Holdall Bags | Travel Bags for Men & Women [Buying Guide]

Holdall Bags | Travel Bags for Men & Women [Buying Guide]

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Discover the quintessential companion for your every journey—the holdall bag. Unassuming yet unmistakable, the holdall is more than just an accessory; it's a trusty sidekick crafted to carry your world with grace.

From the cobblestone streets of vintage European towns to the sleek corridors of modern airports, the holdall has traversed the globe, evolving not just in form but in spirit. Embrace the elegance of simplicity and the promise of adventure that comes with the perfect holdall.

Join us on a voyage through the rich tapestry of its history, the art of selecting one that feels like an extension of yourself, and the innovative features that elevate it from a mere bag to a storytelling piece.

Canvas Duffle Bag
Canvas Duffle Bag
Weekend Travel Bag
Weekend Travel Bag
Canvas Overnight Bag
Canvas Overnight Bag
Vintage Travel Bag
Vintage Travel Bag

I. What is a Holdall Bag?

The term "holdall" or "carryall bag" comes from the American English language. It refers to a wide range of travel bags, but generally describes a large, rectangular-shaped bag, usually made from fabric (either nylon or cotton canvas) or leather, in which many different objects can be easily stored.

Holdall bags are part of the big family of duffel bags. The term "Duffel" refers to the town of Duffel, Belgium, where the first duffel bag in history was made.

A holdall bag is a minimalist, carry-all but extremely sturdy bag that features two reinforced handles, usually made of leather, and sometimes a shoulder strap, most often removable, allowing you to carry it by hand or over your shoulder. It is thus a versatile and functional bag.

It is therefore a popular type of travel bag for frequent travelers, sportsmen and lovers of weekends away from home.

In fact, this type of travel bag easily replaces particularly bulky suitcases for travelling.

Some holdall bags are even equipped with wheels, and sometimes a telescopic handle to make it easier to carry.

However at Eiken, we believe that these features makes the bag heavier and negatively impacts its practicality (it adds weight to your bag and you can no longer compress it as you please).

II. The History of Holdall Bags

1. Evolution Over Time

The holdall bag, often referred to as a weekender bag, duffel, or overnight bag, traces its roots back to a time when travel was a luxury and luggage a symbol of status. Initially designed for the affluent travelers of the early 20th century, these bags were crafted to hold all one needed for a short journey, hence the name "holdall."

Origins and Early Uses

The holdall began its journey as a practical solution for military personnel. The early versions, known as duffle bags, named after the town of Duffel in Belgium where the thick cloth they were made of originated, were sturdy and simplistic. These cylindrical bags were easy to carry, durable, and spacious enough to accommodate the essentials.

As I reflect on these origins, it's fascinating how functionality was the primary concern—simplicity was key. There were no fancy compartments or designer logos, just a bag that served its purpose.

Changes in Design and Materials Through the Decades

Through the decades, the holdall evolved, mirroring changes in society, technology, and materials. Post-war, as commercial air travel took off, the demand for more sophisticated and size-specific luggage grew. This led to a shift from the traditional canvas to a more diverse range of materials, including leather, nylon, and even vegan leather for the environmentally conscious.

The design adapted too, with compartments for tech gadgets, reinforced straps for comfort, and sizes to fit overhead compartments. It's not just about the practicality anymore; it's about traveling smart and with ease.

2. Holdall Bags in Fashion

Influence on Fashion Trends

As a fashion statement, the holdall has had quite the journey. What was once a mere travel accessory has now found a place in the daily lives of style-conscious individuals. The practicality of a spacious compartment has merged with the aesthetics of modern design, giving rise to bags that not only serve a purpose but also complement an outfit.

From the jet-set era of the '60s, which glamorized travel with sleek leather bags, to the modern-day street style where the holdall is paired with both casual and business attire, these bags have become a versatile accessory in the fashion world.

Iconic Brands and Designers

When we talk about holdall bags in the context of fashion, names like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Herschel aren't just brands; they're institutions that have redefined what it means to carry a bag. These iconic designers have transformed holdalls from functional to fashionable, injecting their unique blend of craftsmanship, luxury, and design ethos into every piece.

A Louis Vuitton holdall isn't just about holding your belongings; it's about owning a piece of fashion history, an accessory that speaks volumes about your style and status. And as for the likes of Herschel, they've made holdalls accessible while still being trendy, proving that style doesn't always have to come with a hefty price tag.

Leather Travel Bag
Leather Travel Bag
Large Leather Holdall
Large Leather Holdall
Leather Weekend Bag
Leather Weekend Bag
Leather Duffle Bag
Leather Duffle Bag

III. What are the Different Types of Holdall Bags?

1. By Material

a. Leather Holdall Bags: Elegance Meets Endurance

When we talk about leather holdall bags, we're discussing a classic—a timeless accessory that melds sophistication with strength. I've found that a well-crafted leather duffel bag is not just a carrying option; it's an investment. The durability of full-grain leather, its ability to weather life's storms while aging gracefully, makes it a top choice for those who value longevity in their travel gear.

Advantages and Care

The advantages of leather are numerous. It's robust, often softening and improving with age, and has a high resistance to wear and tear. But let's not forget about its care. A leather weekender bag requires attention. Regular conditioning keeps the material supple, and a proper storage routine preserves its shape and texture. It's not just about maintaining appearance; it's about ensuring your bag is ready for your next journey.

2. Synthetic Holdall Bags: Smart and Cost-Effective Choices

Now, when cost efficiency and practicality take center stage, synthetic holdall bags step into the limelight. We're looking at materials like nylon or polyester, which boast impressive durability at a fraction of the cost of leather. These bags are your go-to when you need something lightweight, water-resistant, and resilient.

Comparing Durability and Cost

In comparing synthetic materials, I consider not just the initial price but also longevity. A polyester carryall might have a lower price tag, but will it stand up to the rigors of regular travel? Nylon, on the other hand, could offer that ideal middle ground—durable, yet not as pricey as leather. It's about balancing your budget with your needs.

3. Canvas Holdall Bags: The Artistic Traveler's Companion

For those who appreciate a more casual vibe, canvas holdall bags present a stylish option. Canvas, typically made from cotton or linen, is loved for its lightweight feel and effortless appeal. It's the artist's choice, the writer's companion on a retreat, blending utility with a relaxed aesthetic.

Aesthetic Appeal and Maintenance

The aesthetic charm of a canvas bag is its raw, textured look, which can complement any casual ensemble. Maintenance, though, is key. Canvas can be more prone to staining, but it's also easier to clean—often a simple machine wash will do the trick. Remember, a canvas bag is not just for show; it's a functional piece of your travel collection.

2. By Function

1. Sports Holdalls: The Athlete's Arsenal

For athletes, a sports holdall is more than a bag—it's a part of their arsenal. These bags are designed with compartments to hold gear, breathable sections for sweaty clothes, and often include a sturdy, adjustable strap for easy transport.

Features for Athletes

Sports enthusiasts, I'm talking to you. Look for a bag with a ventilated shoe compartment, water-resistant linings for damp items, and robust stitching to handle the heft of your gear. Whether you're heading to the gym or the field, your sports duffel should be as tough and ready as you are.

2. Travel Holdalls: The Globetrotter's Choice

In the world of travel, size matters, as does compliance with airline regulations. A travel holdall must be compact enough to fit in overhead bins yet spacious enough to hold your essentials.

Size and Airline Compliance

We've all been there, trying to fit our bag into the cabin's luggage sizer. Your travel holdall should be a seamless travel companion, adhering to most airlines' carry-on dimensions. Opt for a bag with multiple compartments to organize your belongings and quick-access pockets for your travel documents.

3. Business Holdalls: Marrying Function with Elegance

For the business traveler, a holdall must strike a balance between practicality and presentation. It's not just a bag; it's a part of your professional image.

Combining Style and Function

A premium leather or high-grade synthetic holdall with a laptop sleeve, organizational pockets, and a sleek design can make a statement when you walk into a meeting. It should carry your business attire as well as it carries your confidence.

Military Duffle Bag
Military Duffle Bag
Gym Duffle Bag
Gym Duffle Bag
Weekend Holdall
Weekend Holdall
Mens Duffle Bag
Mens Duffle Bag

IV. How to Choose the Right Holdall Bag?

1. Purpose and Functionality: Assessing Storage Needs and Compartmentalization

When it comes to selecting a reliable travel companion, the holdall bag stands out as a versatile choice for your journeys, whether you're planning a leisurely weekend getaway or a demanding business trip. The primary consideration is the functionality of the bag—how well it serves your storage needs without compromising on accessibility and organization. A well-designed holdall offers ample space, complemented by thoughtful compartmentalization, allowing you to pack efficiently. You want to look for a main compartment spacious enough for your essentials and cleverly designed pockets that safeguard smaller items like your keys, wallet, or digital devices.

Let’s consider the example of a vintage holdall from Eiken, crafted with the traveler’s needs in mind. The main storage space is generous, making it simple to organize your belongings. On the inside, you might find slit or zippered pockets for secure storage, while the exterior could provide easy access pockets, perfect for items you need on the go. Such features exemplify the 'less is more' philosophy, offering simplicity without sacrificing functionality.

2. Weather Resistance for Various Climates

As we traverse different climates and weather conditions, the durability and weather resistance of your holdall become paramount. Imagine the dismay of reaching your destination only to discover your attire and gadgets soaked through. Thus, investing in a durable and waterproof holdall is akin to purchasing peace of mind. Full-grain leather, waxed cotton canvas, and robust synthetic fabrics are among the most resilient materials. They not only stand the test of time but also protect against the elements.

Our vintage bags, often made from full grain leather and waxed canvas, promise longevity. If you lean towards a canvas bag, consider the DIY project of waterproofing with beeswax—a practical and satisfying endeavor. It’s not just about keeping the contents dry; it’s about maintaining the bag’s integrity over numerous adventures.

3. Style and Personal Expression: Color Choices and What They Signify

While the practical aspects of a holdall are crucial, the style and personal expression it conveys cannot be understated. The color of your bag is a silent announcer of your personality and intentions. We breaks away from the monochromatic norm by offering a color palette reminiscent of natural landscapes, injecting vibrancy into your travels and daily use.

The holdall you choose serves as an extension of your personal style. A sleek, minimalist design can complement both a sharp business suit and casual weekend wear, effortlessly bridging the gap between professional and leisurely aesthetics. The versatility of a well-chosen holdall allows for both men and women to find a bag that resonates with their style, without compromising on functionality or form.

4. Matching with Attire: Casual vs. Formal

The beauty of a well-crafted holdall lies in its ability to adapt to various settings. For a more formal look, a classic leather holdall can enhance your professional ensemble, while a waxed canvas bag may better suit casual occasions. A holdall with a minimalist design transcends the fashion dichotomy, becoming a staple item that suits all dress codes. When selecting your bag, consider how it will complement your wardrobe and the statement you wish to make.

Eiken’s philosophy of a unisex design underscores the bag’s adaptability, ensuring it’s a fit for every member of the household. This approach not only encourages shared use and sustainability but also offers economic benefits. By choosing a versatile design, you invest in a single piece that serves multiple purposes, aligning with a mindful consumption ethos.

In summary, when choosing the right holdall bag, consider the trifecta of needs: functionality for your packing style, durability to weather your travels, and a design that mirrors your personal aesthetic. A thoughtful choice in this regard sets the stage for not just a travel accessory, but a travel companion that shares in your journey's story.

V. How to Care for Holdall Bags?

1. Leather Holdall Care

Cleaning and Conditioning

For those of us who cherish the classic elegance of leather luggage, understanding the nuances of leather care is essential. Leather holdall bags, renowned for their durability and timeless style, require regular cleaning to maintain their lustre. Start with a soft brush or microfiber cloth to remove surface dirt. Then, using a cleaner designed for leather, apply with a soft cloth in circular motions. Once your holdall is clean, apply a conditioner. This step hydrates the leather, keeping it supple and preventing cracks. Remember, just as our skin needs moisturizing, so does leather.

Long-term Storage Tips

When it's time to tuck away your leather holdall bag, choose a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight which can fade and dry out the leather. Stuffing your bag with acid-free tissue paper helps maintain its shape, and a breathable cover, like a cotton bag, will protect against dust without trapping moisture.

2. Repair and Restoration

When to Seek Professional Repair

I've always recommended seeking a seasoned leather craftsman for significant repairs. If your bag has suffered a serious tear or the hardware has broken, a professional's skilled hands can ensure a repair that's both durable and aesthetically pleasing, ensuring your holdall remains a faithful travel companion for years to come.

DIY Fixes for Common Issues

For minor scuffs and scratches, I've found that a simple homemade solution can work wonders. A mix of one part vinegar to two parts linseed oil applied overnight can significantly reduce the appearance of these blemishes. If a stitch comes loose, a needle and thread designed for leatherwork can be used for a quick fix, keeping in mind that this is only a temporary solution before professional mending.

Leather Travel Bag
Leather Travel Bag
Leather Holdall Bag
Leather Holdall Bag
Leather Duffel Bag
Leather Duffel Bag
Mens Leather Holdall
Mens Leather Holdall

VI. How to Pack a Holdall Bag?

1. Packing Strategies

When preparing for a trip, the way you pack can be just as important as what you pack. Efficient use of space in your holdall can make the difference between a stress-free journey and one where you are wrestling with an overstuffed bag.

Folding vs. Rolling Clothes

Let's tackle the age-old debate: is it better to fold or roll your clothes? I've tried both methods and here's what I've found: rolling is a game-changer. It not only saves space but also reduces wrinkles, allowing you to maximize the capacity of your holdall. Rolled garments can fit snugly into corners and can be easily organized. However, for items prone to creasing, like a crisp cotton shirt or linen garments, folding might be the better option. Use tissue paper or a dry-cleaning bag to minimize folds and creases.

Utilizing Compartments and Pockets

Your holdall is more than just a main compartment. It's a mobile storage unit, complete with nooks and crannies perfect for your smaller items. Make the most of zippered pockets for items like travel adapters, earphones, or your passport. These are the things you want to keep secure and accessible. The side compartments are ideal for separating shoes from clothing, while internal pockets can be used to store chargers, cables, and other travel essentials.

2. Essentials for Different Occasions

Packing can be an art form, and like any good artist, you need to know your subject. In this case, the subject is your destination and the occasion.

Must-Haves for Weekend Getaways

For a weekend escape, the goal is to travel light but be prepared. Start with versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched. A pair of jeans, a few T-shirts, a sweater, and a casual shirt or blouse can be combined in multiple ways. Remember to pack a small toiletry bag with travel-sized essentials. Consider the activities you've planned: will you need swimwear, a book for relaxing, or a camera to capture memories? Pack each item with a purpose, and you'll find that a minimalist approach can be liberating.

Packing for Business Trips

On the other hand, business trips demand a more curated approach. Your holdall should be an extension of your professional image. Pack smart: a suit or two, depending on the length of your trip, dress shirts, and ties. Keep your business attire neat by folding it using a dry-cleaning bag as a layer to prevent creasing. Electronics are a must, so a secure compartment for your laptop or tablet, along with necessary chargers, is non-negotiable. A good tip is to roll your belts and stuff them inside your shoes to maintain their shape and save space.

Remember, the key to packing efficiently is adaptability. Whether it's a leisurely weekend away or an important business meeting, your holdall bag is your companion, keeping your belongings organized and accessible. With these strategies in hand, you'll be able to pack with confidence, knowing that everything has its place. And if you can sneak in a travel-size game or a book, you'll have mastered the art of packing with efficiency and a touch of fun.


In the realm of travel and style, the holdall bag stands unparalleled—a testament to timeless design and enduring functionality. It has journeyed with us through this exploration, revealing its facets: a history interwoven with culture, the variety that caters to every individual's ethos, and the sustainable future it strides towards.

Choosing a holdall is not just a practical decision; it's a reflection of one's narrative, a declaration of sophistication. As we draw the curtains on this guide, let's carry forward the essence of the holdall—a vessel for our essentials, a keeper of memories, and a beacon of our personal journeys yet to unfold.


What defines a holdall bag and how is it different from other luggage?

A holdall bag is a spacious, often rectangular bag with a top closure, designed for versatility and ease of carrying. Unlike rigid suitcases, holdalls are typically soft-sided and offer more flexibility in packing, often with a variety of compartments. They differ from backpacks as they are hand-carried or slung over the shoulder and prioritize a single large compartment for storage.

Can holdall bags be used as carry-on luggage on airplanes?

Yes, many holdall bags fit within the size restrictions for carry-on luggage. However, it's essential to check with the specific airline's carry-on size guidelines before traveling, as these can vary.

How do I maintain the quality of my leather holdall bag over time?

To maintain a leather holdall, regularly clean it with a soft cloth and a cleaner designed for leather. Conditioning the leather can prevent drying and cracking, and storing the bag in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight can preserve its quality.

Are there any waterproof holdall bags available for purchase?

Yes, waterproof or water-resistant holdall bags are available, typically made of materials like treated leather, nylon, or other synthetic fabrics. They are ideal for travel in variable weather conditions.

What's the best way to clean a canvas holdall bag?

For canvas holdall bags, spot cleaning with mild soap and water is usually safe. For tougher stains or overall cleaning, follow the manufacturer's instructions—some can be machine washed while others should be hand-cleaned to preserve their shape and fabric integrity.

How can I tell if a holdall bag is of high quality?

High-quality holdall bags usually feature sturdy construction with even, strong stitching, high-grade materials like full-grain leather or high-denier fabric, reliable hardware, and attention to detail in the finish.

What should I look for in a holdall bag if I'm using it primarily for gym use?

For gym use, look for holdall bags with separate compartments for wet and dry items, ventilation for breathability, durable material to withstand regular use, and an easy-to-clean lining.

Can holdall bags be recycled or upcycled when they're too worn out for regular use?

Many holdall bags, especially those made from natural materials, can be recycled or upcycled. You can repurpose them for storage or donate them to organizations that refurbish bags for extended use.

What are some reputable brands that specialize in high-quality holdall bags?

Brands known for high-quality holdall bags include Tumi, Samsonite, and Leatherology for luxury leather options, as well as Patagonia and The North Face for durable travel and outdoor styles.

How does the size of the holdall bag affect its practicality?

AThe size of a holdall bag should correspond to its intended use. Larger bags are ideal for long trips or activities requiring more gear, while smaller bags are better for day-to-day use or short weekend getaways. Always ensure the bag's size aligns with your carrying capacity and travel needs.

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Baptiste is an adventurer with a passion for urban and wilderness exploration and adventure, and a lover of vintage objects with timeless charm. As a Founding member of the Eiken team, he tries to share his passion and expertise for travel and vintage fashion through his articles.

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