The North Face Base Camp Voyager Duffel | Review - Outdoors Magic

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The North Face Base Camp Voyager Duffel | Review

An urban take on the original expedition kitbag, made from recycled fabrics with an eco-friendly water-repellent finish

Why We Chose It: Practical, trendy, recycled fabrics, PFC-free finish

The North Face’s original Base Camp Duffel has been a staple of climbing expeditions since the early 1980s. Tough, practical and virtually indestructible, it was designed as the ultimate kitbag: a roomy, weatherproof duffel made from burly vinyl. The concept was simple and effective, proving ideal for lugging technical expedition kit to far-flung places. Not all that much has changed about it over the intervening years. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Hamid Mehmood of Muslim Hikers UK helping us test the Basecamp in Snowdonia. Photos: Chris Johnson

Changing the design would also be a bit of a risk at this point, since there’s a lot of love out there for the Base Camp Duffel in its current form. This is perhaps down to the fact that they tend to become trusted adventure companions. Climber, photographer and TNF athlete Jimmy Chin has even called it his “go-to bag”, noting his appreciation of the bag’s no-nonsense qualities: “It’s simple. It’s indestructible. And it’s built for serious abuse.”

However, The North Face has attempted something different with the duffel this year. Perhaps to tap into the brand’s ever-increasing street appeal, they’ve come up with a new take on the original: the Base Camp Voyager. It’s a little lighter, sacrificing outright toughness for lower overall weight, while adding useful pockets to store your stuff. But best of all, it’s made from recycled fabrics with a PFC-free finish.

What Is The Base Camp Voyager Duffel Best Suited To?

According to the brand, this duffel is intended for ‘urban exploration’. So, the focus here is on day-to-day travel and shorter trips rather than expeditions to the back of beyond.

You can carry it as a backpack or a duffel, so it’ll do double duty as your daily or your weekend bag. It also has a 13” laptop sleeve and a removable divider in the main compartment (ideal for separating gym kit from work attire, or clean clothes from dirty laundry). There’s now an external zipped pocket for your passport and phone too.

Eco Credentials

Back in the day, most tough duffel bags were made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is super hard-wearing, versatile and inexpensive to manufacture. Unfortunately, it is also the most environmentally damaging plastic – Greenpeace has gone so far as to call it ‘the poison plastic’. That’s because the lifecycle of PVC, i.e. its production, use, and disposal, results in the release of toxic, chlorine-based chemicals that are environmentally persistent. That is to say, they accumulate in the water, air and food chain.

To offset these harmful impacts, The North Face’s standard Base Camp Duffel is now made from a mix of recycled PVC and recycled nylon. But the Voyager is even more eco-friendly, being entirely made from 300-denier recycled polyester tarpaulin, which is also finished with a PFC-free DWR treatment. The single material construction aids recyclability, while the lighter fabric saves a little weight (despite the fact that the Voyager has added functionality compared to the original Base Camp Duffel). Using recycled polyester also helps to reduce landfill waste and the use of virgin synthetics.

Construction and Performance

The Voyager’s 300-denier polyester construction is still pretty tough – that fabric weight is comparable to a lot of trekking backpacks, designed for hard use on the trail. So, even though it isn’t quite as burly as the standard Base Camp Duffel, we wouldn’t be unduly concerned about its ability to handle plenty of punishment. Which is just as well, because as we all know, using a bag day-in day-out can result in plenty of wear and tear.

When it comes to performance, this is a very practical and functional bag. The 42-litre capacity means this is much more than just a day bag. It is big enough to take a weekend’s worth of clothes and essentials. The zipped D-shaped flap also opens up really wide to make rummaging around inside easy.

Then there’s the handy laptop sleeve, which can take an iPad Pro or a 13” Macbook, and is padded to guard against bumps and shocks. It also has an external zip to ensure you can get to your tablet or laptop without having to unpack the rest of the bag first.

“When it comes to performance, this is a very practical and functional bag.”

We also like the secure internal zip pocket on the inside of the lid flap and the adjustable, removable divider in the main compartment. The former is a great place to stash valuables as well as things like power banks or phone chargers, while the latter makes for easy organisation of clothing and kit. Additionally, a small zipped external pocket offers a good place to keep easy-access items, like your phone or travelcard.

Just like the standard Base Camp Duffel, you also get comfortable, padded shoulder straps, so you can easily carry the bag like a backpack. Unlike the standard version however, on the Voyager these also unclip and conceal behind the back panel, which makes for a much neater look and stops the straps from getting snagged (great if you need to hop on or off public transport quickly). There are also multiple grab handles and external webbing loops that can be used as lash points.


We think the Base Camp Voyager is a winner for weekends away, whether you’re heading off on a city break or meeting up with friends for a camping trip. But it also works well for urban life, particularly if you like to head to the gym after-work and therefore need to lug a fair bit of kit to the office. The fact it has an eco-friendly construction and a PFC-free water-repellent finish further adds to its appeal.

The North Face Base Camp Voyager Duffel

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