Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, durable, a few extra nice pockets, comfortable, easy to load.
Cons: Doesn't fit super long items as well as others we tested.
Best Uses: Expedition climbing, traveling anywhere you need a big, burly duffel.
This wins our Top Pick award because it is lighter than most duffels we tested and scored near the top in every category. It was our favorite in both the Ease of Transport and Comfortable to Carry categories because of its awesome and easily removable shoulder straps. It is also the lightest duffel we tested to feature padded shoulder straps. And it was also the only duffel weighing three pounds or less to feature as many pockets.
The only thing that kept the Black Hole from being our Editors' Choice is durability. The Black Hole Duffel is tough for sure, tougher than most duffels and plenty durable for most users for many, many years. But after using it on several expeditions we didn't think it was quite as tough as a few of the other models we tested. We wished they made it in one size volume bigger. Size 120L is great for most folks but a slightly bigger size would be great, too.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Ease of Transport
This was the best duffel in the "Ease of Transport" category and is also one of the most comfortable to carry. We really like the two well-designed, articulated, padded shoulder straps. The only duffels that were as close to as comfortable to carry were the Gregory Alpaca and The North Face Base Camp. The Black Hole's two backpack straps also featured fast-tect buckles and unthreaded the easiest of any duffel we tested. The end grab loops are stiff, round and easy to grab. More importantly, the end grab loops are comfortable for dragging even the heaviest of loads. It had a few extra places to help facilitate lashing the duffel to truck roof tops, yaks or whatever else you might need, but if you do a lot of that sort of thing the North Face Base Camp offered more options to tie it to animals and things.
Ease of Packing
It features well designed and well laid out pockets. We love the two pockets under the lid. Originally this seemed like only a small increase in organization, but it turned out to be huge and now we miss it whenever we use other duffels. It helped keep all the little stuff like extra batteries, chap stick, etc. a little more organized. As for the small zippered outside side pocket, some might like it but we never found ourselves using it. The Black Hole had a nice big D-shaped zipper that was easy to pack and after our extensive side-by-side testing we thought it was the easiest duffel to zip closed even when full.
The duffel is plenty durable, more durable than most duffels on the market and tough enough for most users for many years. But during our side-by-side testing and after using the Black Hole duffel on five expeditions, we didn't think it was quite as durable as the North Face Base Camp duffel, the Wild Things Mule or the Cilo Gear Duffel. We did think the durability was similar to Gregory Alpaca and more durable than the Helly Hanson Duffel.
At three pounds the Patagonia Black Hole duffel is one of the lightest duffels we tested. It is the lightest duffel we tested to feature padded shoulder straps and is one to three pounds lighter many other duffels we tested that also feature shoulder straps. It also had more pockets then any other sub-three-pound duffels we tested. So if you are someone who is always pushing the 50-pound limit on airlines, the Patagonia Black Hole is a great way to get you a couple more pounds.
The Black Hole, along with the Cilo Gear duffel, BD Huey duffel and the Mountain Hardware Expedition duffel, was the most weather resistant duffel in our review. We did a ton of side-by-side testing by filling all the duffels with towels and spraying them down with a hose. The Black Hole, along with the above mentioned duffels, out-performed our Editors' Choice, The North Face Base Camp, and the Helly Hansen Duffel.
Its 120L volume fits in between on price and volume the North Face Base Camp Duffel. Its slightly less expensive than the 155L XL North Face Duffel ($170) but slightly less expensive than the 90L size large ($145).
— Ian Nicholson
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Most recent review: August 15, 2013
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