Duffle bags are great. They’re lighter and hold a lot more than traditional suitcases of the same size because of their non-rigid form. If you’re going on a long trip and need to pack a lot of stuff, it’s a large duffel you should choose. However, they aren’t usually the best for organization and separation of things. One big cavernous main compartment and a few small outer pockets means that everything will be in a bit of a mess when you reach your destination or you’ll have to dig through everything looking for something specific. That’s why getting the best drop bottom rolling duffel bag for these kinds of trips will save you some aggravation while still allowing you to transport a lot.
What is a Drop Bottom Duffel?
It is a bag that has two large compartments instead of one. The one at the top opens like a traditional duffel with a U-shaped or straight zippered opening, while the bottom compartment opens like a suitcase with a zip around opening. A flexible divider separates these two compartments. The bottom one is best for packing heavy and bulky items while your clothes and accessories can go in the top one. This makes it good for sportsmen and women hauling their gear or for those moving house. The wheels make it easier to carry large sizes anywhere.
If you’re carrying ski or snowboarding gear but don’t want one big bag for everything, consider a ski boot bag instead. Another kind of compartmentalization is where the bottom of the duffel when standing vertically is separated from the top. The Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30 inch has a separate opening to this lower compartment from the inside as well as outside.
When shopping for a drop bottom rolling duffel bag make sure it doesn’t tip over when standing upright – a common problem with badly designed large duffles. Also look out for its overall weight when it’s empty. A regular duffel is less structured than one with a drop bottom so the latter is rarely as light as the former.
Our picks for top rated large rolling duffel bags don’t have these problems and they make organization easy to boot.
Best Rated Drop Bottom Rolling Duffels
Briggs & Riley Baseline Medium Upright Duffle
For a duffel that is so sleek looking that you can use it for business trips in addition to vacations, look no further than this 26″ Baseline collection duffle bag from Briggs and Riley. It is the newest piece in the very popular softsided Baseline collection, particularly the 2-wheeled uprights which we rate highly, and though it retails for over $400, it is the most durable of our picks and includes an unlimited lifetime warranty.
The tough ballistic nylon fabric is available in olive green or black and a light but durable honeycomb frame keeps the bag flexible but enables it to hold its shape. This is the smallest one in the list at 26″ but is surprisingly roomy and features lots of storage compartments. Being compact and sleek makes it a good choice as a versatile duffle for men or women. It measures 26″ x 14″ x 15.2″ and weighs 9.7 lbs.
The flat packing section at the bottom is 4″ high, while the duffle section has garment restraining panels to keep your clothes in place. It also features two zippered mesh compartments for undergarments. The two packing sections are separated by a U-shaped zippered divider that can be rolled up to give you one big packing space if needed.
There is a long zippered gusseted outer side pocket to hold quick access items and a hide away ID tag to keep your identity private.
The aluminium handle is set on the outside of the bag to minimize wrinkling and giving you maximum packing space. It locks in at 4 different heights, so it’s comfortable for users of all heights to wheel along. It is set into a V-groove for smooth handling.
The smooth rolling wheels and wedged feet are low profile, while the top and side leather grab handles are webbed. The side handles also feature a leather-wrapped snap closure to make it easy to haul the bag without wheeling.
The YKK zippers are self-healing and lockable and all 4 corners of the duffel have protective corner guards.
Eddie Bauer Unisex-Adult Expedition Drop-Bottom Rolling Duffels
If the B&R duffel above is a bit too pricey or too staid then consider the Eddie Bauer Expedition Drop-Bottom Rolling Duffels that come in three sizes – Medium 21″ (45L capacity, under 6lbs), Large 26″ (67L capacity, 9lbs 10oz) and Extra Large 34″ (122L capacity, 12 lbs) and several cool colors.
All the pieces feature a hardside bottom for extra durability with the rest of the shell made of ripstop ballistic nylon. The unique feature of these bags is their ability to stand upright on their bottom stand whether empty or full. You can wheel them by the strong telescopic handle or haul them by the padded top handle or the duffel style handle along the top length of the bag. The inline skate wheels are reinforced and can handle any terrain. The whole bag can be made quite compact no matter how stuffed because of a pair of external compression straps running across them.
The inner compartment is separated into two sections with both their zippered openings able to be locked with luggage locks. The top section opens by the usual duffel style u-shaped flap along one length, while the bottom section opens clam style. There is a large zippered mesh pocket on the inside of the flap and the bottom section features integrated compression straps. There is one external pocket on the front of each duffel near the top to store items you need easy access to. Some may not like the absence of pockets inside.
Pathfinder Gear Rolling Drop Bottom Duffels
You won’t get the variety of colors that the above Eddie Bauer bags offer but you will get more pockets both inside and out with the Pathfinder Gear Rolling Drop Bottom Duffels that come in four sizes – 22″ (under 7 lbs), 26″ (9.7 lbs), 32″ (10.9 lbs) and 36″ (16 lbs). These are only available in black or olive green.
These bags are really meant for safari and adventure travelers, as the rugged oversized wheels are designed for rough terrain and high ground clearance. The telescopic handle is heavy duty and there is a top neoprene handle and dual duffel hauling handles kept together by a Velcro wrap.
The main packing space is divided into an upper and lower chamber by a zipper divider panel that can be rolled back and tethered if you want just one big packing space. The whole duffel can also be expanded by 20% by just unzipping an extra couple of inches of fabric all around. The bottom compartment has a pair of compression straps, a zippered pocket along one long side and two elastic top pockets along the other.
There are a few pockets on the exterior of the bag. One zippered end pocket lies near the handle and a large gusseted u-shaped zippered pocket with a horizontal one on top of that is right on the front.
The only negative with these wheeled duffels is that the larger ones can tip over if packed poorly.
Travelpro Tpro Bold 2.0 30 Inch Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel
With a shell made completely of polyester and water repellent coating, this 118L 30″ by 15″ by 16″ drop bottom rolling duffle on two wheels features dual velcro-wrapped duffel handles, one side grab handle, one bottom haul handle, an aluminum telescopic handle and ball-bearing inline skate wheels.
The exterior organizational features of the Travelpro Tpro Bold 2.0 30 Inch Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel include one long zippered side pocket and one top zippered pocket. When you open the duffel style zippered lid you’ll find a mesh pocket on the inside of it and a large packing space on the top half of the bag. A flexible divider flap that can be rolled up to the side and secured by to velcro straps allows you to extend this space right down to the bottom of the duffel if you need. If you prefer to have two levels of storage space you can keep the divider zipped in place and open the drop bottom compartment separately via dual zippers. The drop bottom compartment can be extended by 2″ if needed by just a pull of the expansion zippers. A pair of external compression straps buckle up to make the bag as compact as possible and reduce zipper strain if you overstuff.
This duffel will stand erect pretty well on its bottom haul handle that doubles as a stand.
There is a smaller 26″ version available too, although with fewer favorable reviews.
Best Hybrid Duffel Bag/Wheeled Upright Suitcase
eBags Mother Lode TLS Wheeled Duffels
If you’re the kind that likes your luggage to have every feature possible, these eBags Mother Lode TLS Wheeled Duffels are just the ones for you. These are also the duffels that have the most structure and allow you to pack them almost like upright suitcases, so they are a good blend of a duffel and a suitcase. The 29″ bag measures 29″ x 17″ x 15″ and weighs 12 lbs. This eBags style of drop bottom duffel is also available in a smaller 25″ size and a 21″ carry on size.
The top main compartment opens via a lockable vertical U-shaped zippered flap that features a zippered mesh pocket on the inside. There are restraining straps here to keep your clothes in place. The bottom section is separated from the top by a zippered divider that can be rolled up to give you one big main compartment if required. This divider also hold two mesh zippered pockets. The bottom compartment has two movable shelves to give you even more organization. They can be folded down if you prefer one large packing space. This compartment has a lightweight compression-molded EVA bottom and its capacity can be increased by 2″ via an expansion zipper.
On the outside there are more features – a small zippered pocket on the top, two long curved zippered pockets on the sides and 4 compression straps to keep the bag compact when not fully packed or to keep it secure when full.
The front feet are designed like a handle to make it easy for you to lift the bag off the ground, while removable fiberglass rods help prevent the bag from tipping. The wheels are set on ball bearings for smooth rolling and are easily replaceable if they get damaged. The telescopic handle extends to three heights and a top front grab handle is padded and reinforced. Zippers are YKK with lockable D-rings.
Best Cheap Rolling Duffel with a Drop Bottom
High Sierra AT8 Wheeled Duffel Upright
This brand inevitably makes its way onto most duffel bag lists, and the High Sierra collection that best showcases the top and bottom separation is the High Sierra AT8 Wheeled Duffel Upright. It is very affordable to boot and is also one of the more structured yet lightest, with the 26″ size weighing just 10 lbs and measuring 26 x 14 x 15.5 inches. You also have a choice of a smaller 22″ and a larger 32″. The colors available are black with zesty yellow accents and an olive with cranberry accents.
This is also one of the better options if you want some pockets on the outside for organization. In addition to the split level top and bottom main compartments, there are two side loading waterproof compartments – both with a U-shaped zippered opening. There is also one u-shaped zippered pocket on the front top that’s fleece lined and waterproof – good for a smartphone. These make it easy to fit odd shaped items into the best fitting pocket. The top section opens via a traditional U-shaped duffel flap that is lockable via the zippers. The bottom compartment opens like a clam via zippers that go all the way to the back and the two can be used as one big compartment with the divider rolled up. If you need even more packing space, there’s an expansion zipper that gives you about 2″ inches more all the way around. Two compression straps reduce the stress placed on the zippers if the load is heavy. The entire shell is made of a tough nylon blend.
There is a push button telescopic handle, a top and bottom carry handle and one side handle. The two wheels are inline skate mounted. There’s also a pair of adjustable padded backpack straps hidden behind a zippered back panel. These can be used if you have to climb up stairs with the duffel but are not meant for extended backpack use.
The High Sierra Evolution Wheeled Drop Bottom Duffel Bag has been updated to a 2017 version but currently it only comes in a 30″ size, however is is very highly rated, so you might want to check that out as well. Instead of nylon, it is made of a polyester blend and is even lighter than the AT8 but with most of the same features.