The Stats Cost: $79 (40L), $99 (80L), $120 (150L) Size: 40L, 80L, 150L Weight: 2 lbs., 15 oz. (80L on Backpacker scales) Firstascent.com
Whether it’s a weekend warrior epic or a month-long expedition, my go-to gear holdall is a huge, bomber duffel. First Ascent’s Maximus Duffel stood up to constant abuse on all of my treks, whether it was stuffed in my trunk on the way to the Ansel Adams Wilderness, crunched in the back of our fifteen-passenger van for a trek to the Palisades, or tossed in the belly of a plane on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The combination of 210-denier double ripstop nylon, 1000-denier TPU Tarpaulin, and 1000-denier Cordura (translation: a lot of weather resistant, heavy duty material) emerged off the baggage carousel unscathed every time (I’ve lost two suitcases to whatever monster lurks in the bowels of airports). And the fabric and stitching has held up despite my penchant for being lazy and dragging the pack all over creation.
When I actually bothered to get it off the ground, the backpack-style straps were shockingly comfortable. (Yes, I was shocked–no exaggeration. I’ve worn my old duffel like a backpack, and it was miserable.) Despite the 45-pound load (which included my 65-liter pack and all the backcountry and urban gear I needed for my long weekend in western Colorado), I trekked all over Denver’s airport and rental car locations without feeling overburdened. The compression straps helped with load control, so shifting was minimal even when I needed to run after the rental car shuttle (which turned out to not be ours, tragically).
The design details are spartan but thoughtful. The oversized zippers can handle any amount of yanking open/forcing shut, the end handles are convenient for carting the bag with willing compatriots, and the internal zip pockets are helpful for maintaining a semblance of organization. My one gripe: The Maximus has a long straight zipper that makes sorting through the bag’s corners difficult. Duffels this big are much more functional with big arching D-shaped zippers that let you peel back the top so the whole bag is visible. But if you can live with that inconvenience, this bag is a steal at $99–it’s considerably cheaper than similar bags with fancier zips.