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Patagonia Black Hole Duffel tested and reviewed

You want a spacious, robust bag to cart your gear around on weekend adventures in the outdoors. Does Patagonia’s 40-litre Black Hole Duffel carry the day? We tried it for you…

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
Blue holdall bag

Our review

Robust and simple design with well designed optional shoulder straps for carrying large loads in comfort
Pros: Multiple carrying options, with sturdy holdall-style handles and more handles at either end
• Also converts to a backpack, with optional shoulder straps included
• Tough and water-repellent
• Recycled materials
• Large internal mesh pocket under the zip-flap
• Second large internal pocket accessible from outside
• Multiple ‘daisy chain’ webbing loops for attaching extra gear to the outside
• Compact enough to qualify as hand luggage on most planes
Cons: • Cost
• Bold styling. I kinda like it – but do you?

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag 40L, rrp £120


Something about this holdall from California gear company Patagonia spells adventure.
There it sits, brooding on top of your wardrobe, willing you to lift it down, fill it with outdoor gear, and set off for a weekend of fun.

It will be a bit brash for some tastes: shiny and with a shouty oversize logo. But it certainly looks robust enough for rugged environments: the tough fabric has a glossy polyurethane coating to stop scuffing and repel rain. There’s a chunky zip, and a plethora of sturdy straps and useful webbing loops.

Patagonia has a good reputation for environmental responsibility and sure enough the Black Hole gets a tick for sustainability with its recycled body fabric, lining and webbing.

The 40-litre size is well judged if you like to travel reasonably light. It will fit in an overhead rack on the train, and will pass as hand luggage on most planes. If the pack is full, you can attach extra gear to the multiple webbing loops. (Though gear junkies with more stuff might consider for 55-litre or 70-litre versions.)

You can carry the Black Hole 40L like a holdall, using two tough webbing handles. But if you need to lug it far, a pair of clip-on shoulder straps is included. That’s a big win if want to keep your hands free to check a map – but don’t expect the comfort levels of a bespoke backpack. The Black Hole is definitely not for trekking.

Inside there are a couple of big pockets: one mesh pocket lining the inside of the lid, and another capacious zipped pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, into which the whole bag can be folded for compact storage.

Also consider…

Craghoppers Duffle bag, rrp £50

This duffle is the same size as the Black Hole above – with a 40-litre capacity – but less than half the price. It’s a sturdy bag in the time-honoured holdall format – essentially a tubular zipped bag with a choice of shoulder-strap or handles. But what lifts this product is the excellent colour of the tough, canvas-style fabric – a rather modish burnt-orange. There’s one smallish zipped external pocket adorned rather hopefully with some webbing loops that I doubt would ever get much use. The lining feels a wee bit flimsy but the internal pockets are pretty decent, with one large divider and two smaller zipped pockets, one with RFID to protect your bank cards. It’s moderately water-resistant: should cope with a shower, but not sustained rain.

Columbia Unisex OutDry Ex 40L Waterproof Duffel Bag, rrp £80

Columbia’s duffel takes the classic holdall shape and adds optional shoulder straps to improve your comfort levels during the inevitable schlepping that goes with any kind of travel. A pair of webbing straps flank the zip, and include loops for lashing extra gear to the bag’s exterior. Major plus: this duffel boasts the company’s excellent OutDry waterproof fabric and a high quality, water resistant YKK zipper, so you can be confident you gear will stay dry even in heavy rain.


Is a backpack better than a duffel?

Backpacks might sometimes be a better option for your travels than a duffel. After all, they are specifically designed for carrying heavy loads in comfort, especially if you plan to walk further than short distances between trains, planes and bus connections. We’ve tested and reviewed a bunch, including several with a capacity of 35 litres or more – check out our full list of best hiking backpacks.