Drive By

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

Drive By :: Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

by , May 26, 2015

Taking the reins in our latest Drive By is our new contributor. Jeremy is the co-owner of Standard & Strange in Oakland, CA, and previously the co-founder of Cedar Cycling.  He spends a lot of time handling USA-made bags, and is obsessed with finding the perfect bag for every situation. A lifelong bicycle commuter, and recent motorcyclist, his favorite carry tool is the milk crate zip tied to the back of his KLR650.

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

Outlier is known for doing some pretty kooky stuff when it comes to menswear, and their bag program is no exception. I’ve known the guys there since they were just making a pair of pants, and they’ve come a long, long way since. I’m pretty spoiled for apparel – I get everything I could want through my store – but I’ll still shell out for their goods.

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

Way back when, their first bag release was a collaboration with Hyperlite Mountain Gear – a simple backpack. People either understood it or they didn’t, and that applies to this latest bag creation of theirs. The Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle pushes the boundary of what a duffel bag is, and borders between art and luggage.

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

Outlier Ultrahigh

The base material is cuben fiber (nothing to do with Raekwon) and it’s insanely light, and incredibly strong. It’s got a nice rich sheen to it, in a way that doesn’t make it look like cheap nylon, and a crunchy hand that makes you think “This is something totally new”. There are carbon fiber frame sheets for stiffness and structure, and one of the most intricately crafted herringbone straps I’ve touched in the realm of carry goods.

The base material is cuben fiber…and it’s insanely light, and incredibly strong.

There are also two very convenient exterior pockets, both made from 4-way stretch Tweave (a material I know well from apparel development, and love).

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

What the hell did I do with the tech’d-out bag from the future? The first thing anyone would do: I strapped it to my motorcycle, and went to Trader Joe’s and filled that fucker up.  There’s a finite limit on how much you can cram in there and retain functionality, but this isn’t a bag about over-filling, it’s a bag-of-moderation. Pack less than you need so there’s room to expand.  That said, I did overfill it, barely got it rolled shut, and then it still stayed intact for the ride home.    

There’s a finite limit on how much you can cram in there and retain functionality, but this isn’t a bag about over-filling, it’s a bag-of-moderation.

After that, I decided to use it to tote product to and from the photo studio for shoots – we managed to get about a dozen pieces of bulky menswear in there comfortably, and have it stay securely shut on the bike. The wide opening came in handy here, along with being able to cinch the strap down to nothing to avoid too much flapping about.

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

My next trial for the bag was road-tripping to LA. I managed to shove my usual packing amount into it easily. No fuss, no drama, just a nice easy lightweight duffel. I fit a week of gear in there, packed lightly, along with my Kindle, laptop, cable case, and dopp kit. No room for my jacket, but overall, a surprising amount fit in and still closed securely.  

Next challenge: daily carry. I added on the extra strap, turning it from duffel to backpack, got confused (I don’t read directions), put the straps on the other way, and then loaded it up with my laptop, gym clothes, cable organizer, and spare layer.  

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle Backpack Mode

I abused it on BART this way for a week, and while completely inappropriate for the use, it still performed well. Fully loaded for the day, it sat well on my back, was easy to hike on and off, and generally got out of my way. Once at the office, the wide opening was rad for just getting my crap out and getting to work.

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

Then, I decided to go all in: Take it to NYC for market week, using it as my carry-on and primary luggage. I managed to cram in everything I needed for the week, but it was definitely at the limit with heavy winter layers bulking it up. I think I would likely not push it that far again.

Who It Suits

This is a definite pickup if you’re a light packer and into the technical menswear scene, although to be fair, it looks are understated and that it plays into anyone’s style quite nicely. 

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

Who It Doesn’t

I’d skip it if you like to pack everything and then some. It really does not deal with being overstuffed at all.  It might also not jibe well with folks who are into the super-traditional canvas and leather baggage look (and not into material that crunches when fondled), but it doesn’t look the least bit out of place when lined up with Filson gear.

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

The Good

What I really loved about this bag was the well-designed combination of simplicity, flexibility, and easy loading. It was pretty much just a pleasure to use with the well-thought-out hardware, and was a great auxiliary bag to stuff in my main luggage for extended trips.

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

The weight was by far a killer feature – save the weight for the load, not the bag.

“…a great auxiliary bag to stuff in my main luggage for extended trips.

Another aspect of the bag is that people definitely notice it, and not in a bad way. 

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

I’ve had many conversations at the Laundromat, grocery store, on the train, and in the shop about it.

“The weight was by far a killer feature – save the weight for the load, not the bag.

The backpack conversion, the thoughtful pocketing, and the bomber straps all added a lot to the plus side of the balance sheet for this bag. 

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

The Not So Good

It’s hard to find many negatives about it – my primary complaint might actually be a feature. I have a similar roll-top duffel made from heavyweight waterproof rubber, and it has two fail-safes for overload: the “lips” Velcro together, and then there’s a set of buckles that cross over the top. I wouldn’t have complained about having some auxiliary hand-straps, which are also in violation of the general concept of the bag. 

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle Sport Mode

The strap-attachment system was clever, but a bit annoying to figure out at first. The bag comes in a number of different carry modes including Sport Mode, Mil Mode, Messenger Mode, Hand Mode, Beach Mode and Backpack Mode (which requires an additional strap).

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle Mil Mode

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle Messenger Mode

Alternating between them can be tricky and confusing, involving readjusting G-hooks and scratching-your-head moments.

The strap-attachment system was clever, but a bit annoying to figure out at first.

It’s likely you’ll end up just using the bag as a duffel or a backpack, and that’s okay.

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle Beach Mode

Outlier Ultrahigh Duffle Hand Mode

Others to Consider

My alternate picks would be the SealLine WideMouth Duffel, the Filson Dry Duffle, or for those looking for the lightweight, the Stuff Pack from HMG.  There really isn’t anything on the market quite like it though, in terms of design + fabrication + functionality.

Verdict

For the right person, someone who gets the techy look and load limitations, this is a great bag that I’d recommend all the way.  This is an absolute must for Outlier fans, too. Folks who are looking to stuff a bag over-full won’t be at all happy with it and I’d steer them towards one of the many great alternatives. 

The Breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Geek (Performance)

Space & Access
8
Organization
7
Comfort
7

Style (Design)

Look & Feel
8
Build, Materials & Hardware
9
Features
7

Stoke (Experience)

Warranty & Support
8
Brand experience
7
Value
6
X Factor
8
  • John

    Carryology & Jeremy- thanks for the Drive-By! I found this bag online back in January(it was released in December), and immediately went on a hunt. Apparently, it sold out quickly from Outlier very quickly and another batch has not (will not?) been made. No one is selling on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, etc. and I’ve gotten no email from Outlier about restocks. A very, very cool bag that meets many of my carry needs, but is apparently completely unobtainable. Once again, thanks for the in-depth review. Hopefully, Outlier notices the attention that this duffle is getting and cranks out more!

  • http://about.me/markwhiting Mark Whiting

    The SD D3 Traveller – http://sdrtraveller.com/products/d3-traveller – might be a better alternative, but its not very cheap.

    • AA

      Extremely costly, no external pockets, and the straps aren’t nearly as good. Sure it is well made but this is better for the city.

      • Jeremy

        I think Abe/Tyler had some input into the development of the SD D3, actually.

  • AA

    Made the mistake of not buying this when I had the chance. By the time I had decided I wanted it the second strap was sold out and so I gave it a miss. I’ve got the newand awesome backpack and it’s convinced me this style and material works better as a duffle. Hopefully it will be back next season.

  • jonmead

    Hi – did you use it with the bottom and side sheets in all the time, or did you try it with them out? If you did experiment, what did you think worked best?

    • Jeremy

      I used it with the bottom sheet in at all times, but I packed it into another bag for travel with the side sheets out, and it worked just fine. The bottom sheet is essential or it turns into a sloppy mess.

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