Take it from someone who arrived at their first festival carting a four-wheel case with them, only to be met by acres of muddy fields to drag it through: A weekend bag is a necessity. Even the most compact of suitcases sometimes won’t cut it for those swift overnight trips or mini breaks when you try and swerve airline checked-baggage fees.
But where to start when choosing a great weekend option? Do you need a full duffle or will a roomy tote or backpack do just as well? And crucially, how do you decide upon a size that fits everything while still remaining easy to carry? To help, we spoke to eight travel experts, from photographers to influencers to remote workers, who are as savvy about weekend breaks as they are about long-haul getaways. Read on for their most agile bag choices, including the best duffles, totes, and backpacks.
Copywriter Jenny Elliott has moved to five different countries over the past decade, which has “made her a bit evangelical about finding excellent luggage.” Her top pick is this duffle bag from Millican, which “passes the Goldilocks test of being neither too big nor too small. It hits the exact sweet spot for a night away.” It is also made from 100 percent recycled plastic, has “nifty” straps to keep everything in place, is “definitely made to last,” and “has a separate laptop sleeve and a small hidden top pocket for keys and bits and bobs.”
“If you love weekend escapes to Europe but don’t want to pay for a checked bag, then this is ideal,” says digital travel creator Rebecca Selkirk. It comes in three sizes, but Selkirk recommends the large, which fits an enormous 20 litres of luggage inside “so you can easily take all your essentials plus some non-essentials — I can fit my camera, tripod, and action cam in it.” It’s made from a sustainable canvas-like fabric that’s coated to make it water-resistent, fits a 17- inch laptop inside, and has specific pockets for everything from your mobile phone to a water bottle.
“This duffle bag isn’t one for backpacking or trips when you’re constantly on the go, but it’s absolutely a must-have for mini-breaks,” says outdoor enthusiast and hiker Amie Byford, who uses hers as a gym bag as well as for weekends away. It is made from vegan leather, “roomy without being bulky,” and “great value for the money while still feeling very luxurious.”
Travel YouTuber Cally Baker says this “easy to carry” Jack Wills gym bag is her “go-to” for any short weekend stay in the U.K.: “My mam is always trying to steal it for when she goes away too, as it’s so convenient.” Generally Baker is a big fan of all Jack Wills duffle bags, due to their endurance — she’s had hers for years and says it’s still going strong.
“I love the versatility of this bag,” says Selkirk of the medium-size version of Away’s best-selling weekender bag. “You can use it as an everyday bag, overnight bag, or your carry-on for long-haul flights.” It fits most airlines’ under-seat bag-size restrictions and is designed to fit exactly what you need for a night away — a change of clothes, toiletries, laptop up to 15 inches wide, phone charger plus any other essentials. It also has a detachable shoulder strap, a padded laptop sleeve, and an opening for you to slide it over a trolley suitcase handle. “And it looks so sleek and sexy too,” she adds.
“I discovered designer Miranda Kaloudis’s ethical leather work and travel bags on a trip to Zurich,” says Anna Hart, slow travel columnist at Suitcase magazine and Gourmet Traveller. “It is one of the most sustainable and responsibly made brands in the city.” She calls the Monad “a master class in Swiss functionality and minimalism.” It’s got both shopper and shoulder-padded hoop straps “that look avant-garde but are secretly so comfy you feel like you’re cuddling a cushion rather than lugging luggage.” It was also big enough to fit everything Hart needed for a recent long weekend in Barcelona, “yet it doesn’t look ridiculously oversize when I make it do double duty as my day bag, after unpacking.”
“I usually use my yellow Vans bag for weekend trips, and it’s a great option when you’re travelling light,” says Harris Hossain, a photographer and entrepreneur. The bright yellow backpack has “enough space for my laptop and clothes” — it has a 22-litre capacity — but is still “small and light enough to travel with as a cabin bag.” Hossain has had his for a year and loves how colourful and stylish it is, and that it functions as a work bag as well as a travel bag: “It’s also budget-friendly! I think I got mine for about £20 to £25.”
“If you love adventure and need a bag to store your equipment effortlessly, this 35-litre backpack is great,” says Byford, who is a big fan of outdoor breaks. “I find it’s great for longer hikes or short getaways, as it can hold so much without becoming bulky or being uncomfortable to wear.” It has an ergonomic support and fastening system to help position what you’ve packed evenly for extra comfort and a water-repellent outer coating.
Byford loves the “multifunctional” Nomad backpack, which she describes as the “ultimate bag for not just outdoor activities but all kinds of travel and work needs.” It’s got “several compartments for a variety of different uses,” including a duffle-style main compartment that fits a 17-inch laptop and a detachable hip belt with three pockets. There are also hidden multi-tool straps so you can attach skis, sleeping pads, or other equipment. It’s water-repellent and “super comfortable to wear.” [Editor’s note: The Nomad backpack has been rebranded as the Explor backpack.]
If you’re a bit less outdoorsy, this backpack is “a little more stylish,” says Byford, who uses it for city breaks and sightseeing trips. All Nordace bags are “made from luxurious material, have sleek designs, and come in a lovely selection of colours,” but the smart backpack is her favourite due to its “really handy anti- theft pocket.” It’s situated on the back of the bag so it’s against your back, unlike other backpacks that have front compartments that face out: “I think it really sets it apart and gives peace of mind.”
“I don’t have a particular travel bag that I use, but I swear by Antler suitcases for both my checked and carry-on luggage,” says travel journalist Lee Cobaj. “When I worked as cabin crew, this was the brand of luggage that we were issued, because they looked good, had lots of internal pockets, and were incredibly hard-wearing.” Cobaj says her last Antler carry-on lasted ten years, “despite the fact that I would bump it up and down stairs, overpack, and often rest my feet on it while seated.”
“I do a lot of Eurostar travel,” says Instagrammer Bea Mosdal, “and always use my small Samsonite carry-on.” She has had two Samsonite Spinners over the past 15 years and says the model is perfect for travelling light. “I never carry a suitcase larger than what fits in an overhead locker, as I hate waiting to check in and collect a bag.” The Lite-Shock case weighs just 1.7kg for the 55cm cabin case, and has a hard-case shell designed to absorb any impact.
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