Perfect Carryon- With or Without Wheelie
This is small and light enough to be really useful for air travel. It will fit in almost all overhead bins (including regionals), and under almost all seats (even with video electronics underneath). There is a special exterior side panel, open at top and bottom, so you can slide this duffel onto a wheelie handle.
With 30 liters of available volume (none is wasted on padding, organizing panels, slots or bins) this is large enough to use by itself as an overnight bag - I use it to carry a change of clothing and other essentials in case my checked luggage is delayed or lost during air transit, and upon arrival use it for a side trip to the beach while leaving my larger luggage at the hotel desk. The duffel fits easily on my lap on the crowded Asian minivans that run to the beach.
The included shoulder strap is compact and light, which means it is more comfortable for longer terminal transits when used for cross-body carry. You will need a better-padded accessory shoulder strap for extended single shoulder carry with any sort of load.
The handle straps are wide, heavy webbing that wrap all the way under the bag. No risk of blow-outs or tears! The handle strap has snaps, not Velcro, so the hooks on Velcro won't tear a sweater etc.. There is a well-designed "pull" handle on each end of the bag so you don't have to worry which way to stow it overhead. These are "well-designed" in the sense that they are compact pull handles - just a sewn together fold of webbing that stays out of the way and doesn't add much weight, compared to the over-size, over-heavy grab handles on some other bags. The shoulder strap D-rings, on the other hand, are nice sturdy metal, instead of overly bulky, or potentially weak, plastic. The bag shows signs of careful design, as opposed to being a mashup from the Asia bag-subcontractors' parts bins.
The one "pain point" is the classic single zipper running left to right across the top of the bag. It is classic in the sense that duffels were originally designed to provide maximum functionality at minimal price. Some duffels have evolved to have "big mouth" zippers in the form of a U across the bag top. This duffel adheres to the original single zipper. So you have to pry the bag open (hold it open) to root around the contents. This bag works better as a pack it/unpack it bag, than as a "portable dressing drawer". I actually prefer this design since it is lighter and less prone to zipper failure. If the zipper should somehow jam or fail, you still have two buckles across the top as well.
The one "bonus feature" (besides the exterior pocket, handy for small items or passport/papers) is the compression straps across the top. They don't really provide much compression, but they are nice to have there in the incredibly rare case of zipper jamming or failure, and they ARE really helpful, day to day, as a quick place to stow a windbreaker - just buckle a light jacket or fleece under the compression straps instead of opening the mouth.
The shape of this duffel is trapezoidal. It is NOT a "Tootsie Roll" cylindrical design. It has a rectangular bottom, reasonably square ends, and a slight inward tilt on each side panel. So it is not as efficient as a purely square duffel, but it doesn't give up too much efficiency, and it looks more compact, which is helpful if you use this as your "personal item" at check in (in lieu of the usual small daypack, purse, tote, or briefcase). It is 41 linear inches (sum of length, weight, and height), which is 4" under the carryon limit, and between 6-10" over the usual published limit for "personal items." If you don't stuff it full, it will easily pass the "personal item" test, and I have even brought it on board, albeit with a daypack as my luggage, when packed full. It's a toss-up, in that situation, which to claim as my luggage and which to claim as my personal item, but I usually claim the lighter item as my "luggage."
Compared to a comparable sized daypack (30 liter), this duffel is lighter, folds down smaller (most daypacks won't even fold into the small sack this comes in), weighs less, and doesn't waste any fabric or space on organizing panels, pockets, slots.
If you like the most space for the least weight and bulk, this is the way to go.
It comes in a small Velcro closing cube made of the same material as the duffel, and you can use this to carry the duffel in other luggage for use on return or on side trips, or if you use the duffel right off the bat, you can use it as a stuff pack, toiletries kit, or just leave it at home to save weight.
Finally, this bag looks awfully sharp for a duffel. Maybe that helps justify the premium price!
For a lighter, but larger, alternative at REI, also look at the REI Stuff Travel Duffel. For a pure rectangular duffel, which looks more like a plain soft-sided suitcase than a duffel, look at the Red Oxx Small or Extra Small Aviator Duffel. For ultra light weight, look at the Patagonia Lightweight Travel series, I particularly like their Tote and their Pack.