowded transportation. Additionally, they might struggle to accommodate bulky or oddly shaped items.

The "Formal" Feeling: Suitcases tend to have a more formal air compared to duffel bags. While this might be suitable for business trips, it might not be the best match for a laid-back adventure vacation.

The verdict: Choosing Between Duffel and Suitcase

Ultimately, the best choice between a duffel bag and a suitcase depends on the specifics of your trip. Consider these factors when making your decision:

Trip Length: For weekend getaways or anything up to 3 - 4 days, the flexibility and light weight of a duffel bag might be ideal. Particularly now when duffels like ours come with a dedicated shoe compartment, padded tech pockets and quick access pockets meaning there's room for everything you could need. For longer trips, the organization and protection of a suitcase are more advantageous. 

Packing Style: If you're a minimalist packer, a duffel bag might suffice. If you tend to pack a lot, a suitcase with its larger capacity is a better option. Also consider the geography, most locations in South East Asia for example having rough roads or dirt streets making wheel suitcases painful, whereas Europe is all smooth streets or cobblestone. 

Travel Style: If your trip involves a lot of walking or navigating crowded transportation, a duffel bag might be more convenient. If you're prioritizing organization and protection for valuables, a suitcase is the way

Shop the Drift Weekend Duffel Bag here if your looking for the perfect duffel for your next weekend adventures.