REI Co-op Roadtripper 140L Review
Cons: Limited durability, carry options and water resistance
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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Our Analysis and Test Results
On average, duffel bags tend to get more and more durable as the marketplace progresses. For many types of travel and expeditions, this is only a good thing. The flip side, though, is that as duffels get more durable, they also tend to get heavier and more expensive. With tight baggage allowances and many duffel bags being brought along on human-powered adventures, their weight can absolutely matter. Among our test team at OGL, we often want a simple, giant duffel bag that can do the job but is lightweight and affordable. The REI Roadtripper 140 strikes that balance.
This bag could be a touch larger, it could have more high-end features, and it could be more durable, but for relatively simple travel (not involving an airplane or pack animals) and for any trip that involves extensive transport of your gear by human power (think about a Denali expedition; you put your gear in a bag, put that bag in a sled, and then drag it all up North America's highest peak), the Roadtripper is perfect. Make sure to pack it carefully to keep pointy objects from causing abrasion, organize your stuff inside, and count on the REI Roadtripper being more versatile and handy than you could imagine, all for a great price.
Ease of Transport
The REI Roadtripper has no backpack straps, no wheels, and no padding; this is a large and simple duffel bag. Load it up to its full capacity, and you'll essentially be dragging it or carrying it between two people. These things are no problem if you are dragging it in a sled, if you don't need to move it very far, or if you didn't load it up all the way. The scenarios in which the Roadtripper excels are those that don't require any of the "traditional" carry methods.
Virtually every other bag we have assessed has features that allow it to be carried easier than the Roadtripper 140. The good news is that this REI bag is lighter than almost every other model and comes in at half the price of many. If you're going to wrestle with your gear through the airport, at least this Best Buy Award winner isn't going to add much extra mass to that load.
Ease of Packing
The long, straight-shot zipper of the Roadtripper 140 opens pretty wide for an "I-shaped" zipper, but doesn't quite reveal all the nooks and crannies of the pack as the preferred U-shaped zippers do. Again, this ease of packing drawback is a tradeoff for the bag being lightweight and staying within a modest price point. For a wider central opening, you're going to pay the price with extra weight and extra cost. You choose the Roadtripper 140 for its low cost, low weight, and simplicity, and you accept certain potential limitations.
Compared to other bags with I-shaped zippers, the REI Roadtripper has a large opening. Of course, we typically prefer U-shaped openings, but they can add weight and complication. Further, the interior of the grey-colored Roadtripper that we tested is a dark color, and the relatively soft fabric folds easily, obscuring small contents. Make sure to pack and organize carefully!
Simple construction goes a long way towards durability and ultimately value. There are precious few parts of the Roadtripper 140 to fail. Nonetheless, to keep the weight low and packability high (attributes for which we grant this bag one of our Best Buy Awards), REI has kept the fabric and zippers relatively lightweight. This bag, packed carefully, will last through a couple of big airplane trips and countless human-powered adventures. It likely won't hold up to extensive luggage use and the heavy beatings that typical airport travel entails though.
It is its durability that sets the Roadtripper 140 ahead of some other bags but behind most. The simple construction is more robust than other lightweight bags, but the fabric is thinner and more tender than what is found on the most robust competitors.
In the two specific contexts for which we highly recommend the REI Roadtripper 140, weight matters. Whether brought on a human-powered adventure or packed along as an auxiliary piece of luggage, you want your duffel to be lightweight. The Roadtripper, on our calibrated scale, weighs 1.86 pounds. This is a good thing.
Any bag that comes close to or exceeds the Roadtripper in terms of performance is going to be quite a bit heavier. And any bag that is similar or lighter in weight is going to be even less durable. The Roadtripper, especially for the oft-stated ideal applications, strikes an ideal balance of weight and durability. The other giant bags in our review weigh 2-3 times as much as this Best Buy Award winner!
Like durability, weather resistance is usually compromised for light, packable, and simple construction. The main fabric of the REI is coated and waterproof, but the seams and zippers let water right through. With use and time, the waterproof coating of the 610-denier fabric will wear through and further reduce weather resistance. Since the waterproof coating is on the inside of the fabric, it would likely be your packed gear that eventually starts wearing through the said laminate.
To extend the life of the waterproof coating, be sure to pack carefully, padding the edges of your harder or sharper items. This saves your gear from wear and tear and saves both the outside and inside of the Roadtripper fabric from abrasion. When forced to travel on a plane or bus with something like the Roadtripper, we like to carefully line the bag with our closed-cell foam sleeping pad for such protection.
Virtually all of the other bags in our testing lineup are more weather resistant. The heavier-duty vinyl type bags are much more protective than the lighter nylon bags like the Roadtripper.
Not only is the Roadtripper 140 high performing in specific instances, but it's also an excellent value. The price is low, the performance is optimized for certain situations, and the construction is durable enough to last through many memorable adventures, earning it our Best Bang for the Buck Award.
Several Denali guides that have access to many different duffel bag options routinely choose and recommend the REI Roadtripper 140. For regular use, other duffel bags be more durable and easier to move around, but when you need a large, lightweight, somewhat durable, packable bag, this is the one we suggest. Best Buy Award winners may not always score highly in our overall ratings, but for the sorts of adventures the REI Roadtripper excels at, there are different and competing criteria. Mainly, for human-powered adventures, your bag has to be just durable enough, and as light as is possible. The Roadtripper 140 walks this delicate tightrope and does so at a great price.
— Nick Bruckbauer