The Ultimate Guide To Men’s Weekender Bags
The perfect weekend bag has to be compact yet expansive, smart but durable, casual yet refined. Does it exist? We’ll show you plenty of great bag makers who are ticking all of the boxes.
You needn’t be a rocket scientist to work out that, yes, a weekender bag is designed to be used on weekend trips away. It should be cabin sized for speedy air travel, have no wheels, and stylish and functional in equal measure. Think of it as an upgrade from the humble yet dependable backpack.
Its capacity is such that it will fit a change of clothes plus a few extra essentials: a washbag, a change of shoes, plus any devices you might need. Sounds simple enough, right? The trouble is that lots of brands slap the ‘weekender’ tag on products that aren’t really fit for purpose. They’re either missing the vital construction details that ensure the bag’s durability and longevity, or the dimensions are simply wrong.
If you need to make garbled straining noises when you pick up your weekender then it’s too big. Or if your change of clothes only amounts to clean underwear, socks and a T-shirt then you know its too small.
Good weekend bags have been thought about carefully, and road-tested too. Below we break down what you should consider before you even think about investing, then showcase the brands producing the finest (and most practical) versions on the market today.
What to consider before buying a weekender bag
Before you start thinking about the size and details of your weekend bag, it’s a good idea to consider the style in relation to your own wardrobe. There’s little point opting for a super-technical ballistic nylon duffel bag with 237 pockets and webbing details when your entire wardrobe is devoted to smart preppy attire.
Your bag should be an extension of your aesthetic, so if you like wearing luxury tailoring then a complementary option would be a leather weekender. On the other hand, if you lean towards a more casual vibe then maybe a canvas style with leather details would be more up your street.
The most common type of weekend bag is the compact duffel – shorter than your average sports duffel and in most cases deeper. It consists of two top handles and a shoulder strap (detachable is always welcome), and will typically have a central zip opening. They will often also include external pockets that you can slip small devices, passports and paperwork into.
This style of bag usually has a degree of structure to it, so it’s not totally collapsible. The dimensions can differ quite a lot too: some will appear more like a satchel while others will be in the typically elongated duffel shape – the former being that little bit smarter than the latter.
The most important factor when it comes to size is that it fits in an overhead locker of a plane, otherwise it defeats the whole object of a weekend bag in the first place.
In terms of capacity, it should be in the 30 to 40 litre range, which will allow you ample room for a considered change of look (or two if you’re clever about it) and spare pair of shoes, along with your toiletries and devices.
Weekend bags tend to come in three main textiles: leather, nylon and canvas, each with their own unique characteristics. Here we go over the pros and cons.
Leather weekend bags
The most expensive option, leather is typically the smartest choice. If looked after properly it will last you a lifetime while also improving with age as the patina develops.
The quality of the hide, and thus the price, will vary massively so you need to understand what you’ve got in your hands. When you scrunch good leather it should crease softly like skin, whereas any sharp creases will indicate some sort of coating has been applied. Often it’s a light waterproofing coating, which is fine, but do be wary that sometimes a coating is applied to disguise the poor quality.
Full-grain leather is the best of the best and should never have a coating. As with all bags, pay close attention to the quality of the stitching because it will often deteriorate first and therefore determine how long it lasts.
Nylon weekend bags
A good, hardwearing casual option is nylon. Many technical brands now use a ballistic nylon, which is degrees stronger than the normal stuff – you’ll want to seek that out if you’re a frequent flyer who needs something rugged and able withstand a beating.
Nylon is naturally shiny and has good elasticity, which means less pressure on the zips when you’re trying to stuff that extra jumper in ‘just in case’. Its strength to weight ratio is excellent and it’s waterproof in all but the most biblical downpours. It also doesn’t crease and is extremely easy to wipe clean.
Canvas weekend bags
Canvas has a naturally vintage aesthetic to it, especially when combined with leather detailing, and therefore is a great smart casual option if your wardrobe is quite classic or leans on workwear influences.
It’s relatively lightweight compared to leather and has a good degree of expandability, although you need to be careful not to test its limits as canvas can tear fairly easily.
Most canvas comes with some kind of water-repellent coating these days, which is important because liquid stains can quickly age the material.
Most weekend bags will have either cast-formed or pressed metal hardware, such as the D-rings attached to the handles and shoulder straps. Cast metal is generally stronger and better quality than the pressed variety.
Most cheaper bags will use a zinc alloy, which should be avoided, especially when you consider that it’s usually the hardware that is the first thing to break. Stainless steel and brass are much better options.
The central zip is another a crucial element to check before you buy because failure here tends to mean the end of the bag or a fairly costly repair. Riri, Lampo, Glossy and YKK zippers all tend to be excellent.
A good weekender should have a wealth of internal compartments of varying size to allow you to better store your belongings. Be mindful to check the stitch quality of the internal lining because if you’re constantly in and out of these pockets they can easily get damaged.
External compartments tend to be a style choice rather than a functionality thing, but they can be useful for slipping a phone and passport into as you navigate the airport.
The best men’s weekender bag brands
Founded in 1970 and still a family-run business in Massachusetts, Frank Clegg has quietly been making some of the finest leather duffle bags in the world. The entire range is constructed from responsibly-sourced leather, and designed and handcrafted in America.
The weekender styles are numerous and use a plethora of different hides, from shrunken grain leather and tumbled leather to belting leather, goatskin and suede (as well as a few exotic options).
Its Signature Travel Duffles are next level and come in a beautiful array of different dyes.
Launched in 2003 by founders Adam Alexander Bach and Rikke Overgaard, Danish bag-maker Mismo has become one of the most recognisable and sought-after Scandinavian brands thanks to a beautifully crafted and eclectic range of leather weekenders, military-inspired rucksacks and modern urban totes bags.
From ballistic nylon backpacks with leather trims to canvas weekend bags, you’ll find a style to suit every type of journey and wardrobe. Our favourite weekender is the M/S Holdall, cut from a hardwearing cotton canvas with solid brass hardware and full grain leather trimmings – a great match for most smart and smart casual wardrobes.
Bennett Winch never fail to astound with its attention of detail and dedication to fine fabrics and craftsmanship. And the Weekender bag epitomises all of the brand’s principles.
With a vintage aesthetic, the canvas version is built from 24oz British dyed and bonded waterproof cotton canvas and features full-grain leather trim, handles and base, as well as solid brass hardware welded in London and YKK zips.
Inside, there’s more than enough room for a couple of changes of looks, as well as two separate waterproof compartments for shoes. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also available in premium full-grain naturally vegetable-tanned leather. Bennett Winch, we don’t deserve you.
The prestigious leather specialist started life out in the footwear business and has since become one of the leading fashion brands in the world so it should come as no surprise that its bag collection is of the highest order.
Renowned for its use of leather patinas in its luxury shoe and outerwear collections, Berluti has incorporated the same effect into its weekend bags, of which the Jour Off GM leather travel bag is top of the pile. Constructed from Venezia leather with a cotton-linen lining, the bag has a beautiful tubular construction and will age magnificently.
It’s certainly not small change, but if you’re a Berluti fan the price tag is probably immaterial.
Bleu de Chauffe
Based in the Aveyron region of southern France, Bleu De Chauffe uses local artisans to craft its stunning bags, selecting only the very best and most sustainable fabrics and hardware.
Each artisan is 100% responsible for the bag he or she produces (they date and sign each piece they make), meaning there are no production lines – which in this day and age is unique and highly commendable.
While the brand is best known for its musettes and postman’s satchels, its travel bags are equally as splendid. There are four styles, from a soft vegetable-tanned leather option in the shape of a doctor’s bag to the beautifully outdoorsy Cabine style, which is made from cotton canvas supplied by the last French producer of such a textile.
The Italian master of fine fabrics does not do things by halves, so Mr Cucinelli’s weekend bags are fine, functional things to behold. Yes, they’ll set you back the price of a second-hand car but if you’re a customer of Cucinelli, that’s probably water off a duck’s back.
The brand’s grained calfskin Weekender bag, although decadent, is a touch small for anything longer than an overnight stay so we’d rather plump for the textured suede and buffalo leather country bag, if you don’t mind?
Dunhill’s luggage collection is exemplary, and for the most part constructed from exquisite calfskin leather in Italy.
The Lock Weekender is the British heritage brand’s getaway bag, although it comes in a silhouette more closely resembling a briefcase than a traditional holdall, complete with a briefcase-style lock fastening that makes it all the more smarter and formal.
Priced at $3,900/£2,900, available in caramel and cornflower blue, it’s an investment piece if ever there was one. It’s probably only large enough for an overnight stay, so would be ideal for short business stopovers.
Workwear aficionados will be well-acquainted with Filson, the rugged American label that has been producing solid outdoors kit for over 125 years. Naturally, its bags follow the same Americana mould, blending form with function to create a heritage aesthetic.
Its weekender option comes in the shape of a medium holdall, sized perfectly for cabin travel. It’s made from rain-resistant cotton twill with premium Italian leather trimming and rustproof brass hardware.
Designed to be taken on adventures, it also features a storm-flap closure so it’s perfect for those of you who like to hit the less-beaten tracks.
For a new luxury luggage maker to break into an already very competitive industry it needs to provide a pretty special product, and that is exactly what Melissa Morris has done with her brand, Métier.
Founded in 2017 in Mayfair, London, Métier specialises in stunning handmade modular bags, crafted in Italy using the very finest fabrics. The thinking that goes into the design details is quite something, turning what are essentially works of art into very functional bags with a high-end aesthetic that borrows from the Jet Set era of travel.
The Nomad Weekend bag and the Vagabond duffle are exquisite overnight styles featuring clever interior snap pockets and beautiful attention to detail.
Mulberry looks and feels like a heritage brand, but it was actually only founded in 1971, which goes to show the footprint it’s made on the luxury bag space. Although its women’s bags get most of the column inches, the men’s weekend bags should definitely be on your radar.
There are two styles that fit the bill: the medium Clipper is a classic duffel, constructed from Eco Scotchgrain, a PVC-coated cotton canvas, with leather details, coming in a variety of colours and patterns. The City Weekender, on the other hand, has boxier dimensions and is crafted from a soft, heavy-grain leather hide.
Both are excellent options for a smart city break, especially if your wardrobe leans towards modern elevated menswear.
The Milanese leather bag specialist has been handmaking its stunning pieces since 1928. Although no longer family run, the brand still adheres to the same painstaking processes in order to produce some of the most exceptional examples of leather work.
Serapian’s designs are perfect for the elegant guy with a wardrobe that traverses sartorial finesse and contemporary fashion. If that sounds like you, then you’ll want to check out Serapian’s embarrassment of travel bag riches, which includes a plethora of leather styles, as well as cotton canvas and nylon options.
Founded by former financiers Samuel Bail & Abel Samet, Troubadour’s very existence was catalysed by the need for a weekend bag. Unable to find one that suited their lifestyle, Bail and Samet set about designing their own – and we’re glad they did.
With a minimalist aesthetic that complements smart looks and business travel, Troubadour uses high-quality fabrics such as Italian leather, as well as recycled polyester in a bid to become carbon neutral and eliminate fluorocarbons in its production processes.
The original Weekender bag comes in recycled polyester with a bunch of functional compartments for devices.
For a company that’s fast-approaching the end of its second century in business, remarkably few people know about Tusting, the Northamptonshire leather bag maker.
It’s not too surprising, given that for a good deal of Tusting’s recent history it has been producing bags for other brands. Thankfully, it has started to market under its own name and it won’t be long before its burnished leather and canvas holdalls appear in the hands of the most discerning men worldiwde.
The leather of the Weekender is incredible since it already looks like it’s lived a lifetime of adventure, all thanks to a unique tanning process in which the hide is heavily oiled to create a distressed look.
Valextra was founded in 1937 by Italian Giovanni Fontana. And the Milan-based brand has retained an exceptional reputation for leather working ever since. Its craftsmen tend to work with a soft-grained calfskin called Martellato, as well as Parigi leather, both of outstanding softness.
What we love, besides the bags being unisex, is that many of the designs today are from the brand’s vast archive. Take, for example, the Avietta travel bag, which was first conceived in 1961 and has been ‘engineered to meet the demands of a 48-hour work trip’. Or the capacious Boston weekender, an expandable luxury duffle bag crafted from the brand’s signature Millepunte calfskin, with hand-painted (yes, you read that right) details.
If money was no object…