If we could only have one wheeled piece of luggage, this would be it. We liked a few other model's pocket selections slightly better, but for balancing weight, cost, pockets, and organizational features, the Black Hole Wheeled is tough to beat. Plus, it features some of the best durability and weather resistance among all the models we tested. Its wheels are oversized and handled cobbled roads, gravel parking lots, and grassy fields as solidly as we could expect from a wheeled piece of luggage. Lastly, while we like a few other pocket designs marginally better, this model offered enough pockets and compartments to help most folks stay organized.
Ease of Transport
The Black Hole Wheeled model was above average in our "Ease of Transport" category, scoring towards the top of our review for several reasons. It features large wheels (3.5 inches); when compared to a majority of wheeled luggage on the market, the size of the wheels give it a huge advantage, especially when rolling across uneven surfaces like gravel, grass, or a street in desperate need of being repaved.
The Black Hole sported slightly larger wheels than most, making it noticeably easier to pull this bag across uneven terrain. However, the wheels weren't so big that we felt that it was difficult to manage in tight spaces or dense crowds.
The handle extends in two stages and stretches quite high (36 in). The Black Hole's handle is higher than the larger Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Wheeled 32", which gives its driver more leverage. When combined with its stiff frame and chassis, the handle allowed us to pile on a carry-on and even a second 50-pound duffel, making our load more manageable. Its wheelbase is slightly narrower than both the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior and The North Face Rolling Thunder 30", which when combined with its handle design, made it easy to maneuver through tight crowds and spaces.
While a small feature, our testers appreciated the oversized haul loops (AKA grab loops) on each end of the bag, making it easier to snag it from above-the-ground surfaces, pick it off the carousel, or un-bury it from under piles of luggage.
We liked the grab loops on either end of this duffel - they simply made it easier to pull the bag out of our trunk or off the luggage carousel.
The Black Hole Wheeled model stands up solidly on its own, even when only partially packed (overpacked at max capacity) and our testers found its wide wheelbase was easy to handle, even when super loaded and navigating the most crowded airports.
Despite not having the widest wheelbase, the Black Hole is deep and sports a very sturdy grab loop that doubles as a "kickstand". The kickstand helped this bag stand up on its own even when fully loaded or with a carry-on hanging off of it.
This was a small but nice feature, as other models would fall over at times with only a little nudge. The Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled remained solid for the majority of the time, even with a carry-on draped over the handle.
The Black Hole Wheeled was the only rolling duffel we tested to have a separate, dedicated pair of briefcase style carrying straps. While we didn't use them tons, we did on occasion, and they certainly made transporting the bag easier. It is worth noting that the Osprey Ozone Convertible took it one step further with a pair of tuck-away shoulder straps.
Unlike most wheeled duffels, the Black Hole Wheeled has a daisy chain on all four sides, helping to facilitate the attachment to pack animals, jeeps, or anything you can think of when on the quest for more exotic adventures. We were able to easily attach it to the roof of a truck on two trips to remote regions of South America.
Due to its large D-shaped opening, this bag is easy to pack and find items inside. It is also one of the most painless models to zip shut when we've completely maxed its volume. We found the Black Hole far easier to pack and close when full than either the Osprey Ozone Convertible or the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior.
Ease of Packing
The Black Hole Wheeled 45, 70, and 120 models all feature one sizeable primary compartment, which can be accessed with a "D" shaped zippered flap. While this does make for easy access and packing, the few small pocket doesn't allow for much in the way of organization. However, our testers loved the two mesh zippered pockets underneath the lid of the central opening and used them for any small items that we wanted to keep track of. In fact, we loved the dual mesh pockets so much so that several of our review staff commented on how much they missed them when using models that did not have them.
Our testers hardly, if ever, used the small external zippered pocket. It was hard to access when the bag was fully packed, and its large size meant that we regularly lost or forgot small items inside. It was more than adequate for storing a book or airline ticket or items of a similar size, but we lost on our chapstick on more than one occasion, and it proved difficult to retrieve.
While the Black Hole Wheeled Duffel didn't feature quite as many separate compartments as other rolling models, our entire review team absolutely loved the split mesh zippered pockets featured underneath the lid of this model. This design was shared by a handful of other models in our review, and several testers commented that they missed having them while testing a model that lacked this feature.
The Black Hole Wheeled Duffel is more durable than most wheeled luggage on the market and will be able to withstand a great deal of abuse. It is made of a 900c poly-coated ripstop nylon that is built to last. The bottom (the frame side) is mega durable, featuring an additional layer of ballistic nylon and two plastic rails; together, they help protect the frame and the contents of your bag, no matter how rough your baggage handlers are. Our test model showed little wear, even after a dozen trips, and the bottom still looks borderline brand new. We think this duffel is far more durable than either the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Wheeled, though The North Face Rolling Thunder used even beefier fabrics, making it the most durable contender in our review.
At 7 pounds 8 ounces for the 70-liter model (6 pounds 14.4 ounces for the 40-liter and 8 pounds 10 ounces for the 120-liter model), the 70-liter model is on the lighter side of wheeled duffels on the market. This further impressed us when we took into account that it is far more durable and weather resistant. The North Face Rolling Thunder, while it was more durable, is much heavier, weighing in at 9 pounds 14 ounces for the 80-liter model. While the Black Hole Wheeled is still 3-3.5 pounds heavier than most equivalent classic duffels, we think it's worth having the wheels and burly frame.
This award winner is pretty darn water resistant. During our side-by-side testing, we gave each competitor the spray down, hosing it down for one full minute. What did we find? The Black Hole Wheeled offered nearly the same water resistance as the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel and The North Face Base Camp; it offered more protection from the elements than the Marmot Long Hauler, Eagle Creek Wheeled Warrior, and Helly Hansen 2.
The Black Hole Wheeled is a sweet all-around piece of wheel luggage. It's light and easy to maneuver for regular airline travel but durable and weather resistant enough to help it excel on trips where few wheeled bags are a must. There are few trips where this bag wouldn't perform well, especially in the given circumstances that you would be using a wheelie bag. If pure airline travel and lots of pockets are what you're after, we'd recommend the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior. And, if an ultra high level of durability and weather resistance are your priority, The North Face Rolling Thunder is our pick. The Black Hole Wheeled blurs the line between the two for a great all-rounder.
The Black Hole Wheeled Duffel is an extremely versatile piece of luggage. It performs well in traditional airline travel, but when the going gets rough, the briefcase style carrying straps, daisy chains for lashing, weather resistance, and top-tier durability will be even more of an asset.
At $330 (for the 70-liter model), this award winner does not come cheap; it falls on the more expensive side of wheeled travel bags on the market. That said, we think that it's noticeably more durable and weather resistant than most options out there. It excels anywhere you'd opt for a wheeled bag, as well as in remote areas, performing well when pulled across rough surfaces like gravel or unpaved roads.
The Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled is an excellent all-purpose travel rolling bag that will last you many journeys to the airport. It's tough, easy to pack, and offers helpful lash points. We think this is the best "expedition rolling duffel" as well as the first rolling duffel we'd reach for over a standard duffel, especially for more exotic or remote locations. For the 120 liter size, depending on what you're packing, it's easy to find yourself going over the 50-pound limit. We appreciated that the Black Hole is two pounds lighter than most other rolling duffels out there, giving us room to stuff in two additional pounds.
The Black Hole Wheeled duffel isn't cheap, but it is one of the more versatile rolling duffels we've tested. Between its robust frame and handle and its burly fabric, this wheeled duffel should last even the roughest user many years and countless adventures.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Black Hole Wheeled Duffel is also available in a 45 and 120-liter versions, in addition to the 70-liter version that's reviewed here. While we really like this 45-liter version, it's too big to carry on (but only barely). Most airlines have a maximum size typically around 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, with a max totaling 45". While this depends on the airline and the proportions of the measurements might change slightly, the 45" maximum size (when adding up the length, width, and height) is pretty standard. The Black Hole Wheel Duffel 45L comes in one inch over at 46" with its dimensions being 23.5" x 13" x 10.5". That said, we have carried-on this bag many times without issue. We'd use it as a carry-on as long as it's not 100% packed full and we've always seen its soft sides squeeze into every overhead compartment.