5 Hard-Wearing Duffels, Purpose-Built for Adventure
Features have gotten out of hand. No matter what the product is — be it as simple as a knife or as complex as a camera — we’ve come to expect that it’s jammed with as many bells and whistles (sometimes literally) as possible. Outdoor products are among the most egregious culprits here, fooling would-be adventurers into thinking that they simply cannot embark on a trip without bringing the multifunctional-jacket-pant-parachute-vest complete with eighteen camp-stove-dongle-ready removable pocket pouches (and it packs into its own hood!). It’s maddening.
Thankfully, the duffel has remained immune to the feature-packing epidemic. The design hasn’t deviated too far from the canvas sacks travelers used to throw over their shoulders before heading off to lands unknown. Improvements like weatherproof zippers and padded backpack straps are utilitary, not gimmicky. Materials technology has made duffels all but bomb-proof, which is ideal for poor-weather adventures, but canvas has not been forgotten. Oftentimes the only “feature” is a simple zippered interior pocket. And that’s the way it should be. You already have enough stuff to bring with you; you shouldn’t have to worry about the bag that carries it all.
These duffels run the gamut of sizes and materials, but one thing is uniform in every case: resiliency is favored over contrivance. These are bags capable of withstanding countless well-planned weekends to a favorite hideaway, as well as expeditions to corners of the map that still contain question marks.
Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole
Patagonia hit the nail on the head with the name of its line of heavy-duty carry-alls: Black Hole. That’s what a duffel should be — a bottomless pit into which you can toss anything and everything you might need for a day at the crag or an entire week in the opposite hemisphere. The brand recently released a pared-down version of the popular bag — goodbye padded backpack straps and D-shaped zip opening. It’s lighter, but no less durable than its predecessor. The Lightweight Black Hole is made from 7.1-ounce 210-denier nylon ripstop with a TPU-film laminate and a DWR coating. Best of all? It weighs just 510 grams.
Available Volumes: 30L, 45L
Weight: 510g (45L)
Mountain Hardwear OutDry Duffel
There’s nothing flashy about the OutDry Duffel. Without shiny plastic-like fabric and flashy “outdoorsy” colors you probably wouldn’t expect much of it till you saw the nut in the brand logo. This bag is capable of taking a beating. Mountain Hardwear’s OutDry tech entails a custom-shaped waterproof membrane laminated to the bag’s inner, which seals fabrics and seams all at once. Just to be sure it worked, the brand sealed the bag away in a rain room for 24 hours, so although the fabric may not feel waterproof, rest assured that your stuff will remain dry once inside. The simplistic look won’t draw attention to would-be bag thieves, either.
Available Volumes: 50L, 75L, 95L
Weight: 737g (75L)
Here’s a duffel for those heading for inclement climates and expecting the worst. Ortlieb’s take on the duffel is an expedition bag made from tear-resistant, PVC-coated, polyester fabric that’s reinforced at the base. The interior contains two pockets for essentials, while the exterior features a mesh pocket, daisy chains for rigging and an impregnable TIZIP zipper (also frequently used on diving suits as well as Yeti’s soft sided coolers). You know water, or anything else for that matter, can’t get in when the excess air can’t get out.
Available Volumes: 40L, 60L, 85L, 110L
Weight: 1,360g (85L)
Fjällräven Duffel No.6
Fjällräven’s Duffel No.6 looks a lot like the standard-issue bag you might find hanging on the wall at a military surplus store. It’s not. The Swedish outdoor brand started with its proprietary G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco fabric, a canvas-like blend of recycled polyester and organic cotton that’s incredibly tough, windproof and water-resistant (especially after treatment with Greenland Wax). Then the bottom was reinforced with padded waterproof, PU-coated, polyamide fabric, and double handles were added at the ends along with stowaway backpack straps on top. There’s also a nice padded top panel, to cushion your back from the bag’s contents when you’re carrying it backpack-style.
Available Volumes: 70L, 110L
Weight: 1,500g (70L)
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Duffel
To say that Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Dyneema Duffel is massive and indestructible borders on understatement. The narrow profile was designed specifically for harmonious integration with the Paris Expedition Sled, commonly used during longer trips to the world’s unreachable peaks. The primary material is right in the name. Dyneema, when taken at its strength-to-weight ratio, is the strongest fiber in the world — stronger than steel and Kevlar. It’s also waterproof and UV resistant. You could say the Dyneema Duffel is ultra-everything: ultralight, ultra large, ultra durable, ultra minimal.