REI Co-op Big Haul Review
Cons: Not as durable as others, compression strap buckles get in the way
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Big Haul 90L scores well across the board with its lightweight construction, comfortable and versatile carrying capabilities, and well-designed extra features. It is a capable and impressive bag that comes at a reasonable price, but lacks a little in durability compared to other models, and doesn't have any standout features to propel it into our top rankings. Most general travelers will still be quite pleased with the Big Haul's versatile design and accessible price.
Ease of Transport
With its built-in stowable backpack straps, removable briefcase-style straps, and reinforced grab handles, the Big Haul 90 is versatile in its transport options. The two main carrying straps can be joined with a padded handle that snaps together. Our testers found that the snap design is somewhat tedious, and takes a little more effort than usual to align the buttons and snap them together. Once the handle is snapped together, it is comfortable to carry, although the length of the carrying straps leaves the bag in an awkward position against your legs with this carry method.
For carrying the bag by your side, our testers prefer to use one of the heavy-duty grab handles on each side of the pack. These handles are a little more comfortable than the main carry handle, give you more leverage over the bag, and leave the bag in a more comfortable spot against your body.
When hauling the bag over long distances, the more comfortable and efficient carrying method is to use the built-in backpack straps. The top of these straps are permanently affixed to the bag, but are stowed in a padded compartment on top of the pack while not in use. To engage these straps, simply remove them from the padded compartment and attach the bottoms to the reinforced connection points on the bag. To re-stow the straps, simply remove the bottom connection points and replace them within the padded compartment. These backpack straps are well-padded, ergonomically shaped, and adjustable in length.
The only carrying method missing with the Big Haul 90 is a comfortable way to sling the bag over one shoulder. The main carrying handles are too short to do this, and the backpack straps aren't ideal for this. While you can adjust the strap lengths and the bottom connection points, the location of the fixed top connection points and the fixed padding on the straps make slinging the bag over one shoulder imbalanced and uncomfortable.
Storage and Ease of Packing
The Big Haul 90 is relatively easy to pack with its large main storage compartment accessed by a D-shaped zipper. There are two zippered mesh pockets inside the top lid of the pack, as well as one external zippered pocket that also provides access to an ID window to show your contact information.
There are a couple of minor drawbacks to the design of the Big Haul that make packing and accessing the storage compartment a little less convenient. The two compression straps on the front of the pack are buckled into the top lid of the bag and must be unbuckled every time you wish to open the zipper completely. Similarly, the main carrying handles and the backpack straps also provide minor obstructions to opening the pack and take a little extra effort to adjust or move out of the way.
The Big Haul 90 is a well-constructed pack, with high-quality materials and hardware, reinforced seams, and well-placed material reinforcements. The main body of the pack is constructed from 400-denier nylon, which is much thinner and less durable than most other bags in our lineup. However, the bottom and sides of the bag are lined with a much heavier-duty 1680-denier coated nylon to provide extra reinforcement in high wear areas. While this bag may not be our top choice for a rugged climbing expedition or jungle safari, it is perfectly suitable to handle the rigors of most general travel.
The 90-liter version of the REI Big Haul that we tested weighs in at 3.0 pounds per our measurements, making it his makes it one of the lightest bags in our lineup and is impressively light for both its size and its high-quality materials and construction. Other bags that outshine the Big Haul in durability have much heavier materials and typically weigh a pound more in the same size.
Like most bags in our lineup, the Big Haul is weather-resistant but not waterproof. The main body's 400-denier nylon material does an excellent job of standing up to the elements, but the seams and the zippers leave vulnerabilities where water can eventually penetrate. The heavier duty bottom and side panels are coated with a water-resistant finish, making the bag equipped to handle quick splashes, puddles, and light rains, but leaving it vulnerable to more torrential rain and prolonged submersion.
The Big Haul 90 provides excellent value with its reliable all-around performance and reasonable price tag. It is not the most inexpensive bag in our lineup, but it is certainly more affordable than some other bags in similar sizes and with similar features. Its versatile and comfortable carrying options, large capacity, and lightweight construction make it a great value.
The REI Big Haul 90L duffel bag provides high-quality construction, versatile carrying capabilities, and an efficient 90-liter volume in one of the lightest packs in our lineup. An excellent choice for general travel, the Big Haul is easy to lug around and durable enough for all but the most rugged uses, and comes at an accessible price.
— Nick Bruckbauer