Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $72 - $200 | Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros: Many carring options, easy to Load
Cons: Doesn't fit longer items well, not light
Best Uses: Expedition climbing, traveling anywhere you need a big, burly duffel
Manufacturer: The North Face
The North Face Base Camp Duffel wins our duffel bag OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice award. It is the top choice or near the top in every category we tested. We love how it carries and how easy it is to pack. While it is in the middle of the review for weight, it is among the lightest duffels with backpack straps and a D-shaped opening. It has all the right little features like a small window for contact info, compression straps and a zipper mesh pocket on the inside of the lid. The Base Camps come in four volumes, giving a nice range of sizes to choose from, whether it's short overnight flights or multi-month trips to the mountains.
The North Face Base Camp Duffel sets the bar to which which every other duffel bag is compared. While it has been around forever, it has undergone only minor revisions and is still at the top of the pack. In line with all the more expensive duffels we tested. It has nearly all the features you need and nothing you don't. Designed with expeditions in mind, the Base Camp duffels are extremely durable and easy to carry. The Base Camp easily lashes to a sled for glacier travel and straps to Jeeps, buses and even yaks. It has many carrying options and external compression straps for lugging through airports. It is made of durable, highly water-resistant fabric.
See how this compared to other products in its class on our complete Duffel Bag Review
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This Duffel is built to last. The only tougher duffel is the Black Diamond Huey Duffel. The large D-shaped openings are easy to load and dig through. We like all the lashing points running nearly the entire length of the duffel, which makes loading atop vehicles a breeze. There are two compression straps on either side that help it carry a little better when you don't fill this behemoth all the way up. There is a zippered mesh pocket underneath the main lid that is nice for smaller, easily-lost items that you don't want to put in the main compartment. The Base Camp duffels all feature a small, three-sided window for your contact info. We never had our slip of paper fall out but it did get wet after extended periods outside in the rain. We like that it comes in four sizes equally spread out, giving a good selection for various styles of trips. Some people will also appreciate the four color options, which is more than any other duffel in the review. While this duffel is not light, it is nearly the lightest duffel we tested that has backpack straps and a D-shaped opening.
There are not many gripes. It is average as far as weather resistance goes, about the same as the Moutain Hardwear Expedition and the Gregory Alpaca and just a hair behind the Black Diamond Huey. It could have one more pocket to help with organization but this isn't a big deal.
The Base Camp Duffel was tied for most expensive with the Mountain Hardwear Expedition Duffel, Black Diamond Huey Duffel and Gregory Alpaca Duffel. It is well worth $160 because it is fully featured and will last a long time. You could buy a less expensive duffel that would work, but the Base Camp has little features to help your trip go smoother.
The North Face Rolling Thunder ($180) comes with a frame and wheels making it much more ideal for dragging around airports. It is more expensive and heavier.
The North Face Base Camp Duffel X-Small - $100
The North Face Base Camp Duffel Small - $120
The North Face Base Camp Duffel Medium - $135
The North Face Base Camp Duffel Extra Large - $170
— Ian Nicholson
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Most recent review: July 30, 2014
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