< Go to Duffel Bags

Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face Base Camp Duffel Review


Duffel Bag

Click to enlarge
Editors' Choice Award
  • Currently 4.7/5
Overall avg rating 4.7 of 5 based on 17 reviews. Most recent review: July 26, 2016
Price:   $135 List | Varies from $84 - $145 online  —  Compare prices at 7 resellers
Pros:  Easy to pack, comfortable shoulder straps, excellent pockets to help with organization, super durable, daisy chains and grab loops allow for easy lashing, six nicely spaced volume options, tons of color options
Cons:  not super light
Manufacturer:   The North Face

Overview

The North Face Base Camp 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 it a nice range of sizes to choose from, whether it's short overnight flights or multi-month trips to the mountains.

The Base Camp Duffel sets the bar to which every other duffel bag is compared. While it has been around forever, the Base Camp has undergone only minor revisions and is still at the top of the pack and 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

Compare Side-by-Side

Compare all Duffel Bags >

Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday

New Base Camp Duffel versus the old Base Camp Duffel


In fall of 2015 The North Face made a few changes to their extremely popular Base Camp Duffel and after countless hours of side-by-side testing and several expeditions our review team thinks all the changes The North Face made were improvements to the old design. Most things stayed the same: fabric, pocket layout, basic design, etc, but there are are three primary changes.

Click to enlarge
The new and old North Face Base Camp Duffel's are fairly similar with three key differences. One difference noting in this photo is the newer models wider and more comfortable shoulder straps (Blue is newer).

The first change and biggest update is the addition of large externally accessed pocket on one end of the bag. All of our testers loved this feature adding just a little bit more organizational ability compared to the old version with virtually no weight or durability penalty.

The second change is that instead of two daisy chains running the length of the duffel, the middle of the daisy is now a grab loop. This still gives plenty of options for lashing this duffel to whatever you might need to attach it to, but the additional grab loops also make it even easier to pull off of baggage carousels or buses, or simply drag around.

The final change is on the shoulder strap's design and materials. The new version features a wider (AKA better weight distributing) and softer, more comfortable face fabric that feels better either against our skin or while wearing thin layers. There are a few other very minor updates like new more durable zipper pulls and a information window that doesn't get as cloudy, but the above are the biggest differences.

Performance Comparison


Click to enlarge
The North Face Base Camp Duffel

Ease of Transport


The North Face Base Camp duffel is 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, a remote village, or on a glacier. The Base Camp's two padded shoulder straps provide top-of-the review comfort for extended carries and performed at the top of our review as far backpack-style straps are concerned. The newest version of this duffel released in fall of 2015, features and even more comfortable feeling fabric on its shoulder straps.

Click to enlarge
The North Face Base Camp Duffel features two padded shoulder straps that our testers thought were above average in comfort. We also thought the face-fabric The North Face uses helped them to feel the best against our skin while wearing thin t-shirts or tank tops.

The Base Camp duffel also features a more traditional baggage strap and grab loops on all four sides to help facilitate dragging it around and pulling it off of the baggage carousel. One small feature that is one of our testers favorite for expeditions or exotic locations is the two beefy daisy chains that are featured on the corners of this bag. The older versions daisy's ran the length of the bag, while the newer version features grab loops in the middle instead. All of these attachment points help you (or others) to more securely lash this duffel to anything that it might need to be attached to.

Click to enlarge
The North Face Base Camp Duffel features four grab loops on on each side of the bag. These over-sized loops worked great pulling the bag of moving carousels or anytime we needed to drag it somewhere.

Click to enlarge
The North Face Base Camp Duffel feature daisy chains on all four corners as well as four grab loops on all sides of the bag that make lashing the bag to everything from sleds to Llamas a snap.

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, oversized 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.

Click to enlarge
Our testers found the externally accessed zippered pocket on The North Face Base Camp duffel extremely useful whether for separating wet of dirty cloths or as simply another helpful sized pocket for staying organized.

One new feature on the latest version of the Base Camp duffel is the addition of a fairly sizable zippered pocket on one end. Inside this pocket there is a mesh divider that only adds to this duffels organizational ability. This small feature was thoroughly appreciated and heavily used by all of our testers and one more reason that the Base Camp Duffel remains our Editors' Choice. It is worth noting that this pocket is featured on all but the smallest two sizes (not the Small and XS volumes).

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.

Click to enlarge
The large "D" shaped opening on The North Face Base Camp Duffel was among the easiest duffels to pack and search for items in. Our testers also really utilized the additional zippered pocket featured on one end of the bag.

Click to enlarge
The zippered mesh pocket underneath the main lid of the North Face Base Camp Duffel.

Durability


This Duffel is seriously built to last and is 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. The North Face has only slightly tweaked the fabric to make them even more durable.

Click to enlarge
Likly the most popular expedition duffel out there, The North Face Base Camp duffel is mega-durable, easy to pack, easy to lash, and as pleasant to carry as a massive duffel can be. here getting duffels ready to be shuttled via mules to base camp for a second round on Aconcagua, Argentina.

Weather Resistance


During our side-by-side weather resistance testing, the North Face Base Camp duffel scored near the top of the review. While it's not submersible nor completely waterproof, 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.

Click to enlarge
The North face Base Camp duffel offers above average weather resistance. Tester Ian Nicholson has used his on a half dozen Denali expeditions where for three weeks the duffel is either strapped to a sled or buried in the snow and the Base Camp Duffel is still his go-to favorite for expedition use.

Weight


While this duffel is not super light, but it's not super heavy either. At four pounds for the large size, it is nearly the lightest duffel we tested that features 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 four to six more pounds and still keep it under the fifty pound maximum.

Click to enlarge
While wheeled duffels are easier on paved roads and in airports, traditional duffels excel when the going gets rough and excel for there ability to be strapped to everything from sleds to Llammas, Here A common expedition scene while duffle bag testing on Illimani, Cordillera Real, Bolivia.

Other features


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.

Dislikes


There are not many gripes about this duffel. It is average as far as weather resistance goes, about the same as the Mountain Hardwear Expedition and the Gregory Alpaca. It could have one more pocket to help with organization, but this isn't a big deal.

Volume Options


We like that it comes in six fairly equally spread out sizes, giving a good selection of volume for various styles of trips.

Volume comparison
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

Color Options


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.

Click to enlarge
The North Face Base Camp Duffel

Value


The Base Camp Duffel is still expensive and is 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 its price is relatively inline with most of the duffels in our review. Take for example a former Best Buy award winner, the Helly Hansen Duffel Bag 2, which for the 90L size now costs $140 is $5 more than the Base Camp in a similar size Med (69L) and we don't think preforms as well overall. The bottom line is that we think it's well worth up to $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 a lot of little features to help your trip go smoother.

Other Versions


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

Click to enlarge
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)

Click to enlarge
The North Face Rolling Thunder
  • Cost- $320.00 ($185 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 an extendable handle for easy pulling through airports.
Ian Nicholson

Where to Buy?


Thinking about buying some gear we've reviewed? Help OutdoorGearLab out if you do. Just click on any of the above seller links and if you make any purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks!

*Most retailers free shipping offers apply only to lower 48 US states using ground/economy shipping. See retailer's website for details.


OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 26, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.6)

93% of 14 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
15 Total Ratings
5 star: 73%  (11)
4 star: 13%  (2)
3 star: 13%  (2)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 16 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
Write a Review on this Gear

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.

Click to enlarge

Oh yeah, they make a good bed too…

Click to enlarge


Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 26, 2016 - 07:11am
sele · Mountain Biker · New York
Hi
First time ordering 30% Off The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag + Free Shipping from backcountry.com
So I got 30% Off The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag + Free Shipping Items on wativ.com you are more discount on this site so you need a more discount you check it on this link
http://wativ.com/coupons/30-off-the-north-face-base-camp-duffel-bag/
http://wativ.com/promo-codes/backcountry-com/

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

Mar 23, 2013 - 12:01pm
 
I've had one for several years. It is a great duffel
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Click to enlarge
They are simply the best!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   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.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No


Have you used the The North Face Base Camp Duffel?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
Backcountry $83.96  -  38% off!
REI $100.93  -  25% off!
MooseJaw $100.99  -  25% off!
Compare prices at 7 sellers >

*You help support OutdoorGearLab's product testing and reviews by purchasing from our retail partners.
Related Review
The Best Travel Duffel Bags

The Best Travel Duffel Bags

We took our favorite burly travel duffels and compared them head-to-head to help you figure out which one to take on your next adventure.
Helpful Buying Tips