Sweden. Ah, Sweden. Home of Stockholm, that sweet blue and yellow flag and most notably, meatballs. Sweden, as it turns out, is also home to Thule. You may recognize that name as being synonymous with the roofs of cars. Their travel, ski and snowboarding racks adorn the majority of cars that have things adorning their rooftops. Thule, as it turns out, makes more than just roof racks. It just so happens that they make some very slick luggage as well.

More Than a Duffel

Thanks to our partners at Gear.com, I had the opportunity to test out the Thule Subterra. The Subterra wears the title of “duffel” which, if you don’t read about it (in places such as this), would be extremely deceitful. This piece of luggage is much more than a duffel bag.

What’s It Made Of?

Working our way from the outside in, the exterior of the Subterra is made of 800 D Nylon, a durable material capable of maintaining an elegant appearance. Any dirt or scuffs you may encounter can easily be cleaned off with water. Fear not though, the 800 D Nylon is a water-resistant material. At 21.7x 8.3×13.8 inches in dimension, the Subterra will fit into any overhead compartment for carry on plane travel.

It’s No Eeyore

Let’s talk about the shape of this duffel. Imagine for a moment, a duffel bag. I know that right now you’re picturing a limp bag with grab handles on either side of a main zipper. As you lift this sorry sack, either side hangs down lower than the center portion you’re carrying it by. This thing you’re imagining is like the “Eeyore” of the luggage World. When I described the title of “duffel” as being deceitful, that’s what I meant. This is not a sad sack at all. The bag has a polycarbonate shell which maintains it’s shape, no matter the contents. This is, in large part, why this carry on bag maintains a professional appearance.

Let’s Talk Pockets

The Subterra has a total of five compartments accessible from the outside. One of which is a sneaky little bugger tucked away specifically to hide your passport and other from those sneaky European pick pockets. To find it, you have to look behind a strap which is provided to affix the Subterra to the handle of a larger suitcase. There is a sixth compartment, but we’ll talk about it’s contents later.

There are two compartments on the underside of the Subterra. The first contains an interior compartment made of a mesh material that zips up. I found this compartment ideal for toiletries. The second is sealed off from the rest of the bag by the same Nylon material as the liner of the main compartment. This was really nice for keeping dirty laundry separate from the fresh clothes.

The compartment on top of the bag is wide and deep. It runs the distance of the top portion of the Subterra. This is nice for electronics or if you wanted to store your smaller clothing items. Last but certainly not least, the main compartment. The Subterra measures in at 40 liters. A very formidable volume for a pack that does what this one does. The majority of that volume is found in the main compartment. Complete with a full liner and a zip-in mesh compartment separator, I did not find it wanting for space. The mesh separator is really nice if you’re packing for two. I found myself doing just that when I used this as an overnight bag for the birth of my daughter. My and my wife’s clothes fit well into this bag in an organized fashion without feeling cramped.

More Than Meets The Eye

This is a duffel bag by definition. As such, it has hard plastic loops and a comfortable shoulder strap. If you find yourself needing to free up your other hand or prefer a backpack, this is where that aforementioned sixth compartment comes into play. With a simple unzip and tug, the sixth compartment yields two fully adjustable shoulder straps that clip onto the bottom of the bag and turn this into a backpack. The shoulder straps are comfortable and include a clippable chest strap for added comfort and stability. It’s here that we run into my only complaint. The option to turn this duffel into a backpack is ingenious. I just wish that there was more lumbar support than the shape saving polycarbonate shell.


At a price point of just under $200.00, the Subterra costs less than some comparable competitors. Considering that the you could pay the same price for one of the aforementioned sad sacks, this bag is a deal. I have previously traveled with a more expensive backpack that had less volume than the Thule Subterra. The value starts to compound when you consider our next point.


(In my best Billy Mays impersonation) There’s a freebie! The Subterra includes a laptop sleeve. Not just a laptop sleeve, a good laptop sleeve. This sleeve is highly engineered to carry your laptop computer, tablet and all sorts of other electronic goodies. There are loops and pockets to organize your cords and keep your gear in order. A very nice bonus for an already competitively priced piece of luggage.

Final Thoughts

All in all, my professional reviewer’s opinion is that the Thule Subterra 40L Duffel kicks ass both as a duffel and a backpack. This is definitely my new go to for carry on traveling. It has a tough and practical design and construction while maintaining a professional and refined appearance. The Subterra 40L is the James Bond of duffel bags.

Let’s Rate It!
Durability – 5/5
Versatility – 4/5
Comfort – 4/5
Value – 5/5
Style – 5/5
Overall – 4.6/5

By Bill Farmer

Bill Farmer is a 12 year law enforcement veteran He is a defensive tactics, tactical driving and active shooter instructor. Bill has worked in school resource, violent crimes, plain clothes and patrol assignments. Bill is an avid outdoorsman, backpacker, hunter and shooter.

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