In overall scoring, the REI Roadtripper 140 is nothing special. It is only in specific, meaningful ways that it edges ahead. This is precisely how we grant our Top Pick awards; when a product tops the charts for a particular, niche use, it earns our Top Pick award. When you need a simple, light bag for part-time or human-powered use, the REI product is what we recommend most highly. For use as regular luggage and in extended rugged travels, it lacks the durability, weather resistance, and carry options that the top performers have. For Denali expeditions and for tucking into the corner of your vehicle or main luggage for auxiliary use, the Roadtripper is our Top Pick.
REI Co-op Roadtripper 140L Review
Cons: Limited durability, carry options and water resistance
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Duffels get more and more durable, on average. For some sorts of travel, this is only a good thing. The flip side, though, is that duffels also get heavier and heavier. With tight baggage allowances and some duffel bags going on human-powered adventures, weight can matter. Among our test team at OGL, we often want a simple, giant duffel bag that does the job but is relatively light. The REI Roadtripper 140 strikes that balance.
It could be lighter, it could be cheaper, it could be larger, it could have more features, and it could be more durable. However, for relatively simple travel (not involving a plane or pack animals) and for any trip that involves extensive transport of your duffel 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. Pack carefully to keep hard objects from causing abrasion, organize your stuff inside, and count on the REI Roadtripper being more versatile and handy than you could imagine.
Ease of Transport
No backpack straps, no wheels, no padding; this is a simple bag. Fill it all the way, and you're essentially 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 don't fill it 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 carries easier than the Roadtripper 140. The good news is that the REI bag is lighter than almost every other model. If you're going to wrestle with your gear through the airport, at least this, Top Pick winner isn't adding much mass to that load.
Ease of Packing
The long, straight-shot zipper of the Roadtripper opens pretty wide for an "i-shaped" zipper but doesn't reveal all the nooks and crannies as the preferred u-shaped zippers do. Again, this ease of packing drawback is a tradeoff for lightweight and reaching a price point. For a wider central opening, you pay with weight and cost. You choose the Roadtripper 140 for its low cost and low weight, and you accept the limitations.
As compared to other bags with i-shaped zippers, the REI Roadtripper has a large opening. Of course, we prefer u-shaped openings, but they add weight and complication. Further, the interior of the Roadtripper is a dark color, and the relatively soft fabric folds easily, obscuring small contents. Pack and organize carefully.
Simple construction goes a long way towards durability. There are precious few parts of the Roadtripper 140 to fail. Nonetheless, to keep the weight and packability low (attributes for which we grant this bag our Top Pick award), 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 won't hold up to extensive luggage use and the heavy beatings that typical travel entails.
It is durability that sets the Roadtripper 140 ahead of some and behind most. The simple construction is more robust than other lightweight bags, but the fabric is more tender than on the most robust duffels.
In the two specific contexts for which we recommend the REI Roadtripper 140, weight matters. Whether brought on a human-powered adventure or carried as auxiliary 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 the REI in performance is quite a bit heavier. Any bag that is similar in weight is going to be even less durable. The REI Transporter, 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 Top Pick winner.
Like durability, weather resistance is 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. The waterproof coating is on the inside of the fabric. It will be your stuff that is wearing holes in said laminate.
Pack carefully, padding the edges of your harder items. This saves your stuff from wear and saves both outside and inside of the Transporter fabric from abrasion. When forced to travel on a plane or bus with something like the Transporter, we like to carefully line the bag with our closed-cell foam sleeping pad for such protection.
Virtually all the other bags in our test are more weather resistant. The vinyl type bags (like The North Face Basecamp and Best Buy) are more protective than the nylon bags like the Top Pick Roadtripper. For maximum weather protection in the wettest of climates and situations, check out the other Top Pick Yeti Panga. The Yeti is burly and fully submersible.
Not only is the Roadtripper 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.
Denali guides that have access to many different duffel bag options choose and recommend the REI Roadtripper 140. For regular use, others will be more durable and easier to move around, but when you need a light, big, somewhat durable, stuffable bag, this is the one we suggest. Top Pick award winners seldom score high on our overall chart. We build our scoring rubric to replicate how most people will use a product most of the time.
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, then as light as is possible. The Roadtripper 140 walks this delicate tightrope. We like it for certain specific and enjoyable types of travel.
— Jediah Porter