As you may know, The North Face have revamped their base camp duffel line. The smaller sizes from XS to S has no top handle. Instead, it has a backpack straps and carrying handle. Only the M to XL sizes have the top handles, which can be carried three ways. Another physical change is that they added side pockets but kept the same internal pockets. I have the old The North Face base camp duffel in size small. I do not think I would sell it but you know what!? I think I found a good replacement if I ever lose it.
Below are sizes from The North Face base camp duffel from left to right sizes XS to XL.
Enter the REI Co-Op Big Haul Duffel. The features of this bag matches or exceeds TNF’s duffel. Made from TPU coated 400 denier ripstop nylon with 1680 denier ballistic nylon base. Molle straps, on each side and compression straps. It has exterior zipper that can access the clear ID tag. It has two interior zippered pockets. One is vertical and one is horizontal. Best feature of all is there are three of carrying this bag. TOP handle is removable, backpack straps and handle straps on all sizes.
Big Haul’s sizes from 40L, 60L 90L & 120L
To compare it to The North Face base camp duffel. The big haul advantages are it has all three handles in all sizes, thus TNF only has all three handles in sizes M to XL. The big haul has removable top handle while TNF does not. Big haul has two interior pockets while the TNF only has one. Both bags are water resistant but TNF is touting their bags are waterproof but that is to be determined. Price difference are a huge factor, the Big haul is around $20-$30 dollar cheaper comparing sizes. Let’s not forget storage, both bags can be folded into one small bag for storage.
Comparing comfort. The backpack straps of these two bags are quite similar although I find the big haul to be much more padded. Both bags do not have padded back when carrying them in backpack form.
Practicality. Well, I will have to choose the REI’s bag due to the removable handles, which make them easier and practical when traveling. Only the backpack straps of TNF are removable.
While the base camp duffel have the history and the reputation, the big haul looks like it will gain a following due to its features and price. Also, it can be purchase at any REI store.
I do want to mention the base camp’s rival, the Patagonia Black Hole. I have to admit, I was going to purchase the black hole but the colors and the looks of its did not entice me to be committed on purchasing it until I saw the big haul from REI. The biggest problem I have with the black hole is Patagonia’s choice of odd colors. Nonetheless, it is still a great choice.
In conclusion, if you are looking for an alternative to The North Face base camp duffel, then I would consider the big haul from REI as it has a great price and features that can rival or exceed the base camp duffel. If for some reason my base camp duffel fails, then I would look into buying the big haul.