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Hands-on Gear Review
The North Face Rolling Thunder Review
Cons: Not light, largest volume doesn't feature an extendable handle
The North Face Rolling Thunder series of wheeled luggage - is the wheeled siblings of the North Face Base Camp Duffel, which won our Editors' Choice award for the best duffel bag. The two are made from the same material and have several of the same pockets and organizational features. The Rolling Thunder is aimed at air travelers who want the durability and simplicity of a duffel but with the ease of a rolly-bag. We looked at all four volumes that the Rolling Thunder is available in, but focused on the 30" and 36" sizes.
The Rolling Thunder is the most durable rolling duffels in our review and among the toughest pieces of rolling luggage on the market. It will outlast 99% of luggage out there. The Rolling Thunder performed far better than average during our weather resistance tests, and is super easy to load and search through. It offers a nice selection of pockets to help travelers stay organized with its only real downfall and what kept it from being our overall Editors' Choice for the best wheeled duffel, is its slightly heavier than average weight.
See how the Rolling Thunder compared to all of the contenders that we tested in our complete Duffle Bag review.
RELATED: Our complete review of duffel bags
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
Ease of Transport
The Rolling Thunder is an "easy" way to move your gear around and is obviously easier than any non-wheeled duffel. It features larger than average wheels that roll over unpaved surfaces like grass, cobbled paths, or gravel roads as well as any piece of rolling luggage. There are bag loops on all sides of the Rolling Thunder, easily facilitating pulling the bag off of buses, luggage carousels or any other above ground surface.
Ease of Packing
Ease of packing and organization is one of the primary reasons to buy the Rolling Thunder. All volumes of the Rolling Thunder are easy to pack and scored above average among bags in our review and scored better than our Editors' Choice the Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel. The Rolling Thunder features a large "D" shaped opening and a deep compartment that is easy to load all the way up.
The Rolling Thunder is freaking tough. Made of the same material as the tried and true Base Camp Duffel (1000D polyester laminate) that is as burly as we've seen. We think the Rolling Thunder is the most durable rolling duffel in our review and one of the burliest pieces of wheeled luggage we have ever seen. It is far more durable than most other wheeled bags out there and we think is a little tougher than our Editors' Choice Rolling bag, the Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel.
At 10 pounds 4 oz for the 155L size and 9lbs 14oz for the 80L size, weight is the primary downside of the Rolling Thunder bags. While not way heavier than most wheeled duffels, they are around a pound heavier than most. For that extra pound you do get a lot of durability and weather resistance, but that's also one less pound of your personal gear that you don't get to bring. Compare the Rolling Thunder's to the Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel in the 120L volume that tips the scales at 8lbs 10oz.
The Rolling Thunder is very water resistant and during or side-by-side testing where our testing team sprayed all the pieces of luggage in our review with a water for one minute, the Rolling Thunder was near the top of the review. It features around the same water resistance as the Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel and the The North Face Base Camp Duffel and was more water resistant than The North Face Longhaul 30". That said, it is WAY more water resistant than 99% of wheeled bags out there so if water resistance is an important factor for you then the Rolling Thunder is worth considering.
The North Face Rolling Thunder 19" 2013 in3 (33 liters) 6lbs 8oz $240
The North Face Rolling Thunder 22" 2440 in3 (40 liters) 7lbs 5oz $250
The North Face Rolling Thunder 30" 4881 in3 (80 liters) 9lbs 14oz $290
The North Face Rolling Thunder 36" 9458 in3 (155 liters) 10 lbs 4oz $320
Which size to get ?
The North Face makes the Rolling Thunder in 22" which meets nearly all carry-on specifications and maximizes your space to fit in an overhead bin. It's perfect for most 2-4 day trips. The 19" is a more average size carry-on size that you can even fit under the seat in front of you. It's also good as a carry-on to go with another bag or as a 1-2 day sized bag on its own. The 30" size is a great size, and our testers favorite volume for a wheeled bag. When packed with average weight/bulk items, it almost always weighs in around 50 pounds when packed full. We'd go for the 36" size if you know you need to pack longer items or bulky things like fins, wet suits, or lots of insulation. We didn't love that the 155L size didn't come with an extendable handle, but its multiple grab loops worked fine, but we sometimes slightly wished it featured a more typical handle.
Value and the Bottom Line
The Rolling Thunder is a super sweet wheeled duffel that was nearly our Editors' Choice, but was only just barely edged out by a heavier weight line of bags that are a little more expensive than most options of rolling luggage on the market. It offers some sweet advantages and will last longer than pretty much any piece of luggage we've seen. It is extremely water resistant, super easy to pack, has a nice amount of additional pockets for easier organization, and can be wheeled across uneven surfaces as well as nearly any bag we've seen.
— Steve McNamara & Ian Nicholson
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: September 18, 2015
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