Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 60L Duffel - A Long Term ReviewPosted by Adventure 16 | 05.24.2018
Trying to find the right train. Mo Lawthong
If I’m honest I already had plenty of bags and backpacks in the storage closet. Still I didn’t feel like I had the rigt one for the kind of travel I was about to undertake so I swung by the Solana Beach Adventure 16 store and picked up an Eagle Creek “Cargo Hauler” Duffel 60L in Fern Green.
I’ve since spent 5 months humping, hoisting and hauling this duffel all across SE Asia. It’s been on planes, trains, boats, buses, motorbikes and my own back and I feel I can now provide a qualified and comprehensive long term review.
This duffel uses Eagle Creek’s new Bi-Tech™ Armor Lite fabric which they tout as “max abrasion resistant and ultra light”. I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first as I couldn’t help but compare the frighteningly light weight and suppleness of the fabric to my North Face Base Camp duffel; it was just so much lighter and more pliable that I questioned its durability and the longevity I was going to get.
With a padded bottom and "Armor-Lite" fabric the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler resists abrasion on rough surfaces. Mo Lawthong
I can confidently report that after countless airline baggage handlers, bus and train station floors, filthy street food stalls, etc. that the fabric does indeed hold up. But why is that important? Well, using this fabric creates a 1¾ lb savings versus my more rugged, similarly sized North Face duffel. That’s a lot when the budget airlines are counting every gram to determine your additional baggage fees, or when the motorbike taxi at the train station won’t budge off that tourist priced fare, so after doing the “how many bowls of Pho could I buy for that same money” math you decide to skip the taxi and shoulder the bag to hike those 7 kms to the village.
Speaking of wearing the bag, some online reviews mention discomfort with the shoulder straps. I can’t say these claims are totally baseless as the material in the shoulder straps is made a bit rigid to provide structure to support the load and I can see how it could dig in at certain contact points for certain body types. That said it is important to remember this bag is designed to be worn for a reasonable amount of time/distance and short hauls in this bag were quite comfortable for me and I had no issues even when pushing the definition of “reasonable”.
One awesome feature of the bag’s shoulder straps is that they are completely removable via a D Ring and Clip system. This was great when I wanted to stash the straps inside the bag, say before checking it for a flight, and really came in handy when the straps got a little funky and I needed to wash them (Sorry but the straps proximity to the underarms and the unrelenting tropical heat make this a real thing!).
With the Eagle Creek “Cargo Hauler’s” backpack straps you can comfortably walk those few kms from the train station and turn what would have been taxi fare into more money for street food! Mo Lawthong
Usability of this bag is intuitive and straightforward. There are two large, padded handles on either end of the bag that allow you to grab it like you would an ice chest. This comes in handy when trying to lift the bag up onto something like a luggage rack or into the back of a taxi. There are also handles on the side which provide a way to hold the bag more like a traditional suitcase.
The bag uses large #10 zippers on the main compartment with chunky zipper pulls making it a cinch to open and close. The zipper track takes a wide path around the top perimeter of the bags main compartment making it very easy once unzipped to visualize contents and/or get things in and out. For added security the zippers accept a small lock to secure the main compartment, something I’ve only partially tested with a micro carabiner for some added security while on overnight trains.
In addition to the main compartment there are two smaller compartments at each end. These are great for organizing and separating things. I shove running shoes and some dirty clothes in one end, and items I want to keep handy (passport, phone, pen, etc.) in the other. These end pockets are well thought out as they share the internal volume of the main compartment. By this I mean that if you stuffed the main compartment full you’d have no room in the ends and contrarily, if you maxed out the end pockets they’d reduce the available volume of the main compartment. This intelligent design means there is no wasted space no matter how you choose to organize your gear across the compartments. Lastly, when the bag is empty you have the option of stuffing it “into itself “into one of the end pockets and zipping that closed creating a small, uniform object that is easily stored out of the way.
As for areas where the bag is less than excellent? There is only one worth mentioning and that is its ability to keep your gear dry in wet weather. “Dry season” in SE Asia is more of a suggestion than a rule and certainly doesn’t mean that the skies can’t open up and dump buckets for no good reason. On one such occasion I had to exit a leaky bus and run 100 meters to a train station in what can only be described as ridiculously heavy rain. After the sprint and once dry inside my train car I discovered the bag had leaked quite a bit, most heavily it seemed through the stitching and zippers. In fairness, the fabric used in this bag is described as “water resistant“ and I’d judge that to be an accurate description and admittedly this was a very heavy downpour, but I mention it here because wet weather would be an application this bag is not best suited for.
All told this turned out to be the right bag for me and has not let me down on this trip. It has competently and safely transported all my clothing, some computer and work necessities, groceries and other odds and ends like a bike lock, first aid kit and coffee making equipment through 6 countries over the last 5 months. The packed bag has typically weighed in at just under 20 kgs, a load that this bag easily manages and that if need be, I could comfortably carry for a few hours. The bags design and features have been intelligently thought out making it very user friendly. I can wholeheartedly recommend this bag for all but the most extreme adventure travel. If your plans include strapping this to a yak during the Himalayan monsoon season there may be better options but for all other adventure travel applications the Eagle Creek “Cargo Hauler” Duffel 60L is an excellent product that will serve you well. Now get out there!!
Tim Axall is an A16 Ambassador whose interests lie in all things outdoors; especially backpacking, hiking, skiing and adventure travel. Originally from Southern California he considers the Sierra Nevada’s his local mountains. He is currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand as he travels Southeast Asia with his wonderful girlfriend and adventure partner “Mo” who takes many of the (better!) photographs in these articles. Thank you for reading!