Best Duffel Bag

Posted February 18, 2014 by Joel Schopp in Car Camping
North Face Base Camp Duffel

The North Face Base Camp Duffel is the best duffel bag for adventure and travel.  It is nearly waterproof and as tough as woodpecker lips.

Let’s face it, that roller suitcase you take with you on planes just isn’t meant to cut it in the outdoors.  For real adventure trips bags come in two kinds, backpacks and duffels.  We are here to solve half of that equation.

Why Most Serious Adventurers Own One


We’ve had ours for several years and take it out almost all the time.  It shows no visible signs of wear.  We have never heard a report of one of these ripping.  We frequently hear reports of this bag taking  decades of abuse.  As tough as you are this bag is tougher.

The fabric is PVC vinyl, a rubbery plastic like substance.  The zipper is super sturdy.  The straps are super sturdy.  The stitching is sturdy.  Everything is made with the idea that you will try to break it.  It comes with a lifetime warranty, but don’t expect that you’ll ever get to use that warranty.  Expect to buy one and use it for life.


Being made of PVC vinyl, a completely waterproof fabric, makes this bag resistant to the elements.  The seams aren’t sealed and the zipper isn’t waterproof but the top flap hangs over the zipper, and you can seal the seams yourself if you are so inclined.  We’ve taken this on canoe trips and while it is possible to get water in the zipper most of the time our stuff stayed completely dry.  We’ve left it out in the rain numerous times and only once did the contents get wet inside, and those were flash flood level rains.


Duffel bags are not designed to be carried distances.  That’s why this bag has detachable padded shoulder straps that convert it into a backpack.  We often throw one of those straps over a shoulder even to carry it from the car to the tent site for drive up camping.  It also comes with regular carrying handles that velcro together to make a single carrying handle if that is more your style.  It also has daisy lashing points across each side for attaching items to it or more likely attaching it to moving vehicles and animals.


When you are traveling in nature the last thing you want to do is lose your bag.  Neon yellow and bright red are the most popular colors for a reason.  Those colors don’t occur in nature so it’s easy to spot your bag after it takes a tumble down a steep hill.  For those who like a more low key bag they do have other colors like blue, black, grey, and green.  But get the yellow or red, someday you’ll be thankful.


Some duffel bags have a zipper that runs lengthwise and you can only open up a slit into the bag.  The base camp duffel has a U-shaped zipper so you can unzip the whole top and flip it open like a lid on a can of Spagetti-Os.  This makes it much easier to pack gear.  It also makes it much easier to find gear when you are looking for something specific.  This also makes it much easier to cram larger items into the bag.

Everybody Loves It

Backpacker Magazine gave it the 2009 Editors’ Choice Gold Award

297 customers rated it 4.78 out of 5 stars 

81 Moosejaw customers gave it 4.95 out of 5 stars

30 customers gave it 4.7 out of 5 stars

10 REI Customers gave the small 4.8 out of 5 stars

27 REI Customers gave the medium 4.7 out of 5 stars

31 REI Customers gave the large 4.6 out of 5 stars

12 REI Reviewers gave the x-large 4.7 out of 5 stars

65 ebags customers gave the small 4.6 out of 5 stars

122 ebags customers gave the medium 4.6 out of 5 stars

61 ebags reviewers gave the large 4.6 out of 5 stars

55 ebags reviewers gave the x-large 4.6 out of 5 stars

The World By Road blog has this to sayOne versatile piece of luggage that has proven to be one of my go to bags is The North Face Base Camp Duffel. You might not think a duffel bag would stack up well next to a backpack or a roller bag when traveling but I have been pleasantly surprised.

Sometimes great minds think alike.  Outdoor Gear Lab gave it their editors choice.

About the Author

Joel Schopp

Joel is a a rock climber, canoer, backpacker, camper, father, skiier, programmer, swimmer, cyclist, zipliner, kayaker, and adventurer in no particular order. He is president of the Central Texas Mountaineers, Texas regional coordinator for the Access Fund, and sits on the board of the non-profit Ascend Outdoor Adventures. Joel wants you to have the best gear so you don't think about your gear and instead focus on the wonder that is the outdoors.


    Zack C

    Nice writeup. I’ve been considering getting a duffle since dealing with my 65L pack with its huge rigid waistbelt in a truck with four other guys’ stuff can get obnoxious. Now, which color do you have so I can make sure to not match you? :)


    How does it compare to a patagonia black hole duffel?

      Joel Schopp

      The Patagonia is a very similar design. Also has shoulder straps, U shaped top opening, drag handle on the end. The Patagonia isn’t quite as durable, it is fairly tough, just not as tough. The upside is that it is a bit lighter. We decided the extra durability is better here, the weight difference isn’t that significant, and chose the North Face Base Camp over the Patagonia primariliy on that criteria.

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