Duffel Bag vs Suitcase: Which is Better for Travel?

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Choosing the right luggage is one of the most important things to consider when making travel arrangements. You can either opt for a duffel bag or a suitcase.

Often, the choice is between the versatility of the duffle bag or the suitcase’s space and security.

When it comes down to it, it all depends on the length of the trip, mode of transport, and personal preferences.

Let’s dig in and explore the features, differences, and benefits of duffle bags and suitcases, as well as how to choose your best traveling companion.

Duffels Bag vs Suitcases: Brief Information

duffel bag benefits

Before discussing the best option, let us first look at the history of duffel bags and suitcases.

To help you better understand why they are the most preferred luggage carrier, we have also included their pros and cons.

Duffel Bags

Duffel bags are a popular traveling bag, drawing their ancestry from the Belgian city of Duffel.


  • Simple to pack and carry
  • Affordability
  • Stylish
  • Versatile


  • Challenging to keep items organized
  • Limited security

Since the mid-17th century, duffel bags have undergone numerous design transformations but still remain trendy, fashionable, and convenient.

These carry-on luggage carriers are adaptable and can be used for traveling bags to office, sports, and backpacking bags.


Plastic suitcases are the preferable traveling luggage today.

However, initially, suitcases were made of leather, which was bulky and expensive before the 19th century saw the introduction of canvas and wicker cases.


  • Spacious
  • Security
  • Tidiness and organization
  • Easy mobility


  • Difficulty navigating stairs or bumpy sidewalks
  • Cost

The early 1900s saw metallic cases come up but were soon replaced by plastic, which was less bulky, more durable, and less corrosive.

That notwithstanding, the addition of wheels to suitcases was the real game changer as mobility provided more travel convenience.

Differences Between Duffel Bags and Suitcases

Today’s duffel bags and suitcases offer some incredible features whether you are planning for your next work trip or vacation.

Here are five of the best:

Storage Space

If you tend to purchase souvenirs or travel for longer durations, you will need a large carrier to accommodate everything you throw into it.

In this regard, suitcases are your best bet for the extra items, with some XL suitcases having a capacity of up to 140 liters (60kgs). Pack till you drop!

Duffel bags are small and compact, which severely limits their storage space.

Besides, duffel bags usually have fewer compartments than suitcases.

This makes organizing your belongings quite hectic and limits the number of items you can conveniently haul to your dream destinations.

Winner: Suitcase


A single duffle bag can serve as an office handbag, salesperson bag, lawyer attaché case, or a college student’s suitcase on your travels.

Lightweight and with a padded luggage strap, you can carry the duffle by the handle, as a sling bag on the shoulder, or across your body.

Suitcases are rectangular cases and are bulky.

The expandable compartments with built-in locks only help you to carry more luggage.

Thus, you have to buy different sizes of suitcases to achieve the same level of functionality a single duffel bag does.

Winner: Duffel Bags


With a suitcase, you can relax knowing that your belongings are safe.

Hard shell construction, sturdy zippers, and built-in locking systems deter unauthorized access to your belongings.

Consider getting a suitcase with a TSA-approved lock for airport security to conveniently inspect your luggage without breaking your lock.

While duffel bags are compact and flexible, security features are their biggest undoing.

Duffel bags are slightly more difficult to secure since they need built-in locks like those on suitcases.

Thieves can snoop through your belongings by cutting through the soft fabric/vinyl used to make most duffel.

To protect your belongings, look for a duffel bag with lockable zips.

Winner: Suitcase


While duffel bags are typically made from naturally sturdy leather, the rigors of transportation make them lose their luster quickly and prone to wear and tear.

Besides, the seams and stitches are likely to rip when used to haul heavy items or overstuff the duffel bag.

Get a suitcase if you want your luggage to withstand rough handling during loading or unloading while ensuring all your fragile items are kept safe.

Hardshell cases with sturdy wheels and handles can last years of global trotting adventures with proper care and storage.

Winner: Suitcase


Duffel bags are flexible and portable, making them best suited for maneuvering in tight spaces.

Hanging from your shoulder or slung across your body, you can easily squeeze through human traffic in narrow doorways, airport concourses, or train stations.

There are two types of suitcases, two-wheeled or 4-wheeled (spinners).

2-wheel cases are easier to pull over uneven surfaces such as gravel, but spinners are the best of the bunch.

The four wheels provide more stability, making maneuvering heavy luggage in any direction and around obstacles easy.

Winner: Draw

Factors to Consider When Choosing Duffel Bags and Suitcases

There are plenty of features to consider when investing in an ideal traveling duffel bag or a suitcase, whether professionally or for leisure.

Here are three key factors to look out for before purchasing either a duffel bag or a suitcase:


The materials used in the construction directly impact its durability, functionality, and pricing.

For duffel bags, the most common construction materials are:

  • Leather: Leather duffel bags are very durable, timeless, stylish, and breathable. Nonetheless, they are expensive, relatively heavy, and require regular conditioning to maintain their elegance.
  • Canvas: Canvas bags have a soft fabric, making them expandable and resilient. Thin walls make canvas bags susceptible to tearing, less water-resistant, and unideal for carrying fragile items.
  • Nylon: Lightweight, water-resistant, inexpensive, and easy to clean and maintain. However, nylon duffle bags are the least durable and keep them away from sharp objects.

On the flipside, suitcases boast of a more rugged construction.

Below are the best materials used to make suitcases in descending order:

  • Polycarbonate: lightweight, durable, water-resistant, and withstands scratches and dents. The superior quality of polycarbonate makes its suitcases expensive.
  • Leather: Luxurious and long-lasting, leather suitcases are the most expensive and tend to be very heavy.
  • ABS Plastic: Lightweight but not as sturdy as polycarbonate, making such suitcases prone to scratches and unrepairable dents.
  • Nylon: Affordable, lightweight, and waterproof; nylon cases, unfortunately, are more susceptible to stains and tears.

Recent developments have seen the rise of hybrid suitcases, from combining hard and soft materials to make quality suitcases affordable to thousands of traveling enthusiasts.

Budget Considerations

How much are you willing and able to spend on a luggage carrier?

Duffel bags are relatively affordable, which makes them a good option if you are a budget-minded shopper.

Moreover, they are lighter, which means you will pay fewer luggage fees in airports, considerably lowering your traveling costs.

While suitcases might be quite pricey, the superior materials and ample storage easily justify the price tag.

Additional features such as ergonomic wheels, telescopic handles, enhanced security, and multiple compartments add to the demand for suitcases among travelers.

Besides, with proper research, you can always find a reliable and stylish case that fits your budget needs.

Customer Reviews

suitcase travel benefits

Online customer reviews give you valuable insights into the product’s quality, durability, and value.

Reading about other people’s experiences gives you a good idea of what to expect from your duffel bag or suitcase.

It will help you select the product that best suits your traveling needs and, ultimately, gives you the best value for money.

However, since customer reviews are subjective, check reviews from various sources before making an informed decision.

Yelp, Amazon, reputable travel blogs, and Google Reviews provide some of the best feedback as they are written by people who have actually purchased and used the product.

Besides, consider both positive and negative reviews to get a balanced perspective.

Duffel Bag vs Suitcase: Our Top Picks

Let’s face it: It’s tedious checking multiple products and reading through all the reviews to pick out your perfect luggage.

Worry not; we have done the background check for you, and our recommended duffel bags and suitcases have exceptional craftsmanship and provide the best value for money:

Duffel Bags

Best Rolling

Samsonite Ripstop

Best Overall

Eddie Bauer Expedition

Best for Business

Augus Briefcase

Also check out Eagle Creek if you are looking for budget duffel bags.


Best Carry-on

Travelpro Maxlite 5

Best Overall

Samsonite Freeform

Best for Business

TUMI Voyageur

Also check out Rockland London Hardside with excellent reviews if you are looking for suitcase on a budget.

Luggage Choices: More Than Just Convenience

Choosing between a duffel bag and a suitcase isn’t just about convenience or style; it often hinges on the nature of your trip.

For instance, if you’re booking a short-haul flight with stringent carry-on restrictions, a duffel might be the better bet due to its flexibility.

On the other hand, hotel stays often mean dedicated storage space where a structured suitcase can be easily accommodated.

Additionally, the contents of your luggage could determine the type of travel insurance you opt for.

Expensive equipment or formal wear might necessitate enhanced coverage for loss or damage.

Thus, your luggage choice can influence not just how you pack, but also how you book and insure your travels.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between full-grain leather and genuine leather duffel bags?

Full-grain leather makes premium duffle bags, especially for business travel. It’s sturdy, breathable, resists moisture, and ages gracefully.

On the other hand, genuine leather usually refers to suede, a lesser leather quality. It is more affordable, has a shinier appearance, a woody leather smell, and is more prone to scratching.

What suitcase size do I need for a one-week vacation?

Typically, a size M (50-80 liters) suitcase is usually sufficient for a week’s vacation. However, the gear and season may also affect the suitcase size.

For instance, while size M is more than enough for a beach vacation, you’ll need a larger suitcase to accommodate apparel for your winter escapades or skiing trip luggage.

What is the standard size of a carry-on luggage?

There is no standard size for a carry-on as each airline usually has its own weight and dimensions restrictions. Usually, if your duffle bag or suitcase is 22 x 14 x 9 inches, most US airlines will allow them on board.

However, some carriers, such as United Airlines and JetBlue, institute weight and ticket class limitations for free haulage of these carry-ons.

Why is my duffel bag or suitcase denied at the check-in counter?

Denial of luggage at the counter usually means you have exceeded the airline weight regulations. You will have to remove some items, redistribute them into another bag, or pay the hefty overweight fees.

To avoid this inconvenience, always weigh your luggage and check with the airline to confirm their weight and size regulations prior to heading to the airport.

Final Thoughts: Duffel Bag vs Suitcase

When it comes to which is the best traveling companion between a duffel bag and a suitcase, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Duffel bags are lightweight and versatile, ideal for short trips or situations where flexibility is vital. Alternatively, suitcases are more durable and secure while providing ample storage space on your adventures.

Ultimately, this choice relies on your personal preferences, the type of trip, and the number of belongings you are traveling with. You now have all the information to pick the perfect luggage carrier for your next trip.

Happy travels!

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