How to measure a duffel bag for carry-on correctly?

Susan Fernandez February 02 2022

Duffel bags are made to be carried. Some are even shaped so that they will easily slip over the shoulder, so you might assume the size requirements for carry-on luggage are irrelevant. That's not true--if your duffel bag is too big it could mean trouble when you try to bring it onto an airplane as a carry-on item.

What size duffel bag can I carry on a plane?

The TSA has strict guidelines about what can and cannot be brought onto airplanes as carry-ons, and those rules change from time to time depending on current events or other factors. To avoid any problems with airport security, measure your duffel bag before packing it up for travel and make sure that its dimensions fall within the limits set by the TSA.

The maximum size for a carry-on bag is 9" x 14" x 22", including any handles, pockets or wheels. That means that the length, width, and height must not exceed these measurements when you take your duffel in to be screened at the security checkpoint.

For other trips by car or train the measurements of your duffel bag for carrying on are only limited by the total linear inches (the sum of all three dimensions, excluding wheels and handles) that can fit in an overhead bin or underneath the seat.

The measurements for carry-ons were established when the maximum length of a plane's cabin was 18", so if your bag is longer than 24" it will be considered too big to bring onto an airplane as a carry-on item even if it's other measurements are within allowable limits.

Most rolling duffel bags have two exterior pockets which add about 4" to the overall dimension in most cases, so if your duffel bag is roughly 22" x 9" x 9" you should feel confident taking it with you on an airplane. Remember though, every airline has its own set of rules and the size you think is correct may not be correct for another carrier. Also, remember that your travel plans could change at any minute if there's bad weather or other issues that cause delay or cancellation.

How to measure a duffel bag for carry-on?

If you're planning on taking a duffel bag as checked luggage to avoid check-in hassles, you'll need to measure the total linear inches (the sum of all three dimensions) in which you can safely pack your bag. That number should fall within 62" so many manufacturers will print this figure on their stickers so passengers are aware before they buy.

Remember though, every airline has its own set of rules so even if it fits in the overhead bin or under the seat with an extra bit sticking out, you still might get asked to check your duffel bag if it's above the maximum size for carry-ons.

To measure your duffel bag for carry-on, use a straight edge and a measuring tape (or yardstick if that's all you have) to measure the exterior of your bag in three places. First, measure the height of your duffel bag from the bottom point to the top point (excluding any wheels or handles). Second, measure the width of your duffel bag at its widest point (again, excluding any pockets or other add-ons). Third, measure the length of your duffel bag from one side to the other (including any pockets or other add-ons).

Keep in mind that older rolling Duffel bags could be 20" wide with 4" fixed side pockets which means they will always be over when carried on--you'll need to pack them as checked luggage. Most duffel bags are now 23" wide with 2 exterior pockets which add about 4", so most will be 21" x 11" x 11" to meet airline requirements.

What are the best duffel bags for travel?

There are many types of duffel bags out there so try to do some research how to choose the right duffel bag before buying to make sure you're getting one that will make a good carry-on item. The benefits of a rolling duffel are that they have wheels and a telescoping handle which makes them more convenient to roll up or down an aisle or across a parking lot. However, remember that even though they have wheels, depending on their length they may exceed the maximum allowed measurements for carry-on luggage.

Of course, if they fit inside overhead then this won't be a problem for most airlines. Duffel bags with backpack straps are also advantageous because they have two carrying options, one for the shoulder and one on your back, making them great when you're actually traveling somewhere.

If you're looking to buy a new duffel bag for travel then consider one of these two options depending on how long the trip is that you plan to take it on:

  1. rolling duffels are convenient when traveling by car or train, even though they might be slightly longer than 62" in some cases.
  2. if you will only be traveling short distances by plane then go with a smaller size option like the 10" x 20" x 24" Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Duffel.

The last thing you'll want to worry about when traveling for hours on end is how heavy your duffel bag feels because over time this adds up and makes future trips less pleasant. If it feels easier to take as checked luggage instead of as a carry-on item, then there's no shame in making this choice as everyone will have their own way of flying.

How to store a duffel bag for travel?

If you would like to secure your duffel bag so it won't be bumped around during the flight, consider the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Duffel as it comes with load straps that keep it nice and close even if there isn't much stuff in the bag. If you'd rather not have a strap squeezing down on your belongings then just bring a few extra zip lock bags or compression sacks which will also save space in your luggage for other items.

In order to make sure everything stays where you put it, roll up clothes instead of folding them to minimize creases and provide more room inside your duffel bag. This method is especially useful for more delicate items like workout gear or pajamas.

If you don't want to bring any clothes at all, pack a few clean garbage bags which can be used for dirty laundry on the road or as packing material if your duffel bag doesn't have enough space.

Protip: Leave a little room in your duffel bag during travel so you're not stuffed to capacity when going through security and onto the airplane. This will save time and frustration because trying to shove everything back in before others see it is complicated at best.

After getting off the plane most travelers breathe a sigh of relief but consider doing this beforehand with some meditation techniques so you can deal with annoying layovers from a relaxed state of mind. Maybe you won't even mind it as much if you're prepared for what might go wrong and can see your obstacles with a new perspective.

Protip: Although liquids might be removed from carry-on items, don't forget that they must be in plastic containers under 100 ml (3 oz) to meet TSA requirements.

There are many things travelers worry about but one of the most common is carrying too much stuff or leaving something important behind which makes the whole trip less enjoyable by adding stress to it. By taking an Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Duffel along, this will not have to happen anymore because there's plenty of room for everything necessary while being easy enough to handle on its own without help.

Can I check in a duffel bag?

From the standpoint of fitting everything in, size does matter because you don't want to get stuck carrying too much luggage around nor do you want to be left with nothing but a hiking backpack if your checked luggage gets delayed or lost.

The best choice is something like the J World New York Laptop Backpack and Duffel Bag Combo because it's made from sturdy nylon and comes with multiple pockets and customizable compartments. If that sounds like too much then go for something along the lines of The North Face Base Camp that has more than enough room while still being quite easy to carry around all day due to its built-in shoulder strap.

If neither of them fit your style (or budget) then consider one of the cheaper options which will still keep your stuff dry in case of rain or snow while also being tough enough to handle some bumps along the road.

Protip: Although it's possible to take any duffel bag as checked luggage, consider that this usually isn't very practical because you'll need them for other things like laundry items and dirty clothes which need to be kept separate from clean ones.

The last thing you want is for your duffel bag to get lost during travel no matter how big or small it might be, so make sure it has a decent carry on size (55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm / 22 in x 16 in x 8 in) before even thinking about bringing it with you. It would also help if the manufacturer-installed better zippers to keep your belongings inside instead of spilling out into the storage compartment during transit.

Make sure you have room in your carry-on for any other items that might come up, like maps or travel documents so you can show them to anyone who asks. This is especially important if you're traveling abroad because not knowing the language well enough could be a potential hazard.

How to pack everything into a duffel bag compactly?

Hard side duffel bags will protect your belongings better than soft ones, but they're also harder to squeeze into tight spaces because of the rigid frame. On the other hand, a flexible bag will collapse more easily so it can fit in small nooks and crannies while being less durable.

Protip: Be careful about bringing bottles with liquid content through security checkpoints because they may need to be taken out for testing if they don't pass the 3 oz limit.

To pack all your stuff into the duffel bag, try to find ways to cover all the edges so nothing can fall out during transport. If there's too much loose space in your bag then consider bringing along compression sacks or zip lock bags that will help fit more into each container than just folding clothes over and over again without seeing progress.

For example, the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Duffel comes with extra pouches on the outside which are great for storing small objects like money or electronics. These are zippered pouches made from a mesh fabric so they won't get tangled up with other items nearby, but be mindful of what you put in them because zippers aren't infallible.

This is especially important if you want to keep electronics safe while traveling since many carry-on liquids and gels either need to be carried in a clear quart-sized bag or they can't go through security at all.

Protip: If you're looking for the best way to keep articles of clothing wrinkle-free, then consider using travel clotheslines when making your daily wardrobe selection instead of ironing everything together with an actual metal line. This will make it possible to wear what you want without worrying about how it looks and where it needs to go next during your traveling process.

If this sounds like too much work then having a few extra plastic garbage bags on hand is also recommended because these can help provide cushions along with some lightweight packing cubes which can hold several items in each pocket and allow you to use the vacuum seal method.


Carry-on size is very important when it comes to travel because you don't want your bag to go missing in between transfers or be too heavy for you before getting where you're going.

Pick a waterproof material that's sturdy and won't tear easily while also having comfortable handles, wheels that roll smoothly, and the right number of individual pouches and pockets so everything will fit properly inside along with some room to spare.  

When doing this for the first time, write down all the items you want on hand during transit but leave them behind on your second trip so nothing gets forgotten on accident. If something new comes up on your third journey then add it to the list unless it isn't needed at all.