When you’re married to a touring musician like I am, travel becomes a major factor in your relationship. While tour life means that my husband and I are often miles apart, it also means I get the perk of traveling far more than I otherwise would—and to some places I never thought I’d get to visit (like Halifax, Nova Scotia, which I traveled to earlier this year). Although I am a self-proclaimed homebody, travel has been my norm for the last eight years, whether it be visiting my husband on the road, flying to see our family in Canada on a regular basis, or feeling that itch of adventure rub off on me and booking quick trips to see friends. Through it all, I’ve really learned to get comfortable—like, homebody level of comfort—with being on the go, thanks to a carry-on bag that makes it possible for me to pack all of the things.
As a homebody, I naturally tend to overpack as I need the comfort of home with me at all times, even if I am only gone for a couple of days. This often looks like, in addition to clothes, toiletries, and other essentials, stuffing a few skeins of yarn and crochet hooks (I have a serious crochet habit), several books I definitely won’t have time to read, and nearly my entire collection of sunglasses just in case. It’s a lot of stuff, and it can make traveling on a tour bus or flying from city to city a bit tricky, since I never want to take up too much room as a visitor (and schlepping large bags through airports is kind of the worst).
I’ve had other carry-on bags that I adored over the years, including the Béis Backpack ($78), which has gone on dozens upon dozens of trips with me and never disappoints. However, everything changed when I discovered the Calpak Luka Duffel ($120).
As someone who prefers backpacks to duffels—especially since I am a full-time freelance writer and am often working while traveling—for their organization and easy access, I was a tad skeptical of this Calpak carry-on bag. I was initially drawn to this bag because of its water-resistant exterior which is vital when traveling to places with the most inclement weather (hello, Vancouver rain). Another feature that caught my eye was the trolly sleeve, which stays secure on top of suitcase handles and makes it even easier to zip about the airport. But, if I am being completely honest, I was sold when a friend of mine let me see her Luka Duffel in person and I could get a true sense of its size and how well it expands—a must when plotting how I can pack weeks’ worth of stuff in a carry-on bag.
Here’s the thing about duffel bags: For over-packers, they are superior because their design is so much more flexible. Sure, there is a limit to how much you can stuff in them, but there is also a ton more wiggle room compared to more structured backpacks. This duffle is no different as its polyester exterior—which kind of looks like a puffer coat—can easily expand when stuffing it to the brim.
The Luka Duffle has the looks, the weatherproofing, and the space, but it also has some incredible design specs, making it possible to shove everything inside and still keep your belongings organized. The bag features a shoe compartment that looks like a side pocket but is actually more like a bag that expands into the bottom of the interior (psst: I totally put my dirty laundry in there at the end of a trip), a large side water bottle pocket, a large front zipper pocket, plus a hidden zipper pocket inside the trolly sleeve to keep things like your passport and wallet safe.
Inside, the carry-on bag has a large rectangular shape that, even with shoes in the show compartment, still boasts plenty of room. The interior is lined nearly entirely with pockets, including a mesh flap pocket on the front-facing side, an elastic pouch pocket on the side, and a large zipper pocket and two elastic pouch pockets on the back-facing side. Although it lacks a laptop sleeve, it fits my 13-inch MacBook Air and its adorable Baggu Puffy Lap Top Sleeve case with ease. It’s also big enough to hold my Baggu Cresent Bag (which I use as my purse when traveling) without losing a ton of space.
Above all else, the true beauty of this duffle bag is that it not only fits in the overhead bin on all airplanes, but it also fits under the seat in front of you. That means it counts as a personal item (hence why I shove my actual purse in it) so you can also carry on a larger suitcase for the overhead bin.
When I am not traveling, I still use my Luka Duffle frequently, making it one of the best and most versatile bags in my closet. It can easily moonlight as a gym bag, work bag, or as an overnight bag for a quick staycation. It’s also easy to store and, since it holds so much, I actually use it to house many of my other purses and totes on the top shelf of my closet.
As I sit here and rave about this carry-on bag, I am thinking about my plans for a three-week trip across Canada soon, and how there’s no way I’d be as comfortable being away from home for that long without a bag that can store all of essentials and extras (which, this time, will include fewer sunglasses and a lot more beanies and scarf options—brr!). Luckily, I have one.
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