A big bag for trips with bulky items120L Specific: I bought the 120L for a world wide trip that was to last about three months, covering activities such as surfing (wetsuit), skateboarding, hiking, biking, climbing, and camping. I needed a bag that was going to be able to carry all of my gear, remain it’s structural integrity, and make transportation easy. This bag 100% fit the bill, although I did end up needing to buy the 90L bag as well (see seperate review) in order to carry all my wife’s stuff too :)
The 120L bag is probably not useful for most people. It is cavernous. You can fit a small person in there, with room to spare. I have carried a tent, a double wide foam mattress (sea to summit), skateboard, camping kitchen, snorkel gear, wetsuit, 85L backpackers packpack, a yoga mat, and a million little odds and ends for my travels, and the main issue was getting it within 50lbs to ensure no extra fees on the airlines. If you are travelling by car, your main issue will be carrying the bag, because I think this thing can carry 100lbs, without issue.
The bag loaded to 50lbs is heavy, but because there are the removable backpackers straps, I found carrying the thing short distances around the airport to be manageable. A lack of a hip belt or solid frame mean that this is not meant to be loaded to the max and carried for miles, but short distances between locations is fine. I’ve carried this through European train stations, on and off trains, and although you can feel the weight, it is not as awkward as I had thought it might be.
This bag is meant for trips with a lot of bulky gear. If I was driving, I wouldn’t get this bag, but when flying with bulk, this thing is perfect.
Patagonia Black Hole - General Qualities shared by All bags: Note, the bags that I tested are predating the change to the recycled material.
The bags are built out of 15-oz 900 100% polyester ripstop which means that these bags were built to take a beating and keep going. I have had my bags from 1 year to 3 months, and the oldest of the bags still looks more or less brand new after multiple international and national trips.
The bags are designed to be able to carry massive loads with no real bells and whistles. Before purchasing the bag, I read multiple reviews saying the biggest challenge with the bag when used for airline travels is to keep it within weight limit, and I agree. The large rectangle shape of the bag makes it perfect to “Tetris Load” your bag so heavy, it becomes overloaded. When driving, that is no issue due to the heavy duty material and reinforced stitching. Creating something simple and useful takes a lot of work, and I have to hand it to Patagonia. These bags are essentially one large cavernous hole, containing two straps to help keep everything in place. I use the straps only if there is some extra space, in order to keep everything from roaming around.
On the side is one pocket, which a lot of users have complained isn’t lockable. The issue with this pocket is that it is also it’s carrying case for storage, so there is also an internal zipper which gives you access to the main cavity, so if it is not lockable, thieves can enter. I don’t really mind, as my thought is that if someone wants to steal something, they will, whether there is a lock or not.
The lid also has two mesh pockets where you can store small things like power cords, kindle e-reader, etc. I love these pockets and use them to carry my passport, wallet, headphones, etc on all my flights (60L pack). In the bigger bags, I use it to carry my first aid kit, repair kit, etc.
One of the best features of these bags is the removable backpack straps. The top part of the strap is fed through a locking D Loop, and the bottom uses a plastic buckle. The plastic buckle is my only durability concern on the whole bag, but I haven’t seen any issues yet, nor did I read about any while researching. These straps make transporting the bag super easy. I’ve loaded the 120 and 90L bags up to 50lbs and was able to carry it on my back with no issues. Even my wife was able to do so. The straps are padded, but not overly bulky, so they can slip in the side pocket when travelling.
The bag also has normal handles on the top to carry like a traditional duffel bag, but it is missing a over the shoulder carry strap, but I don’t really miss that. In a pinch, the backpack strap could be used as such. Another clever design was handles on the bag on each side, so you can pick up and throw the bag around much easier. These straps have proven infinitely useful!
The bag is also a bit water resistant (DWR), and I have carried it in some mild rain with nothing inside getting wet. I feel that the insides would stay dry even in a fairly decent downpour, but remember it is only DWR and ripstop polyester.
Over all: I am 100% by the construction and design of this bag. It is heavy duty and built to last. I have three sizes (60L, 90L, & 120L) and use them all the time. If you are looking for a new travel duffel built to last decades of use, pick one of these up. Bonus points to Patagonia for switching to recycled material in their new line up. I am 100% confident that the bags will be just as burly. As Patagonia is an ambassador of environmental stewardship, I want to note two things 1) if you don’t need a new bag, don’t buy one. 2) these often come up for sale as used bags on Patagonia’s used gear website, Craigslist, or Ebay. I would go for a used one. Most people only use them for a trip or two, and these things can really take a beating with no side effect.