The most popular pieces of luggage today seem to be pretty high-tech. Buyers can opt for roller bags with unbreakable wheels, hard-sided suitcases made with the same materials used on spaceships, and backpacks with lockable zippers and built-in compression pockets.

The North Face Base Camp Voyager Duffel has none of that, which is a big part of the appeal.

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The roomy duffel bag is a simple, straightforward, and extremely useful piece of basic luggage. It’s a simple but high-quality bag that can be as useful for running to the gym as it is for a long weekend trip away. We tested it on a four-day, three-night road trip to a music festival, and there was plenty of space for clothing, plus a few extra items like a towel and big sun hat.

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base camp voyager duffel review worn two ways

The option to wear it like a backpack or carry it as a duffel is quite helpful for different types of travel. Photo: Suzie Dundas

Aside from the relatively reasonable price ($135), there are a few selling points I found especially noteworthy.

  • Backpack straps: you can use it as a duffel bag or wear it as a backpack. The backpack straps on the Base Camp Voyager are especially useful if you want to use it as your “personal item” on an airplane, as they’ll make it look like a backpack even though it’s actually quite large.
  • Soft-sided: Also useful for flying is the fact that it’s soft-sided. It’s easy to squish into free space in overhead bins. And it can be smushed down a bit to make it look smaller than it is for the aforementioned “use it as a personal item on a plane” strategy.
  • A shoe pocket: I have relatively large feet for a woman (size 10) and was still able to fit a pair of trail runners into the dedicated shoe pocket. It also works well as a dirty clothes pocket, if you need to keep muddy items away from clean
  • Mostly waterproof: I wouldn’t submerge it, but your stuff will stay dry if you get caught in the rain

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The North Face Base Camp Voyager Duffel materials and warranty

I’ve long been an advocate for buying pre-owned outdoor and travel gear for several reasons, including trying to reduce the amount of trash in landfills and minimizing our reliance on plastics.

Fortunately, the North Face Base Camp Voyager Duffel is made mostly with recycled products, so it’s akin to buying something used – but it’s brand new. The body is made from recycled polyester tarpaulin (similar to canvas), and the buckles and mesh are also recycled. And if you decide you don’t use the bag much after a few years and want to sell it, you can send it back to The North Face’s preowned gear page so it can get cleaned, inspected, and sold to someone else who will use it more.

If your bag breaks, you can cash in on the brand’s lifetime warranty, which covers any manufacturing defects for the life of the product (which doesn’t include wear and tear from normal use). However, you can get replacement parts like buckles at a nominal cost, and there’s a comprehensive repair program, though your standard tailor or outdoor repair shop would likely be able to make most fixes, too.

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Sizes and colors

north face base camp vpyager packed with clothes review

The 42-liter holds several days worth of clothing, and certainly has a more efficient use of space than trying to fit clothing in a backpack. Photo: Suzie Dundas

Current color options for the Base Camp Duffel include “almond butter” (kind of peachy) and “sulfur moss” (kind of a camo green). However, the color options change most years. I have an off-whiteish color, and websites like Amazon and Backcountry have it in various older colors like green and solid black.

Size-wise, I have the 42-liter bag (the closest to the max carry-on size for most airlines). But depending on the year and configuration, you can find them as small as 31 liters or as large as 95 liters. There are a few small changes year to year (such as the addition of a luggage tag or different type of clip), but they’re not hugely significant.

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What I’d change about the Base Camp Voyager Duffel

The Base Camp Voyager Duffel from The North Face, packed into the storage pocket.

Photo: Suzie Dundas

No bag is perfect, but the North Face Base Camp Duffel is pretty straightforward: it’s a classic duffel bag. That said, I wouldn’t mind an additional small pocket or two on the inside, or slightly more adding on the straps. But considering you can buy both small packing cubes and strap pads on Amazon, those are easy fixes.

The other thing worth noting is that while it’s packable for storage, packing into the shoe pocket, I wouldn’t say it packs down small enough to be a backup bag to carry while traveling.

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