For the past 6 years I've been using a ratty old barrel duffle bag for extended weekend trips. It has been a great workhorse, but the pleather exterior is wearing away and starting to expose the fabric backing. At the urging of a female companion, I decided it was finally time to upgrade my travel luggage game and, after many rounds of sampling, am proud to give you a sneak peek of the Benchmark Weekender.
We've maintained many of the details found in our first product, the Benchmark Briefcase--full grain leather, rolled handles, painted edges--and added a few new ones that I'll talk about in my next post.
Today, I am going to focus on what I think are the most important aspects of any bag: the size and shape. Bags are meant to carry your stuff from Point A to Point B. While their style and composition may differ, in the end all bags are utilitarian. How easily and effectively they accomplish the task is defined by their dimensions.
Duffle bags can vary in size from tiny to enormous; it all depends on the function. The Benchmark Weekender's purpose is primarily as a bag that can carry everything you need for a weekend trip (or even a full week if you pack on the lighter side). That being said, I've used it as a combo gym/work bag and it's worked pretty well.
Living in New York City, I thought about the importance of incorporating another key element in the Weekender: make it easy to carry through crowded streets. IT would have to be narrower than most duffles so it could be negotiated through the hordes of people. To compensate, we've made it taller so it can actually carry stuff.
After testing out some old bags and creating some rough samples, I found that the ideal size for our purposes is about 19" long, 10,25" tall, and 8.5" wide. You can easily fit everything you need for a trip, but at the same time it doesn't feel empty when just holding your gear for the day
Most duffle bags tend to be wider than they are tall. While you might not think much about it on the face of it, the wider the bag, the further away from your body you have to hold it. As a result, your arm and shoulder will get tired faster than it would with a narrower bag.
So why make wide bags? Well, the contents of duffle bags settle and spread out horizontally as you move around (thanks gravity). Unstructured bags--even if vertically oriented--will bulge at the bottom in a teardrop shape, not only bring you back to the original problem of being hard to carry, but can also look bad doing so. The easiest and cheapest way to fix this problem is to make a wide bag with a rigid bottom.
It took us a few tries to realize what the problem was and figure out a solution. By making the bag's shape more rigid, while maintaining some of the flexibility, we found that our bag would retain its shape even when packed to the brim.
Adding this structure not only means that we needed to use additional materials, but it was also much more complicated to construct the bag. That being said, the decision to add it was a no brainer. In the end, we ended up with a bag that not only looks great, but is comfortable to carry short and long distances.
We're finalizing some details then the Weekender will go into production. We'll keep you posted on the details!