There are five main features to look for in an overnight bag; material, construction,, water resistance, compartments and size. The intended use of the overnight bag will go a long way in determining which features are most important to you.
The most common materials of overnight bags are:
- Vinyl, perhaps the cheapest material out there, it’s flimsy, but it is waterproof if it’s sealed correctly. Requires little maintenance.
- Nylon is a bit better in terms of strength, may be waterproof if lined, requires a bit more care to keep clean, once it starts ripping it’s pretty much over.
- Ballistic nylon, this is the heavy, self sealing nylon, very high quality and nearly impossible to rip. Great stuff, may be waterproof if lined. Requires same maintenance as nylon.
- Leather, looks and feels great, if it’s real leather and not vinyl, waterproof and tough but requires more maintenance to keep it looking good.
- Canvas, can be strong if it’s heavy canvas but can get ripped easily. Gets dirty and not waterproof unless lined. Note, once a canvas overnight bag gets wet, it, and the contents get wet!
The construction quality of an overnight bag is just as, if not more important than the material it’s made of. Look for HEAVY zippers, especially if it’s a large bag and will be overstuffed. Make sure the straps and handles are not only double sewed but riveted as well. Check the seams, they should be reinforced with additional material. Remember, the material may be great but if the handle rips off, or the zipper breaks then it’s useless to you.
Check for water resistant or waterproof features. If the overnight bag is vinyl but it closes with a couple of snaps water WILL get in. Check for zippers with interior flaps, good sealing pockets etc..
Some overnight bags are huge and cavernous with few compartments. This is a subjective feature, if you will just get to your destination and unpack then few compartments are really needed. On the other hand, if you intend to ‘live’ out of your overnight bag then you’ll need some compartments to stay organized.
For the most part the size and shape of the overnight bag doesn’t matter EXCEPT if you intend to use it for air travel. Most airlines allow up to 21 inches for a carry-on, keep that in mind. Also, the bigger the bag the heavier it will be, don’t give grandma a 35 inch, heavy leather overnight bag and expect her to use it!
Overnight bags can be traditional luggage shape or even duffel shape, it’s your choice.
Now that you know the key features here’s some examples of what features work best in different situations. For someone who goes on camping or fishing trips, a good ballistic, waterproof compartmented bag is best. For airline travel a good quality 21 inch overnight bag that doesn’t have to be waterproof is a good choice. Weekend trips with just light clothes need a nylon or canvas bag, waterproofing, compartments and quality are up to you.
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