Having come a long way from army-issued gear, you can now get comfortable padded duffle bags, with or without wheels, in which to haul a lot of clothes and things for traveling. Today's duffles come in a much wider array of colors and patterns than green!
The Look of Padded Duffle Bags
The standard duffle bag is oblong, solid fabric with a zipper down the side. An army-issued bag might only have a tie-strap opening at one end. It slings over the shoulder with a long strap or can be carried by two side straps. Traditionally, the shoulder strap is a sturdy, heavy woven fabric, designed to manage a lot of weight. Carrying comfort was never a consideration in duffel bags until comparatively recently.
The initial thought of padded duffle bags was only padding on the shoulder strap, which made a great difference. Increasingly, however, especially as women started using the bags, more padding has been added to both improve comfort and protection for the items inside. The bags may be quilted or lightly padded on the inside, but the characteristic oblong shape remains the same.
Shopping for Duffle Bags
In addition to padding, many duffle bags now come with either wheels built in or an attachment that makes them a rolling bag, making carrying much easier. Since duffles are so large, even if they are only filled with clothing they can still be heavy or awkward. They also now have reinforced bottoms for easier managing and a longer, stronger life.
It should be noted, however, that when most luggage sellers talk about the padding in their duffle bags, they are referring to the strap, or the reinforcements at the bottom. Besides quilted duffle bags, most padded duffle bags seem to be specialty items, such as those sold as part of horseback-riding gear. The supply shop RaDon Inc. has a lined and padded duffle bag and can also provide custom bags.
Padded duffle bags are also used by people who have to regularly carry heavy, delicate equipment, such as still or film cameras, or accessories for hunting. A good hunting duffle bag can be found at Natchez Shooters Supplies, although no details are given on the web site.
For carrying expensive camera equipment, you can buy the Chimera Ballsistic Cloth Standard duffle bag at Film and Video Lighting. At 44 inches, the bag is long enough for carrying all necessary lighting and grip gear, including stands and diffusion.
Levy's Leathers makes a polyester padded duffle bag sold on many popular shopping sites, such as Amazon. Again, few details are available other than that the bag is a combination of leather and polyester and weighs about eleven pounds.
Make Your Own
Although the idea of making what is effectively heavy duty luggage is intimidating at best, padded duffle bags can be used for carrying things like knitting equipment, which both needs protection if you use bamboo needles and is something you want to prevent poking through fabric. Even if you're relatively new to sewing, you shouldn't be intimidated by the idea of making a padded bag. While quilting requires more skills, even that isn't hard with the right sewing machine and needles. Batting can be sewn between the surface and lining of any basic bag, and a duffle bag's simple shape is easy for even a beginner to work with. Many patterns can be found online, often for free.
Be aware that whether you are looking to buy or make a bag, it will take a little more time to find something specific since there are not as many padded duffles available. However, some effort and patience should yield you the exact bag you need.