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The Cenzo Duffle Delivers a First-Class Bag at a Fraction of the Price

This bag makes me want to go and book a Singapore Airlines First Class suite and then drink so much champagne that the flight attendant has to drag me off at the end of the flight. And I would totally do that, if it didn’t mean I’d have to declare bankruptcy after.

The Cenzo Duffle at least lets you play pretend. This $200 bag is pretty much designed to be your average weekender, meaning it’s geared for one to three nights on the road, though you can get a little bit more mileage out of it if you want. Measuring about 11 inches high x 10 inches wide x 21 inches long (28 cm x 25.5 cm x 53.4 cm), it’s compatible with current airline carry-on regulations if that’s your thing (I personally think most duffels are better suited for road trips). It’s got a 38L capacity, which is also bigger than any bag reviewed in-depth so far, including the suitcase. Basically, it should be able to fit what those bags can and more.

It also weighs 4.5 pounds, meaning it’s significantly heavier than most weekenders, such as the popular Everlane Weekender and the Herschel Bowen/Herschel Novel bags. This was something I noticed quite a bit once I had packed it full—probably because I am a teeny, tiny little girl—though I could forgive the fact because it’s made with great, thick Italian leather, proper brass hardware and reinforced handles.

In short, this is not meant to be any bag. It’s got an expensive, primo feel at a fraction of its low price tag compared to other top-of-the-line, luxe luggage manufacturers like Ghurka and Maison Goyard. (Cenzo sent us a review unit. But for perspective, Ghurka’s similar looking CAVALIER II No. 97 retails for $1,595, eight times the price of the Cenzo Duffle. I can’t personally comment on the quality of the Ghurka bag myself.)

But that price isn’t a misnomer. Aside from the bag itself, the manufacturer hardly spends any time on packaging. Customers have complained the original Cenzo packaging is unappealing: the bag is crinkled, wrapped in plastic and stuffed in a box. There are no pretty ribbon. Some Amazon reviewers like Robert have pointed out that there have been instances where the bag initially smelled like tanning fluids and glue. This is easily fixable by letting it aerate but I didn’t notice anything off-kilter. In fact, it was only once I began forcing myself to use it did the full extent of the bag begin to really impress me.

Internally, it’s like any typical duffel bag. It has far fewer bells and whistles than the Herschel Bowen and the Herschel Novel but its internal zipper compartment actually puts it just a notch above the Everlane Weekender (which retails for half the price of the Cenzo). There’s a strange tendency that the further you go up the ladder in men’s bags, the higher the emphasis is placed on craftsmanship and style rather than functionality. What it lacks in true practicality, though, it’s got a lot of style, at an incredible, incredible price. This is the bag that will make you feel like a millionaire.

In terms of the leather itself, it’s made with Italian calf-skin leather which is then finished off with khaki stitching. Sometimes that can be kind of a marketing gimmick and you sorta have to give leather products a critical eye, though. There are cheapo leather products out there! The Cenzo definitely doesn’t have that problem; it’s the sort of bag you want to keep touching for no reason at all because it’s such an exceptionally well-made product.

A closer look at the zipper and plastic teeth.

A closer look at the zipper and plastic teeth.

Despite from practically looking perfect, the zipper teeth are made of plastic. Some customers have complained about its build quality and one even went so far as to mention that the zipper broke on the first use. These do, however, seem likely to be isolated incidents. (For about $50 more, it looks like you can upgrade.) It’s a minor quibble that begs the question whether there are production issues but overall the satisfaction level seems fairly high and consistent. It’s also a handmade bag, so chances are is that there is less consistency.

Like the Everlane, the inner lining is made of cotton. Though it’s great they decided to line the bag with something nice, it makes me groan because fabric lining is terrible for anything other clothes and non-perishable objects. It also means the bag is particularly prone to foodstuffs and liquids staining the interior. (And not easy to clean out, either.) But I guess I can let it pass since I really doubt it is supposed to be used as a picnic basket… it’s clear what they made this bag for.

Unlike the previous bag which was touted as a girl’s bag, the Cenzo is a great unisex bag for both men and women. It’s a sexy bag no matter which way you slice it: in fact, I love this bag. My girlfriend loved this bag. None of my male friends had any objections to its aesthetics, either; they all expressed no hesitations about using it. I would definitely grab this for the car without question. But therein lays its major downside: its weight and materials are fundamentally not a good fit for air travel.

That said, though, there’s definitely no reason to bring it as a carry on, though it wouldn’t be my first preference. It is meant to be carried with care (though you can probably rough it up a bit), but not for check-in. Amazon reviewer Neale Gulley points out it works perfectly fine for air travel:

The size is perfect for I’d say a two-to four-day trip and it’s absolutely the ideal carry-on… It fits headlong or sideways into any larger plane’s overhead bin—a major advantage—and will never rouse the contempt of flight attendants or gate checkers looking to cut down on carry on by forcing you to check your bag. At the same time, I was able to pack it for a week-long international trip recently (which is pushing it somewhat) but worth it all to skip the airport carousels and keep all my important things close by.

Regardless, it was time to see how it packed in real-time on a trip. En route to Lake Tahoe from San Francisco, I decided it was time to bring it along for a three-day weekend to see what I could fit into it. Not taking any of my normal packing measures, I managed to fit in quite a fair bit considering it was still getting down to freezing temps up in the mountain. If I had taken the time to be a little bit more efficient in my packing, I’m sure I could have gotten at least four or five days’ worth of clothing in.

Packed.

Packed.

This is what made the cut.

  • Parka, hat, gloves, scarf
  • 3 pairs of socks/intimates
  • 2 shirts
  • Hairdryer
  • Makeup bag and jewelry
  • Full toiletry bag
  • Laptop and charger
  • Kindle, iPhone 6S, mini iPad and chargers
  • Travel notebook

It was all very heavy. I guess traveling like a million bucks come with a price, though in the future, I’ll just have my chauffeur carry it for me.

The only thing other thing I was slightly disappointed in—aside from its suitability for different modes of travel—was the leather shoulder strap my duffel came with: the strap looks slightly cheap compared to the rest of the bag. The leather was crinkled and worn despite the fact that it had never been used before. The length of the strap is also only adjustable by a belt buckle which means it’s only possible to adjust the drop shoulder of the bag to a certain length before it is no longer possible to go any shorter. I guess that’s what happens when you go old school.

Luggage strap is only adjustable by the buckle.

Luggage strap is only adjustable by the buckle.

I actually found I needed a smaller shoulder drop to be more comfortable in terms of balancing a fully packed load. Combined with the fact that there’s actually not much padding on the shoulder strap, it was actually a bit discomfiting to carry it even though this is typically one of the most comfortable ways of carrying a duffel. It’s probably less of an issue for taller people but at my 5’3 frame, it wasn’t a particularly great experience, leaving me only the option to carry it by the shoulder handles. This wasn’t awesome either: once the bag is fully packed, it definitely conforms to a particular, less flexible shape.

Taking into account the construction and its foibles, the Cenzo Duffle still seems to be a steal. Given that other duffel bags routinely price from $100-200 with subpar materials, this bag delivers incredible value at a ridiculous price.

[Amazon]

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