The North Face Rolling Thunder 30" Review
Cons: Not much in the way of interior organization
Manufacturer: The North Face
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Rolling Thunder is our favorite suitcase for adventures, rugged enough to cart around heavy gear without ripping at the seams.
Storage & Organization
There's a lot of room in this 80-liter duffel, and you can use almost all of it. The main compartment is a cavern. It does have two structural supports running along the back, and if you're using packing cubes, they limit your capacity a bit. But if your style is to stuff socks in every corner, you'll be able to take full advantage of every inch.
There are two thin mesh pockets on the inside of the main flap. They're big enough to organize your toiletries or to serve as your sock drawer. There are also two webbing straps to hold and compress everything you're packing inside. They don't offer much in the way of organization or compression but can hold a stuff sack or packing cube in place for a barebones approach.
There is no dedicated place for a laptop or electronics in the Rolling Thunder, and we wouldn't place them in the mesh flap inside because it doesn't provide any padding. So you're just left with the option of packing a fragile computer in a nest of clothes. Not great, but doable if need be. An external pocket on the same main flap gives you quite a bit of room to stuff things, but it encroaches on the main packing space. For this reason, The North Face's recommendation that you use it to move items you've already packed from the clean to the dirt section of the pack is a good one.
The two pockets up top work better. There is a large one that's big enough for shoes or layers if you're moving between climates. A smaller one above that is great for a phone, charger, wallet, and tickets, so you can have everything ready every time you park your bag.
Ease of Transport
The broad base and wide wheels combine to make the Rolling Thunder a stable roller bag, one of the steadiest two-wheeled rollers we tested. Sturdy platforms on the bottom let you securely park it as well. We also appreciate the sturdy retractable handle. It's activated by bright red buttons on either side. Though we find it harder to compress those side buttons than we do the options that have one in the center of the handle, it works fine. The 16-inch handle seems a little long, making the roller unwieldy in really crowded conditions, but the leverage helps if you're heading up or down steep hills.
Four-wheeled bags with swiveling wheels are generally easier to maneuver than two. They can turn on a dime. The fixed wheels on the Thunder require more thoughtful, planned turns, so it doesn't earn top marks for maneuverability and ease of transport. Still, this is one of our favorite two-wheeled options.
Thanks to its generous handle placement, this bag is also pretty easy to load in and out of cars, trains, planes, and buses. We like larger luggage to have at least three handles meant for grabbing and dragging — one on the top, one on the bottom, and one on the left or right side. This bag has all three, meaning that it's easy to pick it up to load it in a car or pull it off the conveyor belt no matter the angle.
The plastic molded body and thick nylon fabric showed no signs of wear during our testing period. We also appreciate that the fabric has a durable water repellent finish. The bag isn't fully waterproof, but it will fend off light showers to keep your clothes dry. Flaps over the zippers help since those are the weak points where water can still get through.
Speaking of the zippers, they're large with sturdy toggles and didn't give us any trouble. You do need to slow down when you pull them through the corners, but they don't catch. The undercarriage is sturdy and took a few hard-hitting curbs in stride with no issue. The broad, large wheels seem durable and are easily replaceable with a single hex key.
The small upper pockets are lined with relatively thin fabric, but they should hold up well, providing you don't toss in too many sharp objects. The mesh pockets inside the main panel are the weakest point. As long as you're careful with your brushes, combs, and razors, though, they should stand up to some abuse.
Weighing in at 10.2 pounds, you can pack the Rolling Thunder with about 40 more and still check this bag on most airplanes. The problem that you may run into is that the luggage is roomy enough that it's easy to overdo it on the weight. This certainly isn't the lightest suitcase we tested, but we think the durability and strength make it worth it.
This suitcase nicely balances a sleek-yet-sporty look with excellent functionality. It's outdoor chic. It's not your typical business casual look, but what is that these days?
One of our favorite features of this bag is that the upper pockets are big and well-placed enough to keep you feeling organized. While organization is a different element than style, it goes a long way to helping you feel stylish and put together, no matter what kind of adventure you're on.
This suitcase is an investment, but we think it's worthy sue to its durable construction, sturdy components, and easy to use features. The durable water repellent (DWR) finish is non-PFC, so it has no perfluorocarbons, which are harmful to our health and the environment.
This sturdy rolling duffel bag is one of our favorites. Unnecessary frills are trimmed away to leave you only what you need, a suitcase to help you get your things from one place to the next with just enough organizational support. The North Face Rolling Thunder will hold your things without hiding them from you like packs with too many pockets tend to do.
— Clark Tate
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