The North Face Rolling Thunder 22 takes all the good parts about The North Face's Base Camp duffel line and adds a frame and some wheels to it, but not much else. There's one internal pocket and three external (but small) stash pockets, plus some sturdy carrying handles on the top, bottom, and one side. You can fit enough clothes in this bag to take you through a long weekend, and the sturdy wheels will make it through a variety of pitted sidewalks and gravel parking lots. The bag is nearly waterproof as well, which is nice for those of us that live in wet climates. Overall though, it's more like a duffel bag than a carry-on.
The North Face Rolling Thunder 22 Review
Cons: Not expandable, minimal features.
Manufacturer: The North Face
Compare to Similar Products
The North Face Rolling Thunder 22
|Price||$269.00 at REI||$254.99 at Amazon||$183.99 at Amazon||$330.68 at Amazon||$118.99 at Amazon|
|Pros||Durable construction, waterproof, handles difficult terrain well.||Extremely easy to maneuver, stylish design perfect for business trips, durable||Fair price, durable, easy to use, easy access outer pockets||Loaded with features, easy to travel with, large storage capacity.||Lightweight, spacious, expandable.|
|Cons||Not expandable, minimal features.||Heavier model||May need to check if expander is used||"Technical" styling not for everyone.||Has a very nondescript look, not the most durable.|
|Bottom Line||A classic rolling duffel for those who prefer to pull rather than carry their bag.||A high-end bag built to make travel easy and to last a lifetime.||This easy roller offers a little luxury at a nice price||A non-conventional carry-on for the outdoor enthusiast.||Inexpensive bag when purchased at the usual "street" price.|
|Rating Categories||Rolling Thunder 22||Platinum Elite 21" Expandabl...||Crew 11 21" Expandable Spinn...||Tarmac AWD Carry-On||Maxlite 5 22 Expandable Roll...|
|Ease Of Transport (25%)|
|Specs||Rolling Thunder 22||Platinum Elite 21"...||Crew 11 21"...||Tarmac AWD Carry-On||Maxlite 5 22...|
|Measured Weight||7.63 lbs.||7.81lbs||7.20 lbs||8.13 lbs||6.31 lbs.|
|Dimensions||22" x 14" x 8.5"||22" x 14" x 9"||22" x 14" x 9"||22" x 13" x 9"||22" x 14" x 9"|
|# of Wheels||2||4||4||4||2|
|Number of interior pockets||1||5||4||4||2|
|Number of exterior pockets||3||2||2||3||2|
|Compression system||None||Compression straps with integrated accessory pockets||Compression straps||Compression straps||Compression straps|
|Lock||No, but lockable||No, but lockable||No, but lockable||No, but lockable||No|
|Main Material||1000D polyester with TPE lamination, 1680D nylon||High-density nylon fabric with DuraGuard® coating resists stains and abrasions.||High-quality ballistic nylon fabric with DuraGuard® coating for stain and abrasion resistance||1000D Helix Poly Twill and Polycarbonate shell||Polyester fabric with water and stain resistant coating|
|Unique features||Water resistant||Removable toiletry pouch and dedicated power bank pocket||Dedicated power bank pouch||Hybrid hard/soft-sided design, coat keeper strap, expandable zipper, add-a-bag strap||Expandable zipper|
|Handle height (inches)||42"||36”, 38”, 40” and 42.5”||38”, 40” and 42.5”||37", 39", and 41"||38" and 42"|
|Other Versions||19", 30", 36"||20", 25", 28"||26"|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Updated Rolling Thunder 22
While we weren't able to get specific details on the updates, The North Face's site states that the back panel has been strengthened and the handles have been simplified. Both of these changes are made with the intention of increasing the suitcase's durability. The price has also been raised $20, ringing this newest version up at $269. See the latest version in the first photo below, followed by the previous iteration.
Since we haven't hit the airport with this new version of the Rolling Thunder 22, the following review only refers to our experiences with the original version we tested.
Hands-On Review of the Rolling Thunder 22
The North Face Rolling Thunder 22 measures 22 x 14 x 8.5 inches and weighs 7 lbs 10 oz. It's made with TNF's "Base Camp" material (1000D polyester with TPE lamination) and comes in TNF Black as well as Double Take Print/Terrazzo Pink, Brunette Brown Catalog Print, and Zinc Grey/Duck Green.
Ease of Transport
The North Face Rolling Thunder 22 has a bit of a wide turning radius, making quick turns or maneuvering through a crowded airport a bit of a challenge. Its wheels are large enough to handle a packed parking lot with ease, but once inside the airport and on polished surfaces we found ourselves wishing for a four-wheeled bag, once again. There would be no point to that though, as this bag is made to go off-road more than on-marble. The handle was sturdy and adjustable to a shorter length, which was nice for keeping it close to us, but the top of the handle is very wide and we couldn't get our laptop bag's carrying handle over it. There is an add-a-bag hook though for that reason, though we typically prefer the feel of carrying it against the handle.
This bag was able to accommodate everything we'd need for a long weekend trip, but lacks any division or structure for keeping nice clothes looking nice. If you're heading to a fancy wedding or on a business trip, this is not going to do the trick. Look at our Top Pick for Business Travel, the Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic.
This bag is really just a rolling duffel, and as such doesn't have many features to write home about. There are no internal or external compression straps, and the external pockets are too small to accommodate a laptop. They are not padded either, so we'd hesitate to put a tablet in them. There is a sunglasses/phone pocket at the top of the bag, and an add-a-bag hook which is also a nice touch. The bottom frame does help the bag stay upright, and it's not too front-heavy, but it did tip over on us a few times. Compared to the Eagle Creek Tarmac AWD Carry-On, which has an endless array of features to make traveling easier, the Rolling Thunder is on the plain side.
This bag ranked very high for durability. The material is beefy, the handle is sturdy, and every detail on this bag is well-constructed. The wheels are encased in a heavy-duty plastic cover to protect them from damage (though it can't protect them from getting dirty — more on that later), and the frame is solid, unlike the flimsy frame on the Travelpro Maxlite 5 22, which dented easily. We've had TNF duffels last a lifetime, and don't doubt that this one will as well.
TNF states that they recently made this rolling duffel's frame 25% lighter. We never tested the heavier version, but this one never felt too cumbersome at 7 lbs 10 oz. You do have to pull it though, unlike four-wheeled bags that you can push, so keep that in mind before you load it up with too many bricks.
Our testers have mixed feelings on the style of this bag. It comes in a variety of prints and also a high-gloss black, which is the model we tested. The black bag looks cool at first, with a red interior and some contrasting red on the handle and wheels; however, after only one use the red wheels became "dirty" red in color, and no longer looked so attractive. There is a reason why every other bag that we tested had black wheels, and we don't think we'd purposefully purchase a colored wheel again. This bag also has a technical/casual look to it — it is just a rolling duffel and is better suited to weekend travel and camping trips than business travel.
This carry-on is best for shorter trips. For those who like the duffel bag styling but might have to carry their bag a fair distance, say in an airport, and would prefer to pull it behind them rather than carrying it over their shoulder or back.
This bag retails for $269. The North Face Base Camp Duffel (our Editors' Choice winner in our Duffel Review), retails for $120 in a similar size small (50L vs. the Rolling Thunder's 40L), so in a way you are paying an extra $150 just for the retractable handle and rolling wheels. Is it worth it? While we thought the Base Camp was a great duffel bag, the carry-on version came up short when compared to more traditional carry-ons that have a lot of traveler-friendly features.
If you love duffel bags and The North Face brand, then this could be the perfect carry-on for you! It's sturdily made and can handle rough terrain - "Never Stop Exploring" after all, and should last through many adventures. We preferred some of the more "classic" carry-ons to this style. But, if the bag fits your aesthetic and needs, then you probably won't be disappointed.
— Cam McKenzie Ring