Review: The North Face Base Camp Duffel Large

In this bag I have packed… three thick ski coats, two ski pants, two ski helmets, two pairs of ski goggles, twelve pairs of ski socks, all my base layers and thermals, a couple of micro fleeces, a handful of t-shirts, a hoodie, and a pair of skate shoes. And there is still room for more. That’s all my ski gear, plus LincsGeek’s main kit. And it’s not even packed well. Not bad.

Sadly I’m not going on a summer ski trip to Chile or anywhere else (I quite fancy a summer ski trip, though); I just wanted to see how much stuff I could get in this Base Camp Duffel that The North Face sent me to review. It is simply enormous – it’s the large version, which measures 71 cm x 41 x 41cm and takes 90 litres of gear.

Designed as an expedition pack to take everything wherever you need it to be for your next adventure, The North Face has made this bag with “indestructible fabric” and “bombproof construction”. Sounds ominous to me! The material is a heavy duty TPE laminated fabric, which has been made with extra bartacks and double stitching to make it super rugged – great for planes, ships, trains, donkeys…

Again, sadly, I’m not planning a super tough expedition any time soon (if anyone would like to donate a place on a trek to Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp or the Arctic I’d be up for that challenge!) but I have been using this bag for trips that are much less strenuous just to see how I get on with it. It is plenty big enough for LincsGeek and I to share for a long weekend with space to spare, and was also very easy to bung in and out of the car boot and carry into the hotel. This is partly down to the plethora of handles and straps all over the bag meaning you can pick it up from pretty much any angle and however the bag is sitting on the floor.

The bag itself has one main large compartment which is closed using large rugged zips. On the underside of the flap over the main compartment there is a mesh pocket which is perfect for paperwork and other small bits and bobs that you need to find easily or that would roll around the main pocket getting hidden. Apart from that you have handles and straps all over. The two longest straps work as rucksack straps which adjust top and bottom so you can carry it on your back. There are also a pair of ordinary handles that are long enough to sling the bag over your shoulder for shorter hauling. The two handles at the bag ends are perfect for picking the bag up or dragging it along smooth surfaces. There are also some compression straps which tighten to keep everything in place and protect your belongings when the bag is being thrown about. If that’s not enough then there are loops aplenty along each length of the bag to attach other bags/gear on the outside – just in case!

Granted, when the full 90 litres are in use, this bag is heavy. It weighs 1.8kg when empty which is much lighter than my suitcase and I’m tempted to use this instead of that next time I go flying. I definitely shouldn’t have to worry about it getting damaged by the baggage handlers with that everything-proof construction! I wouldn’t want to be using this to backpack around Europe, of course; it is a holdall not a backpack. But those rucksack straps mean I reckon I could carry it from the car to the airport, from the airport to the bus, from the bus to the hotel without difficulty.

I should also mention that I love the look of this bag. It quite iconic; big and bold and incredibly useful. The North Face still use the original design from 1978 – it is something of a heritage piece now, and still looks as great now as it did then. This is the red and black version but there are loads of other colour choices so you can easily spot yours on the airport carousel. These photos show it with all the above mentioned stuff in it – you can see when it’s on my back there is still plenty of space.

The only problem I can see with this bag? Now I’ve used this one I need the whole set – all the sizes from Canister up to XL. Ok maybe I don’t need the extra large one – 155 litres of stuff is probably only required if you’re off to the North Pole on a true expedition for a few months (let me know!!)!! But I certainly say I have lots of use for the 42 litre medium version and am very tempted by the green and black one!

The North Face Base Camp Duffel Large retails at £110.

Disclaimer: I was sent this bag to review. I have not been told what to say and have been no less honest as a result of receiving the product for free.
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