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Patagonia Black Hole 24L Review

2017 Black Hole 24L Messenger Bag - Black
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $129 List | $90.30 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Simple, durable, easy to use, versatile
Cons:  Not optimized for bike commuting
Bottom line:  An excellent and modern take on the messenger bag.
Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 
Volume (L):  24L
Volume (L - measured):  18
Dimensions (inches):  20 x 12 x 6 in
Manufacturer:   Patagonia

Our Verdict

The Patagonia Black Hole does it all and deserves its high accolades. Our testers grabbed this versatile bag most when heading out the door. The hardy materials are durable yet low in weight, and it's not stiff like other messenger bags. A solid set of features kept our things organized, disappearing our gear like its namesake region of spacetime. As the theory of general relativity predicts, this sufficiently compact mass can, in fact, deform spacetime to form a Black Hole. We were able to carry heavy loads with comfort in our Black Hole, on most of our commutes. It is not optimized for bike travel, but with increasing options like cycling backpacks and panniers, this weighed less in our overall judgment.

New Colors - September 2017
Patagonia now offers the Black Hole in different color options but didn't change the construction or design. Performance remains the same. We link to both the old and new colors in our purchase links on this page. If you're psyched on the old colors, you might be able to snag a deal before they run out. More details below.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Messenger Bags of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Lyra Pierotti

Last Updated:
Tuesday
September 5, 2017

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The Black Hole's New Color Palette


Keeping their style fresh, Patagonia updated the colors available for the Black Hole messenger bag. Although the colors are new, the bag itself isn't. Expect the same materials, design, and performance from any of the colors. The new flavors are displayed below, along with the original black color (still available). Note that if you're interested in the older colors, now is the time to snatch them up. They are likely to sell at discounted rates at online retailers until stock runs out.

2017 Black Hole 24L Messenger Bag - Black
2017 Black Hole 24L Messenger Bag - Green
2017 Black Hole 24L Messenger Bag - Red
 

Hands-On Review


The Patagonia Black Hole is an outstanding messenger bag that will satisfy a broad base of user types.

Performance Comparison


The Black Hole messenger bag.
The Black Hole messenger bag.

Comfort


The Patagonia Black Hole scored above average in most of our testing categories, but Comfort was not its strength. It suffered primarily due to the lack of a cross strap (that iconic messenger bag feature) which made it a little less secure on our bike commute tests. The bag would swing around to the front when we rode up, over, and around obstacles on our rides, but for a simple, short, and mostly linear bike trip, it fares quite well. For a messenger bag designed for the ride, check out the Chrome Mini Metro or the Timbuk2 Classic.


This is not to say, however, that it was an uncomfortable bag, it just depends on what your uses will be. We found this to be an excellent around-town bag, plenty comfortable for short bike rides from the office to the gym, and ideal for toting to the coffee shop downtown when you had to park a mile away on a busy Tuesday afternoon. The Timbuk2 Command was similar in comfort but a bit more geared toward the office or urban user, and business traveler.

The Black Hole messenger bag was comfortable in many scenarios  though it didn't have a cross-body stabilizing strap which would have been ideal for improved biking performance.
The Black Hole messenger bag was comfortable in many scenarios, though it didn't have a cross-body stabilizing strap which would have been ideal for improved biking performance.

The supple fabric of the Black Hole (which seems to get lighter and softer every year while remaining similarly durable) make this bag conform nicely to your body, making it a breeze to navigate through busy city streets, and equally easy to manage through airport security, or hug onto your lap for a long bus ride. The Outdoor Research Rangefinder has a similar feel, but OR put a bit more attention into carrying comfort.

The Black Hole also has a firm foam back panel which keeps the bag comfortable even when overstuffed with books and computers that can poke into your back. The back panel is a nice balance of protection without being cumbersome and making the bag feel like a rectangular suitcase or briefcase on your back. In this way, the Black Hole is superior to the Timbuk2 Command which is much more square but gained comfort points with the security of the cross body strap.

This bag gained comfort points in the ease with which we could convert from over the shoulder to single shoulder carrying styles. We found this to be more comfortable than most bags in this review when carried like a shoulder bag on one side of the body for shorter hauls. Additionally, this bag's geometry is so well thought out that it was often equally comfortable in both carrying methods without having to change the strap length, as is the case with most of the other bags we tested.

Packing & Organization


Patagonia got the organization scheme of the Black Hole just right for most users, from office to school to daily errands, and even as a handy carry-on bag for your next flight. This bag has just enough pockets, but not too many that you lose things or get bogged down in figuring out where to keep all of your small items. The compartments are similarly secure, but not too secure that they become hard to access, as is the case with the Chrome Buran.


We would have appreciated a rear document sleeve for quick trips, such as grabbing our mail or carrying a document into a meeting down the hall, etc. This was a much more rare feature in this review, featured only in the Chrome Buran, Mobile Edge ECO, Timbuk2 Command, and Kenneth Cole Reaction Risky Business.

We appreciated having an internal key chain clip, and it was nicely placed– out of the way and easy to access — on the side of the main internal compartment.

The Black Hole messenger bag disappeared our gear like its namesake region of spacetime.
The Black Hole messenger bag disappeared our gear like its namesake region of spacetime.

The Black Hole was one of the more voluminous bags in this review. In our OGL Volume Test, we measured 18L, not the 24L advertised. However, in our OGL Load Test, the Black Hole lived up to its name: it disappeared our gear like few others, holding nearly everything except the helmet in our official Test Load, and earning its perfect 10 score in this category.

Electronics


The Black Hole has great padding on the back of the bag to protect the electronics inside, and inside, the separate laptop sleeve is secured by a plastic buckle. There are several useful pockets that accommodate cords and keep things neat and organized, and the external zippered pockets, one on the flap and one just under the flap, provide easy access to a phone or additional security (stashed under the flap) for use in crowded areas.


The material of the Black Hole is highly waterproof and very durable, and the outer flap seals well from the elements. This inspired confidence toting our electronics around in the rain.

The Black Hole messenger bag has a simple and secure setup for electronics.
The Black Hole messenger bag has a simple and secure setup for electronics.

This bag was beaten only by the Timbuk2 Command which was designed with the Tech user and business traveler in mind. The Mobile Edge ECO was a close competitor in this category, but we liked the simple and streamlined design of the Black Hole. If you're looking for more of a briefcase hybrid, either of these two might fit the bill.

Ease of Use


The supple, lightweight fabric of this bag makes for high-quality handling: it is easy to open and fold the flap over and out of the way, then set it upright on your desk or the floor for easy access. We loved the external zippered pocket where you can keep a wallet and phone for very easy access (outside the external flap), and appreciated the inclusion of another zippered pocket just under the flap for added security.


The main competition for Ease of Use came from the Osprey Flapjack, a very thoughtfully organized bag which would have stolen the show if not for the hard to open buckle. The Outdoor Research Rangefinder was a similarly supple bag that was easy to use on a daily basis, though less organized, and the Mobile Edge ECO also had a nice feel with excellent pockets that made it very user-friendly. We also enjoyed the simple and very thoughtful design of the time-tested, tried-and-true Timbuk2 Classic.

The Black Hole messenger bag had well thought out pockets that made it easy and pleasant to use.
The Black Hole messenger bag had well thought out pockets that made it easy and pleasant to use.

The design and organization scheme of the Black Hole keep this bag low profile, making it great to travel with, whether on the metro, bus, bike (for shorter distances), airplane, or on foot.

Wear and Tear


The Black Hole scored very high in our OGL Weather Test, with the only fault being the lack of a waterproof zipper on the outer flap (though note that those waterproof zippers can be stickier and harder to open and close, so the smooth, easy access with a regular zipper is nice). The contents got water droplets on them in a rain storm, which is a bummer depending on what you have stashed in that pocket. The good news is you can stash those same items, without making them too much harder to access, just under the flap in the other zippered pocket.


The Chrome bags stole the show in this category, with some of the most durable fabrics, no external pockets to leak water, and great overlapping flaps which seal the contents inside.

The Black Hole messenger bag leaked a bit in the external zippered pocket.
The Black Hole messenger bag leaked a bit in the external zippered pocket.

Volume/Weight Ratio


The Black Hole tied in this category, weighing only 1.77 lbs, and earning an impressive score of 9 out of 10, along with the Osprey Flapjack. Both fell just behind the Outdoor Research Rangefinder. We appreciated bags that combined the important attributes of light weight with high capacity, especially in a bag that's going to hang on one of your shoulders for potentially a long time. The Black Hole was among our favorites for the light yet rugged material and the impressively high functional volume.


The Black Hole messenger bag performing well in the volume measurement.
The Black Hole messenger bag performing well in the volume measurement.

Best Applications


The Patagonia Black Hole is a great all around messenger bag for the active user. It will keep up with you on your jaunts into town, stash easily in a vehicle, ride comfortably on your shoulders and back, and even travel with ease through the airport. This is not, however, your classic messenger bag for your 15-mile daily bike commute. The Black Hole is more of a shoulder bag or casual briefcase, and an excellent one to tote on your many urban and suburban adventures.

The Black Hole messenger bag keeps electronics safe and secure  and still easy to access.
The Black Hole messenger bag keeps electronics safe and secure, and still easy to access.

Value


Patagonia packed a lot of value into a modest price of $129 for the Black Hole 24L messenger bag. We know the company didn't earn the nickname "Patagucci" for no reason — they're not known to be the cheapest manufacturer in the outdoor industry. But the value remains high with their products.

This bag is Bluesign approved, which, according to the Patagonia website, means this product offers the highest level of consumer safety by employing methods and materials in manufacturing that conserve resources and minimize impacts on people and the environment. Patagonia explains that Bluesign technologies, based in Switzerland, "works at each step in the textile supply chain to approve chemicals, processes, materials, and products that are safe for the environment, safe for workers, and safe for the end customers."

This bag is an especially good deal from Patagonia with a middle-of-the-road price in this review. For an exceptional deal, check out the Mobile Edge ECO, which also appeals to the eco-friendly market, and claims a reduced carbon footprint due to the use of natural cotton canvas.

Conclusion


The Black Hole messenger bag was ideal for a rest day on an ice climbing trip to Canmore  Alberta. It was even stylish enough for the Canadians.
The Black Hole messenger bag was ideal for a rest day on an ice climbing trip to Canmore, Alberta. It was even stylish enough for the Canadians.

This bag suited many of our tester's styles quite well. It is not too formal for the casual outdoorsy type and certainly conjures the appropriate image with the logo and word "Patagonia" printed in large bold type on the outside of the flap. Sarcasm aside, we enjoyed yet another quality product from Patagonia, a company that maintains a solid reputation for quality products, good design, and an environmentally friendly manufacturing ethic.
Lyra Pierotti


Where to Buy?

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$90.30  -  30% off! see it
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Patagonia $129.00 see it

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Most recent review: September 5, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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