For several years I have been traveling a mix of short road trips and some longer journeys domestically and abroad. For shorter trips, I prefer to simplify my packing and bring as little as possible. The Wool & Oak Duffle Bag proclaimed to provide the functionality of both a briefcase and 2-3 days worth of clothing. But with a price tag of nearly $400, is it worth it?
Reducing my overall packing load coincides with making my life easier. I was drawn to Wool & Oak under the guise of a very simple offering, messenger bag still compartments and ease inside of a duffle bag that would hold the rest of my things. Two bags simplified into one is not just less packing, it’s less to carry, it’s less to manage, it’s just easier.
Without the Wool & Oak, I at minimum carry an Ogio backpack for my mobile office. Every cord, connection, business card and pen I could ever need in my life is strapped to my back and slowly killing me at somewhere between 25-35 pounds depending on the day. In my days of living in the UK it was a messenger bag like this one instead. If it’s a flight, I roll with a Rimowa (here’s a review of that) and put my backpack on top of it but when the trip is shorter I really don’t want to pack my aluminum Topas.
The Wool & Oak Duffle Bag was the solution I was waiting for to solve this problem, but as the problem was popping up once or twice a week, it was worth seeking out a solution. I also really liked the look of the bag though the name of the color (no longer offered) Ox Blood was a little off-putting even if it were an accurate description.
My wife purchased the (expensive) bag for me as a Christmas present a year and a half ago and after using the bag off and on for some time I decided to review it.
There are 17 different compartments in and around the bag. On the outside, there’s a passport zip and loops for keychains and an optional dopp kit. But like some of the features on this bag, the passport holder is only great if the bag isn’t filled full inside. It’s too flush with the outside of the bag and should stick out a little, otherwise, you have to make a choice, use the passport compartment or pack all of your stuff, but you can’t do both.
On the inside, two zippable and removable compartments separate the bag into two distinct halves which allow for different types of clothing. I usually pack casual on one side, business on the other (it’s like a mullet of a bag?) or if I have a few days in there I use one side for dirty laundry and the other for clean. If so desired, the separators can be zipped out of either side or both.
Each of the dividers is a compartment in and of itself holding laptops, tablets, books and cords. There are some limitations to the product with easy and obvious improvements. For example, the compartments for chargers do not have enough give to store a larger power adapter than an iPad without significantly straining the fabric or in some cases, not fitting into the slot at all. A couple of the more well-defined slots for pens are well placed, but if you want to hold a Moleskin notebook and an iPad you’re going to have to make choices.
The most clever hiding spot on the entire product is a tie compartment running along the middle of the bottom of the bag.
One feature I love is that the bag zips fully around from the bottom of the bag, up the side, across to the other and back down again. This open-jaw zipper makes it a lot easier to pack and lay in lots of items as opposed to a pinched opening with most bags that only open across the top.
I had some issues regarding the shoulder strap. For one, it’s thin – there’s just not a ton of width if you are carrying more than a day’s worth of clothes and an iPad Mini. Another issue is that its placement isn’t well thought out. It crosses the bag but has a tendency to twist when carried over the shoulder. It’s also a very short strap, taller travelers will have a hard time with the bag on a shoulder strap.
The leather itself is high quality. I have had the bag in the rain and while the watermarks initially showed (I thought the bag was ruined before we even left for the airport on our first trip) it recovers as it dries. The zippers do well and are also high quality, so are the inserts.
The buttons and stitching are a different story. One button on the bag popped off at an unknown time, then some stitching started to pull. Additionally, one of the button clasps on the dopp kit locked in so hard that it came off one side and is permanently stuck to the other. I reached out to Wool & Oak regarding this and await their response. I don’t expect a brand to endlessly stand by their product, things happen. But for a $450 Duffle bag (the dopp kit included) I do expect a little more quality and service.
Full disclosure, I reached out to address the quality concerns and they responded back that they will come back to me with 24-48 hours. I plan to update the post if their response materially changes my impression of the quality of the product.
It looks great, it’s from a smaller upstart brand and for the right person it could be a perfect packing application. For me, however, I just expect a little more for the money. The quality issues are concerning because I am only using the product once or twice a month at this point, there’s just no reason for pieces to be coming off – these are road trips, it’s not being checked underneath the aircraft. I also found that transferring all of my cables, chargers, adapters, equipment, and a handful of other items usually left me without something or diminished the time savings entirely.
I have previously reviewed several bags, two were gifts and the others purchased. I find that at the $400 price range there are simply too many talented competitors to justify the Wool & Oak Duffle. I would rather spend less money on a similar product or more money on a better product with higher quality. Here are some I like instead:
For rolling cases which is most likely what I will be using for the time being:
Do you have a carry-on bag you swear by? Have you tried the Wool & Oak products? What was your experience?