Tested: The North Face Rolling Thunder 36

By Justin Walker 16 December 2019
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Head off for a week or so of adventure that entails more than one activity, with a few airport transfers thrown in, and you’ve got a slight dilemma on your hands in regards to how to carry all your gear.

Think of seven days mountain biking, trekking and camping – and equipment needed – and suddenly any ideas of travelling light go out the window, not to mention having to lug it all through airport transfer areas.

As a long-term user of duffel bags, I have shouldered the burden of the occasionally too-ambitious heavy load when in transit, so it was with great anticipation that I got my hands on The North Face’s Rolling Thunder 36. This big bopper is a wheeled duffel that combines all the robust build quality TNF’s duffel bags are renowned for, along with a hard nylon bottom, and the welcome (for this, ahem, ageing adventurer) ‘assist’ of a wheeled base.

The North Face Rolling Thunder 36 isn’t shy in the size department but for anyone heading off on a multi-activity trip where they need to lug all their equipment, it’s perfect.

The North Face has tweaked the design from the previous model, with the idea of improving the way it carries luggage, and for when in transit. The larger wheels are one of these updates, as are the angled haul straps on each side of the bag’s top. The previous model had a pull-out centre handle and I was a bit nonplussed as to why TNF would change this until I thought of just how much load-weight goes through those narrow metal tubes of the pull handle. The two angled straps are thick, robust material stitched and bar-tacked to the main bag shell. They work very well.

The two straps at the top of the Rolling Thunder 36 are angled to allow for ease of use when negotiating crowded airport terminals.

The Rolling Thunder’s heavy-duty nylon back panel provides excellent rigidity and load capacity for its weight (the whole bag weighs 4.6kg – not bad for 155 litres capacity and robust construction – but that still takes a toll on your luggage weight limit). Additional features include two external pockets as well as one smaller one on the top. There’s another external zipped compartment that is perfect for stowing your dirty gear. Add in a ‘Sherpa’ strap that enables attachment of a separate backpack, coated daisy chains that provide excellent lash points, and you can secure plenty of additional gear if that 155 litres of internal space ain’t enough. Measuring 450mm x 910mm x 400mm the Rolling Thunder still fits on the regular luggage conveyor belt, too.

A recent Oregon adventure road trip, where mountain biking, hiking and some paddling were on the agenda, proved the benefit of a big bag that is easy to move between airport check-in points and also to and from your vehicle and accommodation. Even with my bike helmet, hydration pack, bike shoes, hiking shoes and general gear, the Rolling Thunder 36 was still not full – a welcome surprise and heartening for any future adventures where I would otherwise be concerned about not having enough space. Besides the appeal of all that space, the Rolling Thunder’s capacity and ease of use ups its versatility; our next family camping trip will see it do duty as not only my luggage-lugger, but for my two kids as well. Now that’s going to be interesting…

RRP: $550 www.thenorthface.com.au