Of the few purchases we made for our BVI charter this year, our favourite has been the The North Face Men’s Base Camp Duffel. We stumbled across it while searching online for some options for a dry bag or two to take with us.
We thought we’d try it since it was advertised as water resistant AND had dimensions that essentially met airlines carry-on size policy. We were flying through Miami and San Juan enroute to Beef Island so wanted to see if I could pack everything I needed in a carry-on bag for our 10 day charter with a day of travel on each end.
The North Face describes it as, “…not your average duffel bag. Made from a durable laminate material, the Base Camp Duffel is a bomber of a bag. Amply resilient to be roughed around in-flight, or to be transported up a mountain via a yak, this is one burly duffel bag. 71-liter (19 gallons) volume provides ideal storage for weekend, or extended weekend trips lasting three to four days. New design includes redesigned straps and a separate compartment to stash your shoes or dirty laundry. Water Resistant – Partially blocks rain/snow to increase breathability.”
It has adjustable shoulder straps so you can carry it backpack style or a series of handles to carry/drag. The shoulder straps tighten flat against the top of the bag and there is an additional black compression strap that will help keep all together and lessen the chance of a baggage conveyor snag if you decide to check the bag with the airlines.
Next to the integral compression straps, there are a number of modular attachment points that are similar to the military Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS).
While not advertised as “water proof” it is made with TPE or Thermoplastic Elastomers (think rubbery plastic) and has a base made of something called 840D Jr. Ballistic s nylon (think canvas weave), so water isn’t getting through those. Where it could enter is through the zippers, as they don’t seal tightly where they meet but do have a flap to divert snow, spray and/or rain. If you dropped it in the water, and it wasn’t top heavy or overloaded it would likely float, although we didn’t test that theory!
Inside both the main and side compartments there are mesh dividers to help keep items organized.
Here’s a picture of the canvas mesh underside.
The dimensions of the medium size we bought are listed as 25″ X 14″ X 14″ and while most airlines list their carry-on limits as “45 linear inches (22 x 14 x 9 in) or 115 centimeters (56 x 36 x 23 cm) including handles and wheels,” I had not over-packed the bag so it fit easily into the little size checkers at the gate and was far from the biggest bag in the overhead compartments. Our leg from San Juan to Beef Island was with Seaborne on their Saab 340s which have tiny overheads, so I had to use the ramp check service which was safe and easy.
On our return leg from Miami to Denver I got lazy and checked it. It emerged with a few rubs and scuffs but still was in very good shape. However, I do not think it would survive as a long as a normal suitcase and the abuse they take so I will avoid doing this whenever possible in the future.
In the end, it is a great bag and I packed everything I thought I needed, and then took out about 20% (as I always over pack) leaving spare capacity. I had more than enough clothes and gear for the duration of the charter and then some. The only thing neither of us took were our own flippers to save space. With what I had in there it weighed about 35lbs. The only real downside was once we hit the heat and humidity of Miami (and beyond) I ended up with a sweaty back while carrying it backpack style.
We chose this obvious colour to ensure we could see it if it ended up in the water or in a pile of other bags, but many less “loud” options are available.
We bought it through Amazon Prime, but a simple Google search will yield many other options if you’re not Amazon-types.