Fodor’s Expert Luggage Review: Main Line Duffel by Paravel

You don’t always need a roller bag, and for those occasions, you need a hardy duffel.

The Tester: Rachael Levitt, Managing Editor, Fodors.com

The Bag: Main Line Duffel by Paravel, $285

The Trip: Four days in Seattle Wine Country on the tail end of fall

 

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The Bag

I’m not always getting on a plane, and when I’m not, I hate pushing around a roller bag. I love the idea of a weekender tote but quite frankly, that’s too small, and I never want to be seen using frumpy sports bags while I travel! I shant be bedraggled on a road trip!

Enter the Main Line Duffel. Finally, a duffel bag that is big enough to hold all my costume changes on a four day weekend but that doesn’t look like I’m off to soccer practice. The Main Line Duffel comes in six color combinations with options to personalize with hand-painted letters or appliqué designs–you can even get your favorite emoji stamped on the side. A girl’s gotta have options!

I have an unusually severe aversion to synthetic materials, so I wouldn’t think to use a bag not made from natural fibers. Thankfully, the Main Line Duffel is heavy duty (yet somehow still pretty) cotton canvas and trimmed with leather. A sturdy zipper and metal embellishments added a touch of utilitarian glitz. But let’s get to the real perk of its design. The chic bag complements an outfit the way a smart purse or stylish jewelry does: by accentuating and accessorizing a look to make an outfit complete.

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What I Packed

A girlfriend and I schlepped all over the greater Seattle area with the grand quest of sampling as many wines as humanly possible. Since it’s a girls’ weekend, I’m trying to look cute because she’s gonna Instagram me every 10 minutes. But, monkeywrench, we aren’t just hitting fancy wineries, we need to be ready to get in the trenches in distilleries, breweries, and cideries as well (we drink a lot). I need multiple pairs of shoes for both the hard work of daytime drinking and the relaxing fun of nighttime drinking! And a nod to the crisp Seattle weather? Layers! Not to mention a coat or two! How else to achieve perfect cozy-chic #sweaterweather? This wardrobe was adding up to be A Lot Of Items: jeans, leggings, flats, a fleece vest (hello, it’s the Pacific Northwest), an oversized sweater, a bathing suit (never travel without), a dress, a couple of tops and cardigans. I wore my jacket and boots. Two interior side pockets help with organization of small items like undergarments, socks, and a scarf. In my personal item bag, I tend to keep my “business” items, but since I only needed a phone and notebook for work this weekend, I was able to stuff my makeup and toiletries in there instead.

 

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Extra Credit

A detachable shoulder strap allows me to switch from preppy-chic to sporty-utilitarian, which let’s face it, is a necessity if you have to go further than valet to bellman. The bag is durable enough to be smushed into a trunk (or overhead compartment) and pop right back to its crisp shape upon arrival–no wrinkles or crease marks.

The duffel did a remarkable job repelling water and stains, but nothing short of a plastic rollerbag could completely withstand a Seattle downpour. While the bag needed an evening to dry off, luckily, just the outside was dampened, and the contents remained dry.

The Catch

While I don’t normally recommend duffel bags for flight carry-ons–I find that no matter how wonderfully light and hardy the bag is, the weight of its contents will usually catch up with my shoulders and back–the Main Line Duffel would be appropriate for travelers who have checked luggage to rest the bag upon during the rest of their travels and transit. If you are flyer who manages not to cram in every potential necessity into their carry-on, this duffel itself is remarkably lightweight, and the shoulder strap is sturdy and comfortable. If your contents are light enough that you can carry the bag by the handles, you’ll manage to look chic AF while whipping through the airport.

The Verdict

Every traveler knows there are times when you don’t want to use a roller bag, and so many duffels are either too stiff or too informal. The Paravel Main Line Duffel is the perfect middle ground–classic yet modern, elegant yet easy-going. Add one to your luggage arsenal and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how often it gets tossed into your travels.