Kit Bag: The North Face El Gordo
For years I managed with a succession of large load-carrying rucksacks when heading away on a trip. They are all well and good if you're trekking, hitching or backpacking, but for road trips, car boot camping, expeditions, or anywhere where you are based in one place for any length of time a decent sized kit bag is far superior. My first such bag was stolen from my tent at Arico in Tenerife - OK, we shouldn't have been camping there, but it was a frustrating end to the trip nonetheless. In the meantime I've had a few smaller versions, but the El Gordo has trumped them all.
It's relatively light-weight (1.4kg) given its 90l capacity, and can be lightened further by removing the heavy duty shoulder strap which is only necessary if you plan to carry the bag any great distance (when it comes into its own!). There are a pair of comfortable handles on the top, and one and each end, which make grabbing the thing , even when fully laden, from an airport luggage carousel a breeze. For those who simply can't let go of the need for a rucksack, it's worth noting tat the two top-handles are padded and are big enough to get your arms through to turn the thing into a fairly rudimentary rucksack, all be it with a very high centre of gravity. The end pockets are very well stitched - the manufacturer even encourages hauling from these handles - mygut feeling woudl be that hauling should be an occasional use.
If you're carrying any valuables then the padded base will give you some peace of mind, but I felt that this could have been ditched to save some additional weight. Like-wise there are compression straps on the outside meaning you can turn a half packed bag into something sleek and streamlined. Sounds like a good idea on paper, but again, I'd have preferred to drop these in favour of a lighter bag. On the contrary, I'd have liked to see a second side pocket - in a bag this size it's essential to have a few small spaces to put books, keys, wallets etc, even if just when in your tent, as things rapidly get lost inside the main compartment. If you do get the extra large version it does include a waterproof inner pocket for dirty / wet stuff.
Retailing at £65 for the 90l version I think this is a very good price for a versatile bag that will see a good number of trips under its belt.
- 37l, 64l or 90l
· XL size features wet/dry pocket
- Weight 1.4kg
- Dimensions - 37cm x 68cm x 37cm