A bag is a bag is a bag … right?
Not really. Sure, a duffel bag doesn’t have as many variables as most outdoor gear. But that just means the ones it does have — size, weight, durability, ease of use — really matter.
On a trip to Newfoundland one of my lightweight, “durable” duffels was torn up on Air Canada’s conveyor belt. For three weeks of rough travel it was fragile as a G-string. Another brand’s duffel burst open during a 16-hour jeep ride in Tajikistan when the main zipper exploded, spilling my underwear everywhere. And others I’ve tossed after one or two trips when holes appeared in the bag like spreading ulcers.
So a bag isn’t just a bag. And thankfully, Red Fox knew that when they designed their Expedition Duffel Bags.
For the last four weeks I’ve been traveling with the lime-green, 100-liter size duffel (it also comes in 50-liter, 70-liter and 120-liter sizes in red, black and yellow). The 100-liter bag is the perfect size to throw all my climbing gear into after emptying my cragging pack, with plenty of room to spare for a puffy jacket, extra rope and my approach shoes. Yet it’s not so large that I can’t carry it when full.
The main handles have Velcro closures so both can be combined into one larger handle. There are also two smaller handles on the shorter sides of the rectangular bag. If I need to carry a full load more than a short distance then the attachable backpack straps are money. They’re padded and contoured but don’t expect the comfort of a real backpack. Come on, you wanted a duffel bag!
Initially, I was put off by how heavy the Expedition Duffel felt when empty. At 1950 grams (4.3 pounds) it ain’t light. But after just a few days I realized the heavy, 1000D PVC coated nylon is close to bombproof. After my previous duffel disasters I’d much rather tote an extra pound or two of construction than risk another undie explosion. The material is highly water resistant, but the zipper is not sealed so the bag isn’t waterproof.
Like all good gear, the Expedition Duffel is simple. There’s one large U-shaped zipper to access the main compartment and it opens nice and wide. Two compression straps on both long sides (four total) of the duffel help pack it into smaller spaces if it’s not full. There are two internal pockets on either side of the bag to stuff things into. They’re perfect for storing the backpack straps, but something like a pair of shoes can easily fit into each pocket as well.
My favorite feature is the enormous mesh pocket that forms the top of the bag’s underside. It’s an ideal place to store knickknacks like climbing tape, lip balm, topos, bars, light clothing, a guidebook — whatever. And it’s see-through so you don’t have to wonder where your underwear is.
After a month on the road and repeated abuse in the dirt and on the rocks, my Expedition Duffel still looks and performs like new. All the stress points (like handle attachment points) have reinforced stitching and material so I expect it to last for years to come. In fact, I like this bag so much I wish I had all the other sizes.
After all, you can’t have too many duffel bags … right?