I seem to keep accumulating bags and packs but rarely settle down on one design. One of the exceptions to that rule has been my old Maxpedition Falcon backpack. I picked up that pack in a swap a number of years ago and its been a steady traveling companion ever since. From trips to the range and work training classes to many of the trails and campsites I’ve been to over the years, I’ve found the comfort, quality, and durability of the Falcon kept me grabbing that one over most other bags when I was on the go. So, when it came time to review Maxpedition’s new Fliegerduffel I was pretty excited to see what they had come up with.
Now, while the Falcon is great for what it’s intended; it really isn’t a multi day bag. An overnighter perhaps, but if you get much past that you need something bigger. I’ve found myself doing a lot of long weekend trips over the years and finding something that can handle 3-4 days on the road is just what I needed. I’ve used a number of basic duffels and I like the concept. They generally carry fairly easily, stow in a trunk, truck, or luggage compartment, and are quick to grab and roll with. The biggest problem I’ve found is that many aren’t too durable. I’ve had a couple of them get torn either on baggage belts at the airport or from getting tossed in and out of trucks or caught on doors. I’ve also had zippers blow out from a bit of over packing. So when I saw that Maxpedition had come out with the Fliegerduffel, I was definitely interested.
So what does Fliegerduffel mean anyway? Well, we know what a duffel is so all we have to do is figure out Flieger. As it turns out, it’s German and means “pilot’. So we have a pilot’s duffel bag it seems. That actually makes a lot of sense when you start looking at the bags specs and find that the Fliegerduffel is sized to be approved for a carry on bag according to FAA regulations. So it’s a bag meant to fly, whether it really is in the hands of a pilot, or just a frequent traveler. The Fliegerduffel is 22” long x 14” wide x 9” high overall. It’s main compartment is 21” x 13” x 8” and it has an internal strap to hold your clothes or gear in place. There’s a top sleeve pocket that’s 10”x 6” (which works great for maps, travel books and stuff like that), two internal mesh pockets that measure 10” x 5” x 2”, and two external pockets that measure 14”x 2” each. Overall space works out to 2380 cubic inches. If that isn’t enough room for you the Fliegerduffel is also fitted with PALS webbing on the top, bottom and sides so can attach more pouches if need be. There are a variety of ways available for you to carry the duffel as well. Either through a traditional 2” shoulder strap, with handles mounted on the top and ends of the bag, or through a set of stowable backpack straps. The pack straps are contoured for comfort and feature a sternum strap. The Fliegerduffel can even carry a 100 oz. Hydration bladder if you need it to.
The Fliegerduffel is very solidly built. It’s constructed of 1000- Denier ballistic nylon and treated with a Teflon fabric protector to resist dirt and make it easier to clean. It’s also triple polyurethane coated for water resistance. It uses high tensile strength nylon webbing and thread and is padded with high-grade closed cell foam to protect the contents of the bag (a big improvement over most thin single layer duffels). All of the bag seams are taped and stress points are double stitched and bartacked or box stitched for durability. The zippers are really heavy-duty YKK models and the buckles are of UTX-Duraflex nylon for strength. That also makes for a low sound closure if that’s something that’s important to you. What that all means in simple terms is that this is a heavy-duty bag made of quality materials. It’s basically built like a tank, like all of Maxpedition’s products.
Okay, so basic specs aside, what do I think about the Fliegerduffel? Well, to be honest, my first impression was that it seemed sort of small. Empty, it looks sort of like a thin suitcase (albeit a tactical suitcase!) and I was a bit dubious about how much I could fit in it. I quickly found out though that this was an illusion. The bag is compact, in that it meets airline carry on standards, but it isn’t small. I used the duffel on a couple of trips over the summer and I was really surprised at how much I could fit in it once I started packing. For both trips I was able to fit 3-4 days worth of clothes, plus toiletries and sundry other items in with no problems. Generally this consisted of a packing list something like this:
- 4 pair underwear
- 4 pair socks
- 1 button down shirt
- 1 sweat shirt
- 3 pair of shorts
- 1-2 pairs of long pants (jeans or cargo pants)
- A shaving kit
- A Nintendo DS and/or an iPod in a padded case
- A spare leather belt
- Assorted travel book/papers (maps etc.)
- Small organizer with notepad, pens, small tools
- Miscellaneous small items like a knife, flashlight etc.
Once you start loading the bag, it does expand some and the zippered lid sort of domes upward as you fill the bag up. You end up with more stuff in there than thought you were going to fit in the first place. Typically, I travel with two bags, a duffel of some sort and a backpack. I keep my laptop or netbook in the backpack along with a rain jacket and other items I might want at hand, but use the duffel for clothes and everything else. The Fliegerduffel worked out great for this match up. About the only thing I might have had trouble fitting was a spare pair of boots. I think if I was wearing the boots though I’d have room to squeeze in a pair of tennis shoes or sandals without issue. Since both of the trips I took were car trips though, I just tossed the shoes into the car loose. The external 14”x 2” pockets are handy for gear you might need to access while you travel. I kept a flashlight and pocketknife in those, as well as some items that I didn’t want to get banged around in the main compartment. Inside both of those pockets are two square mesh pockets to further sort and separate your gear. As I mentioned earlier the 10”x 6” top pocket makes a great place to keep travel books, maps and guides. It would also be a good place for airline tickets or other documentation that you need to access easily while traveling.
I tried carrying the Fliegerduffel by the carry strap, backpack straps and handles when I used it. For routine use, the carry strap works just fine. It’s convenient and quick to sling and go. If you need to stow the strap it easily unclips and will fit in one of the 14” x 2” pockets on the bag. For grabbing the bag and dragging it in and out of the car the web handles on either end of the bag proved very handy, and the padded top handle was good for short hauls as well. If you really need to travel any distance you probably want to pull out the backpack straps though. These fit in a zippered compartment on the bottom of the duffel. They’re out of the way when you don’t need them but only take a minute or so to pull out and connect when you do. The straps are comfortable to wear and support of the load of the bag just fine. For long runs from the boarding gate out to the rental car lot they’d be just the ticket. I don’t know that I’d pick the Fliegerduffel as a replacement to a dedicated backpack for the woods but if you were traveling and had a mix of airline travel, hotel stays, and outdoor excursions, and needed one bag to do it all then this one would probably work extremely well.
After using the Fliegerduffel, I think it would hard to go back to a regular duffel bag, or an old school suitcase for that matter. It’s definitely much tougher than a typical duffel bag and is well suited to fast, on the move travel. It’s surprising space coupled with a multitude of carry options make it a great weekender bag whether your hopping a flight or taking a drive up to camp in the mountains. With a bit of judicious packing you could probably extend its use from a long weekend to a week without much trouble. At a retail price of $155.99 it does run a bit more than a basic bag, but it offers a lot more in features and convenience too. With its solid build and quality materials, you’ve got a bag that should survive the rigors of travel for a long time to come, especially when you factor in Maxpedition’s excellent limited lifetime warranty policy as well.