Whether you’re an athlete packing gear for the gym or a traveler prepping for a weekend getaway, a duffel bag can be a versatile piece of luggage. But what exactly is a duffel, and how is it different from a duffel bag?

This comprehensive guide will answer all your questions about this practical bag’s unique name, history, common uses, and features.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: A duffel bag and duffel refer to the same type of medium-sized, cylindrical bag with two straps that close the top. The name comes from the Belgian town where the cloth used to make the bags originated in the 17th century.

Today, duffels are a popular bag for travel, sports, and more thanks to their spacious interiors and durability.

Where Does the Name “Duffel Bag” Come From?

The name “duffel bag” has an interesting origin that can be traced back to the Belgian town of Duffel. Duffelcloth, a thick, durable fabric, was first produced in this town during the 17th century. The fabric was known for its resistance to harsh weather conditions and was used to make various items, including bags.

Duffelcloth Originated in the Belgian Town of Duffel

The term “duffel bag” was coined because these bags were originally made from duffelcloth. The fabric’s popularity grew, and it soon became synonymous with the bags made from it. Duffelcloth was valued for its ruggedness and ability to withstand wear and tear, making it the perfect material for bags used in demanding situations.

In fact, the name “duffel bag” became so widely recognized that it is now used to describe any large, cylindrical bag with a top closure, regardless of the material it is made from.

Duffel Bags Evolved from Military Kit Bags

While the name may have originated from the fabric used, the design and functionality of duffel bags evolved from military kit bags. These bags were originally used by soldiers to carry their equipment and personal belongings during military campaigns.

The sturdy construction and roomy interior of military kit bags made them ideal for carrying heavy loads over long distances. Over time, civilians began to recognize the practicality of these bags and started using them for their own purposes, such as travel, sports, and outdoor activities.

Today, duffel bags have become a staple in the world of travel and adventure. They are valued for their spaciousness, durability, and versatility. Whether you’re heading to the gym, going on a weekend trip, or embarking on a hiking expedition, a duffel bag is a reliable companion that can hold all your essentials.

For more information on the history and use of duffel bags, you can visit history.com.

What Defines the Duffel Bag Design?

The duffel bag is a versatile and practical piece of luggage that has been used for decades by travelers, athletes, and military personnel. Its design is characterized by several key features that distinguish it from other types of bags.

Cylindrical Shape with Carrying Straps

One defining characteristic of the duffel bag is its cylindrical shape, which sets it apart from other bags that are more rectangular or square in shape. This shape allows for maximum storage capacity and easy access to the contents of the bag.

Additionally, duffel bags typically come with sturdy carrying straps that allow for comfortable transportation over the shoulder or by hand.

Durable, Weather-Resistant Fabrics

Duffel bags are known for their durability and ability to withstand rough handling and adverse weather conditions. They are often made from sturdy fabrics such as canvas, nylon, or polyester, which provide excellent resistance to tearing and abrasion.

These fabrics also offer some level of water resistance, keeping the contents of the bag dry even in light rain or snow.

Roomy Interior and Minimal Organization

One of the main advantages of using a duffel bag is its spacious interior, which allows for the packing of a large volume of items. Unlike other bags that may have numerous compartments and pockets for organization, duffel bags typically have a more open design with minimal internal organization.

This makes them ideal for packing bulky items or sports equipment that may not fit well in other types of bags.

When and Why Use a Duffel Bag?

A duffel bag is a versatile and practical travel accessory that can be used for a variety of purposes. Whether you’re heading to the gym, going on a weekend trip, or embarking on an outdoor adventure, a duffel bag can be your go-to companion.

Let’s explore some of the common scenarios where a duffel bag comes in handy.

Sports and Gym

If you’re someone who enjoys sports or regularly hits the gym, a duffel bag is a must-have item. Its spacious interior allows you to pack your workout clothes, shoes, towels, water bottle, and other essentials conveniently.

Many duffel bags are designed with separate compartments or pockets, making it easier to organize and access your belongings. With its sturdy construction and comfortable shoulder straps, a duffel bag can withstand the rigors of your active lifestyle with ease.

Travel and Weekend Trips

When it comes to travel, duffel bags offer a perfect balance between size and portability. They are ideal for short trips or weekend getaways when you don’t need to pack an excessive amount of luggage.

Duffel bags are compact enough to fit in overhead compartments or under the seat in an airplane, saving you the hassle of checking in your baggage. Their soft-sided construction also allows for easy storage when not in use.

Whether you’re traveling by car, train, or plane, a duffel bag is a practical and convenient choice.

Outdoor Activities and Camping

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or enjoy camping trips, a duffel bag can be your trusty companion. Its rugged design and durable materials make it suitable for withstanding the elements and rough handling.

A duffel bag can accommodate all your camping gear, including clothing, sleeping bags, cooking utensils, and other essentials. Its spacious interior and multiple compartments ensure that you can organize your belongings efficiently.

Additionally, some duffel bags are designed to be waterproof, providing added protection for your belongings during outdoor adventures.

Duffel vs. Duffle: Is There a Difference in Spelling?

Both Spellings Are Considered Correct

When it comes to the spelling of the word “duffel” or “duffle,” both spellings are considered correct. The word refers to a type of bag that is cylindrical in shape and made from a durable fabric. While some may argue that one spelling is more accurate than the other, both have been in use for many years and are widely accepted.

The origin of the word “duffel” can be traced back to the town of Duffel in Belgium, where the thick cloth used to make the bags was originally produced. Over time, the term “duffel bag” became synonymous with any bag made from similar material, regardless of the spelling.

Duffel is More Common in the U.S.

In the United States, the spelling “duffel” is more commonly used than “duffle.” This may be due to the influence of the military, as the term “duffel bag” is often associated with the armed forces. The use of “duffel” is also more prevalent in American literature and media.

However, it’s important to note that both spellings are understood and recognized by English speakers worldwide. Whether you spell it “duffel” or “duffle,” you can be confident that your meaning will be understood.

Key Duffel Bag Styles and Sizes

Carry-On Size

Carry-on duffel bags are perfect for those quick weekend getaways or short business trips. These bags are designed to fit within the size restrictions imposed by airlines, allowing you to avoid the hassle of checking in your luggage.

They typically have a capacity of around 30-45 liters and are equipped with multiple compartments and pockets to keep your belongings organized. Some carry-on duffels even come with a built-in laptop sleeve, making them ideal for business travelers on the go.

Popular brands that offer carry-on duffel bags include Samsonite, Tumi, and Osprey.

Large Travel Duffels

If you’re planning a longer trip or need to pack bulkier items, a large travel duffel bag is the way to go. These spacious bags have a capacity of 60-120 liters, providing ample room for all your essentials.

They are typically made from durable materials such as nylon or canvas and feature sturdy handles and straps for easy carrying. Some large travel duffels also come with wheels and a telescoping handle, giving you the option to roll them instead of carrying them on your shoulder.

Popular brands for large travel duffels include Patagonia, North Face, and Eagle Creek.

Wheeled Duffels

For those who prefer the convenience of rolling their luggage, wheeled duffel bags are a great choice. These bags combine the spaciousness of a duffel with the mobility of a suitcase, thanks to their built-in wheels and retractable handles.

Wheeled duffels are available in various sizes, ranging from carry-on to extra-large, and are often made from durable materials to withstand the rigors of travel. They are particularly popular among frequent flyers and adventure travelers.

Some well-known brands that offer wheeled duffel bags include Travelpro, High Sierra, and Delsey.

Hanging Toiletry Duffels

When it comes to organizing your toiletries and keeping them easily accessible, hanging toiletry duffel bags are a game-changer. These compact bags feature multiple compartments and pockets, allowing you to neatly store your toiletries and keep them separate from the rest of your luggage.

The unique design of these duffels allows them to be hung on the back of a door or a towel rack, providing easy access to your essentials while saving valuable counter space. Some popular brands that offer hanging toiletry duffel bags include Eagle Creek, L.L.Bean, and Briggs & Riley.


The duffel bag gets its unique name from Duffel, Belgium, where the cloth used to make the earliest versions originated. With their simple yet functional cylindrical shape, tough construction and spacious interior, duffels continue to be a popular choice for carrying sports gear, packing for trips, and outdoor activities.

Both “duffel” and “duffle” are considered correct spellings, with duffel being more prevalent, especially in American English. From compact gym bags to oversized adventure duffels, this versatile bag lives up to its reputation for durability and convenience.

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