Field Tested: Arc’teryx Carrier Duffle review

When I first received it, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Arc’teryx’s new Carrier Duffle. It is by far the most shapeless duffle bag I’ve seen, and there isn’t much to it either. However the fabric is claimed to be “highly weather resistant” and “highly durable,” and the bag is closed by a WaterTight zipper, so my expectations were pretty high.

The Carrier Duffle come in 35, 50 and 100 litre sizes, with the two larger bags featuring dual shoulder straps for backpack-style carry while the 35 makes do with just one shoulder strap. The inside of the bag is all-white and really does make finding stuff in there easier: I have no hesitation tossing in small items such as allen keys or extra batteries as they’re easy to find thanks to the bright, high-contrast interior. All the seams are taped, the handles and shoulder strap buckles are welded and there’s a flap of fabric over the zipper. Put together, this really does make for a very weather (read: snow, water, mud, etc.) resistant bag.

I don’t have any trips which require travel scheduled for the near future so in an attempt to test the durability and impermeability of the duffle, I shoved in a pile of climbing gear, hooked up the bag to my two dogs’ harnesses using a few carabiners and some accessory cord, and had them tow the whole thing for a few kilometres through wet snow, over dry trees and across sharp rocks. The result? Not even a scratch, and perfectly dry contents!

Arcteryx_Carrier_Duffle_review_008The Carrier Duffle 50 in use as a ‘sled,’ the dog-team is optional (but a lot of fun!).

Naturally, I had removed the straps prior to this excursion, however these are beautifully made. The padding is seamlessly integrated into the strap, and they are generously long, comfortable to use either over the shoulder or as a backpack. The handles are double-layered, stiffened, webbing and adorn all four sides of the bag, serving either as handles or lash points. (They also function just as well as a tow hitch, should you wish to drag the bag.)

Arcteryx_Carrier_Duffle_review_007The shoulder straps are well-padded with generously long straps, for either backpack-style or over-the-shoulder carry.

Arcteryx_Carrier_Duffle_review_004The handles on either end of the bag are laminated to the fabric. The buckles are similarly bonded.

The smooth outer surface of the Carrier Duffle glides easily over snow and ice, making this an ideal bag for shorter trips where you might be taking more than you can carry but don’t want the burden of a sled. Properly packed, I really do believe the Carrier Duffle will be almost as easy to tow as an expedition pulk (though, granted, not as capacious).

Aside from the dog-team towing excursion, I’ve been using the Carrier Duffle as a general-purpose bag for everything from going to the climbing gym, during which it has resisted the efforts of my ice tools to pierce it from the inside (and my ice tools are sharp enough to slice through a piece of paper), to carrying spare overnight kit for trips into the Ghost (a 4×4-accessible climbing zone close to Canmore) which the bag mostly spends getting tossed around in the back of the truck amongst recovery gear, shovels and a bunch of firewood. If I actually took the time to clean it, I’m sure the Carrier Duffle would still look like new.

Arcteryx_Carrier_Duffle_review_005The zipper is Arcteryx’s own WaterTight design, protected by a flap of the same fabric as the rest of the bag. Keep it on top and I doubt you’ll ever get the inside wet.

Though pricey, I think the Carrier Duffle line offers a solid bang-for-the-buck, as most Arc’teryx kit does. Even though I received the 50L for testing, I am going to buy a 35L, as I think it’s a better size for my dogs to tow in a narrow boot-track. Based on my brief experience with the Carrier Duffle in particular, and rather extensive experience with other Arc’teryx gear, I’m sure these bags will provide years of service. I am also looking forward to picking up a 100L for our next airplane trip: it weighs next-to-nothing for the capacity it provides, a valuable commodity in today’s ever-shrinking baggage allowances.

Arcteryx_Carrier_Duffle_review_003Somewhat shapeless, the Carrier Duffles swallow gear: that’s a 70m 9.2 barely taking up a 1/4 of the space inside the 50L.

Pros: light, durable, highly weather-resistant, good looks
Cons: pricey, but I think the bags’ durability will outweigh this in the long run
Overall: Beautifully executed minimalist duffles.

NOTE: Seeing as I can’t possibly abuse the Carrier Duffle enough, it’ll be heading up north in a few weeks with a couple friends who will be climbing Mt. St. Elias: several weeks of expedition abuse will certainly highlight any weak spots. We’ll see what kind of shape it comes back in after that trip!

NOTE: Arcteryx Equipment Inc. provided The Alpine Start with a sample of the Carrier Duffle 50L for review, however this in no way influences our opinion of the product.

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