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Hands-on Gear Review
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Review
Cons: Doesn't fit super long items as well as others we tested.
The Patagonia Black Hole Duffel wins our Top Pick award because it is lighter than most duffels we tested and scored near or at the top in every category. The Black Hole was among our favorites in both the Ease of Transport and Comfortable to Carry categories because of its awesome and easily removable shoulder straps. The Black Hole Duffel is the lightest duffel we tested to feature padded shoulder straps and the only product tested weighing three pounds or less, to feature as many pockets as it has.
The Black Hole was nearly our Editors' Choice award winner but it was just barely edged out by The North Face Base Camp Duffel which is a pound heavier but offers near equal water resistance, an additional pocket for better organizational options, and is a tiny bit more durable. That being said, the newest version of the Black Hole which we have since taken on only three expeditions is holding up great and we think it's tougher than the previous model.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The New Version of the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel vs. The Older Version
Patagonia has updated the classic Black Hole Duffel!
"A few quick highlights of the new bags:
In order to make sure you're purchasing the latest version, be sure to buy a duffel that meets the updates as highlighted above. The duffel retail price has remained the same and is now available in Black, Navy Blue, Chromatic Yellow, Nouveau Green, Oaks Brown, and White.
After extensive side-by-side testing we feel the newer Patagonia Black Hole Duffel's material is a fair amount more water resistant and slightly more durable. One of the nicest new features of the newer Black Hole is how easily the straps are to attach and remove for airline travel. Before you had to unthread them through a very tight fitting buckle that was a straight-up pain. Now you can easily just undo the entire buckle by passing it through a larger "D" buckle which is much easier and much quicker, so while a small one, this is one of our favorite new features. The new Black Hole stuffs inside of its side pocket, we don't think this is a big deal, but if you have limited storage this feature certainly helps it take less space while not in use, and makes it easy to pack inside of another bag.
Check out a side-by-side comparison below, with the latest version shown on the left and the older model pictured on the right.
The Black Hole Duffel (shown in blue in the chart below) tied for second place with its cousin, the Black Hole Wheeled Duffel. Read on to see how the Black Hole fared in each individual metric!
Ease of Transport
This was the best duffel in the "Ease of Transport" category and is also one of the most comfortable bags to carry for extended periods of time. We really like the two well designed, articulated, padded shoulder straps.
The only duffels that were as close to as comfortable to carry were the Gregory Alpaca and The North Face Base Camp. The Black Hole's two backpack straps also featured fast-tect buckles and unthreaded the easiest of any duffel we tested, which was something we appreciated every time we checked this bag.
The low profile grab loops featured on each end of the Black Hole are easy and comfortable to grab. The Black Hole features four sets of daisy chains plus a few extra lash points to help facilitate attaching it to auto roof tops, yaks or whatever else you might need. If exotic locations and expedition travel are foremost in your travel bag needs than we recommend the Black Hole along with The North Face Base Camp Duffel because they offered the most lashing options to tie them to animals and other things than any other bags we tested.
Ease of Packing
The Black Hole features well designed and well laid out pockets. We love the two pockets under the lid. Originally this seemed like only a small increase in organization, but it turned out to be huge and now we miss it whenever we use other duffels. It helped keep all the little stuff like extra batteries, chap stick, etc., a little more organized.
As for the small zippered outside side pocket, some might like it, but we never found ourselves using it. The Black Hole has a nice big D-shaped zipper that was easy to pack and after our extensive side-by-side testing we thought it was the easiest duffel to zip closed even when it's full.
The duffel is plenty durable, more durable than most duffels on the market and tough enough for most users for many years. But during our side-by-side testing and after using the Black Hole Duffel on five expeditions, we didn't think it was quite as durable as the North Face Base Camp Duffel, or the Wild Things Mule, but it is more durable than the Cilo Gear Duffel and the Helly Hanson Duffel. The newest version of the Black Hole which was released in Fall of 2015 is more durable than the previous version. How much more durable? As we continue to take it on trips and expeditions we will keep you in the loop, but after three extended trips it's still going strong.
At three pounds the Patagonia Black Hole duffel is one of the lightest duffels we tested. It is also the lightest duffel tested to feature padded shoulder straps and is one to three pounds lighter than many other duffels we tested that also feature shoulder straps. It also has more pockets then most other sub-three-pound duffels we tested. So if you are someone who is always pushing the 50-pound limit on airlines, the Patagonia Black Hole is a great way to get you a couple more pounds.
The Black Hole, along with the Mountain Hardwear Expedition Duffel, are the most weather resistant duffels in our review. We did a ton of side-by-side testing by filling all the contenders with towels and spraying them down with a hose. The Black Hole, along with the above mentioned products, out-performed our Editors' Choice, The North Face Base Camp, and the Helly Hansen Duffel.
The Black Hole's 120L volume fits in between on price and volume of the North Face Base Camp Duffel. It's slightly less expensive than the 155L XL North Face Duffel ($170) but a bit more expensive than the 90L size large ($145).
— Ian Nicholson
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