Men, typically, have several items that are, pretty much, universally possessed regardless of age, size, race, or nationality. Items that fall under this distinction usually include things like a blue button down shirt, a good pair of jeans, a pair of khaki pants, a basic toolset (sometimes these consist of nothing more than a screwdriver and hammer but it still counts), headphones, and, lastly, a do-everything bag.

For those unsure of what a do-everything bag is, pretend there’s an upcoming overnight/weekend trip or maybe the day’s schedule looks something like work, gym, then out with friends and there is not enough time to swing by the house.

How do you carry your clothes for those described situations? You guessed it, in a do-everything bag. These bags can look several different ways and are called numerous things by different people. Some call them a duffle, knapsack, carryall, travel bag, gym bag, and the list goes on and on. Some use a backpack, while others use a suitcase.

For the sake of this article, we will discuss the three different types of bag many men use routinely and how they differ: the duffle bag, the backpack, or the suitcase.

Further reading: Best dopp kit for a man’s needs

The Backpack

Backpack for travelling, work and school

Backpacks have long been a staple for the working man, traveler, hiker, and, most commonly, student.

While people have been strapping gear to their back since practically the dawn of time, the modern backpack is fairly young. Most people believe it is as recent at 44 years ago. Sure, that seems hard to believe but let’s follow the logic of this thought.

The first backpacks, primarily for carrying books, wasn’t technically a backpack. It was, simply, a leather strap or cloth that went around a stack of books for easier carrying. These were the primary method for carrying books until the 1970s.

In 1938, the outdoor company that still exists today, Gerry Outdoors, invented the first zippered backpack. This pack was not used for bucks but hiking and camping. Throughout this time, students either used the strap or, a very small few, began to use single strap bags.

In 1972, the team at Jansport saw this as a problem and when on to invent the first lightweight nylon backpack (Gerry Outdoors have invented a nylon backpack a few years earlier but it was only used by outdoor enthusiasts).

Jansports had invented a pack for day hiking and college students at the University of Washington took the pack and saw it as a good way to haul their books and belongings around. The store selling this packs contacted Jansport and the modern backpack began.

By the next decade, backpacks were apart of, nearly, every schools’ “must have” supply list. Since then, backpacks have served as a great way to carry any smaller belongings while a variety of options allows an individual to have their own style.

Criteria to selecting a backpack

When buying a backpack, one wants to look for several key criteria:


This is the most important aspect to buying a backpack. It is is uncomfortable, it will not be used. On top of that, uncomfortable backpacks can actually cause injuries.

When looking for a comfortable backpack, consider the shape of the area that rests against the back, the shoulder straps, and the padding. The shoulder straps should be adjustable and padded. These will make sure that the backpack fits correctly and comfortably and does not add any unnecessary strain on the back.

Padded, curved backs that follow the shape of the back, in particular the lower back, are essential for comfort. A proper shape works with the natural arch to limit any back pain.

If carrying heavy loads a padded hip belt with distribute the weight so that the leg muscles can carry more of the load.


If the backpack will be treated pretty roughly, look for a heavy duty pack made with really strong nylon material.

Nylon and polyester are the most common pack options but, like with duffel bags, canvas is used to make more durable bags and leather works as well though they will cost extra.

The normal reasons a backpack is rendered useless is because of tears on the straps, the zipper breaks, and the stitching has separated. If electronics or other items that could be damaged by water are going to be routinely carried, look for a water resistant or waterproof backpack. Nylon and polyester are typical the materials that are featured in water resistant packs.

To avoid damage to a laptop or tablet, backpacks now have padded compartments to protect the equipment from contact and movement.


Many packs are available in several sizes which fit multiple torso lengths and hip sizes. To measure torso length stand with the hand on the hip bone (point the index finger straight and thumbs back). Measure from the base of the neck to the thumbs. This is the torso length.

  • Extra small and small backpacks are for those with 18” or less torsos.
  • Medium and standard backpacks fit 18”-20” torsos.
  • Large backpacks are anything about that.


If one is using a backpack for school or light easy use, a canvas back is more than sufficient. If one is going to be in the weather and rain, buy accordingly.

Make sure that the backpack is large enough to fit what it is need for. Buying a backpack that is too small is more of a problem than one that is too big.


Backpacks come in a variety of fabric and material. The common ones are:

  • Canvas – inexpensive, durable, and stylish
  • Nylon – these come in Pack-Cloth (these are the slick, shiny commonly seen in outdoor pack varieties because they accept waterproofing), Cordura (air treated nylon that is lightweight and abrasion resistant), and Rip-stop (these are tougher versions like pack-cloth that don’t rip and are waterproofed and lightweight).
  • Polyester – more UV resistant than nylon but not as tough. Usually send in backpacks for smaller kids. They are cheap and easily colored.
  • Leather – expensive but lasts and changes over time. This is the more formal of all backpacks and works well for more business professional settings.

Now that all the logistics of backpacks have been discussed. Pick one out based on the above criteria. Here are a few of our favorites:

The North Face Borealis Backpack (28L)

The North Face Borealis Backpack

This pack comes with a unique FlexVent suspension system and padded inserts for the laptop and tablet. The back is padded and ventilated so that sweat wicks away and the back is left to breathe through any situation. It comes with a bungee cord webbed system that fits a bike helmet or water bottles.

This pack is large enough to carry all material needed for work or school with room for gym clothes as well. It is durable as it comes in a heavy duty nylon.

This backpack is a little higher prices than the average pack but trust, like with most The North Face products, it is a product that will perform and last. Most people who have this pack claim it is the best they have ever had.

Thule Stravan Laptop Backpack (22L)

Thule Stravan Laptop Backpack

This is a water-resistant commuter backpack. It has padded sections to carry up to a 15” MacBook and Ipad, in addition to a pair of sunglasses, phone, and any other easily damaged item.

The compartments are considered a Crush Proof SafeZone and can withstand rather substantial blows. It opens up wide like a suitcase so that it is easily packed. It has several interior storage pockets for small accessories. It has 2 side mesh pockets for water bottles and a strap for a jacket or yoga mat on the bottom.

It is made from a durable, 500-denier nylon with TPE backing and watertight zippers. It is backed with a 25-year warranty because it lasts and lasts. It comes in a stylish slate grey and is pricy but really well designed and made. It will not disappoint.

If the trip extends longer or there is a preference for a more structured bag, many men opt for the long trusted standard, the suitcase.

The Suitcase

Travel suitcase

Image courtesy: Yastremska/

A form of the luggage like a suitcase has been around for an extremely long time. Since most early humans lived nomadic lifestyles, there was a constant need to carry their belongs from one place to another.

The use of a suitcase like bag for ages and ages was confirmed as Otzi, a famous iceman from 3,300 BC, was found with a wooden backpack containing a leather bag. Thousands of years from that point, a luggage tag was found that could be traced back to the Roman Empire.

The earliest luggage with containing wheels was found in Palestine. It was used during the Crusades as a method of transporting weapons and supplies for the Knights Templar. By the Middle Ages, the wealthy aristocrats began to travel more and carried their cargo in large wooden chests that were often wrapped on canvas or leather with various sections to organize its contents.

By the 16th century, ways to carry belongings like a Gladstone bag began to become a staple in society. These bags were made with two leather sides that were hinged together and fastened (a handle was often included as well). As a result the word “luggage” appeared in the English language in 1596. In the 1800s, luggage and suitcases like most of our modern versions.

In its original form, suitcases were made from wool or cloth. Soon after, leather became a popular material as it was durable and could be used to cover a wooden suitcase or by itself to make the suitcase more bendable.

By the 20th century, suitcases needed to be lightweight and mass produced and polyester and aluminum (then later ballistic nylon) became the common choice.

Many of us, today, have become accustomed to a polycarbonate, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, and polypropylene suitcase. These are hard and durable while the later two are, typically, cheaper and more lightweight.

Believe it or not, these bags did not exist until 2000 when a German luggage maker, Rimowa, made them. The spinner style versions of these bags followed shortly after in 2004.

Defining a suitcase

One may ask, what can be classified as a technical suitcase?

A suitcase is usually identified by its flatter, rectangular shape. It has rounded squared corners that, typically are metal or hard plastic so that the bag holds a consistent shape or form. It has a handle on one side and is usually used to carry clothing. It, most often, opens with a zipper that hinges open so there entire surface area of the interior of the bag is easily accessible and packed. These can be small for weekend trips or much larger to provide necessities for even longer trips.

Many newer suitcases have built-in wheels and a retractable handle so that they can easily be transported. Today, fancier, more high-tech versions have began their introduction to the market. These are controlled by a smartphone app and can be GPS tracked, locked wirelessly, and will even follow behind without touching them.

For a good suitcase we recommend: Timbuk2 Copilot Luggage Roller Medium Black

Timbuk2 Copilot Luggage Roller Medium Black

A bag that has become a favorite among many travelers. It comes from the trusted brand Timbuk2 that is known for wonderfully crafted and designed luggages.

It is sleek with a retractable handle and a broader than most skateboard wheeled bottom that rolls on any surface with ease. It is easily packed with its clamshell like opening and small enough to fit in most overhead bins. It has a convenient expandable top compartment for storing shoes and toiletries away from clothing.

It has an ID window so that it can quickly be identified at the airport. An internal mesh divider keeps things organized. The dimensions of this product are 14.6 x 9.8 x 21.7 with a weight of 6.61. It is built to last and will work for any occasion, business or pleasure.

Delsey Luggage Helium Aero Expandable Spinner Trolley

Delsey Luggage Helium Aero Expandable Spinner Trolley

Delsey is one of those companies that are synonymous to travelling. A truly admirable brand that needs no introductions and its name is associated with high quality bags of all sorts.

The particular bag from Delsey is made entirely of polycarbonate, a material that makes the exterior durable and light at the same time. This will give you a peace of mind when you drop your suitcase to the airport’s drop off counter.

It boasts four dual spinner wheels for flexible and easy transportation. Although the dimensions of 29″ high
and 12.5″ wide is more than enough to fit everything you need for your trip, it can also expand by up to 2″ to fit even more items in it.

When you open the suitcase, you find two compartments, one with its own zipper and another with tie down straps.

Lastly, the suitcase comes in many different colors, but we would highly advise choosing a dark one. The reason is that the polycarbonate exterior shows signs of wear, especially after your first flight. These signs are usually dark which can make your bag look very dirty if you have a bright or light color.

As for the value, you can’t get many better suitcases than this with its durability from a trusted brand such as Delsey.

The Duffel Bag

Leather duffel bag

Image courtesy: Apollofoto/

Why do men love a good duffel bag?

The standard duffel bag appeals to just about any man because of its versatility. It serves as a catch-all option for any traveler and any occasion.

Say, for instance, a man’s personality type lends well to being extremely organized and methodical when packing, the duffel bag provides a perfect outlet for such a person. The main compartment is big and open so that it’s easy to lay out and properly organize its contents while side pockets are, usually available to seperate things that need seclusion.

For those that are far less organized, it lends itself well to being crammed full of clothes quickly and zipped up so no one is anything the wiser of the pile lying beneath.

A duffel bag is portable, usually lightweight, and works for practically situation that does not require an overwhelming amount of clothes or stuff to be carried.

Where did the duffel bag come from?

The duffel bag’s origin can be traced back to the mid 17th century in a small town in Belgium called Duffel, hence the name. In this town, they produced a tough, thick fabric that began to serve as the standard for early duffel bag models.

Early in the inception of the duffel bag, the bags were almost always “army green” in color, they had a cylindrical shape with their circular ends, and they did not have the zipper of modern versions but a drawstring for closure on the top. For many years, these bags were only associated with military use.

This changed shortly have WWII. The duffel bag was seen as the perfect vessel to transport clothing for first, other branches of the military such as the navy, then, quickly, gained mass appeal.

Australian and California surfers served as a catalyst for the duffel bag as it became a staple of those who were, or wanted to be considered, surfers.

How does one define a bag as a duffel bag?

A traditional duffel bag has soft sides that easily bend or compress so that fit in, just about any, irregular space. While they originated with drawstrings, zippers are now the standard, because of their ease and security, and they run along the length of the bag. Some have additional interior and exterior pockets as well.

As stated earlier, the original duffel bags had a cylinder like shape but modern adaptations have evolved into a bag with square sides that look much more box like. The square design is beneficial because of it stacks much easier and saves more shape.

Duffel bags now come in a variety of colors and materials. Each fabric of a duffel bag has certain advantages and styles. The materials used for the bag, typically falls under one of these headings:

  • Canvas: This was the original form of the duffel bag. It is a thick, tightly woven cloth. As a result of the tight weave, it naturally repels water and is easily sprayed with waterproof spray that makes it even more effective against water. Canvas is easily accessible and usually more affordable. It can have a distressed, worn look or become dressier with things like leather accents.
  • Leather: This is a hard material for luggage, but it is very stylish and classic. As a result of the firmness of the material, seeing these bags in drawstring form is practically unheard of. Leather has the unique quality of looking better and more interesting as it ages and weathers. These bags are heavier that the other varieties and come in at a higher price point. Still, because of the durability of leather, these bags tend to hold up longer and last the longest.
  • Nylon and Polyester: A bag made from this material tends to do well if the bag is used in a rather strenuous manner. It resists most scuffs, scrapes, and stains. It is extremely lightweight and usually cost much less than a leather bag. While it doesn’t scrap easily, it is pretty easily punctured and worn through. This bag usually holds up the least amount of time.
  • Vinyl: This is sometimes called synthetic leather. It is much less expensive and resists stains better than true leather but, while newer versions are better than they were, it will scratch up with very little contact. It looks nice and comes in cheap, compared to leather, but it will look beaten up and scratched in far less time.

After making the material choice, it’s important to think about size and function.

Purpose of using a duffel bag

Many people prefer a travel duffel bag for short trips. These bags have, often, divides and side pockets for smaller items. Due to the stress these bags are often put under, they usually come with a harder, more scratch resistant bottom. These bags can come in a variety of shapes and sizes but typical are on the smaller side.

For those looking for a good bag for the gym, they make bags labeled gym bags. These are duffel bags that usually have a large open main compartment so that clothes and equipment can quickly be tossed in. They usually lack the structure of other bags because they aren’t meant to be handled as roughly as luggage. They are made to be lightweight, usually coming in a nylon or canvas.

Some duffel bags have even gained wheels for easier transport. These are usually bigger and work well for larger, heavier loads.

Now that one has identified the bags function, they can make a choice based on style and preference. Here are a few of our favorites:

For a larger, do all duffel:

The North Face Rolling Thunder Wheeled Duffel 22″

The North Face Rolling Thunder Wheeled Duffel

A product from the loved brand, North Face that delivers superior performance. Although this can easily fall under the luggage category, we couldn’t resist including it under the duffel bag category as this is way more than just a simple suitcase. The particular North Face comes with a lifetime warranty and will last for years and years.

It is made from a rugged nylon with their bomber basecamp material so that it will not rip. It points that usually show wear are covered with plastic bumpers to provide additional protection. It comes with sturdy wheels, a comfortable handle and extra strap so that small duffles and backpacks can be thrown on and rolled around.

The bag has two external zippered pockets for easily getting to needed accessories and the inside has mesh pockets so that everything stays organized. It, too, has an ID window for easy identification. This bag can be bought in a huge 36″ or 22″. The 22″ is 14 x 22 x 8.5 and weighs 7.5 lbs.

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel (60L)

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel

This larger duffel can handle practically anything thrown its way. It can easily hold enough clothes and gear for a five day trip or longer. It is inspired by rugged, yet surprising light, alpine packs. It comes in a ripstop fabric covered in a TPU laminate and coated with DWR for superior protection. The bottom is padded and extremely durable.

Other features of this bag include removable, padded backpack straps for easier carrying of large loads, compression straps so that the bag stays stable during the roughest rides, internal organizers, and zippered mesh pockets. Another added bonus is this bag tucks neatly away in its own zippered side pocket.

This bag comes is a variety of colors and while it is not leather, it last like leather. This is a favorite pack for any who has ever used it. It, simply, delivers and continues to do so for years and years.

Most people know Patagonia for its superior outdoor clothing and gear. It guarantees everything it makes. If not satisfied with the product or it does not perform, they will repair, refund, or replace the product, regardless of how old it is. It comes in at just over $100 dollars, typically, and is worth every penny.

Field Canvas Duffle by L.L. Bean (44L)

Field Canvas Duffle by L.L. Bean

A duffel bag that comes from L.L. Bean, a company with a rich history of great quality products. It weighs only 2 lb. 10 oz. but really performs. It is made from a heavy-duty 12 oz. canvas that is extremely sturdy. It has a nice soft, plaid, flannel lining. It looks dressy for a canvas bag with antiqued nickel hardware and leather accents.

The bag has a flat bottom and big wide main compartment for easy packing. It has snaps that expand for more shape if needed. It contains both an interior zipper pocket and a gusseted exterior pocket. It can be carried either with the removable shoulder strap or the canvas handle.

For those familiar with L.L. Bean products, they designed this product after their Original Field Coat, which is a long time customer favorite because it is stylish and functional. It works well for a gym or everyday bag but can travel as well. Price is respectable for this quality a bag.

Maybe a man finds himself looking for something smaller than a duffel bag. He is simply looking for a bag that can carry his computer, books, notebooks, and other odds and ends. It this situation there are two options that are, also, universal to most men: the backpack or the suitcase.

Concluding remarks

There is, literally, a bag for any occasion.

Whether one is looking for a duffel bag, backpack, or suitcase, let this article provide some explanation and suggestions that will leave the reader informed and excited to make their future purchase.