The North Face Duffel

By Justin Walker 1 April 2014
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This sturdy bag will hold all your gear for any multi-sport adventure.

Sometimes, basic is better – and the North Face Duffel’s inherent simplicity of design exemplifies this. I have owned this large (90L) duffel bag for nearly three years and used it as my go-to gear-lugger on nearly all my expeditions for Australian Geographic Adventure. The capacity is just right for adventures ranging from four days to three weeks.

I have packed in gear for strictly trek-only adventures, but also managed to jam in MTB, climbing and hiking gear for one NZ foray. This included ice-climbing and bike helmets, a 65L backpack, bike shoes, sleeping-bag, hiking boots, climbing boots, crampons and all the essential clothing. It was a tight squeeze, but the duffel swallowed it all, thanks to its barrel-like shape and some judicious packing.

The bag is tough: the outer laminated nylon material is thick and strong and the double stitching and extra bar tacks ensure it won’t burst when over-loaded. Helping this are the compression straps, allowing you to easily cinch a full load down to a more manageable size. Conveniently, it has shoulder straps as well, so you don’t have to drag it around the ground unnecessarily. Even though you wouldn’t want to carry the duffel this way for a full day, for shorter lengths of time the straps have enough padding to be relatively comfortable.

The handles at each end are also handy for when you need to lift it in and out of vehicles. The zips are lockable, there’s an ID pocket for your business card or details, and the mesh pocket inside the lid can be used to stow items such as keys, mobile phones, wallets, etc. The only slight negative for me is, when packing, it would be great to have a wider opening.

The duffel has copped rough treatment, such as being loaded in the back of 4WD utes or on top of roof racks, and has come through unscathed, other than being dusty on the outside (the gear inside has always stayed clean). There isn’t much that can malfunction on the duffel and that is its appeal. The bag comes in several sizes, from an XS (25 litres) to a monster XL, which has a capacity of 155 litres.

There are stories of North Face duffels still in use after more than 20 years, so mine is really only getting started, but it has impressed me to this point.

RRP $449