The North Face Base Camp Duffel's waterproof fabric may be made for adventure travel, but a number of owners use it for airline travel too. Most reviewers say this spacious duffel is almost indestructible, although pointy objects are its bane. The padded, contoured backpack strips are a huge hit, but the "lifetime" guarantee -- which appears to be hedged by restrictions -- is not.
Tricked out -- for a duffel. Like most duffel bags, The North Face Base Camp Duffel is fairly simple, relying on compression straps and an internal mesh organizer to keep your belongings straight. A large, D-shaped main opening is easy to get into. Contoured, padded backpack straps give you the option of carrying this loaded duffel on your back -- good thing, since it doesn't have wheels. It also has regular duffel-style handles, twin haul handles on the ends and dual daisy chains you can use as attachment points or tie-downs. "The big, chunky zippers have generous pulls and glide easily," writes one owner at REI.com.
Built for adventure travel. The North Face Base Camp Duffel's 1000D polyester has a PVC-free thermoplastic elastomer coating; the fabric is waterproof, but the zipper is not. The editors of Backpacker magazine say this fabric "has proven virtually indestructible over a collective decade of testing"; most owners agree that this duffel is surprisingly durable, whether you've lashed it to a roof rack, to the back of a mule or checked it through with the airline. That said, the material is rigid enough that it can crease, causing potential wear points. We also found a noteworthy complaint from an Amazon.com user who found a host of conditions that limit The North Face's "lifetime" guarantee.
Rock the outdoorsy look. The North Face Base Camp Duffel comes in four sizes: small (Est. $120), medium (Est. $135), large (Est. $145) and XL (Est. $170). It's available in up to a dozen colors, depending on which size you choose. The large duffel offers 5,495 cubic inches of storage space, measures 28 by 16 by 16 inches and weighs just 4 pounds. Owners report that the backpack straps are a comfortable way of hauling this duffel around if it's too heavy to carry by the regular handles. The laminated fabric lends a distinctive, outdoorsy look.
1. Backpacker Magazine
The editors of Backpacker magazine put a variety of luggage through thousands of miles of testing, then select their favorites. They dub The North Face Base Camp Duffel, which won the 2009 Editor's Choice Gold Award, "light and tough."
Review: Gear Review: The North Face Base Camp Duffel, Editors of Backpacker magazine, March 2013
After intensive testing, The North Face Base Camp Duffel edges out eight other models for the top spot. The author writes that this duffel is appropriate for "traveling anywhere you need a big, burly duffel."
Review: The North Face Base Camp Duffel Review, Ian Nicholson, March 22, 2013
At REI.com, just over 25 users review the large version of The North Face Base Camp Duffel, giving it a 4.6-star average score. Most rave about its durability and capacity; we found only a few minor issues with durability, like the tendency of the heavyweight fabric to fold and crease, and a few people wishing it had a waterproof zipper.
Review: The North Face Base Camp Duffel - Large, Contributors to REI.com, As of September 2013
About 10 Amazon.com users give The North Face Base Camp Duffel an average of 4.5 stars. Most say it's simple and durable, although they're just as likely to use it for camping as for airline travel. One noteworthy comment details some problems with The North Face's customer service and "lifetime" warranty, which has some definite conditions.
Review: The North Face Base Camp Duffel, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of September 2013