What is it?
The smaller of Peak Design’s two duffel bags (35L and 65L) designed to be used for weekend getaways and everyday carry needs.
Design & Organisation
At first glance, you can see that Peak Design is trying to go for a modern take on a classic duffel bag. The contrasting materials and the leather highlights (on the green version) are aesthetically pleasing, and the company has departed somewhat from the rectangular box to incorporate a long top zipper line and give the bag a sleeker look. This is partly achieved by 35cm rigid metal bars that have been sewn into the lining of the main compartment and sit slightly below the tops of the side panel pockets. These give the bag structure and keep the side of the duffel straight when you open the main compartment meaning you’re faced with a spacious and neatly rectangular base when you start packing.
Beyond the spacious main compartment there are 11 pockets and sleeves to organise smaller items, including 2 zipper pockets in the main compartment, 2 large zipper pockets either side containing several several sleeve pockets, and a hidden zipper pocket on one side panel pockets on one side. Due to the slightly shallow height of the bag you won’t be able to get a tablet into any of these, but they would hold smaller items well.
All sounds good. What’s not to like? Well, there are a couple of issues with the inclusion of the metal bars (apart from the added weight). Firstly, you’re fighting the bar every time you unzip the side panel pockets and open them to put items in. This reduces considerably the usefulness of these otherwise spacious (albeit shallow) pockets. Secondly, everything has a tendency to close back in on itself when the bag is empty. This certainly applies to the side pockets, but the main compartment, as well—partly because of these bars and partly because of the materials used on the bag—closes back in on itself as soon as you let go. This is irritating for a duffel bag where you want to open the main compartment wide and start adding items without having to pry the main zip open each time. Having said that, once the bag is fully loaded they do help to retain structure and shape.
Another questionable choice are the “theft-deterrent” zipper pulls on the side pockets. The idea here is that just before you completely close the pocket you push the zipper pull inside the pocket, feed it through a small hold into the main compartment, and then attach the looped fabric on the end of the zipper pull to a tag sewn into the main compartment. It is something that looks like a nice idea on paper but in reality takes about 30 seconds to awkwardly force the zipper pull back on itself while trying to feed it through a small slot in the fabric.
What really makes the whole thing pointless is that the side pocket zippers are the water resistant kind and require quite a bit of force to open (even with the bag full, if I pull on the zipper with one hand without grabbing the bag then the whole bag will move before the zipper starts to open). The idea that this security feature is going to prevent an opportunist from stealing your belongings when the bag is on you or in your vicinity is almost comical. Obviously, you can just ignore this feature, which is what I imagine just about every user chooses to do.
Finally, multiple looped cords have been strategically sewn around the bag which, coupled with the detachable hand-carry straps and shoulder strap, allows the bag to be carried as a duffel, over the shoulder, or as a backpack.
Build Quality & Comfort
Peak Design are known for their use of high-quality materials and refined construction—and this bag is no exception. The 600-D nylon canvas external shell is durable water repellant impregnated and coated for water resistance and is just extremely pleasing and nice to the touch, while the base (and side pockets) of the back are 900-D nylon and waterproof. The hardware used is of an equally reassuring high level of quality.
In terms of comfort, the duffel handles feel good but could maybe do with a little more padding for heavier loads. The shoulder strap I found to be adequate for a 35L bag and like that the padding here is sewn to the strap, i.e. doesn’t move around. The backpack multi-configuration, however, doesn’t really work.
Firstly, the straps aren’t always easily detachable: the hooks need to feed through the thin part of the fabric just as the loop attaches to the bag, and for this to work properly the sewing needs to be perfect otherwise it can be a tricky task to re-arrange the carrying setup.
Secondly, the woven webbing seat-belt straps have no padding and sit on the shoulders when used as a backpack with the handles below and, although wide, are not comfortable enough to carry heavy loads for too long. Nice to have this ability but only really useable in a pinch.
It is undeniably a good-looking duffel bag with a unique and modern look. Materials used are excellent and you can see that a lot of working as gone into designing the bag (on paper, at least). But, practically speaking, after having used the bag for several weekend trips would I recommend it to someone else? Sadly not. Too much emphasis on design (aesthetics?) over function, and the added “features” that sound cool on the website description (“Theft-deterrent zipper pulls”) but provide no actual benefit are ultimately off-putting.
- Great looks and high-quality materials and hardware used throughout.
- Spacious main compartment that retains its shape well.
- Design/looks over function
- Obstructive metal rods detract from, not add to, the design.