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Patagonia Black Hole Review

A truly sweet duffel, it was only barely edged out for top awards.
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Price:  $160 List | $159.00 at REI
Compare prices at 3 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
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Jediah Porter & Ian Nicholson  ⋅  Oct 21, 2019
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 12
  • Ease of Transport - 22% 7
  • Ease of Packing - 22% 8
  • Durability - 22% 7
  • Weight - 24% 6
  • Weather Resistance - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Patagonia Black Hole Duffel is a top-notch all-around duffel. It's one of our favorites in both the ease of transport and comfortable to carry categories thanks to its cushy and easily removable shoulder straps. The latest version is largely made of recycled materials. It is weather-resistant and has many lashing options, as well as an easy-to-pack design; all of these characteristics make it an excellent choice for an expedition or extended trip. If more casual travel is your primary focus, then it's not as easy to move around as a wheeled piece of luggage.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Lightweight, weather resistant, easy-to-remove comfy shoulder straps, nice pockets, easy to load, good lashing optionsRugged, stiff and wide opening, variety of carry optionsEasy to pack, comfortable shoulder straps, excellent pockets, super durableExcellent shoulder straps, thick waterproof coatingHighly weather resistant, easy to pack, comfortable shoulder straps
Cons Fitting tight items is a squeeze, durable but not the toughest testedOnly one smaller pocket, heavyNot super light, fabric is a little stiffRelatively thin fabric, extra unnecessary featuresExternally accessed pocket is on the smaller side, shoulder straps take a little more work to remove
Bottom Line A truly sweet duffel, it was only barely edged out for top awards.The best darn duffel bag for all kinds of adventuresome travel.While it faces stiffer competition than it used to, it remains the duffel that all others are compared against.Carries on your back better than any other duffel we’ve assessed and is a top contender.From its streamline design to its top notch weather resistance and multitude of lashing options, this is a solid duffel.
Rating Categories Patagonia Black Hole Sea to Summit 90L The North Face Base Camp Osprey Transporter 130 Gregory Alpaca
Ease Of Transport (22%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
Ease Of Packing (22%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
Durability (22%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
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9
10
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8
10
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8
Weight (24%)
10
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6
10
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5
10
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5
10
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7
10
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6
Weather Resistance (10%)
10
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7
10
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7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
Specs Patagonia Black Hole Sea to Summit 90L The North Face... Osprey Transporter... Gregory Alpaca
Weight (Pounds) 3.75 pounds (70 liter model) 4.30 pounds (90 liter model) 4.20 pounds (95 liter model) 3.44 pounds 3.72 pounds
Volume Size Options (Liters) 45, 60, 90, 120 Liters 45, 65, 90, 130 Liters 33, 50, 69, 95, 150 Liters 40, 65, 95, 130 Liters 30, 45, 60, 90, 120 Liters
D or I opening D D D D D
Back Pack Straps Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
# of pockets (excludes main compartment) 3 1 3 3 2
Info window No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Material 900D 100% polyester rip-stop (50% solution-dyed) with a TPU-film laminate Tarpaulin Laminate 1000D nylon 1000D phthalate-free TPE laminate body with additonal 840-denier Jr. ballistics nylon on the bottom 840D Nylon TPU Double Coated 900D TPU diamond rip-stop material with additional layer of 630D nylon on the bottom

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.

Performance Comparison


Heavy loads  whether moved short or far  are no big deal for the Black Hole bag shoulder straps. Here  a short walk into a long shower after a damp and itchy Wonderland Trail backpack trip.
Heavy loads, whether moved short or far, are no big deal for the Black Hole bag shoulder straps. Here, a short walk into a long shower after a damp and itchy Wonderland Trail backpack trip.

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.

Virtually all of the Black Hole bag carry options are visible here.
Virtually all of the Black Hole bag carry options are visible here.

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.

The wide opening and bright interior (at least in this color) make for easy searching inside.
The wide opening and bright interior (at least in this color) make for easy searching inside.

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.

Durability


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.

Side by side testing  in real world applications  draw out true differences. Here  the Black Hole up against the eventual Editors Choice winning Sea To Summit Duffle.
Side by side testing, in real world applications, draw out true differences. Here, the Black Hole up against the eventual Editors Choice winning Sea To Summit Duffle.

Weight


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).

Our tested Black Hole Duffel  packed into its side pocket. It's a wrestling match to get it in there  but this option might appeal to you.
Our tested Black Hole Duffel, packed into its side pocket. It's a wrestling match to get it in there, but this option might appeal to you.

Weather Resistance


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.

Value


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.

The shoulder straps are labeled and equipped to thread together with minimal fuss.
The shoulder straps are labeled and equipped to thread together with minimal fuss.

Conclusion


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