Gear Review: The Eagle Creek Migrate Duffel Bag

Eagle Creek Migrate Duffels. Photo courtesy of Eagle Creek.

How does the new Eagle Creek Migrate Duffel bag stand up on a road test? Read our review!

It’s no secret that here at Trading Places, Eagle Creek is our favorite, go-to baggage gear company. In fact I, personally, don’t use anything else but Eagle Creek. Their products are outstanding, durable (I’ve yet to have one rip, bust a zipper, or otherwise break down/fail me in my jaunts across the globe), and good looking.

I’ve used — and reviewed — plenty of Eagle Creek suitcases and backpacks. But recently I decided to give a new type of gear a try: the wheeled duffel bag. I’ve never been a big duffel fan or user, but there were two reasons why I wanted to try the EC Migrate — it’s wheeled (saving those shoulders), and is made of very cool, sustainable materials with a fresh, colorful look.

Eagle Creek Migrate Duffel 90L in Sahara Yellow

I chose the 110L size, which is in the middle (the Migrate comes in 90, 110, 120 and 130) in the snazzy Sahara Yellow color, and my new bag arrived just before I set off on a 5-week trip in South America through Peru, Argentina and even a short stop in Uruguay. I would be in planes, trains, boats and taxis, so it was the perfect journey to put a new bag to the test. Here are my thoughts on the Eagle Creek Migrate Duffel.

Looks & First Impressions

Eagle Creek Migrate Duffel in Coral Sunset
Eagle Creek Migrate Duffel in Coral Sunset

In love. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE color. My home kind of looks like a paint factory exploded in it. One of the things that attracted me to the Migrate line was the very different colors that the bag was available in, from the yellow/orange/blue that I chose to Coral Sunset and Arctic Blue, as well as Jet Black for those who prefer a classic. But I’m one of those people who don’t know why “standard” things have to come in standard colors. I seek out backpacks, messenger bags, even laptop covers that have fun colors and designs on them, rather than (to me) boring grays and blacks.

Well, the Sahara Yellow Migrate certainly has color! In fact, it’s not going to be missed anywhere, and there’s zero chance of mistaking it for another look-alike on the baggage conveyer belt. But I also loved the sustainable construction of this bag. Migrate Duffels are constructed of bluesign® approved material, which  is the sign of a sustainable textile production. It eliminates harmful substances right from the beginning of the manufacturing process and sets and controls standards for an environmentally friendly and safe production. The duffel’s water repellent coating was developed by harvesting windshield plastics from landfills in Asia to add functionality to the bag while upcycling. The water-repellent, heavy-duty TPU main body material is easy to clean (you can even hose it off).

So, A+ for looks and for manufacturing!

Packing

Even though I “only” got the 90L size — the second to smallest size the Migrate comes in — this baby is roomy. Huge, in fact. As I proceeded on my trip (more on that later), I almost wished I had gotten the smaller 60L size, because this is a big bag. The 130L must be good for a year long trip around the world! (Though as I headed home, with all the goodies purchased on my trip, my Migrate was stuffed about as full as it could get, so I appreciated the extra room then).

The nice thing about the Migrate Duffel’s size and configuration, however, is that you can easily condense it or open it up for more room. There are side buckles on either end that can be unlocked for 8 more liters of packing space, which is pretty major. As I packed for my trip, I left the buckles closed which made the bag a little more compact and manageable. Once you’re packed and zipped up, as well, two buckles across the top can be pulled tight to condense it even further to your contents. I found it incredibly roomy and easy to pack — so roomy, in fact, that my Pack It cubes almost got lost sliding around in there!

Pack It Specter Cubes

While we’re talking about packing, let’s stop here for a moment to discuss Eagle Creek’s brilliant packing cube solutions. My mother, of all people, introduced me to the brilliant idea of packing cubes on a trip to India 7 years ago, and I’ve been a convert ever since. They not only appeal to my highly organized (some might say OCD) nature, but they go a really long way toward fitting more in your bag. I typically put all my tops into one full-size cube, bottoms into another, and underwear/swimwear/scarves, etc. into a half cube. Once your clothing is folded or rolled into the cubes and they’re zipped up, they take up far less space than your stuff would just placed directly in a suitcase.

But Eagle Creek has taken this one step further with their Compression Cubes. These take the regular packing cube solution and give a second zipper which compresses your items even more, really shrinking them down to take up even less space in your bag. I was surprised by how much of an effect this had, when I put my clothing into a cube and then zipped up that second zipper. The size of the cube and room it took up in my duffel decreased by about 30%. Winner!

Want to win a set of Pack It Specter compression cubes for yourself?
Find out how at the bottom of this post!

Use On The Road

Now I was ready for the real test of my new Migrate Duffel: actually taking it on my travels and finding out how it handled on the trip. Overall, I was extremely happy with it. There were two very positive aspects to using the duffel on the road for a weeks-long journey in South America, and one area that I didn’t like as much:

  • Durability: This is probably the most impressive thing about this duffel. As I’ve already mentioned, the recycled materials and sustainable manufacturing of the Migrate gets top marks from me, but the entire bag has the tough durability that I’ve come to rely on Eagle Creek for throughout the years. This material, I feel like, could take years of wear and tons of abuse without beginning to give way. The straps, handles, buckles and lockable zippers are all extremely heavy-duty and serve well. The way it’s constructed is also very protective of your stuff: a seamless bottom “bathtub” design prevents water from puddles or other things it might be set down on from entering the duffel; while the water repellent coating and internal storm flap protect the bag from rain entry.
  • Versatility: The Migrate is also extremely versatile which always scores high for me and something that I look for in all my travel gear. As I mentioned, though I’ve never been a big duffel person I chose the Migrate because it’s wheeled, so didn’t have to be carried on the shoulder all the time. However, when I needed to carry it — walking across trails and rough, rocky terrain in Peru, or up several flights of stairs — it’s easy to carry by hand or slung across the shoulder. But not only that, this duffel can also be worn as a backpack! The backpack straps are stored neatly out of the way in their own pockets when you don’t need them —  but when you do, wow is it nice to carry the bag backpack-style. This is one of the things I love about my Eagle Creek Flip Switch, which is a convertible backpack/luggage. And I carried my Migrate as a backpack several times, and was very glad I had that capability.
Photograph by Jon Mattrisch, Milwaukee Photographer
Photograph by Jon Mattrisch, Milwaukee Photographer
  • Wheeled Rolling: This was the only aspect of the Migrate that I wasn’t totally in love with. Because the duffel is more soft-sided and less structured than a traditional suitcase, the contents/weight inside shift around more easily — which makes it easier for the duffel to become more unbalanced to wheel, as well as to stand upright on the wheels without it falling over. Sometimes when I would try to wheel the bag, it would be too top-heavy or weight lopsided to one side, which would trip up the wheel mechanism and cause it to trip up some as I was trying to pull it. I would have to stop and right it again, and/or reshift the contents inside better. This can easily be remedied by pulling the straps across the bag tighter and fastening the end clips to keep the contents better contained or balanced (but that’s not something my impatient and sometimes in-a-hurry self takes the time to do). Also, I am tall with long legs, and I found the length of the handle a bit short for the bag to be the right distance behind my feet for wheeled pulling, and often the bag would get tripped up on my feet as I pulled it behind me.

However, the bottom line is that such a wheeled duffel bag as the Migrate isn’t meant to be used in the way a traditional rolling suitcase would. If you want a more rigid, structured bag that will always be rolled, then a 4-wheeled suitcase like the Gear Warrior (watch for my upcoming review of it!) is the way to go. The attraction of a duffel bag is, well, its use as a duffel bag and not primarily for the rolling capability. That, like the backpack ability, is just an added plus that gives the Migrate more versatility.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the Migrate Duffel from Eagle Creek did not disappoint. Its most impressive features, to me, are:

  • Durability
  • Versatility
  • Roominess
  • Looks
  • Sustainability

 

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