Gear Review: The North Face Basecamp Duffel Bag
Being that traveling is kinda my thing, bags are an absolute necessity. They have become a piece of my life that I really can’t live without. Since nearly every trip I go on is to a new place that I haven’t been to before, I usually find myself having different wants and needs from the luggage that I am going to bring with me. Over the last few years I have grown to love the process of preparing for a trip. It involves researching the place we’re going, deciding how we’re going to get around, finding the activities we might be interested in doing and then planning out the gear we’re going to want to bring accordingly. Once we get all that info then I begin investigating the bags best suited for the trip, comparing them with their competition and then finally trying them out on an expedition.
During the winter of 2017, Laura and I planned a 66 day motorbike trip through Vietnam. I knew we would a need to get ourselves new bags capable of handling the beating this type of trip would inflict on our gear. We knew we would be facing wind, rain, mud, bugs, road grime and the general thrashing that strapping 2 big bags to a motorbike repeatedly can cause. We also intended these bags to be our only luggage for the trip, so we needed everything to fit inside of them, and for the bag to be easily transported. To make it even harder, we didn’t want to check any bags because checking a bag pretty much sucks, so we needed the new bags to meet the carryon requirements for airlines. After doing my research, I had decided a water resistant duffel would be the best option to save weight, maximize the usable space in the bag, and be easily transportable. I narrowed it down to a few options, the 60L Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag, the 60L Gregory Alpaca Duffel Bag and 72L The North Face Basecamp Duffel Bag.
As you can probably guess by now, we decided on The North Face Basecamp Duffel. Laura and I each picked up our own bag. We went with the medium sized bag, which was the largest of 3 other duffel bag options we were considering. Being that the Basecamp Duffel only weighs a little over 3 pounds we were able to carry more gear than we would have been able to with a heavier traditional carry on suitcase. Technically the bag is slightly larger than the allowable US carryon size of 22” x 9” x 14”, but we decided to simply under pack our bag, and tighten down the attached compression straps to make sure it fit in the airplane’s over head bins. The bags did both fit, barely, and the additional space in our bag was super handy for carrying things while we traveled through Vietnam. While having a bigger bag loaded with more stuff did make carrying it around a little bit uncomfortable, we appreciated the extra room, and didn’t end up needing to carry our packs on our shoulders for any considerable amounts of time.
The features on this bag are pretty straight forward and simple. The construction of the Basecamp Duffel is durable, strong and rugged, with double stitching everywhere and Phthalate-Free TPE Fabric Laminate, made with 840D Jr. Ballistics Nylon. It has one huge main compartment, with a small separate compartment on one end. The zipper to the main compartment is sturdy and well reinforced, and it has a D Shape opening to make accessing the inside similar to a typical suitcase. Inside the zippered opening flap is one large mesh pocket. There are 3 ways to carry the bag; The first method is with a detachable traditional shoulder strap, the second method is with the attached hand carry handles, and that last (and best) way to carry the bag is backpack style, with the detachable alpine cut shoulder straps.
Of all 3 of the duffel bags that we looked at, the Basecamp Duffel had the best reviews by a long shot, both from customers and professional gear review sites. The bag has been a North Face staple for decades garnering love and respect from everyone who has used it. The duffel also happens to be the product available at the lowest price, especially if you can find a discount or deal online. Beyond the great price and reviews, the Basecamp also had the best water resistant results of any duffel bag. I read multiple review sites that had tested the water resistance of all the major brand duffels and the basecamp came in #1 on all tests. The only duffel bags that performed better were true waterproof marine grade bags, which are substantially higher in price.
To sum it all up, The Medium North Face Basecamp Duffel is a budget friendly, extremely durable, water resistant travel duffel. It’s priced very affordably in comparison to its peers, and by most accounts will outlast them all. It’s 3 methods of transporting make it a versatile travel bag, that even (barely) meets the carryon luggage size requirements for flying with most US airlines. We personally took this bag through 66 days of traveling on planes, motorbikes and even by foot. It took everything we could throw at it, and didn’t show any signs of failure. The final thing worth mentioning is that the Basecamp Duffel is covered by The North Face lifetime warranty which lets you purchase this product knowing you’ve acquired a lifelong travel companion.