Patagonia Black Hole Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, weather resistant, easy-to-remove comfy shoulder straps, nice pockets, easy to load, good lashing options
Cons: Fitting tight items is a squeeze, durable but not the toughest tested
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Our Analysis and Test Results
After extensive side-by-side testing of various versions of this bag, the newest Black Hole's material is more water-resistant, slightly more durable, and made of recycled materials. One of the most helpful features of the latest Black Hole is how quickly the shoulder straps attach and remove for airline travel. Previously, you had to unthread them through a very tight-fitting buckle that was a massive pain. Now you can quickly undo the entire buckle by passing it through a larger "D" buckle, which is much simpler and quicker. While this is a small change, we appreciate it.
Ease of Transport
This model was one of the best duffels we tested for our "Ease of Transport" category and is also one of the most comfortable bags to backpack carry for extended periods. We like the two well designed, contoured, and padded shoulder straps, which all of our testers observed were among the most comfortable in the review. Our only wish, for extended carry, is that the shoulder straps had a sternum strap.
Besides being among the most comfortable in the review, the Black Hole's two backpack straps are also the easiest to remove when checking in at the airport. They feature an easy pass-through design on top and side release buckles on the bottom.
The Black Hole features low-profile grab loops on each end that are easy and comfortable to grab. There are two shorter straps on the side (in addition to the shoulder straps) for carrying the bag briefcase style or merely to assist in dragging it around. The Black Hole also features four sets of vertically oriented daisy chains, plus a few extra lash points to help facilitate attaching the bag to auto rooftops, yaks, or whatever else you might need.
Lastly, we like the slightly padded bottom, which not only helps protect our gear from overzealous baggage handlers and the rigors of travel, but it also adds to the bag's overall durability.
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 allows it take less space while not in use and makes it easy to pack inside of another bag.
Ease of Packing
The Black Hole features a large "D" shaped opening that is as easy to load and search for items in; Patagonia also chose a softer material than other expedition duffels. The fabric made it marginally harder to pack compared to bags that used more rigid materials. We like "soft" bags that are rigid enough to stand up on their own while packing. The Black Hole Bag fabric isn't quite stiff enough for this. Our entire review team loved the two well-designed pockets located under the lid; these helped us stay just a little more organized. After using these two pockets, we truly missed them every time we packed up a different model; when using competitors that only features a single giant mesh pocket, everything would inevitably get clumped together and was subsequently more difficult to find.
There is also a small zippered pocket accessible from the outside that doubles as a stuff sack in which you can store the bag. While some might appreciate this, we never found ourselves using it much. It was just too large, flat, and challenging to search through when the bag was loaded up.
During our side-by-side testing, and after using the Black Hole on expeditions, it wasn't quite as durable as our award-winning bags, though it was close. The fabric is supple and thin, relatively speaking. This makes it more comfortable to carry, and smaller to store but compromises overall durability.
We have tested multiple iterations of the Black Hole Duffel. To their credit, Patagonia is ever-improving the bag. The weight does not seem to be improving. It is hard to directly compare our weights, as we have tested different size bags at different times. However, we are 100% confident that the latest design, purchased and tested in summer 2019, is the heaviest yet. The recycled fabric version we tested, in the 70L size, weighs 3.75 pounds. This is right in line with other bags like this if a little on the heavy side. (there was a time when the Patagonia Black Hole was the lightest all-around expedition duffel we tested).
We performed heaps of side-by-side, objective testing by filling all the contenders with towels and spraying them down with a hose. The Black Hole, along with the products mentioned above, performed as well as any of the other top performers. The seams and zippers are not submersible, but the fabric thoroughly keeps the water out.
The cost of the Patagonia Black Hole is in line with the highest performing contenders in this review. The latest, 2019 version from Patagonia is more expensive than previous iterations. Must be the recycled material is more expensive to source. It doesn't push the price higher than any others, but it does have it tied with bags that perform and last better.
While the Black Hole didn't emerge as an award winner, there are plenty of reasons to buy this bag. While a few others provided a higher level of durability, this bag remains PLENTY durable for most people.
— Jediah Porter & Ian Nicholson