Home LIFESTYLEADVENTURE Luggage Review: Roller Duffel bag – The North Face

Luggage Review: Roller Duffel bag – The North Face

Luggage review of roller duffel bag from The North Face

by Fiona Harper
North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer

Luggage Review of Base Camp Roller Duffel bag from The North Face

Fiona Harper is a global traveller who demands a lot from her luggage. She put The North Face’s Base Camp Duffel Roller to the test on travels between the polar regions, almost twice around the world and all points in between.
How did the roller duffel, which she spent so much time with she named Ruby Tuesday, stack up? Scroll down to read Fiona’s luggage review.

Every single item in my travel bag is there for a purpose. As a professional traveller who spends much of the year on the road, I take luggage and packing seriously. I’ve packed up and moved onto to the next airport, hotel, ship, boat or whatever so many times, I can seriously go from waking up to out the door in less than 10 minutes. So this luggage review comes from real life experience across the globe.

Many of the essentials that make it into my luggage have multiple purposes. All are given a gig based on a rating of their usefulness, their weight and the amount of space they take up. If I was doing one or two trips a year it wouldn’t matter.

But I often travel back-to-back on assignments with little or no time in between trips to repack. During one extended period recently I spent two days at home in 15 months, living out of my Base Camp Roller Duffel bag as I travelled between north and south polar latitudes and almost twice around the world. I travelled by plane, train, ship, sailboat, by car, by bus and by bike. My luggage needs to keep up with this often gruelling schedule.

Some people take novelty ‘friends’ or toys on their travels, photographing them in iconic locations around the world. It’s a fun sort of way to add a theme to travels and the photos shared on socials. You’ve all seen garden gnomes at the Eiffel Tower, right?

Sadly, I don’t have the space in my travel gear for such indulgences.

North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller on The Canadian train from Vancouver to Toronto

The right luggage can make or break a trip

Everything has a dual purpose. For example, a well-travelled black sarong works overtime as a beach or pool coverup, has been seen to grace the red carpet as a skirt or shoulder wrap at fine dining restaurants, but is is most commonly seen on aircraft as either a blanket or a headscarf blocking out the light so I can catch some sleep. In Muslim countries it’s perfectly modest to pass as a chador.

My not-quite-as-well-travelled wet weather jacket is also a serial multi-tasker. When not keeping rain or sea spray at bay it’s rolled up into its inbuilt hood and doing time as a cushion wedged against the wall of an aircraft window seat. Elastic sided black Hush Puppy walking boots have gone from hiking trails to 5 star hotel to a Texas dance floor all in one day. Likewise a pair of black cargo pants teamed with a black merino wool thermal top which just needs a colourful scarf to go from walking city streets or Arctic explorations to sophisticated dinner. Colourful cotton tunic tops (hello West Indies Wear!) brighten up tropical days or Antarctic nights when teamed with aforementioned merino underlayers.

North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller rolls around yet another luggage carousel
North Face duffel bag
The North Face Duffel Roller at ULUM Moab, Utah USA

Choose luggage that is robust

So when I went looking for luggage that was up to the task of accompanying me on global travels, the first thing I looked for was a multi-tasking travel bag. The well-travelled folks at The North Face get this.

My bag had to be able to cope with all the rigours of travel, stand up to being tossed around by uncaring baggage handlers, keep my worldly goods safe and not damage my things safely tucked within its inner. But number one priority was that it had to be tough.

The bag had to stand up to being tossed into the bilges of small boats, piled atop stores in milk-run 6 seater aircraft, dragged across beaches and gravel airstrips while also frocking up to fancy hotel foyers and not embarrassing me with its travel-worn scars.

The North Face makes serious luggage for travellers

As a professional mostly solo, full time traveller, my luggage is almost an extension of myself.

My bag of choice from The North Face is the 97 litre-capacity Base Camp Duffel Roller. It’s fair to say I’ve put Ruby Tuesday through a rigorous challenge over almost two years of travel. Though she bears the scars of transiting through more than 100 airports (as do I… continous travel is not for feeble), she’s still in travel-ready shape and looks like she’ll outlast me.

We’ve spent so much time together I feel a weird sort of affection for my duffel bag.

I’ve said a mental goodbye to her so many times at airport check-ins I christened my scarlet red bag Ruby Tuesday. Ruby has not let me down once, turning up on queue at baggage carousels every single time. (Thank you to all the unknown baggage handlers who have managed this feat).

Here’s some of the reasons I wholeheartedly recommend and endorse this bag, whether you’re taking your first overseas trip or are a seasoned traveller who’s lost count of airports transited through.

For the statistic nerds, this Ruby Tuesday’s 22 month travel diary during 2022/23:

  • Days on the road: 388

  • Airports transited: 128
  • Flights: 100+

  • Trips: 33

  • Countries: 17

North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller on the Brisbane Airport transit bus
North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller right at home at the scores of Balinese villas we checked into

Here's what I like about the Base Camp Roller Duffel

  • Sturdy wheels – honestly I can’t believe these two wheels are still functioning. I’ve put them through far more jobs than their pay scale warrants. And still they keep rolling relentlessly towards my next destination.

  • Soft outer shell – I do a lot of trips that take me off the beaten track. Whether that’s travelling on small ships, even smaller sailboats or perhaps zipping between islands on a teeny powerboat. Other times I’m getting around in seaplanes or helicopters. All of which have limited cargo space. Few have capacity to squeeze a hard-shell four-wheeled suitcase into their holds. The soft sides of the Base Camp Duffel Roller mean the bag can actually be squeezed into tight spaces. Ruby Tuesday is a little like a shape shifting octopus morphing into different shapes depending upon her environment.

  • Flexible carrying options – The Base Camp Duffel Roller has two top straps. One has flexible lengths and is for rolling the bag on its twin wheels. The other is the kind that baggage handlers and porters love when they need to hoist the bag onto a trolley. But the best carrying option is the addition of backpack straps. Though I don’t use this too often, this feature comes into its own when travelling to far-flung islands, like in Fiji or the Solomon Islands for example. When a burly Fijian man greets me on the beach and offers to carry my bag, I couldn’t be more grateful to show him the backpack straps as he hoiks the heavy bag onto his shoulders like its the weight of fairy floss. I wish my own shoulders were as strong… sigh.

Features of the Base Camp Roller Duffel

Other features I really like:

  • Though Ruby Tuesday is ostensibly a duffel bag, the solid base and wheels mean she’s robust enough to stand vertically (this becomes usefully apparent when moving through airports or when waiting for ubers, buses or taxis.

  • Side compression straps mean the bag can be made smaller when space is at a premium.

  • Waterproof outer shell and rainproof zip flap – though Ruby is unlikely to survive full immersion, the main zip and overlaid flap keeps pretty much all water out. Same with the one-piece main compartment. If she sits in a boat bilge with water lapping I’m too concerned about my worldly possessions getting soaked.

  • Internal capacity is huge. One mesh pocket runs along the top inner flap, and is useful for storing paperwork and maps I collect along the way. I use compression bags to keep everything sorted and easily found – like a filing system. One each for bottoms, tops, smalls, shoes, tech gear etc.

  • There’s a top zippered compartment that’s separate to main compartment and is useful for stashing travel gear I want quick access to – jacket, notebook, spare clothes etc.

Overall this roller duffel is incredibly strong and even after almost two years of near-constant travel the outer material shows no sign of tears or holes that other soft bags are susceptible to. I’m seriously impressed.

Here's what I didn't like about the Base Camp Roller Duffel

There’s few things that I didn’t like about this bag, given all of the above and all the challenges I put it through. 

Except… It’s big volume and non-compartmentalised interior means it can be really hard to find things. Often I would just pull everything out which meant my hotel room quickly became a hot mess. Once I discovered packing cubes that problem was sorted (I don’t why it took me so long to discover these gems!).

More information The North Face

Note: Base Camp Duffel Roller was provided to the writer for review purposes.

North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller in a friends house transiting through South Australia
North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller in New Orleans where cowboy boots are de rigeur

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Travel Boating Lifestyle is managed by Fiona Harper

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and waters on which we live, work and travel. As people who seek meaning and knowledge through storytelling, we recognise that the First Peoples of this land have been doing so for over 60,000 years. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.