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

duffel carry on

Written by Stefanie Waldek on

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 Instagramor visit her website

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, whether packing for air travel or filling a road trip duffle bag. 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.

Regardless of what your travels entail, it’s important to know if you can use a duffel bag as a carry-on. Keep reading to learn more about carry-on duffel bag sizes and how to travel comfortably with this versatile luggage option.

An Eagle Creek Migrate duffel bag in the sand


Duffel bags can absolutely be considered a carry-on, depending on the airline you’re flying on and the size of your duffel bag. Many airlines accommodate duffel bags within their carry-on allowances, particularly if the bag meets their size and weight restrictions. It’s crucial to double-check the specific requirements of your airline so you can choose the right luggage for your travels.

In most cases, duffel bags with capacities of 40L or 45L are well-suited for carry-on use, especially those with flexible structures that can conform to space limitations. Just keep in mind that some airlines may require your bag to fit into a bag sizer, so ensure that your duffel bag, including wheels and handles, complies with their guidelines.

Overall, with careful consideration of airline policies and selecting an appropriately sized duffel bag, you can confidently use it as a carry-on, making your travel experience even more convenient and efficient.

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

There are many different types of duffel bags, and Eagle Creek has a curated selection of top-quality bags for you to explore. Whether you're a frequent traveler seeking a reliable companion for your journeys or an adventure enthusiast in need of a versatile carry-on solution, Eagle Creek offers a range of duffel bag carry-on sizes to suit your needs.

  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.

Camping with the Cargo Hauler 40L Duffel Bag

Pro Tips for Air Travel with Duffel Bags

Explore practical tips, tricks, and strategies on how to pack your duffel bag like a pro, maximizing convenience and comfort throughout your journey:

  • 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.


Can your duffel bag be used as a carry-on? As travelers ponder this question, it's essential to consider both the versatility and limitations of using a duffel bag for air travel. When packing your carry-on duffel bag, it's crucial to include essential items that cater to your needs during the journey. Make sure you adhere to TSA’s carry-on rules as you pack your items.

Here's a bulleted list of general things you should pack to ensure a comfortable travel experience and check out Eagle Creek’s ultimate travel packing list for more tips:

  • Important items: First and foremost, remember to pack your keys, wallet, ID, and any other essentials.
  • Clothing: Pack a versatile mix of outfits suitable for your destination and activities planned.
  • Toiletries: To comply with TSA regulations, pack travel-sized toiletries in a clear, quart-sized plastic bag.
  • Electronics: Bring essential gadgets such as a phone, tablet, or laptop, along with chargers and adapters.
  • Travel Documents: Carry your passport, boarding pass (digital or printed), and any necessary visas or permits.
  • Medications: Pack prescription medications and any over-the-counter remedies you may need during your trip.
  • Snacks: Bring along non-perishable snacks to keep you energized during your journey.
  • Travel Accessories: Consider items like a travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs for added comfort.

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!

Walking through the snow with a duffel bag in Chamonix


What size duffel bag can you use for a carry-on?

While specific size restrictions vary slightly between airlines, a general guideline for an appropriate duffel bag size for a carry-on is around 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters). This size typically complies with the requirements of most major airlines for carry-on luggage.

However, it's always best to verify the precise measurements and regulations of your chosen airline before traveling to ensure your duffel bag meets their requirements.

Can a duffel bag be used as a personal item?

Many airlines allow duffel bags as personal items, provided they meet certain size restrictions. Typically, personal items must fit under the seat in front of you, so make sure your duffle bag is compact enough to comply with these requirements.

However, airline policies can vary, so it's always wise to check with your specific airline before assuming that your duffle bag can be used as a personal item. By confirming with your airline in advance, you can avoid surprises and ensure a smooth travel experience with your duffle bag as your trusty personal item.

Is there a weight limit for carry-on duffel bags?

The weight limit for carry-on duffel bags can vary depending on several factors, including the airline you're flying with, the type of ticket you've purchased (basic economy, premium economy, etc.), and whether you're traveling domestically or internationally. While some airlines have a specific weight limit for carry-on luggage, others may enforce a combined weight limit for both carry-on and personal items. Make sure you only pack the essentials for your trip, and don’t pack anything you don’t need while traveling in your carry-on.

Additionally, certain airlines may offer more flexibility with weight restrictions for premium passengers or international flights. It's essential to check with your airline's policies before traveling to ensure that your duffel bag complies with applicable weight limits, helping you avoid additional fees or complications at the airport.

How can I reduce the weight of my carry-on duffel bag?

Here are some effective ways to make your luggage lighter:

  • Pack Lighter: Be mindful of what you're packing and choose versatile clothing items you can mix and match to create multiple outfits. Minimize unnecessary items and only pack essentials for your trip.
  • Choose Lightweight Fabrics: Select clothing and accessories made from lightweight materials that won't add unnecessary bulk to your bag. Fabrics like nylon, polyester, and merino wool are known for being lightweight and quick-drying, making them ideal for travel.
  • Limit Footwear: Shoes can quickly add weight to your bag, so limit yourself to one or two pairs of lightweight, versatile shoes that you can wear with multiple outfits. Consider wearing your bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane to save space and weight in your bag.
  • Downsize Toiletries: Opt for travel-sized or sample-sized toiletry products to minimize weight and save space in your bag. Consider packing solid toiletries like shampoo bars and solid sunscreen to reduce the weight of liquids in your bag.
  • Use Packing Cubes: Packing cubes can help compress your clothing and maximize space in your duffel bag while keeping your belongings organized. Choose lightweight packing cubes from Eagle Creek to minimize additional weight.
  • Weigh Your Bag: Before heading to the airport, weigh your carry-on duffel bag to ensure it complies with weight restrictions. This allows you to make any necessary adjustments to reduce weight and avoid complications at the airport.

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?