The North Face Doubletrack 21″ 2011 Review

What do you lug your stuff in when you travel around the world? Adam and I did some research and decided on a hybrid backpack/wheelie bag.

Adam came across The North Face Doubletrack 21″ (post-2011 “ARLX style”, not to be confused with the older pre-2011 “AJ5C style” pack of the same name). It had a price tag of $350 CDN, but the North Face store price matched Europe Bound for $300. The main bag is 45L with a kangaroo pouch that carries a detachable 18L day pack. The main bag on its own is carry-on size for most airlines if you don’t stuff it to the max.

doubletrack-21-ARLX_JK3_hero.jpg&op_usm=1,1,8,0&resmode=Sharp2

Fabrics:

  • 420-deniers ripstop nylon
  • 1680-denier ballistics nylon
  • 600-denier and 1200-denier polyester

Features:

Trolley case

  • Retractable handle
  • Internal compression straps
  • Internal mesh pockets

Daypack

  • Side stretch water bottle pockets
  • Internal padded sleeve

Specification:

  • Detachable daypack volume: 18L
  • Total volume: 45L
  • Weight: 4.03kg (8lbs 14 oz)
  • Dimensions: 54 x 38 x 26 cm
Front

Front

Back

Back

What we like about North Face is their return and warranty policy. Any North Face products can be returned for a refund with no time limit, as long as you have all the standard stuff (i.e. receipt, tags still attached, product unused). The products also have a lifetime warranty, but check with North Face for details as there are likely exceptions and such.

To get a sense of how much the Doubletrack can handle, Adam packed in:

  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 5 pairs of boxers
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 sleeping bag
  • 1 toiletries bag
  • 1 26.5 x 72″ towel
Straps out

Straps out

This is by no means what Adam plans on bringing, we just wanted to see how much stuff we can get in there. The sleeping bag was meant to provide an allowance for stuff we need to bring that hasn’t been shoved in.

Considering the fact that Adam is 6 feet tall, his clothes and shoes are naturally bigger and therefore takes up more space. Based on the list above I’d say we have enough room to pack the necessities. The sleeping bag did make the Doubletrack bulge out so it would be unlikely to fit into a plane’s overhead bin with that much stuff in it.

The Doubletrack works just fine as a roller bag (note: we’ve only pulled it around our condo). The test was in using it as a backpack. We took the hidden shoulder and hip straps and gave it a whirl.

Close up of how strap attaches to the base - not very solid

Close up of the D ring attachment to the base – not very solid

I’m 5’5 and about 110 pounds. My biggest struggle was adjusting the straps so that the solid base of the backpack didn’t hit my tailbone. After that it was a matter of seeing if we can use the backpack for more than a few minutes.

One flaw we both found was that we couldn’t find a way to get the Doubletrack to sit firmly against our back. My only point of contact was the bottom of the bag. I would have to lean forward if I wanted the bag to rest against my back. If a heavy bag isn’t strapped tightly against you, it jostles around and makes it harder for you to stand or walk with your back straight. This would eat up a lot of energy if you plan on using it as a backpack for a long time.

Front straps

Front straps

Front straps

Front straps

Maybe this flaw can be overlooked if the intention is to use the Doubletrack as a wheelie bag most of the time. We both walked around with the bag for a while. After taking it off, my back hurt like a mofo! I’m pretty confident this is cuz I’m a huge pansy, but I’m going to blame the design of the bag a little bit. I also found it hard to stand upright without toppling over.

Notice the gap at the top of my back

Notice the gap at the top of my back

Adam's fit a little better, but still not snug enough

Adam’s fit a little better, but still not snug enough

Seeing as how the trip is planned to be one year long and we don’t know where we might end up, I’d rather be prepared with a hybrid that has a more comfortable backpack mode. It’s highly possible that this doesn’t exist, but I plan on returning the Doubletrack and giving the Osprey Meridian 22″  (*LINK UPDATED March 24, 2013*) a shot. I’ve read some pretty good reviews so far, then again I’ve read good reviews about the Doubletrack too, so we’ll see.

P.S. Here’s what the daypack looks like. The daypack straps are also connected using D rings like the main pack above.

Front

Front

Back with hidden straps

Back with hidden straps

Back with straps

Back with straps

Related posts:

Advertisements

10 responses to “The North Face Doubletrack 21″ 2011 Review

    • Hi Alan.
      Yes it is hard to believe that a bag this size weighs 4kg, but the frame, wheels and telescoping handle make a big difference compared to a tactical pack of similar dimensions.
      You could look at this as a positive in that it is a good inspiration to pack lighter to make sure you don’t go over your weight limits on low cost airlines 😉
      Even though we opted for the Osprey Meridian which is a similar weight, we’ve been nothing but happy with our choice of hybrid bags if that makes any difference for you.

      • Thing is that it’s actually 5kg, not 4kg – most similar premium trolley cases are about half that weight making this almost impossible to justify buying. You’d think a company like TNF would have a clue about weight being one of the most important considerations for travel gear.

      • Wow 5kg!
        That’s even worse!
        Is that the newest model?
        I would definitely find it hard to justify when carrying it, especially because the harness isn’t really that comfortable so all that weight is going to kill your back, airline weight limits notwithstanding.

      • Hi Alan,

        I checked out the Samsonite collection you indicated (short-light), and I can’t seem to find information about the harness system the bags are using.

        Are those hybrid wheel/backpack cases, or just wheeled cabin luggage?

        I do find it difficult to believe that north face would be able to get the doubletrack down below 2kg and still keep the hybrid backpack harness system/wheeled suitcase capabilities that it is striving for.

        What are your requirements for your luggage, and what sort of trip are you planning?

        I look forward to hearing about it, and maybe I can share some of my experiences with the bags we are using (osprey meridians).

      • The short-light are just your basic medium shell extendable trolley but the lightness when lifting one up in the shop was something you can’t contemplate purely reading spec sheets on manufacturer websites (how I get fun). I sent that link to TNF also just so they know I’m watching them closely 😛 . Granted it doesn’t have the features of your Meridien or the DoubleTrack but strapping a day pack on and some straps doesn’t reconcile the 3.4kg difference or 300% weight – the DoubleTrack is a bloated pig!

        Gonna use this bag for all sorts of shorthaul tom-foolery I do frequently although I can easily use a bag like this for a week trip even to cold-ish places. Just not sure if I can wait 1 year until TNF update the DoubleTrack only to find they couldn’t engineer it to < 3kg. I think anymore than that weight and their designers are incompetent/over engineering to ridiculous levels. 2.5kg should easily be possible but probably won't be for TNF.

        How is the Meridien shaping up and what size is it? I only saw huge ones of 60+ litres on the Osprey website.

      • Hi Alan,

        Sounds like your really taking the lead on this topic!

        I hope TNF can get their act together too…

        Our Meridians have more or less the exact same specs as the Doubletrack 21″ (I think they have about 40-45 L capacity, and weigh about the same ~4kg unfortunately), but they feel like a much superior product.

        In case you didn’t see the comparison we did, check it out here:

        Osprey Meridian 22″ 2011 Review & Comparison | ARTY DUBS
        https://artydubs.com/2012/10/18/osprey-meridian-22-2011-review-comparison/

        I’ve since written a glut of rambling opinion pieces on our Meridians too, and I believe they updates are linked within the above entry if you’re interested.

        I think both of these bags might be overkill for your purported tomfoolery though to be honest, especially since they are so heavy as you’ve already noted.

        I’ve got a carry on size Samsonite at home similar to the ones you pointed me to, and that has always been sufficiently suffice for my own week-or-less shenanigans, especially since it’s so light.

        Let me know if TNF ever follows up with you.

        All the best!

  1. Hey there,
    do you have any news on when TNF will release the new collection with hopefully a lighter hybrid bag like the Doubletrack 21?

    • Fall 2014. I’m waiting for it too. It needs to be close to half the weight of the current version to be credible for hand luggage on flights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s