Carry On Duffel Bag Size: Can A Duffel Bag Be Considered a Carry On?

duffel carry on

Duffels—whether a rolling, waterproof, or backpack model—are an ideal carry-on bag for all kinds of travels, from trekking the Himalayas to sojourning for a month through the Balkans to spending a weekend in Mexico City. Find out which Eagle Creek duffels are the right size to carry onboard your next flight.    


While some travelers are suited for suitcases (pun intended), others are more cut-out for duffels. Versatile duffel bags cater to many styles of traveling, from camping to urban sightseeing, given their varied forms: some have straps and others have wheels, and a duffel’s looks can range from more utilitarian to jetsetter-chic.


How Big Is a Carry-On Duffel?

The size restrictions for carry-on bags varies quite a bit per airline, but the roughly standard sizes are 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters) for major carriers, and 22 x 16 x 8 inches (35 x 20 x 20 centimeters) for budget airlines. Be sure to check the precise measurements with your airline before you fly, as many are incredibly strict with these rules. Some airlines will make you place your bag in a bag sizer to ensure that it fits regulations—keep in mind that these measurements do include wheels and handles, so factor those into your calculations. Ultimately, most 40L or 45L duffel bags will fit as carry-ons, especially the ones (like a duffel bag!) that are soft enough to shift shape slightly. You'll need a very soft, squishy duffel or a small backpack if you plan to use a duffel as an under-the-seat bag.


Best Eagle Creek Carry-On Duffels

  1. Cargo Hauler Duffel 40L: This all-purpose duffel should be your go-to no matter what type of trip you’re taking. The lightweight carry-on bag comes in at just one pound, 13 ounces (.85 kilograms), but it’s made of a durable, water-resistant fabric that will keep your belongings protected.
  2. Gear Warrior Travel Pack 45L: If flexibility is the name of your game, pick this convertible backpack duffel, which transforms with zip-away backpack straps. This carry-on backpack duffel also features travel-savvy details like lockable zippers and easy-stash compartments for things like your passport or your boarding pass.
  3. Caldera Convertible International Carry On: For those of you who aren’t totally ready to give up your suitcase, give this rolling duffel a shot. It has a capacity of 37 liters, with a small 19 L backpack perfect for days out exploring. The addition of both wheels and backpack straps makes this the perfect bit of shape-shifting you might need when conforming to international carry-on requirements.
  4. Packable Duffel: If you’re planning on coming back from your trip with souvenirs, throw this 36L packable duffel into your main bag to carry your extra goods on the way home. It folds into a tiny pouch just 8.25 x 6.75 x 2.5 inches (21 x 17 x 6.25 centimeters) and is extra lightweight. The addition of Protx2® anti-microbial treatment is an added bonus.
  5. Migrate Duffel 40L: Off-the-beaten-track adventurers should check out this duffel, which is made from water-repellent TPU and can be hosed off for cleaning. Despite its heavy-duty construction, the bag only weighs 2 pounds, 1 ounce (0.96 kilograms)—it’s a travel duffel truly up for any adventure you throw its way.
  6. Tarmac XE International Carry On: Urban adventurers and digital nomads might do best with this 35L rolling carry on bag, which features a sleeve for laptops and tablets and has a stylish, streamlined look. While it's not a duffel, it's an Eagle Creek best seller for a reason—it's a versatile, eco-conscious bag up for any adventure you throw its way.


Pro Tips for Air Travel with Duffel Bags

  • Use packing cubes and compression packing cubes to organize your duffel and maximize space. Eagle Creek offers a variety, from compression sets to shoe cubes. Here's exactly how packing cubes work, and why you should use them.
  • Roll your clothes to best maximize space. While packing cubes for travel work whether you roll or fold clothes, when traveling carry on you want to fit as much as possible in your duffel. 
  • Use a toiletry bag to avoid bottles everywhere. Organizing your duffel means more than just packing extra small cubes—a toiletry kit will contain all of those items most likely to make a mess if they spill. Add in a silicone bottle set to make going through TSA breeze.
  • Bring a small waist pack or backpack for passport, wallet, and other essentials for on board the plane. Even if your duffel has pockets, you want to keep your most important documents close. 
  • Use packing sacs and an electronics organizer to gather all those last-minute items that might otherwise float around your duffel.  
  • You can bring a less-than-full 60L duffel on board as a carry-on. Simply scrunch down the bag to get it to fit into the sizer. This is a handy idea for anyone who plans to buy souvenirs on their travels, as you’ve got extra room for your goodies—just note that you’ll have to check your full bag on the way back (and possibly pay a fee).
  • Each airline has its own limitations for weight, so even if your carry-on duffel bag will fit into the overhead bin just fine, you might have to check it. Weigh your bag before you go so there are no surprises at the check-in desk! Otherwise, be prepared to unpack your clothing and layer it on your body for the flight.

Do you have a favorite Eagle Creek carry-on duffel bag that you bring on the plane with you? Share your flying experience with us on Instagram or Twitter!


Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

How to Choose a Duffel Bag for Your Travel Style

Here’s How to Pack an Organized Duffel Bag

Duffel or Suitcase: Which Is Best for Your Next Trip?


By Stefanie Waldek

Stefanie Waldek is a Brooklyn-based writer covering travel, architecture and design, and science. Her words have appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, and Popular Science , among other publications. Follow her on Instagram or visit her website at .