Whether you take just one trip a year or have racked up enough frequent flyer miles to circle the globe a few times, settling on the right luggage to take with you is important. Maybe your go-to is a big honkin’ hardshell roller you’ve been schlepping for a decade, or a single backpack you insist on stuffing until the zipper pleads for mercy. You have a plethora of options, for sure, but the most versatile and necessary bag to keep at the ready in your closet may not be the one you expect. The humble duffle is the only piece of luggage you actually need, and here’s why. 

They’re roomy and can be stuffed into crowded overhead compartments

Unless you’re planning to gallivant overseas for a couple months or bringing a DSW’s worth of shoes with you, a duffle bag provides plenty of room and then some to pack whatever you need. Stack, roll, and organize like a pro, and you can fit upwards of a week’s worth of clean clothes, a couple pairs of shoes, and still squeeze in some more before having to zip up. Even better, unlike a hardshell case with bulky wheels, you can typically maneuver a packed duffle into nearly-full overhead compartments and make it work even if you’re last to board without getting the dreaded glare from flight attendants and fellow passengers. Plus, the fact that you’ll practically never be forced to check it means you can breeze out of the airport as soon as you deplane. 

There are no wheels to break

You can argue that the upside of a roller bag is that it glides seamlessly through airport terminals while a duffle must be carried, but a roller’s pros are also its cons. If you’ve ever owned one, you know that it doesn’t take long for at least one of the wheels to unceremoniously retire by popping off mid-trip. And even if they all remain intact, a few wrong moves or jagged surfaces can hobble one or more enough to make rolling the whole thing around a chore unto itself. 

They look better with age

Over a lifetime, a hardshell bag gets dinged, bruised, scratched and even stained enough to resemble the luggage of a longtime war correspondent. If you’re into that, then great, but for the rest of us, it’s nice to carry around something that’s earned a nice patina with age. That’s where the right duffle shines. Invest in a good leather one and it’ll age gracefully like your grandparents’ Chesterfield sofa. Opt for one made from canvas, and you can expect something similar. 

To help you make the switch to duffle life, we’ve pulled together some of our favorites below.

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