Gregory Alpaca Duffle
This is a review of the largest (120 liter) Alpaca, whose primary role will be long trips and transporting my big backpack and gear. Durable fabrics and features mean the bag will last a very long time. It has comfortable shoulder straps and multiple handles for getting around. Top opening is big, a plus for packing. If there is a downside, the removable shoulder straps lack a quick release—takes some work.
- Shoulder carry
- Multiple handles
- Big opening for packing
- Storage options, small but useful
- Removing shoulder straps
The Alpaca 120 is a big bag, no way around it. Capacity is 120 liters, or about 7,300 cubic inches. It weighs about 4 pounds, empty. [for the sake of comparison, the extra large LL Bean Adventure Duffel that the Alpaca replaced holds 139 liters and weighs a little less than 3 1/2 pounds].
The main pack is made of 900 denier polyester ripstop with a TPU coating on the outside, making it effectively waterproof in the rain unless there is a concentrated stream of water hitting the zipper and avoiding the overlapping cover—very unlikely. The bottom has an additional layer of 630 denier nylon.
The Alpaca is available in 45, 60, 90 and 120 liter sizes.
GETTING FROM HERE TO THERE
Of the few things that duffel bags have to do, the ability to pick them up, carry them, and transport them is a significant part of their job. For duffels this size, shoulder straps are my #1 mode of carry, followed by the top handle, with end handles being least important (unless two people are toting the duffel).
A well-used Eddie Bauer/First Ascent 90 liter duffel, my first large one with included shoulder straps, opened my eyes to the value of being able to hoist and tote a large duffel bag through an airport, from a transit point to a destination, or (in a pinch) getting to a trailhead. Neither that 90 liter duffel or any other I have found can swallow my largest backpack, though.
The shoulder straps on this Alpaca are very good. Comfortable, adjustable, and removable. Though travel has been limited the past year, I have loaded this up and walked around, and the shoulder straps are robust enough to handle a lot of weight. The top handle is made of wide, seatbelt-like material with a hook/loop piece to hold the handles together. The end handles are made of the same wide nylon as the top handles and are stitched to make them comfortable to handle.
If you want to stash the shoulder straps, they’re removable. Taking them off means sliding the top strap through friction fittings and un-looping the bottom ends; there are some competitors who use various quick-release features to make shoulder straps easier to remove. I don't generally remove shoulder straps because I use them, but I would consider it for air travel to avoid damage. There's a zippered outside pocket that can stow the straps plus more—discussed below.
Some large duffel bags have an included long strap that attaches on each end for one-shoulder carry. The Alpaca does not have a dedicated one-shoulder strap, but you can accomplish the same thing by either using both shoulder straps together, fully extended, or by removing one shoulder strap and cross-mounting the bottom end of the other strap so it extends diagonally across the bag. I don’t like one-shoulder straps on duffels this large, so I have not tried to rig it that way.
The other main function of duffel bags is packing stuff in and unpacking it. The Alpaca has a large top opening with a big, D-shaped zipper. That’s not uncommon for more expensive duffels but is a significant advantage over the large LL Bean duffel I replaced, which had a straight zippered opening on top. It’s easier to pack and much easier to find things with a wide opening. A number of competing brands that sell extra large duffels offer this kind of opening: The North Face, Osprey, Marmot, Sea to Summit, Patagonia, REI, for example.
Setting aside the very large main storage area, the Alpaca 120 has two zippered mesh pockets on the underside of the top and one zippered pocket on one end of the duffel. Both are relatively low-volume pockets for storing smaller items. I like the outside zippered pocket as a place to stow particularly soiled or stinky small clothing items, or the shoulder straps if I were inclined to remove them.
A small added bonus—if you want to drop in a card with your name and basic info, there is a well-protected "window" on the end with the zippered pocket. Open the pocket up, and you can access the area to put in your info.
If you expect to transport your Alpaca on top of a vehicle or a mule, you will be happy to see sturdy daisy chains running the length of each side for tying it down.
Duffel bags should last a really long time, and most do. It took nearly twenty years for me to wear holes in the LL Bean duffel that this Alpaca replaced, and that took some serious and unplanned dragging. The most durable duffels tend to use TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) coated 900-1000 denier nylon to enhance durability and water resistance, whereas the Bean duffel and other 'mid-range' options are usually made from 420 or 600D coated nylon. the Alpaca's 900D materials and extra layer on the bottom should make it extremely durable.
No one wants to have a duffel fail while toting stuff on a hike or trip, and the build quality of the Alpaca is excellent. The main zipper is a large coil zipper, stitching at stress points like the zippers and handles is doubled or tripled, handles and straps are robust. This is built for the very long haul.
MISCELLANEOUS DETAILS AND TAKEAWAYS
The full retail price of the Alpaca 120 is steep at $170. I found it discounted 35%, fortunately. There are basic duffels made from lighter-grade materials and probably lower-quality stitching available for $25-30. In my experience, they’re much harder to carry and pack and can have significant durability issues, particularly if they’re packed with heavier gear, and particularly if they are mistreated during travel, always a possibility. Our family blew out two inexpensive large duffels in about 3-5 years each—large drag holes in one, main seam ripped in transit on the other.
Water resistance can be an issue with duffels, depending on your circumstances. I prefer bags that are at least made of materials that keep water out; except for duffels dedicated for water use/canoe trips, most zippers are a potential entry point for rain/water. The Alpaca’s coated nylon/polyester materials don’t let water in.
As things have finally opened up, I have started to use this duffel to tote gear. My only gripe is that it’s so big that when it’s totally full, it’s a lot to carry….but that didn’t stop me from trekking a fair bit using the shoulder straps.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $115
Great bag for transporting gear and travel items. Get the 120 if you need more than a couple days' worth of items
- Great strap options
- Carries like a backpack
- Zippers don't snag
I debated a long time about size, and I ultimately settled on the 120, and I'm very glad I did. At first, I was afraid it would be too big, but after filling it multiple times, I would have had a hard time with the 90.
Of course, sizing depends, on your needs, but I'm usually packing gear (not too much) and travel items for 3-5 days. If I don't fill the bag, I appreciate the compression strap options to tighten things up. Although I haven't exactly needed it yet, having a bag that is water resistant will be important for me as I transport gear in more extreme conditions.
So far, the zippers have been solid, and there aren't any issues with durability.
Source: received it as a personal gift
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Current Retail: $115.95-$179.95
Historic Range: $49.47-$229.95
Reviewers Paid: $115.00
45L, 60L, 90L, 120L
|Weight||2.14 lbs / 0.97 kg||2.91 lbs / 1.32 kg||3.57 lbs / 1.62 kg||4.10 lbs / 1.86 kg|
|Volume||2,746 cu in||3,661 cu in||5492 cu in||7,332 cu in|
|Packed Dimensions||11 x 22.8 x 11.8 in / 28 x 58 x 30 cm||12.2 x 25.4 x 13 in / 31 x 64.5 x 33 cm||13.8 x 29 x 14.6 in / 35 x 73.5 x 37 cm||15 x 31.3 x 16.2 in / 38 x 19.5 x 37 cm|
900D polyester diamond ripstop with TPU coating
630D HD Nylon