Gear ReviewsReviewsGear Review: 55-Liter Patagonia Black Hole Duffel

Rachel Perkins Rachel PerkinsDecember 2, 2019

The Black Hole product line has been hauled and dragged around for a generation. They are timeworn. New as of this summer, the Black Hole line is made from 100% post-consumer recycled material.

The 55-L Patagonia Black Hole Duffel is a tried and true gear tote perfect for long weekend getaways and travel. (Photo: Screenshot patagonia.com)

Back in August, during a ten-day stint of solo parenting while my husband led an outdoor education trip, I decided to take my ten month old daughter and four year old mutt on a two-day camping and hiking mission in the Fryingpan Wilderness, which sits just east of our home in Carbondale, Colorado. The plan was to camp at the east end of the Reudi Reservoir, then hike to Carter and Savage Lakes, eventually connecting with my husband’s group at the latter of the two for a quick visit.

Camping in the Rocky Mountains in late August presents a lot of variables. Nights can dip below freezing, while afternoons can be in the upper seventies with intense high-altitude sun. Essentially, you have to be prepared for any “season”. 

Add in an infant who you will need to keep warm in a tent and cool on the hike, and you’ve got quite the packing challenge. Layers of clothing, a fleece onesie to stuff her in, snacks, bottles, wipes, and of course diapers. If there’s anything that the “N + 1 rule” applies to, it’s how many diapers you should bring on a camping trip. 

Luckily, the 55-Liter Patagonia Black Hole Duffel was up for the challenge. The deceptively accommodating main compartment was easily able to fit all of our clothes plus my sleeping pad with room to spare. A mesh pocket inside the lid kept the excessive amount of diapers and wipes easily accessible, while the zippered side pocket housed other small items, like my headlamp, keys, and sunscreen. Padded shoulder straps that allow the bag to be carried as a backpack made it easy to transport the bag from house to car and car to campsite while also carrying a kiddo who would crawl off and begin eating pebbles if left unattended, even briefly.  

N+1 diapers plus clothing and gear for a weekend excursion.

To continue the story, after a record-setting winter that kept the high-country snowed in until July followed by a relatively wet summer, Colorado mosquito populations flourished. And it was unbearable. Upon arriving, the campground host handed me a bottle of Off Deep Woods bug spray, which I could not bring myself to spray on my baby or my dog. We suffered through dinner while doing our best to keep the majority of our skin covered by thick clothing, but our efforts were futile and we quickly retreated to the tent. 

We then spent 13 hours almost exclusively inside a two-man backpacking tent. That’s an adult, an infant, and a dog in a tent with a footprint of 30 square feet. My kiddo was all about tent-time, but the poor itchy hound was less than enthused. Character-building.

Luckily, the next day went as smoothly as could be. True to its name, the bag allowed for the haphazard stuffing of clothing and gear, getting us out of camp and to the trailhead efficiently. My kiddo dozed in and out throughout the hike and squealed excitedly at the unfamiliar sights meeting her eyes, while her furry sister sprinted, sniffed, and pranced in all her glory. 

Unfortunately, we ended up missing my husband by a margin of about 20-minutes, but the solitude and adventure were well worth the challenges of carrying 30 plus pounds of baby and equipment up 2,600 vertical feet to an alpine lake.  

Since this trip, the Black Hole Duffel has been put through its paces as a go-to gear bag, housing my extra food, water, and change of clothes that are tossed in the car for after a long run. It is also a great size for weekend getaways. 

Though it has not yet been tested through a winter, it is slated to be my primary travel bag this season. The durable water repellent finish blocks out melting snow, keeping the contents dry even if tossed into a snowbank or loaded onto a bus underneath several pairs of dripping skis and boots. It is also more comfortable to carry a backpack with a ski bag than other bag styles. 

Lastly, you can feel good about the impact your purchase has on the environment. The polyester body and nylon webbing are 100% post-consumer recycled materials, approved by industry leader bluesign technologies. 

The author and the diaper wearer in the Chicago Midway Airport. If not packed full, the 55-L Black Hole is a great carry-on.

“Patagonia has worked with bluesign technologies since 2000 to evaluate and reduce resource consumption in our materials supply chain, and to assist us with managing the chemicals, dyes and finishes used in the process. bluesign technologies, based in Switzerland, works at each step in the textile supply chain to approve chemicals, processes, materials, and products that are safe for the environment, safe for workers, and safe for the end customers.”

A final note if you are looking for a bag to fly with: Checking in at 26.7″ x 15.7″ x 11.8″, the bag is technically too large to pass as a carry-on bag when packed full. However, if not packed full, I can attest that the bag works great for this purpose. Most recently, my husband carried this bag onboard for a five day trip east for Thanksgiving. It fit easily into the overhead compartment packed at about 80% of its maximum capacity. Multiple reviewers also commented that they had used it as such.

Rachel Perkins

Rachel Perkins

Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646

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