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Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 55L Review

A duffel-style backpack with an unmatched weight to volume ratio for longer vacations or expeditions
patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review
If you're looking for a big, snazzy, lightweight duffel, that can be carried like a backpack, its hard to go wrong with the Black Hole Duffel.
Credit: Hayley Thomas
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Price:  $169 List
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Hayley Thomas ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 5, 2022
77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 14
  • Comfort - 25% 5.0
  • Features - 25% 8.0
  • Packing and Accessibility - 25% 8.0
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 10.0
  • Durability - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

The Patagonia Black Hole Duffel offers ample space while remaining very lightweight and without compromising durability. The internal organization is minimal, but packing cubes remedy this issue. The duffel can be carried as a backpack, but it isn't the most comfortable when carried in this fashion. The durable materials, like YKK zippers, Duraflex buckles, and ripstop nylon, ensure a long and healthy lifetime. Small details like weather poof zippers and pockets you can access from both inside and outside the pack make all the difference. If you're looking for a duffel that offers the convenience of a backpack carry, the Black Hole Duffel is a solid choice.
REASONS TO BUY
Big and lightweight
A duffel that can be carried as a backpack
Weatherproof
Super durable
REASONS TO AVOID
Uncomfortable unless full
Must pack with intention

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Big and lightweight, a duffel that can be carried as a backpack, weatherproof, super durableTapered for easy loading, comfortable harness system, adventure friendly, very lightVersatile, sleek, camera box, vented wet shoe compartmentDistributes weight nicely, good structure, attachment clips, daisy chain, sturdy handles, comfortable harness system, plentiful organizationGood suspension, lightweight, affordable, gobbles gear
Cons Uncomfortable unless full, must pack with intentionDoes not sit upright, laptop sleeve unpaddedNo waist belt or sternum strap, no water bottle holder, back panel not very breathable, tallNot great for bulky items, cumbersome security loopsSquare design protrudes from back, too big for some airlines checked baggage
Bottom Line A duffel-style backpack with an unmatched weight to volume ratio for longer vacations or expeditionsWith its tapered shape and backpacking pack structure, this is the perfect bag for the outdoor adventurist that doesn't want to spend an arm and legWith its convertible camera cube, ventilated shoe compartment, and padded device sleeve, this pack was made for the outdoor photographer on the goA stylish and slim 40-liter three-way travel backpack with stellar organization and a comfortable harness system, perfect for a weekend getawayThis is a durable and easy to pack travel backpack, but may be bulky for some airlines or uses
Rating Categories Patagonia Black Hol... REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Mammut Seon Cargo 35L Topo Designs Global... Osprey Porter 46
Comfort (25%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Features (25%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Packing and Accessibility (25%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)
10.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Durability (10%)
9.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Specs Patagonia Black Hol... REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Mammut Seon Cargo 35L Topo Designs Global... Osprey Porter 46
Volume of Main Compartment 55L 40L 35L 40L 46L
Measured Weight 2.57 lbs 2.10 lbs 2.10 lbs 3.65 lbs 3.23 lbs
Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better) 21.4 19.05 16.67 10.96 14.24
Detachable Daypack? No No No No No
Dimensions 26.7" x 15.7" x 11.8" 24" x 13" x 10" 24" x 14" x 9" 22.5" x 14" x 7.5" 21" x 14" x 12"
Carry-on Size Compatible? (22" x 14" x 9") Yes, if squished No Yes Yes Must be cinched down
Stuffed Dimensions 27" x 16" x 12.5" 22" x 9" x 14" 24" x 14" x 9" 22.5" x 14" x 7.9" 22" x 14" x 12"
Fabrics 900D recycled polyester, 200D recycled polyester Recycled nylon ripstop and recycled polyester lining (bluesign approved) 600D waterproof polyester, 840D ballistic nylon 1000D recycled nylon, 400D recycled nylon, 210D recycled nylon, 1680D recycled ballistic nylon 420D nylon hex diamond ripstop, 420HD nylon packcloth
Frame Type None Ventilated mesh Foam padding Foam with nylon padded backpanel Stiff foam
Access Type Clamshell Top loading Panel loading U-Zip Panel loading, zips all the way open
Number of Pockets Internal/external zippered side pocket, interior mesh lid, 6 zip, 7 no zip, 2 water bottle 3 small zippered, 1 ventilated, 1 camera comparment, 1 main External: 2 large zippered security, 2 water bottle
Internal: 1 laptop, mesh organization
7 zip, 8 no zip
Laptop Sleeve? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Waist Belt Type None Padded None Removable Padded
Sternum Strap None Yes Yes Yes Yes, whistle
Different Sizes Available? Yes Yes No Yes No
Volume Options 40L, 55L, 70L, 100L 18L, 28L, 40L, 65L 35L 30L, 40L 30L, 46L, 65L

Our Analysis and Test Results

This soft 55-liter pack is 27 x 16 x 12.5 inches when stuffed and weighs less than three pounds. It is great for longer trips and durable enough to last a lifetime. Read on to see how the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel held up to our testing regime.

Performance Comparison


patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review - finding the right travel backpack can serve you well whether you're...
Finding the right travel backpack can serve you well whether you're traveling across the globe or just to your favorite local spots.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Comfort


Patagonia is known for checking all the boxes, but it is difficult to make a truly comfortable duffel-style pack without a proper harness system, especially at 55 liters. The 55-liter Black Hole Duffel is big, soft, and stuffable, which means it can get heavy very quickly. The shoulder straps are somewhat thin but surprisingly comfortable as the foam is dense. The comfort of this bag highly depends on what you're packing and how you pack it. Since it is essentially structureless, packing things like hard shoes by the back panel doesn't feel good. It's best to put heavy items, like boots, down at the bottoms and softer, lighter items close to your back and at the top of the pack. Packing cubes are also very helpful here, and having a fully stuffed backpack helps keep everything in place.

patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review - the comfort of this structureless pack depends heavily on how you...
The comfort of this structureless pack depends heavily on how you pack it.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

At the end of the day, not having a hip belt on a 55-liter backpack is somewhat of an oversight, but the Black Hole is meant to be a duffel that can be carried like a backpack and not the other way around. When considering that, we understand why the design doesn't prioritize backpack-style comfort.

patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review - a hipbelt sure would make the black hole duffel more comfortable.
A hipbelt sure would make the Black Hole Duffel more comfortable.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Features


The Black Hole Duffel offers two different carry modes: a snap-secured set of handles that carry like a duffel and a backpack-style with over-the-shoulder straps that are attached and detached via D-rings and Duraflex buckles. The D-rings are super incognito without the backpack straps attached, and they work very well, despite what our testers expected when first inspecting the design. The buckles at the bottom of the bag don't have a garage to tuck into, so they flop around a little, but they still remain mostly out of the way.

patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review - the black hole duffel has a few too many dangly bits, but overall...
The Black Hole Duffel has a few too many dangly bits, but overall it's very well constructed.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

There are daisy chains on each side, great for clipping water bottles, climbing shoes, or any irregularly shaped items that might make the inside feel too bulky. The two hauler handles on each side of the bag, made of folded nylon webbing, are great for moving the duffel around while it's open or pulling it out of an overhead bin. The main compartment zipper is covered with a storm flap for weather resistance. That, paired with hefty YKK zippers, truly helps keep moisture out, even in heavy rain.

patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review - the storm flap is very generous and effective.
The storm flap is very generous and effective.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

The strap adjusters pull up rather than down to tighten, which is unique to some Patagonia bags. We are unsure of how we feel about it. Some testers prefer the feeling of pulling the straps up to tighten, while others prefer pulling down and back. The one thing we all agreed upon is that pulling them forward means that they flop around in front of you, which can be a little annoying when on the go.

Speaking of annoying, the duffel straps share the same side as the backpack straps and have nowhere to go when you have the Black Hole Duffel in backpack mode. This makes it easy to get your arms stuck in the duffel-carry straps when putting it on as a backpack, and if the straps are clipped together, they tend to dig into your back.

patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review - you might want to leave the clipable duffel handle unclipped when...
You might want to leave the clipable duffel handle unclipped when wearing he Black Hole as a backpack.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Packing and Accessibility


The Black Hole Duffel is modeled after a true duffel bag and is therefore very simple without the need for excessive organizational pockets. It has a small quick-grab zipper pocket that is accessible from both the exterior and interior. This pocket also comes with a minimal key clip.

patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review - a simple, but stunning duffel-style travel pack.
A simple, but stunning duffel-style travel pack.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

The main compartment has tons of room with little organization, as you'd expect from a duffel. Like many travel bags with large main compartments, we suggest using packing cubes for optimal organization. There is also a shallow zippered mesh compartment on the main flap, which is great for anything you'd like to keep separate from the larger bucket-style compartment. The mesh makes finding smaller items easy, although it would be nice to have a few smaller mesh pockets for organization sprinkled throughout this pack.

patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review - the main compartment is vast, and works best with packing cubes.
The main compartment is vast, and works best with packing cubes.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Volume to Weight Ratio


The Black Hole Duffel is available in sizes as small as 40 liters and as big as 100 liters. The 55-liter pack, which we tested, only weighs 2.57 pounds. This is insanely lightweight for its carrying capacity making this bag a top contender in this category.

patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review - the black hole duffel is lightweight and stuffable.
The Black Hole Duffel is lightweight and stuffable.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Durability


The TPU-coated, 900D ripstop polyester is an absolute dream. Duffels like this are meant to be placed on the ground, tossed up into overhead cabinets, and brought along on treacherous expeditions, so durability is paramount. The nylon webbing daisy chain and grab handles are all made of 100% polyester and are Bluesign-approved recycled material. The number 10 durable YKK zippers and Duraflex hardware ensure longevity in all the moving parts, and the bottom of the bag is also slightly more padded for protection.

patagonia black hole duffel 55l travel backpack review - the large ykk zippers, durable fabric, and hefty buckles work...
The large YKK zippers, durable fabric, and hefty buckles work together to make an extremely durable pack.
Credit: Hayley Thomas


Should You Buy the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel?


To answer this question, you'll need to consider what you're looking for in your travel bag. Are you looking for a lightweight duffel-style pack with a high volume capacity and durability to match? If that is so, then this bag is pretty close to perfect. But if you're looking for comfort and optimal organization, then you may want to check out some other options in our review.

What Other Travel Backpacks Should You Consider?


If you want to stay in the Patagonia family but require additional organization and comfort, the Black Hole MLC is the option for you. This pack is perfect for anyone who wants to get the most out of their one carry-on item, but be careful because it can end up being a little too big if you over-stuff it. Another higher volume pack that offers higher quality comfort is the Osprey Fairview 55. It is far heavier than the Black Hole Duffel but comes with useful features like a removable daypack and internal compression straps. The Peak Design Travel Backpack is another favorite, but it is geared mostly toward the traveling photographer. Finally, if you're looking for more of a personal item than a carry-on, the Mammut Seon Cargo 35L is a very versatile pack, although it is not big enough to be your only luggage if you plan to leave for more than a day or two.

Hayley Thomas
 
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