Why the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Is the Only Travel Bag You Need
The best adventures are too wet, dirty, and cumbersome to contain—unless you've got the right luggage
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
I like my bags like my architecture: with an open floor plan.
That’s why I love Patagonia's 120L Black Hole Duffel. It's roomy enough to encompass anything, and tough enough that I never worry about it. I've strapped the bag onto a wooden dory, a snowmobile, and a motorcycle and crammed it into the ski basket of a helicopter. I've filled it with ice for a makeshift beer cooler after an August bike ride. Last year, a bottle of Japanese whiskey cracked open inside it returning from Hokkaido, Japan. The Black Hole is the kind of bag you can cram a snow shovel into; if I don't want my toothbrush scrubbing my sneakers, I'll put it in a Ziploc.
Since I first bought mine in 2010, a partial list of things I've carried in my Black Hole has included ski boots, a sand-encrusted wetsuit, a three-piece kayak paddle, and a bespoke suit I had made in Vietnam and which I have only ever worn once. I've taken my Black Hole on a family reunion in Louisiana, and on a half-baked rafting trip down Idaho's Middle Fork of the Salmon, where I plucked never-before-skied slopes above the river many years ago.
As it happens, the Black Hole's simplicity has been a point of company pride among Patagonia designers since it was first released in 2004. Besides the seams—changed from welded to sewn to reduce cost—very little has been altered. Tough-sided and water-resistant, the bag's large, U-shaped zippered flap allows easy access to the contents. There are removable backpack straps, three pockets barely big enough to fit a dirty pair of socks, and light fabric walls that can be wedged into limited spaces. It's not meant to armor your camera gear, but the bag's durability supports the company’s mission to reduce consumption and it's useful for nearly any adventure. This even goes for the smaller 60L Black Hole, which transforms into a backpack—albeit one that tends to adhere to your butt as you walk. Nevertheless, apart from wool boxer briefs and a gnawed-up nighttime mouth guard, the Black Hole is the only non-negotiable item on any trip I take.