A Salute to the Iconic North Face Base Camp Duffel

northfaceduffelFor more than 45 years The North Face has been responsible for making some of the best—and most recognizable—outdoor gear on the market. The company’s catalog ranges from jackets, to boots, to tents, to backpacks and so much more. But perhaps the most iconic piece of gear that TNF has ever produced is its famous Base Camp Duffel, a product that has been a staple on expeditions to the far flung corners of the planet for decades, and remains an essential piece of gear for explorers and adventurers today.

First introduced back in 1979, the Base Camp Duffel has been everywhere from Kathmandu to Timbuktu. This is a bag that is equally at home in the Yosemite Valley as it is on the Great Barrier Reef or the Sahara Desert. The duffel has been carried on expeditions to Everest, overland excursions across Africa, to both the North and South Pole, and beyond. In short, the duffel is a piece of gear that has survived just about every environment imaginable, and continues to go back to those demanding places year after year.

Throughout its lengthy lifespan the bag has gone by a number of different monikers. Upon first release it was called The North Face Soft Luggage Duffel, but in 1981 the name was changed to the Vinyl Duffel instead. Then in 1985 it became known as the Base Camp Vinyl Duffel—a reflection of the places where it was being used most. Three years later it was simply renamed the Base Camp Duffel, a title that has stuck ever since.

Unlike most other outdoor products, the Base Camp Duffel has evolved very little over the years. It still retains its original design of a single large internal compartment, four compression straps, a couple of shoulder straps, and not much else. It is a decidedly no-frills affair, although that has always been a large part of its appeal. The original version of the product offered simplicity and durability, two qualities that continue to be the trademark of the duffel today. It was made for one thing—carrying lots of gear to remote places—and it does that job very well.

Ask anyone who has ever used the Base Camp Duffel why it is such an iconic product and they’ll likely tell you two things. First, it is nearly indestructible, shrugging off just about any punishment that you send its way, and secondly is it’s distinctive yellow and black coloring. While The North Face now offers the bag in a wide variety of colors, it originally came in bright yellow with a black TNF logo emblazoned on the ends. That look seems to have remained the color of choice for most people who carry the duffel even today. Typically that makes it easy to spot the bag on an airport carousel, although that isn’t always the case. Visitors to Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu in early April are likely to be greeted by a sea of yellow duffel bags upon arrival as mountaineers arrive for the start of the Himalayan climbing season. The Base Camp Duffel is so popular that nearly everyone arrives with one, or at least a cheap knock-off.

The other thing that people will tell you about the Base Camp Duffel is how much they actually love it. It isn’t often that a piece of vinyl inspires an emotional response, but that is exactly what this bag does. Maybe its because the duffel accompanies them on some of their most memorable adventures, or perhaps its because it is such a high quality product that once you buy one, it is pretty much yours for life. What ever it may be, BC Duffel owners love their bags, and they are not afraid to admit that to others.

Throughout the past 35 years hundreds of products have come and gone from The North Face catalog, but the Base Camp Duffel has remained a constant. That alone speaks to the longevity and appeal of this bag, which will continue to be carried on expeditions to the ends of the Earth for many more years to come. If there is one product that TNF makes that lives up to their company motto, it is the Base Camp Duffel.

Never Stop Exploring.

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