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The North Face Base Camp Duffel Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Duffel Bags

  • Currently 4.6/5
Overall avg rating 4.6 of 5 based on 16 reviews. Most recent review: March 18, 2015
Street Price:   Varies from $112 - $135 | Compare prices at 7 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
User Rating:     
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 (4.5 of 5) based on 15 reviews
Recommendations:  92% of reviewers (12/13) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   The North Face
Review by: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ March 18, 2015  
Overview
This wins our Editors' Choice award because it's 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.

It 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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  • Photos
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes


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.

Dislikes


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.

Value


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.

Other Versions


This duffel comes in a variety of sizes, ranging from XS to XL.

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Base Camp Duffel Extra Large
⁃ Cost- $170.00 ($35 more than the Medium Base Camp Duffel)
⁃ Weight- 4 lbs 15 oz (1 lb 7 oz heavier than the Medium Base Camp Duffel)
⁃ Volume- 155 L (83 L larger than the Medium Base Camp Duffel)
⁃ Only offered in 5 colors (8 colors less than the Medium Base Camp Duffel)

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The North Face Rolling Thunder 22"
⁃ Cost- $249.00 ($114 more than the Medium Base Camp Duffel)
⁃ Weight- 7 lbs 5.5 oz (3 lbs 13.5 oz heavier than the Medium Base Camp Duffel)
⁃ Volume- 40 L (32 L smaller than the Medium Base Camp Duffel)
⁃ Includes a frame, wheels and a extendable handle for easy pulling through airports

Ian Nicholson

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: March 18, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.5)

92% of 13 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
14 Total Ratings
5 star: 71%  (10)
4 star: 14%  (2)
3 star: 14%  (2)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 15 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Feb 23, 2011 - 10:47pm
matty · Climber · under the sea
Best damn bag I ever had. Two trips to Peru and numerous ones in the states. They were packed full of ice tools, crampons, screws, and other pointy stuff. Then they were given the full airline-taxi-bus-taxi-burro-rain and snow treatment then were then drug around a boulder field and never wore thin, broke a zipper or disappointed in any way. They have nice backpack straps that make navigating a busy airport cake.

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Credit: matty

Oh yeah, they make a good bed too…

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Credit: matty


Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Dec 13, 2010 - 07:53pm
DonP · Climber · CA
These are good duffels, I have two of them a large and an x-large. The ability to carry the duffel as a backpack is the killer feature that separates them from the rest. And the backpack straps are on the top of the bag where they belong, not underneath sitting in the dirt like on some other bags.

What makes me downgrade this bag is the "revisions" made to it have cheapened it and ultimately made it less useful. Putting my earlier generation large size next to the recently purchased x-large I can make the following observations:

1) The very useful interior pockets at both ends of the bag are now gone.

2) The zipper is far less smooth in operation, and while still a YKK it's visibly a smaller and cheaper model.

3) All of the exterior webbing including the backpack straps are of lighter duty construction. Ironically the webbing on my older and smaller duffel is more robust than on the x-large bag.

Bottom line though, this is probably still the best duffel of it's type. I just hate to see a great product so cheapened to save a buck.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 17, 2015 - 04:13pm
kzerbe · Camper
This duffel is a tank. I'm pretty sure it's indestructible. This is my primary bag for travel and car-camping. I've brought it along on trips to Shenandoah, Glacier, Yellowstone, the Outer Banks, and the Beartooth Wilderness, as well on trips to DC, Seattle, Chicago, and Ann Arbor. It's got some scraps and scars from being thrown around by baggage handlers, into the back of pick-up trucks, and into the dirt - but it's got LOTS of life left in it. Probably more than me! Couldn't recommend it more for people looking for a no-frills bag that can handle just about anything.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 15, 2015 - 04:29am
Daemon Angel · Backpacker · Belgium
I have the 90l duffel in yellow.
It was quite expensive but it looked really sturdy and has good reviews.
A lot fits into the bag although it is hard to use up all of the space because it is a bit unflexible.
The zipper is big and feels strong, the downside is that it doesn't operate that easily.
Inside I like the mesh net where I can put some small stuff.
An extra small pocket on the outside would have been useful.
I also really like the fact that if you have to wait outside in the rain or snow for your transport your gear stays dry.
I really like that you can put on the straps and carry it on your back, although this is uncomfortable if you do it for a longer time.
For the plane the straps can easily be removed. And the choice for bright colors makes it easy to spot your bag. Although a lot of people carry the yellow one.

the first time I used it to carry my gear by plane to the north of Sweden and on the way back I already had holes in the bottom. It was only used on the plane, train and bus and otherwise was lying there.
TNF noted this as wear and tear so it was not abnormal to have it this fast according to them.
Where I live you can buy exactly the same bag from Decathlon at more than half of the price.
Since this one got destroyed on one trip I will not buy a new one, fix it with ducktape but in the future buy the much cheaper decathlon ones that have all the same features. Feel a bit less sturdy, but the TNF bag also died after one trip.

It is a really good bag. But for the price you can better buy one from Decathlon.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jul 30, 2014 - 12:43am
MarkG · Fisherman · Winnipeg, Canada
Nothing too stellar here, but a decent bag nonetheless. Although a little awkward it can be worn as a backpack if needed. Water resistant for sure but don't expect to throw it in a boat in a rain storm and put a dry pair of pants after.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 16, 2014 - 02:35pm
richnyc · Climber · NY
These duffel bags are pretty much standard on any expedition, super durable, able to take years of abuse and fairly "waterproof". Ability to cary them as a backpack is a great plus.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Mar 23, 2013 - 12:01pm
 
I've had one for several years. It is a great duffel
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   Sep 8, 2012 - 01:14pm
rantia · Climber · Atlanta
Tough, reliable, pretty water-resistant.

Not easy to carry …

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 16, 2010 - 01:04pm
TYeary · Climber · State of decay
I own three sizes,XL, L, and M. They are very versatile, from gear toting at JT to weekend trips to the Sierra, and two month long expeditions to Peru. They can ride on your back via the shoulder straps just as easily as they will conform to a burro's back. They will handle the worst weather sitting outside your tent, keeping your gear dry and safe. NF Base Camp Duffels should be in everyone's travel arsenal.
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Credit: TYeary
They are simply the best!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Aug 10, 2010 - 11:17pm
 
SCseagoat · Climber · Santa Cruz
I have 4 of them in various sizes. I love them and boy do they take a beaing. Worth the price.
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   Apr 12, 2010 - 06:19pm
sieczk · Climber · Black Wall, NV
Sweet do-all travel bag. Took it to Chile for a couple weeks and it's my go-to when I'm heading anywhere from Rainier to the Creek. I got the XL, which is perfect because it's the right size for when you're trying to keep your baggage under 50 lbs (doesn't really allow over-stuffing). It's a great, fundamental piece of gear for those that like to travel or haul a lotta junk over great distances. Gotta have it!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 7, 2010 - 11:40pm
bmacd · Climber · 100% Canadian
I have one and can't say a bad thing about it ….

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 7, 2010 - 03:18am
White Lightning · Climber · Seattle, WA
My climbing partner has this duffel…and i'll go ahead and give it a thumbs up for him. I wish he'd use the zipper pocket for his wallet and keys….he can't ever keep track of them!
This bag usually holds his spare rack and aid gear…all the heavy stuff…and it's been tossed in and out of the truck and across parking lots countless times. It's outlasted a couple of my Patagonia duffels.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 5, 2010 - 06:50pm
msiddens · Climber
Thing just keeps going and going without a day off. Yes, its still living after having been strapped to a Yak, dragged across campsites, over rocks, and onto the AP conveyor. Buy one and don't look back. I have two of them and would buy a third.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 4, 2010 - 01:39pm
A.Dalon · Climber · WA
Best duffel bag out there. I've owned one for four years now and have traveled to Europe and Africa with it and it is still going strong. As I write this, my base camp duffel is on my floor, full of gear, waiting to go to J Tree

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Base Camp Duffel
Credit: The North Face
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