AO Review: The North Face Base Camp Duffles – “Tougher than an Anvil”

   12.14.22

AO Review: The North Face Base Camp Duffles – “Tougher than an Anvil”

Founded by husband and wife Douglas and Susie Tompkins in 1966, acquired by Kenneth Klopp two years later, and ultimately taken over by the VF Corporation in 2000, The North Face has specialized in technical mountaineering equipment and apparel including sleeping bags, hiking packs, tents, skiwear, and high-performance outerwear, as well as performance apparel, footwear and equipment for explorers, climbers and endurance runners (among others). With such a breadth of history and products, we are going to be reviewing some of the North Face Base Camp duffles here today.

All of the Duffles for this review were independently purchased by the reviewer. The North Face did not send any review copies and had no say in this written review.

North Face Base Camp

Many months ago I found myself in need of a new gym bag after moving to a new base and finding that the locker rooms were under renovation during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic in early 2021. I wanted a bag that would be big enough to hold a set of workout clothes and a duty full uniform plus boots. Additionally, if the bag could function as a gear hauler while traveling for work and fun that would be a great bonus.

I knew that a duffle style would probably be my best bet so I began scouring the internet and my local shops for anything that caught my attention. I was surprised to see just how many different kinds of duffles there were on the market being offered by companies. After copious amounts of research, I eventually landed on The North Face Base Camp Duffle. 22 months, 36 international flights, and countless gym sessions later, I’m happy to report that this duffle lives up to the hype and is worth every hard-earned penny you pay to get one. 

North Face Base Camp

The North Face Base Camp Duffles – Quality and Comfort 

The BCD (Base Camp Duffle) has become legendary for its durability and that’s in no small result of the materials chosen to construct this tank. 1000D Phthalate-Free TPE Fabric Laminate, 840D Jr. Ballistic Nylon was selected for the majority of the BCD. Not only does this material provide the duffle with some light water resistance but you can feel good in knowing that its mostly comprised of recycled PVC and ballistic nylon. The bottom of the bag has the same nylon but double walled to increase protection from the bag being dragged on less than smooth surfaces. All of this is tied together with extra bar-tacks and double stitching giving the BCD a very robust feel and heft.

North Face Base Camp

Previously my go-to duffle for travel was a huge 80 Liter Edie Baurer and while that bag worked great, after my first international flight I could already see fraying in the reinforced bottom fabric which did not inspire confidence. After a few more trips I could see holes coming in the sides and bottom of said bag. Personally, I’m not someone to baby my gear but I was baffled in figuring out how this bag was disintegrating in front of my very eyes. That’s when I remembered that nothing is harder on bags than a trip through the checked baggage section of your local airport. (I’m sure many people’s experiences/ opinions will differ on this but this is mine.)

I’m happy to report that the BCD has held exceptionally well to 36 plus international flights with only a few minor signs of wear worth mentioning. All of the stitching on this bag is top-notch, I’m seeing no real frays in the fabric with all of the use the grab handles get, I’m pretty impressed. Unlike on my old duffle bag, the bottom got the BCD is double reinforced with a nylon shell to improve overall durability. I count kick this bag all the way to the front of the check-in counter at my airport and see no major war marks.

North Face Base Camp

The exterior of the BCD is packed with thoughtful touches that fit perfectly the mentality of “High-Speed Low Drag”. The BCD has optional included adjustable, alpine-cut shoulder straps that turn this traditional duffle into more of a backpack hybrid. Personally, I’m not a big fan of this feature as most duffle bags to include this one are not very comfortable in “Backpack Mode” so its a feature I rarely use. With that being said, when the bag is packed with stuff, the duffel is of cylinder shape, which sits very well on the back. I opted to take one of the straps and attach it from one side of the bag to the other and create a single shoulder strap. I found this to work best for my needs.

North Face Base Camp

Along the exterior of the bag sections of daisy-chained nylon for attaching additional gear to the bag like carabiners, gloves, and even rope. There are also four small compression straps along the exterior of the bag to tighten the contents together for more comfortable travel. Finally, there are two padded side handles that serve as both duffel-carry and haul handles. 

The North Face Base Camp Duffles – Organization 

North Face Base Camp

North Face Base Camp

North Face Base Camp

To me, duffle bags are really good at one thing, holding lots and lots of gear. Not only does the BCD succeed in this department but North Face has thrown in a few additional organization options along the bag. The main compartment is a D-zip opening with a weather-resistant, zippered flap allowing for easy access to the inside of the pack.

The main compartment has a zippered mesh pocket and an end-cap mesh sleeve pocket for more organization. I found these to be good spots for either document, smaller items or the included backpack straps when not in use. On the exterior of the bag, there is a small water-resistant ID window on top. And that’s about it, This duffle like most is pretty slim on the organization. When you’re not using the BCD you can put it in an included mesh compression sack to keep its overall footprint down. 

North Face Base Camp

Likes 

  • Build Quality is second to none, this is a bag that you will be able to use for years without worrying about it falling apart. 
  • Well designed with lots of extra small quality-of-life features not seen on other duffles across the market 
  • Offered in multiple sizes, to date North Face has six sizes of this bag so you can always find the size that fits your needs. 

Dislikes 

  • Price, this I one of if not the most expensive styles of duffel on the market. 
  • Weight, all that durability comes with a cost, and it’s in pounds. 
  • When in backpack mode you won’t be able to easily eases any of your gear. 

North Face Base Camp

The North Face Base Camp Duffles – Wrap Up 

You really can’t go wrong with any of the duffles in the base camp lineup. Since 1986 there is a reason the BCD has been chosen for the most rigorous outdoor expeditions known to man. Its built quality is second to none and packs in enough extra features to allow for a variety of uses. Regardless if I’m going to the gym or prepping for a mission, the BCD will be able to accommodate whatever I ask of it, within reason of course, and for that, I strongly recommend this duffle to anyone.  

North Face Base Camp

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Patrik Orcutt is currently a writer for AllOutdoor who has chosen not to write a short bio at this time.

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