Top Tips #19 - Duffel Bag Organisation

29th Jul 2015

Duffel Bags are brilliantly simple - a barrel shaped bag made from very durable fabric.  They are the staple storage system for expeditions where a bag will be carried whether that's by mules, porters, vehicles or yaks.  They are the perfect travel companion and we shared a few ideas about choosing them in one of our Top Gear series here.
The only problem with them is that, because most are just a simple single cylinder shaped compartment, keeping things inside them organised can be a tricky challenge.  You'll always need that item that is hidden under that tiny item that's in the very corner of the bag.  So, our Peak Mountaineering Top Tip # 19 is a few ideas on duffel organisation.
Firstly, you can make your life a bit easier if you choose a duffel bag with at least a pocket or two.  Quite a lot of models have a mesh pocket built into the lid (perfect for dirty laundry) and some have pockets at the end that are good for storing items like shoes.
Apart from that it's really about adding some organisation to your bag.  It's really handy to have a small organiser bag which houses all your essential bits and bobs like pens, spare batteries, lighters, washing line, charger leads etc.  It helps if within this organiser bag there are a few dividers or separate pockets too.  I've recently been using one made by Eagle Creek that is great and they seem to have a very extensive range with other options if preferred.
Next, some stuff sacks that can be used for different items will make all the difference.  I've been using a set which is again made by Eagle Creek and they come in different colours and sizes, but really any type will do.  Then, organisation gets simple.  Hats and gloves go in the small grey one, socks and underwear in the medium red one and t-shirts and shorts fit in the large blue one.
You soon get used to which colour holds which items and before you know it your organisation is a breeze.  If I'm heading somewhere really wet then I use waterproof stuff sacks for the job - most duffle bags are definitely not waterproof and may be strapped to an animal all day in the rain.  For the same reason I always keep my sleeping bag in a waterproof stuff sack.  At least then I know that, whatever the weather throws at my duffle bag en route to the nights camp or accommodation, my sleeping bag will be dry to keep me warm at night.  
If you have travel documents or guide books that you need to organise then I've not found anything to beat the brilliant Exped Vista Organisers.  These come in a range of sizes (up to A4) and, although they can be tricky to find, Facewest always seem to have the full range available.  Vista organisers are very durable and their water resistant zippers and fluted base mean they can hold a surprising amount.  A brilliant product.
Besides that you might want to consider a few mesh bags for other knick knacks - but all these ideas should be enough to minimise your in camp faffing time which, in turn, means you'll maximise your mountain play time and be less likely to mislay something vital.  
Posted by Paul