- Buyer's Guide
Fuller Foundry Duffel Review
The first thing I noticed about the Fuller Foundry Duffel when I opened up the box was that this thing is big. It’s a 45L bag that is full of surprises, twists and turns. The design is simple and intuitive. Until the shoulder straps but we’ll get there. What blew me away about this bag is how versatile it is across any type of trip. It’s flexible enough to be part work bag, part weekender. Or load it up for multiple 10-day trips. I did both and have been blown away by how easy it is to travel with.
Who It Suits
The traveler who prefers to be a bit old school and carry their gear instead of rolling it around. Or someone who wants the perfect complement to shrinking luggage requirements to double up their efforts.
Who It Doesn’t
The traveler who lives in one or two outfits and owns nothing but merino down to his or her underwear. This bag is too big to effectively suit your needs.
As a bag that’s designed for travel, one of the bright spots of the Duffel is its ability to grab and go no matter the context. Between the backpack straps and horizontal, vertical, and back handle, there’s literally always a fix point to reach for. At 45L, the size is ideal. It’s not so small that you have to ration what to bring for extended trips. Nor is it so big that you have acres of unused space. Plus with the airlines every year reducing the size of the overhead bags, it’s a great alternative or companion as it fits perfectly overhead without taking up a lot of space.
As with any Fuller Foundry bag, the devil is in the details and this bag is chock full of them. The clamshell design makes it easy to organize with two primary “pockets” to fill. On one side you have your dedicated clothes section held secure by the always fun to play with Fidlock Slider compression straps. I might have when packing and unpacking stopped just to mess around with them. The snap sensation of the magnets coming together is pure joy. Not to mention their ability to help reduce wrinkles.
The other side is where all the fun stuff is. I loved using this bag both as a weekender and for much longer, 10-day-plus trips. The back side of the bag has its clamshell for access and a variety of dedicated compartments to simplify your options. There’s a laptop sleeve with magnetic closure to prevent it from moving about. A smaller sleeve can be used for cables, chargers and the like. Nestled inside this same compartment is a dedicated toiletry “sleeve”. I tended to throw my cologne in there (in a ziplock) as it’s been known to leak in my Dopp kit.
This compartment connects to what is one of the great features of this bag: a dedicated shoe sleeve. Depending on your shoe size and type of shoe you’re looking to carry, this deep pocket can load as many as 2 shoes or 1 boot (up to size 16). Or if you’re interested, it makes for a great natural internal laundry bag.
Two other features worth noting. First, the back handle is designed as a passthrough for luggage which worked great when I tested on a few of our trips. The thing to note is that when your bag is fully loaded, you’re adding a ton of weight to the top half of the luggage and if you’re not careful, gravity will have its say. But overall it was nice to be able to have one less bag to tote with all the rollers in the group. Secondly, there is a “hidden” pocket close to body that is ideally sized to stow your passport or other slim items you’ll want quick access to.
Now we move into the materials portion of the review. It boggles my mind that Fuller Foundry can make money on this bag, given the features they’ve packed into it and the quality of materials. There is a ton of Hypalon on the back and bottom of the bag for extra durability in obvious wear places. The YKK weatherproof zippers are tough to start but eventually wear in. The Cordura fabric is treated to be water resistant and I can attest that in a few rainstorms, it held up with nothing inside even remotely close to wet.
Not So Good
As you might have seen from my review of the Fuller Foundry Briefcase, the Fidlock Snaps and I did not see eye to eye. Part of this is due to the design of the snaps and the various angles of attack I go at picking up the bag. I’ve never had to be conscious of that before because they have always been sewn or buckled in. My experience with the Duffel is very similar with a few key differences.
For one, the shoulder straps matter when you’re carrying a heavy, packed bag for 10 days. While the handles are comfortable, I’m an equal opportunity employer when it comes to how I carry a duffel – shoulder straps, handles, etc. Whatever will work in that given situation. And yet here I found myself constantly fighting the snaps going through the airport. It’s worth noting that I had just got the bag and wasn’t as familiar as I am now with the snap nuances but it was a frustrating endeavor nonetheless.
Secondly, there is a weird design quirk to this bag which caught me by surprise. It’s the only bag I’ve ever used where the front of the bag is also the back padding. My initial struggle with the bag was simply because I was actually using the straps backwards, causing them to fall out of place. Here, my advice to the team is to provide something in the duffel or affixed to the straps so a user knows first time round what makes sense.
The other carryover items which hold true are that the Whiskey color is truly something to behold, and not in the best of ways. But on the bright side, you’ll never lose it amongst a sea of bags! The other is the excessive amount of logo details throughout the bag. There are fifteen total logos on this bag, not including the name written out on both handles. This moves past the point of design detail and into an eyesore. For a bag that is subtle, the branding is not, which is why it stands out so much.
Others to Consider
If you like the idea of a pack/duffel hybrid, check out Peak Design’s Travel Duffelpack. It provides backpack and duffel flexibility, with a standard 45L design that expands to 65L for when you really need to haul a lot of gear.
For the price, size and quality of materials, this bag is a steal at $329. The design is smart and optimized for whatever you are doing. The various carry options ensure you can grab and go without any issues. The 45L means you have plenty of space for whatever it is you’re packing. The bag is wonderfully thought out as a travel companion and will be part of any trip I make for the foreseeable future. It’s going to take something special to knock it off its pedestal. As noted, it’s not perfect with the Fidlock Snaps proving to be a worthy adversary. If you’re in the market, you’d be foolish not to give this one a serious, loving glance.