I’ve seen a few stories/articles about people unexpectedly loving the Filson Duffle Pack. This is one of Filson’s few Nylon offerings, and is pretty unique among those offerings at that ( meaning: it’s not just a Nylon version of something they make in their classic materials). The Duffle Pack is firmly a travel bag, and it’s one of those dual-purpose travel bags: offering a shoulder strap and backpack straps.
After snagging one to try myself: yeah, I get it, this is a really good bag — not my thing, but certainly better than similar offerings from Tom Bihn and others.
Size & Materials
The Duffle Pack is a large bag — the total allowance for a carry-on item for US domestic airlines at 46L. It measures 23½ “L x 12 “W x 10 “H. It’s made of 600D Nylon and impressively lightweight for how large of a bag it actually is.
The handles have a Bridle Leather wrap/keeper on them, and the zippers are brass with leather pull tabs — but the zipper teeth are plastic teeth (no scratched hands here). The lining feels lightweight but pretty standard stuff — not good or bad.
There are four compartments on this: a front admin pocket; a main compartment; a shoe bag accessible and vented to the outside but takes up main compartment space; and a laptop compartment. It’s a simple setup. The webbing is all very dense and heavy-duty nylon, and the backpack straps are wide and nicely padded.
I’ve not used this bag extensively, but I took it on a quick trip and wanted to share my impressions: it’s pretty damned good. I took it on a long weekend flying up to Denver and had it paired with a messenger bag.
When packing this bag, I quickly realized: this is a huge bag. I ditched using packing cubes and packed my gear loose in the bag to better fill the space — as I had loads of extra space. The front admin pocket proved to be awesome, and it is massive to swallow up even more gear with a nice zippered pocket inside to secure smaller goods. The shoe compartment went unused on the way out and didn’t impede the bag’s storage space.
With the shoulder strap and handles, I carried this bag first as a duffle. I found this to be an alright way of holding the bag. The duffle is quite wide and doesn’t carry slim at all in this mode. You can ‘tilt’ the bag one way or the other to make it a little more compact, but this is only passable as a duffle. It gets awkward and unwieldy to carry between terminals and crowded trams.
Arriving at the hotel, I placed the Duffle Pack down on a flat surface, and the value proposition of this bag hit me: you can open up the entire bag and get to all your gear without worrying about anything spilling out. And you get easy access to all your stuff. I could quickly see everything in the front compartment and promptly work out of the main compartment. This was easier than with the 48hr Duffle or the Small Rugged Twill Duffle and generally was a true gem to have with me in the hotel room. I often unpack some of my stuff into the hotel drawers to stay organized, but I found no need for that with this bag.
As I mentioned: I had a ton of extra space in this bag, which was good because my kids bought loads of stuff to bring back, and I needed to transport four newly acquired large books in the bag, plus my gear. Even with that, I still had room. I have no clue what it would take to fill this bag, but I am reasonably sure that’s a huge benefit of this bag and a limit I am unlikely to hit. But even with the bag not being full, it was effortless to move around, and there was no real penalty for having extra space in the bag as there is with some other variants of bags like this. By not filling the bag, you can easily squish into areas where a rolling bag would not fit in the overhead bins, which is a big reason I love to travel with soft-sided bags.
On the way home, I switched the bag to backpack mode and used the shoe storage area for dirty clothes. The shoe storage area would go unnoticed by me if it were removed. But the backpack mode on this is impressive. It’s by far the better way to carry this bag, and even with the weight I had in the bag, it was a very comfortable carry. The straps are wide, and the foam is dense enough to carry well. There’s foam for the back panel, though no frame sheet, so it does bend easily.
With this type and size of bag, there’s always an awkward backward pull from using these bags as backpacks, but I found this carried better than Tom Bihn’s Aeronaut offerings have for me. It was more comfortable and less awkward in backpack mode than any other duffle-to-backpack bags I have tried.
There are three main things I learned using this bag:
- The size is impressive, and it doesn’t carry like a beast of a bag. But it is a beast of a bag and is still relatively large to carry this bag. That’s an ‘it is what it is’ type of thing.
- Backpack mode is the only way you should plan on using this bag unless you are moving it from inside to a car and back — or other short carry instances.
- I love using this bag to get gear in and out of it. It’s convenient and easy to use in a way I don’t often experience from bags. The trapezoidal shape of the main compartment, coupled with the u-shaped opening, makes the bag something you can stuff full of gear and compress into the bag without it erupting from the bag the moment you open it. I think it will pack more without packing cubes than with packing cubes — something to note if you like packing cubes.
Using this bag was far better than I thought, and it definitely got my attention.
I like this bag, but it also doesn’t suit how I travel. It’s too large for how I travel, but it is supremely nice. You can travel lighter in this bag without much issue other than the visual appearance of the size. The bag is relatively light to carry, so most weight is in what you pack.
If you don’t like the weight of most of Filson’s gear and you need a versatile and large bag — this is a really good bag. I hope they make a version of this in about a 30L size; I’d instantly buy that. If you need something at the maximum end of what is allowed, I’d recommend this all day.