The REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel is a fantastic all-purpose adventure duffel bag. It’s burly but light. Better yet, it has built-in backpack straps that deploy fast and tuck out of the way when you don’t need them.
To give us a closer look at the REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel series, REI sent Man Makes Fire a review unit of their massive REI Co-op Big Haul 120 Duffel.
Here is what we learned.
REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel Review: Design
REI Co-op has been making its own branded gear for years, but what we’ve seen lately from the company has been a flurry of gear that boasts high-end features but is sold at midrange or midrange-plus pricing levels. Even without the slight pricing advantage, the REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel competes very well head-to-head with two of the most popular adventure travel duffels today: The North Face Base Camp Duffel and the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel (which REI also sells — you can use REI’s compare feature on all travel duffel bags at REI.com if you want a quick look).
This type of duffel is characterized by burly materials and excellent construction. Major design elements include grab handles, daisy chains for lashing, and removable backpack shoulder straps. As for the Big Haul backpack straps, REI has created one of the most comfortable and easy-to-use backpack strap systems available today. In fact, we prefer REI’s backpack design over the strap systems on the Patagonia Black Hole and The North Face Base Camp series. So why are we such fans?
First, the backpack straps in the REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel series tuck out of the way in a top pocket that covers the top of the duffel. When you deploy the backpack straps, this top sheet pocket and lid design covers the zippers and provides a nice flat surface to rest against your back when you carry the duffel in backpack mode.
Second, the position of the backpack straps ensure that you carry the duffel higher on your back where you want it.
Third, the top of the backpack straps remain attached to the lid. This means you only have to attach the bottoms of the straps to near instantly transform the duffel into a backpack. Better yet, the ends of the straps use an ingenious metal buckle system that slips into heavy-duty nylon loops. The handles attach with the same system, which means you can remove the handles if you plan on a long haul. So cool.
What if you don’t overstuff the bag? The REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel series includes compression straps that you can use to essentially shrink the bag to your contents . . . or compress loose items to better fit the bag. For us, we tend to prefer bags that are a little larger than we usually need, so compression straps are a feature we appreciate.
The inside of the lid includes a couple of mesh pockets to help organize smaller stuff, but for the most part, consider the REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel as a big bag with a large opening that you can jam a lot of clothes and gear into.
REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel Review: Size Options
The REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel comes in four size options: 40-liter, 60-liter, 90-liter and 120-liter. In addition, REI makes two wheeled versions with a rugged base shell and handle extension.
The 40-liter model meets most carry-on luggage size restrictions for airlines, so if this is your primary plan, the 40-liter is for you. It measures 21.3 x 13.4 x 10.2 inches. Even though it’s the smallest in the Big Haul lineup, it includes the same compression straps and backpack straps.
The 60-liter is 25.6 x 13.8 x 11 inches, but you might be able to squeak it on as a carry on if you ratchet down the compression straps. Either way, it’s a great size for weekend trips.
The 90-liter is 29 x 15.4 x 13.4 inches, which makes it large enough to handle a lot of clothes and gear. If you’re looking for an adventure duffel, this is the smartest all-around size. You can really load it up if you need to but you can still compress it down to keep it manageable for shorter trips or less gear.
The 120-liter comes in at 30 x 17 x 15.75 inches. It has massive volume and we love it. Of course, when you fill it with clothes, a pair of boots, food, a tent, sleeping bag and a travel fly rod, it’s freaking heavy. Just saying. But your core gear all fits in one adventure-ready bag — and that’s really the point of the Big Haul series anyway.
But wait, there’s more: REI offers two wheeled versions for airline travelers. The 30-inch REI Co-op Big Haul Rolling Duffel comes in at 87 liters while the 34-inch REI Co-op Big Haul Rolling Duffel comes in at 109 liters. The key difference, of course, is the rugged shell on the base, the wheels, and the extensible handle.
REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel Review: Great Bag
All-in-all, the REI Co-op Big Haul Duffel is a great adventure travel bag. The nylon construction is burly without being stiff and heavy. The backpack straps are fast to deploy. The compression straps work great. The overall rugged design of the REI Co-op Big Haul Duffle speaks to our outdoor adventure souls. Best yet, we can jam it full of gear and throw it around and feel confident that it’ll do its job for years to come. Highly recommended.