Next gear review: duffel bags & packing cubes!

How did I chose a duffel bag?

Just as your foul weather gear selection is important, so is the bag that you use to transport everything. When I was living on a boat in Georgian Bay I used to drag around a hockey bag of all my things. Ridiculous! It was huge, impractical and way too bulky and awkward for me.

There have been many advancements in the functionality and fabrics used for duffel bags and luggage since the days when I dragged around my hockey bag. Again, I need to make my wish list to know what to look for:

  • large enough for foulies & boots
  • large zipper for access to entire bag
  • waterproof (ideal, but not mandatory)
  • laundry section (ideal, but not mandatory)
  • backpack straps
  • tough fabric (for rips, tears and throwing around)
  • bright colour (again, not mandatory, but ideal for standing out and quick airport pick ups)
  • straps or places to hook on extras (with carabiner or rope)

Here are some well-known options for me to explore further:

SealLine – Boundary Portage Pack

Boundary Portage Duffel Bags

On first glance I love the colours, the straps, the waterproofness, and the size variations of the bags. However, I do not like that they are top access as I’d rather not have to pull everything out of the bag to access the pair of socks I need at the bottom.

However, SealLine do have some great dry packs for SUP and kayak trips and a good chart bag as well.

Zup Duffel Bags

Zip Duffel

This duffel bag is not necessarily what I am looking for to pack up my gear, however this would make a great grab bag as it is fully weatherproof and can be submersed (if you don’t know what that is, sign up for a course!).

In Nelson you can find these bags at Valhalla Pure Outfitters.

The North Face – Base Camp Duffel

North Face Duffel Bag

I am loving the size and colour of this duffel (it comes in other bright colours too). It also has a large top zipper for full bag access and the backpack straps as well as a luggage strap. It is built with solid materials and the zippers are weather sealed. It also has an interior mesh pocket which can be used for laundry. This duffel also has really great reviews on The North Face site so it seems to be a crowd pleaser.

Approx price: $210.00

Musto – Waterproof Dry Carryall 65L

Musto Duffel Bag

This bag is large, watertight and does not have any zippers. It uses heat sealed seems for waterproofing and it uses a fold top instead of zippers for closure. There are several straps and also a viewing window so that you can easily see inside the bag to locate things. The reviews on this product on the Musto site are evenly split with concerns about the material not being tough enough.

Approx price: $200.00

Helly Hansen – HH Classic Duffel Bag

HH Duffel Bag

Once again, Helly Hansen makes a great product for sailors at a good price. This bag comes in several colours, sizes and has backpack straps. It has a waterproof main zipper with access to the entire bag, several straps on the outside to connect extra things to and an external compartment that can be used for laundry or storing wet items. Reviews from the HH site are favourable for this bag.

Approx price: $150.00

Osprey – Transporter 130

Osprey Duffel Bag

This looks like a great bag. Large, bright colours, various handles, full zipper to access items inside and straps for backpacking or luggage carrying. The material is “tough as nails” according to Osprey and there is an overlapping zipper to protect your items from the elements (ie weatherproof). There is also an internal mesh pouch for extra segregated storage. I love the Osprey backpack that we currently use at our house.

Approx price: $220.00

Patagonia – Black Hole Duffel

Patagonia Duffel Bag

This is a great looking duffel bag and the price is great for what you get. There are several colour options, thick comfortable straps (backpack and luggage), extra handles and daisy chains (loops) for attachments and a large top zipper opening to view all contents inside. The duffel is weatherproof with a padded base to protect contents. It also includes an internal compression system (ie straps) to help you compress your items. Furthermore, when not in use the entire duffel packs down inside itself into a small package (bonus).

In Nelson you can find this duffel at Snowpack.

Approx price: $140.00


So, there are several options out there depending on what you are looking for. To suit my needs I think that either the Helly Hansen Classic Duffel Bag, the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel or the Osprey Transporter will meet my needs. I just need to figure out how much to pack and get the right size (thinking 70L or 90L). There are several stores in Nelson where you can check out some of these duffel bags yourself including ROAM, Valhalla Pure Outfitters and Snowpack.

How did I chose my packing cubes?

Packing Cubes


Packing cubes are a pretty simple thing to pick up and they are very helpful for keeping your gear organized within your bag. Locally, Snowpack, ROAM and Valhalla Pure Outfitters have several options on hand and they would probably be happy to order in any different sizes you may need.

For my purposes I will use 3 large cubes, 2 medium cubes and probably 2-3 small cubes. I also plan to bring along a mesh wash bag and a toiletry organizer for toothbrush, Tylenol, etc. The cubes will need to have mesh viewing windows so I can see what I packed in each and they will need to be breathable.

Final Thoughts…

Overall I am really excited about the various options that are available. I am looking for something large enough to fit everything, but easy enough to throw on my back. I am not looking for a wheeled duffel as I do not like wheeled luggage on boats (possibility of scratches or dents, but that’s my preference). I will keep you posted on which one I buy and why!

Stay tuned.

Captain Penny

Page Photo Credit: Photo retrieved from


  1. I’m a big fan of packing cells! Have just got a lovely Henri Lloyd bag too with wheels – awesome if you are down a long marina finger with no carts available 🙂

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