Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Review
Cons: Not as durable or versatile as larger models
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Our Analysis and Test Results
One of the lightest duffel bags in our lineup and able to pack down to the size of a one-liter Nalgene bottle, the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole is an intriguing alternative option in a sea of larger, heavier duffel bags. While you obviously wouldn't use it as your primary luggage on an extended vacation or a winter expedition, its small footprint is ideal for keeping gear organized within a larger pack, or using as a secondary option for light-duty outings. Its simple design makes it easy to pack, it provides multiple carrying options, and its construction is surprisingly durable and weatherproof for such lightweight material.
Ease of Transport
By virtue of its lightweight construction and smaller volume and footprint compared to most other duffel bags in our lineup, the Ultralight Black Hole is easy to haul around. Although it doesn't come with a padded shoulder strap or backpack straps like many other models, it does provide multiple carrying options, even with its simple design.
The most simple and obvious way to carry the UL Black Hole is by grasping the two handles made of nylon webbing. Although these handles are smaller and thinner than what is found on most other packs, they are ideally suited for the UL Black Hole's smaller 30-liter volume. The bag's footprint is comfortable for carrying by your side without obstructing your stride, and it's difficult to load the bag with enough weight to make this method uncomfortable.
If you do load the bag up with a heavier weight, or have to haul it over a longer distance, the lengths of the two webbing handles can be adjusted so that you can use them as backpack straps or sling them over one of your shoulders. While this additional versatility is undoubtedly appreciated, the thin webbing material is not as comfortable as the broader, more well-padded straps found on other bags. Although their lightweight design is suitable for a pack of this nature, some type of shoulder pad or pads would be an upgrade. It's also worth noting that the webbing handles on this bag are not removable.
This bag also has reinforced grab handles on each end, allowing it to be carried by your side like a briefcase, and providing a place to grab while loading it in the trunk or an overhead storage compartment. The UL Black Hole has the most versatile carrying features out of the ultralight and packable models that we tested.
Storage and Ease of Packing
The Ultralight Black Hole receives average scores for its ease of packing. While its 30-liter volume is by far one of the smallest in our lineup, and it only has one main storage compartment and one zippered pocket, it is constructed of lightweight, flexible material. It has a sizeable D-shaped opening that makes loading it up pretty convenient.
The UL Black Hole's 30-liter volume provides quite limited storage utility compared to most of the much larger bags that we tested. However, since this type of bag is really in its own subcategory of duffel bags, its overall storage volume, size, and shape make it incredibly capable for such a small and lightweight option. The large D-shaped zipper exposes nearly the full footprint of the bag, the body material is light and flexible and easy to manipulate during packing, and the single storage compartment and zippered pocket are efficient and perfectly suited for the size and style of this bag.
The outside front and back of this bag have daisy chain attachment points to lash down additional gear, and the entire bag can be turned inside out and stuffed into its zippered pocket for convenient carrying during travel or storage while at home.
The UL Black Hole, true to its name, is an ultralight, packable duffel bag made of much thinner and lighter material than most of the other options in our lineup, and as such, struggles a little bit in this category.
While the 70-denier ripstop nylon construction is impressively robust and durable for its weight, it simply doesn't compare to other bags constructed with multiple layers or with up to 1000-denier weight materials. While we wouldn't drag this bag across a glacier or through the jungle, as we have with other models, keep in mind that it weighs about one-eighth of what many of the heavier-duty bags weigh. Its durability seems well-aligned with its intended use as a light daily-use bag or as a secondary travel bag.
The UL Black Hole also has a padded, reinforced bottom panel with thicker 200-denier weight material, which helps give the bag some extra shape and structure. The interior seams of the pack are also reinforced, adding to its overall lightweight durability. This bag is the most durable ultralight model in our lineup.
The Ultralight Black Hole is appropriately named, weighing in at 8-ounces (0.5 pounds) per our measurements, making it one of the lightest duffel bags in our lineup and on the entire market. While a couple of other ultralight models are a couple of ounces lighter, they sacrifice many of the impressive features found on this bag.
The tradeoff with such a lightweight product is typically that its durability and overall performance suffers compared to heavier-duty products, and the UL Black Hole is no exception. While this is an amazingly lightweight duffel bag, it simply doesn't have the carrying capacity, durability, and creature comforts, such as padded carrying straps that are found on many other models. However, for its intended use, it provides plenty of utility and is ultralight and easily packable.
The 70-denier ripstop nylon body and 200-denier lined bottom panel are surprisingly weather-resistant for such a light and slim product. Both materials are coated, and the bottom panel includes a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish for extra protection.
While the UL Black Hole's design and construction will keep its contents dry in a light rain during your daily errands or trip to the gym, the bag is not fully waterproof, and we wouldn't use it during a rugged expedition in wet or wintry conditions. The seams are not taped, which could become a vulnerable spot in heavy rain or underwater submersion. And similar to most models in our lineup, water can enter the bag through the main zipper, although the top panel of the bag does provide a subtle lip that covers the zipper and provides some protection from the elements. We would expect this bag to be plenty weather-resistant for regular daily use and short outings. Still, its thin, lightweight material is more susceptible to tears or abrasions than others, potentially providing a place for water to penetrate.
While this is one of the smallest, lightest, and simplest duffel bags in our lineup, it is also one of the most inexpensive. It is definitely can't compete with some of the features and durability of other heavier-duty bags, but it certainly fills a niche of its own and does so well. Users looking for a lightweight bag that is easy to load and carry and is durable enough for regular daily use will find this to be a great value.
The Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole duffel bag packs a lightweight punch with a 30-liter volume that stuffs down into its own pocket and only tips the scales at half a pound. Although it's not as big and burly as other models, it fills its niche nicely and is an excellent option for an everyday gym bag or a secondary bag to pack along for longer trips. With its classic design and solid construction, it earns our Top Pick Award for Best Ultralight/Packable duffel bag.
— Nick Bruckbauer