Patagonia Black Hole Duffel

This spring we took a week-long backpacking trip in the Sierra Mountains and we traveled to California with extra gear for our 8-person group, including stoves, tents, trekking poles, etc. After the trip, when we returned to basecamp, we simply tossed the grimy, soggy gear into a rugged duffel bag, so we didn’t have to worry about trashing nice luggage. When we returned home, we simply took a hose to the bag to clean it.

That’s just one instance where it helps to have Patagonia’s Black Hole Duffel. More durable that a typical duffel bag, it’s made with a fabric that not only sheds moisture and dirt, but also prevents rips and punctures. Considered a classic piece of gear among mountaineers and explorers, the Black Hole Duffel is a great choice if your bags will be exposed to nasty conditions. Plus, we use the 60-liter model as a weekend travel bag as well as a duffel to house workout gear.

Here are some things we really love about the Black Hole Duffel…

P58 Patagonia Black Hole

Its new lightweight fabric is still really tough

To shave some weight off the Black Hole Duffel, Patagonia recently switched to more lightweight fabric that’s still extremely durable, and possibly tougher than the previous fabric. Weighing 39 ounces, the 60-liter Black Hole is made with 900-denier polyester ripstop material that’s covered with a TPU film and water-repellent finish. Basically, rain and dirt just slide off the slick material. Granted, this bag does have seams, and zippers aren’t waterproof, so moisture can penetrate the bag if you completely expose it to driving rain for hours. But, we housed the duffel in a tent vestibule and the contents remained dry. It helps that main zipper on the top of the bag is covered and sheltered from the elements.

To protect the bag further, there is a rougher Cordura-like fabric covering the base of the bag, as well as the sides beneath the carry handles. When we placed this bag in the mud, this material did get a little dirty, but we easily cleaned it with a rough sponge.

It’s made for serious travel

In addition to a tough hide, this duffel has webbing carry handles that are attached to the ends of bag with heavy stitching. Thanks to the bomber construction, the handles won’t fail when baggage handlers sling and toss your duffel. On some international trips, our bags have been strapped to the top of a tour operator’s van, and the Black Hole Duffel can be secured with daisy chains that also sport heavy duty stitching.

It’s great for weekend travel and the gym

For two- or three-day trips, we often don’t pack a large travel bag. Instead, we just toss a few things into a duffel and hit the road. We’ve found that the 60-liter version of the Black Hole Duffel has plenty of space for a few outfits, extra shoes and a toiletry kit. When we do need to create a little more space in the bag, we use two internal straps to cinch down and compress the load. (To create even more space, we use Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.)

While most duffels have a central zipper, this Patagonia bag has a zippered, U-shaped opening, which makes it much easier to see the contents of your bag and grab things easily. Plus, you can remove things without digging around or pulling out piles of stuff.

Travelers will also appreciate that this duffel has a generous zippered compartment inside the bag where you can store toiletries and separate liquids from your clothing. Under the lid, you’ll find two zippered mesh pockets, which we’ve used to stash a phone, iPod, headlamp and other odds and ends.

If your weekend trip includes air travel, keep in mind that the 60-liter Black Hole Duffel might exceed carry-on limitations. (It measures 24 x 12 x 11 inches.) However, you shouldn’t have any problem squeezing this bag into an overhead bin if you haven’t completely stuffed it. One thing we really like is the external zippered pocket on the side of the bag, which is perfect for a boarding pass.

While this is a great travel bag, it also pulls double duty as a gym bag. The synthetic materials inside the bag don’t retain moisture an odors easily, so the bag doesn’t tend to smell like a nasty locker room. Once in a while, you can just wipe the interior with some warm soapy water, and you’re good to go. Because the Black Hole is so versatile and reliable, it has rightly earned its reputation as a modern classic in the world of outdoor gear.

Traveler’s Notebook

Retail price: $129

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