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The North Face Base Camp Duffel Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Duffel Bags

  • Currently 4.7/5
Overall avg rating 4.7 of 5 based on 14 reviews. Most recent review: July 30, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $100 - $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
User Rating:     
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 (4.6 of 5) based on 13 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (11/11) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   The North Face
Review by: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ March 22, 2013  
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 the Base Camp Duffel X-Small, $100, to the Base Camp Duffel Extra Large, $170. You can also purchase this duffel in a size small or in the Base Camp Duffel Medium, $135.

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.

Ian Nicholson

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 30, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.6)

100% of 11 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
12 Total Ratings
5 star: 75%  (9)
4 star: 17%  (2)
3 star: 8%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 13 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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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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   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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   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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   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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