If you’re lucky enough to be on the hunt for a premium overnight bag, it’s pretty hard to find something that doesn’t cost thousands of dollars and isn’t overly practical or thought out. So that’s perhaps the product niche that Troubadour has attempted to fill with the Explorer Embark Duffle Bag. There’s no question that it’s a premium overnight bag, but also one that won’t entirely drain the contents of your bank account.
Like with other Troubadour bags I’ve reviewed, such as the Apex Backpack Explorer, the Embark Duffle can easily double as an overnight bag, a premium gym bag or a handy week-long business carry-on if you like to travel light.
Retailing for $295 US, I think it’s worth every single penny. I’ve been using this bag for the last couple of months on various overnight and week-long trips in business and casual getaway settings, and it has always performed well in a wide variety of situations.
STYLE & DESIGN
The Explorer Embark Duffle is a sleek and minimalist bag that uses premium materials and high-end construction to achieve its particularly stark looks, following the tradition of Troubadour’s other products. Save the small embroidered logo in silver-coloured stitching; the bag is free of visual encumbrances and clutter. Available in Black and Navy, the version I got to test was all black, with nary a difference in black shades between all the various materials used in this bag.
The bag’s overall shape and stance can be best described as boxy, and though the Duffle’s material choices make it fairly structured, it’s not so stiff as to make it difficult to take things in and out of. Perhaps what I like most about the design of this bag is that with its signature Troubadour quality, it features far fewer seams than many of its competitors in this price range.
With carry-on friendly size, I found the capacity of the Explorer Embark Duffle bag to be pitch-perfect for anything shorter than a 5-day trip. A week-long trip, and you might be pushing it unless you enjoy travelling light.
I’ve subjected the bag to road trips, overnight hotel stays, and week-long cottage trips. Each time I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how capable this bag has been.
The entire bag is made from a combination of lightweight and waterproof or water-resistant fabrics, making it ideal for a bag that can withstand the elements. Part of that system is a set of waterproof zippers, albeit I don’t believe they are the YKK brand of zippers. Each zipper features a premium leather pull that feels almost overly constructed but provides an easy way to pull your zippers without hunting for a grip. If I have any gripe with this bag, it’s that those zipper pulls might almost be a touch too long. Nevertheless, the zipper experience has been solid, and I’ve not experienced any zipper snags or jams in my time using the Troubadour Emark Duffle.
COMPARTMENTS & FEATURES
The Embark Duffle features the following main components:
This is the big daddy. The primary compartment features a large rectangular box-shaped space that is big enough to give you room for most of your clothing. This main compartment is lined with a waterproof material to keep things from spilling over into other areas of the bag in case of an accidental leak, in the case of carrying liquid.
Additionally, the main compartment features a large mesh pocket on one of the long sidewalls. It allows you to easily separate items such as socks or underwear or anything else you’d like to keep segregated from other items in the main compartment. Somewhat surprisingly, the zipper on this mesh pocket is also waterproof, which I’m not sure is overly useful since it’s a mesh pocket, and liquid could easily sip through the wall.
Do I wish this main compartment had more sub-division features? At first, I did, but then I quickly realized that I really didn’t need that level of compartmentalization for short trips, and further sub-division would take away more precious cargo space.
This is perhaps my favourite feature of this bag. On the bottom of one of the sides of the bag is a flap pocket that is secured using a zipper. Unzip this flap, and you’ll now have access to an internal waterproof pocket for shoe storage. Yes, the shoes and the space they take up will now intrude upon the space within your main compartment, but at least the dirt, grime and moisture from your shoes will be confined to an area where they can’t get the rest of your belongings dirty.
Ingeniously enough, the shoe pocket flap also features two small ventilation holes to allow for any odour from your shoes to escape while travelling, hopefully alleviating unnecessarily smelly shoes when you go to retrieve them.
Next to the primary compartment is a full-body-width laptop and tablet compartment. It’s lightly padded and features two main sections, one for your laptop and one for your tablet or documents. Because it’s designed to sit width-wise, it’s actually big enough for a 16” MacBook pro or equivalent sized laptop. Once again featuring Troubadour’s premium materials, the compartment also features sidewall slip-in pockets divided into four sizes, two pen holder pockets flanked by two larger pockets on each size large enough to hold a large smartphone like Apple’s Pro Max series of iPhones. My only minor quibble with this pocket is that I wish it had a touch more padding, as I’m always a tad nervous of some accidental smashing of my laptop.
TROLLEY SLEEVE / SIDE POCKET
A Trolley sleeve pass-through is on the same side as the laptop compartment, which doubles a side pocket. This happens to be a brilliant piece of engineering as the pass-through is only activated if you unzip the bottom of the pass-through. While zipped up, the pass-through can serve instead as a generously sized pocket large enough to fit a notebook and other accessories like your phone, Airpods, and keys. The pocket is sealed with a magnetic latch, but I wouldn’t count on it being overly resistant to water intrusion as the magnetic seal does not run the entire length of the pocket.
Of course, as I said, the pocket can be unzipped at the bottom and used as a trolley sleeve that easily slides over most luggage handles for easy carrying.
LARGE SIDE POCKET
The opposite side of the bag features a large, waterproof, zippered pocket that runs nearly the entire width of the duffle bag. It’s padded ever so slightly and features plenty of space for stowing of additional items. Most of the time, I used this pocket to carry my larger headphones and a few pieces of clothing and my glasses and lens cleaning kit.
HALF-HEIGHT WATER BOTTLE POCKET
Finally, the Embark Duffle Bag features a half-height water bottle pocket running from the bottom to about half the bag’s height. It’s spacious enough to stick both a large water bottle and perhaps a few snacks or a banana into. Nevertheless, it’s a handy, quick access pocket with no closure mechanism.
HANDLES AND SHOULDER STRAP
Troubadour’s Duffle bag features two main carry handles that terminate in a loop with a padded leather section that feels incredibly rock solid. I found the padding to be just right in providing plenty of comfort while carrying heavy cargo. The handles are attached with rivets to increase strength, durability, and I would bet, will likely last a lifetime of ownership.
The same attributes of quality construction and dependability can also be attributed to the detachable non-slip shoulder strap. The strap features heavy-duty, and might I add, nicely painted matte black metal attachment loops that are easily detached but also feel like they will simply last a lifetime of rigorous use.
The strap is adjustable to short and longer lengths, making it suitable for almost any height user. The main shoulder pad features medium-thick padding providing plenty of comfort. However, the best part of the shoulder strap is the non-slip material used on the inside of the strap that rests on your shoulder while carrying it. I find this feature alone is one of those niceties that you won’t find in many other high-end overnight bags.
With a five-year guarantee against any manufacturing defects, The Troubadour Embark Duffle bag has been an absolute joy to use and discover. It feels like this is the kind of overnight bag I will never need to replace with something better. Of course, that’s also how I felt about my previous overnight bag, which has met its fate due to a superior alternative, namely the Troubadour coming along.
- Width: 19”
- Height: 11.5”
- Depth: 8.5”
- Handle length: 6.5”
- Capacity: 30L
- Weight: 3.1 lbs