Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $100-$115
Pros: Bomber, Lightweight
Cons: straps aren't as comforatable for heavier loads
Best Uses: Expedition climbing, road trips
Manufacturer: Wild Things
We gave our Outdoor Gear Lab Best Buy Award to the Wild Things Mule Duffel. It was a tough call between it, the Helly Hanson duffel and the Gregory Long Haul. All the three of these duffels are close in price and weight. What set the Wild Things Mule apart was durability, it was just straight up one of the most durable duffels we have ever used. We have used the Mule duffel for over 10 years of expedition travel around the globe and it looks better than some duffels after 3 or 4 trips. All the Wild Things duffels, the Mule, Burrow, Goat and Carry On are all 100 percent made in the USA. They are also nearly the lightest in the review — only slightly heavier than a Gregory Long Haul Duffel but more than a pound lighter than the next closest model and over two pounds lighter than the heaviest duffel. The Mule Duffel is the longest bag we looked at, making it a good choice for people with abnormally-sized items or someone who needs a duffel that holds longer two-section trekking poles. This duffel has a clear information window and an external pocket but otherwise does not have many bells and whistles. These duffels are not they easiest to haul around because they lack shoulder or backpack straps. We used this duffel on more than 20 trips, proving it is durable and well made. If you are looking for a lightweight, burly, long duffel for extended climbing trips or expedition travel and don't need all the bells and whistles, then the Wild Things Mule, Burrow, Goat, or Carry On could be a great option.
Wild Things products are available directly from Wild Things at wildthingsgear.com which sometimes has limited stock of their made in the USA products. Our Editors' Choice The North Face Base Camp Duffel is widely available at many online retailers, often for discounted prices.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Wild Things Mule, Burrow, Goat and Carry On are nearly the lightest duffels we tested, and are only marginally heavier than the Gregory Long Haul Duffel. They are also the only duffel bags we tested that are made in the USA. The large, clear information window pockets helped it stand out while in a pile of bags. At first glance the Wild Things Mule Duffel appears not as tough as some of the others because it uses ballistic nylon material versus the now more common urethane or coated vinyl. But after extensive testing on dozens of trips we found these bags to be extremely durable. We didn't love the fact that there is only one strait-across zipper (we prefer a D-shaped zipper opening). But because of the narrower profiles of these bags, the straight zipper works okay. We do think that the Wild Things models are slightly easier than the similarly zipping Gregory Long Haul duffel. We also like it that volume options for the Wild Things duffels range from 42 to 144L.
The biggest drawback is that there isn't a good way to turn this bag into a backpack for longer distance carries; you can use the handles as shoulder straps but they dig in with heavier loads.
The side pocket is a little hard to access when the bag is full, but at least it was accessible without having to break into our commonly over-packed bag. The Wild Things duffels are near the bottom of our review for water resistance. That said, we used them on glacier sleds in the Alaska range where they worked fine because of the cold temps and only having to deal with snow.
Compared with the similarly priced non-shoulder/backpack strapped Gregory Long Haul Duffel, it is only $10-$15 more expensive, size to size. The Wild Things Mule is less expensive than most of the duffels we tested and is one of the toughest. It is a good, no frills duffel that is super tough but still lightweight, all for a good price. If you need a dependable long-lasting duffel but don't want to break the bank and are willing to sacrifice a few luxuries, then the Wild Things duffels are good models to check out.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 20, 2013
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