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Hands-on Gear Review
Price: Varies from $135 - $145 | Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros: Easy to pack, comfortable shoulder straps, super durable, dual daisy chains allow for easy lashing, 6 nicely spaced volume options, tons of color options
Cons: not super light
Best Uses: Expedition climbing, traveling anywhere you need a big, burly duffel from urban to exotic
Manufacturer: The North Face
This wins our Editors' Choice award because it scored at, 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, dual daisy chains, multiple grab points, compression straps and a zipper mesh pocket on the inside of the lid. The Base Camps come in six 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
RELATED: Our complete review of duffel bags
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Credit: The North Face
Ease of Transport
The North Face Base Camp duffel is straight-up one of the easiest duffels to transport in our review and features a design that is now copied by many other manufacturers. The Base Camp Duffel features several ways move it around whether at the airport, at a remote village, or on a glacier. The Base Camp's two padded shoulder straps provided top-of-the review comfort for extended carries and preformed at the top of our review as far backpack-style straps are concerned.
Ease of Packing
The large D-shaped openings are easy to load and dig through. Even when this duffel is absolutely brimming with gear it wasn't too difficult to zip shut. Its large, over sized zippers don't tend to get caught on items and are as durable as they come. There are two compression straps on either side that help the bag to 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. While we did like the large mesh zippered pocket, we liked the similar but dual zippered pockets on the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel slightly better.
This Duffel is seriously built to last. Still the most commonly used expedition duffel for a reason. Once you buy one, you'll likely never need another. Even after literally dozens of expeditions and trips to exotic locations where the Base Camp duffel has spent countless hours on the top of jeeps, strapped to Llamas and just plain abused during transport ours is still going strong after 10 years. That said The North Face has only slightly tweaked the fabric to make them even more durable and water resistant.
During our side-by-side weather resistance testing the North Face Base Camp duffel scored near the top of the review. While its not submersible nor completely water proof it is pretty darn water resistant. We have used this duffel on a half dozen Denali trips where it is tied to sled and just left out to be snowed on for days at a time or buried in the snow for up to a week at a time.
While this duffel is not light, at four pounds for the large size: it is nearly the lightest duffel we tested that has backpack straps and a D-shaped opening, with only Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 90L bag sporting those features and weighing and amazing 2 lbs. 10 oz. The Base Camp Duffel remains less than half the weight of most rolling duffels letting you pack it with 4-6 more pounds and still keep it under the fifty pound maximum.
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.
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. It could have one more pocket to help with organization but this isn't a big deal.
We like that it comes in six fairly equally spread out sizes, giving a good selection of volume for various styles of trips.
XS 33L (2014 in³) 2lbs $100
S 50L (3051 in³) 2lbs 11 oz $120
M 69L (4211 in³) 3lbs 8oz $135
L 95L (5797 in³) 4lbs $145
XL 132L(8055 in³) 4lbs 7 oz $160
XXL 150L(9154 in³) 4lbs 10 oz $175
While maybe a little much; The North Face offers the Base Camp Duffel in 15 different color combinations that should please even the pickiest of users. If for some reason you find yourself not liking any of the colors offered; The North Face frequently changes their offerings.
The Base Camp Duffel is still expensive and is was tied for most expensive with the Mountain Hardwear Expedition Duffel and Gregory Alpaca Duffel. But it used to be far more expensive than most duffels on the market and now it is relatively inline price-wise with most duffels in our review. Take for example a former Best Buy Award Winner the Helly Hansen Duffel Bag 2, which for their 90L size which now costs $140 is $5 more than the Base Camp in a similar size Med (69L) and we don't think preforms as well over-all. The bottom line is we think its well worth up to a $160 (for the XXL size) 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.
This duffel comes in a variety of sizes, ranging from XS to XL.
Base Camp Duffel Extra Large
The North Face Rolling Thunder
— Ian Nicholson
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: September 8, 2015
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