Gear Review: Base Camp Duffel by The North Face

When traveling, vacationing or just going on a short trip somewhere, one of the first considerations that needs to be made after the plane tickets have been bought is what luggage to bring. In an age where people duke it out for premium overhead bin space and checked bags can set you back as much as the actual  ticket, deciding what to bring and what to bring it in can be challenging. One 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.

The Pros

Weight and Size The large 90 liter Base Camp duffel is surprisingly light. There is no extra metal or plastic so the empty bag is extremely light which means when it is full, it is also comparatively light. Depending on how full you pack the duffel and if your arms get tired, the detachable, contoured shoulder straps make transporting the bag over longer distances easy and hands-free. The bag also has a deceptively large amount of space. I packed everything I needed into the 90 liter bag for a month long trip to Europe with room to spare and for short trips, the four external compression straps can collapse the large bag into carry-on size.

Weatherproof Outer Shell The North Face calls it a bomber of a bag and they are pretty much right. Constructed from ballistic nylon, the bag is waterproof, snow proof, beer proof and durable enough to be checked under the plane, thrashed around and come out on the other side without any tears or rips.  The zippers are also protected with a flap, so the only way your clothes or gear are going to get wet is if you chuck the thing into a lake and watch it sink.

Multiple Attachment Points Wit handles on the ends and the middle and daisy chains running the length of both sides, there are plenty of options for strapping, lashing and tying additional gear onto the bag or securing the duffel itself to the roof of a car or the back of a pack animal. The locking zippers also protect items in the main compartment from unscrupulous hands.

The Cons

One Compartment For those who like to keep all of their belongings organized and in separate compartments, this bag might not work. There is one large compartment and a separate medium sized internal mesh compartment with zipper, so you only have two options. Personally, this was not a problem. Also, those looking for a little extra padding for delicate and fragile items may be disappointed. I was able to successfully transport two bottles of wine back from Europe bundled in my clothing without incident, but that porcelain statute might not make it when checked under the plane.

No Waist Belt Those who want to use the Base Camp Duffel as a backpack might wind up with sore shoulders. The shoulder straps are great for runs between the airport or short treks around town when the bag is completely packed full, but I wouldn’t take it on the Inca Trail. Lets face it though, this is a duffel bag and not a backpack.


This is a great and versatile item and it comes in a variety of sizes (from XS 25 liter to XL 155 liter) and a rainbow of colors all constructed from the same materials. The bags even come with a nifty slot to stick a business card or your mailing address in case the airline looses it. For the waterproof exterior alone, one of these bags is certainly worth adding to your outdoor, expedition or travel equipment collection.

Product Specification (Large)

Avg Weight: 4 lbs (1820 g)
Dimensions: 28″ x 16″ x 16″ (71 cm x 41 cm x 41 cm);
Fabric: Phthalate-free TPE fabric laminate, 840D Jr. ballistics nylon
Volume: 5495 in³ (90 liters)
Source: Imported


  1. My comment is a bit late, but check your sources on waterproof.
    These bags- I have 5 of them, but they are NOT waterproof.
    I once got rained on, and all of the contents were soaked.

    Knowing that, I would have covered them with a tarp in the same situation. Very duarable, and they hold a ton of stuff.

  2. I have this very bag and have used it on extended (year plus) camping /overlanding trips. The large size perfect when you need to carry a tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag as wall as the usual other bits and bobs.

    As for the No Waist Belt issue, I found a solution. I got the (Boblbee COMFORT – VELCRO WAIST BELT S-M MEGALOPOLIS) With camping gear it is useful to have them for the extra weight. It can easily be attached to the little loops that run down the side of the bag. It’s also not bulky and can roll up to be out of the way when not needed. This was a big factor for me as part of the reason I use the North Face duffel is the lightweight no frills approach.

    Very late comment but it may help someone.

  3. I loved this bag , have the grey version and am planning to buy a red one… it is a good product

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