The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag Review & Field Test

There has always been something alluring about seeing professionals and celebrities use a product. Perhaps we channel their persona when using the same product, emboldening our own stature to take on the challenge at hand. That challenge may entail using Gordon Ramsay’s knife, wearing Beyonce’s perfume (not personally), or in this case packing for a trip with the same North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag climbers Jimmy Chin and Conrad Anker use when tackling Himalayan peaks.

The sight of these bags strapped to pack animals trekking in the presence of towering 20,000 foot mountains makes me feel as if packing for a weekend at the Great American Beer Festival is somehow adventurous. Using these bags will make every trip feel like an awesome expedition.


  • Four compression straps
  • Main compartment w/mesh pocket on the D-zip flap
  • ID pocket on top
  • Locking zippers
  • Alpine-cut shoulder straps
  • Twin haul handles on ends
  • Rugged construction with extra bartacks and double stitching
  • Ballistics nylon base and throughout


Durability (9/10) – The composition of this duffel makes it resistant to rips or tears, while keeping the weight relatively low.  We put this bag through the ringer over the years, including some brutal “field testing”, which featured running it over with an SUV.  Not only did it survive, but it looks nearly as good as it did when it was first purchased.  That being said, it’s probably best to not throw exposed crampons or extremely sharp objects in there without covering the points.

Size (10/10) – The medium size is excellent for stashing most of my camping, hiking, biking, or overnight gear and then tossing it into a car.  The small size was perfect for traveling on planes and using it as a carry-on item.  It fit into overhead compartments without any problems and the shoulder straps were a welcomed relief when walking through the terminals.  I chose to take the small on an extended international trip due to its larger capacity versus other backpacks.  Sizes range from XS to XXL.

Comfort (8/10) – Between the adjustable shoulder straps, velcro handle straps, and ballistic nylon handles on either end, there are plenty of ways to carry and transport the bag.

Details (9/10) – Versus a typical military style canvas duffel, the TNF Base Camp duffel has a number of features that sets it apart: a daisy chain, a zippered pouch on the flap, shoulder straps, and velcro on those straps to tie down the excess.  However, an additional compartment or two would be nice.

Click photos to view gallery


Water resistance (5/10) – While the fabric is water-resistant, during our 15 minute shower test, there was notable leakage around the seams.  This bag can handle light rain showers or any snow, but we definitely recommend throwing a tarp over it or having your contents in plastic bags if you plan on encountering extremely wet conditions.

Hip Straps (0/10) – Well, there aren’t any…


  • Price: $100 – $170 (depending on size)
  • Weight: 3 pounds 8 ounces (medium)
  • Volume: 72 liters (medium)

Where to Buy

  • REI – You’ll typically find the best deals here (especially with their seasonal promotions) and the return policy is still the best in the business.

    This design has gone through very minor changes over the years, but essentially remains the same after many years.  Why mess with success?  Having purchased a medium sized Base Camp Duffel a couple of years ago, it has been my travel bag of choice, whether for mountaineering or just week-long trips visiting friends and family.  Have you had any experience with the  TNF Base Camp duffel?  Share in the comments below!