Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Light weight, comfortable to carry
Cons: Not as durable, biggest size is only 90L
Best Uses: Casual travel and expedition travel
We gave the Helly Hansen Duffel our OutdoorGearLab duffel bag Best Buy Award. The decision was a tough call between it and the Wild Things Mule Duffel. The Wild Things advantage is its so much more durable and offers more and larger size options. The Helly Hansen Duffle's main advantages over the the Wild Things Mule and some of the other lower priced bags are its big D-shaped opening, comfortable backpack straps, inside pockets and a much better price (we often see it for $77 on Amazon). It also has little features that go toward making a trip that much easier, such as a clear information window and compression straps. The Helly Hansen duffel's primary drawback is that its not nearly as durable and is only available in two sizes; a 50L (3050 cubic inches) and a 90L (5400 cubic inches). It is great for people not looking for an enormous duffel. However, for extended climbing trips or larger expeditions, the 90L is on the small side. So if you are on a budget but still hope for all the nice features associated with more expensive duffels and don't want to pay the price, then the Helly Hansen Duffel is a good choice. If you don't want to spend the money but either need a bigger bag or want something super burly, then lean toward the Wild Things Mule Duffel or Gregory Long Haul.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Helly Hansen Duffel is one of the lighter bags we tested, yet was still one of the more fully featured. Along with the North Face Base Camp Duffel and the Gregory Alpaca, it is one of the few duffels to feature external compression straps. These straps increased the comfort while carrying the duffel longer distances while not completely full. The shoulder straps, while thin, are among the most comfortable. Along with the North Face Base Camp and the Black Diamond Huey, this is the most comfortable to carry. We really like all of its three pockets: a large zippered mesh one under the lid, another smaller zippered mesh pocket on the side and then a thin Velcro-closed pocket on the outside hidden in the top (this is also where the shoulder straps stash). This pocket is a great place to stash tickets, passport, SuperTopo Guidebook or a random climbing magazine (the pocket is just big enough to carry even the larger, older issues of Alpinist).
The biggest drawback is that it only comes in two relatively small sizes: a 50L (3050 cubic inches) and a 90L (5400 cubic inches). Both are on the small side for longer trips or expeditions. It is the only bag we tested not to feature YKK zippers. The zippers are an unknown brand that don't seem to be as durable – but in fairness we never saw them fail. There are also no flaps to help protect the zippers from wear and tear. This bag is durable but the lightweight polyurethane coated fabric that makes it one of the lighter duffels also makes it a little less durable.
For its size, it is nearly tied with the Gregory duffels for lowest price in our review and just beat out the Wild Things Burrow and Goat (though these are slightly larger). Compared with the similarly priced Gregory Long Haul, the Helly Hansen has backpack straps, clear information window pocket, compression straps, more pockets and a D-shaped opening. The only things you might give up are a little durability and a little water resistance. Its $10-$20 less than a comparable sized Wild Things Duffel and has nicer features but if your hard on your gear or travel a lot it wont last as long.
This duffel comes in a variety of sizes, ranging from the 30L Duffel, $80, to the 90L Duffel, $90. You can also purchase the wheeled version of this bag, the 50L Trolley - Wheeled, $250.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 9, 2011
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