For a few years now, the Patagonia Black Hole 55L duffle bag has been our favorite go-to duffle bag.
We’ve taken it on road trips, checked it full of camping gear, and carried it around on our backs.
We love this thing. It’s great.
But then Cotopaxi sent us their new Allpa 50L duffle, and we gotta say, they might have just dropped a bomb on Patagonia here, because this thing is rad. We tested them both to see which is king.
Cotopaxi Allpa 50L vs The Patagonia Black Hole 55L
It’s a little smaller than our rugged Black Hole, sure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, on some airlines, you wouldn’t be able to carry on the 55L Black Hole because it’s too big. So the Allpa at 50L might just be the perfect size.
But as we know, size isn’t all that matters. 😉 And right out of the box The Cotopaxi Allpa has some impressive features that really made us go, “oooohhh.”
Like all the exterior pockets, for example. While the Black Hole only has one, the Allpa has 4! Two of which are technically for stowing the handles, but the other two are secure zipper pockets.
Despite it only having one pocket, though, the Black Hole’s is much larger, which serves two purposes: first, the pocket expands into the interior of the bag, which is great for stashing dirty clothes as you go, and second, the bag is designed to fold up into that very same pocket when not in use.
Now, if the bag is already stuffed full, then that big pocket isn’t going to help you very much. And being able to fold up into it’s own pocket may sound cool, but it’s hard enough to do that I never even bother.
The Cotopaxi, on the other hand, doesn’t pack into its own pocket, so I guess you could deduct a point there if you’re the kind of person who wants that sort of compressibility, but otherwise, I don’t miss the feature.
But what the Allpa DOES have instead is what I think is more useful: a separate zipper compartment on the bottom of the bag. But this is more than some little narrow pocket in a seam: it’s the same size as the bottom of the bag.
What’s more, the fabric wall between this bottom pocket and the main compartment is designed in such a way that whether you use the bottom compartment or not, you’re not giving up any additional space.
What’s so great about a separate section like this is that if you have damp, dirty, or smelly clothing or gear you want to keep separate–like climbing rope and shoes from an extra change of clothes–you can easily store them apart.
It also has a mesh zipper pocket inside that bottom compartment and on the underside of the lid–just like the Black Hole.
Both duffles are made of durable materials, have heavy-duty grab handles on both sides, and plenty of sturdy daisy chain webbing and the all-important removable backpack straps.
Removable Shoulder Straps, Compared
This is where the Black Hole may have an advantage over the Allpa: you can put on or take off the Black Hole’s straps in a matter of seconds, while the Allpa’s straps are going to take some serious finagling.
You have to fuss with webbing and weave it in and out of cinch locks whereas the Black Hole lets you just clip in one end and slide in a locking O-ring in the other. Easy.
Now, that extra time-consuming process may only matter if you regularly remove the straps, but it’s worth considering depending on how you intend to use the bag.
For example, if we’re getting on a flight where we’re checking backpacking gear (read about what gear you can and can’t check in this post), we’ll often have it all in our duffel. Because all that gear can be pretty heavy, we’ll use the backpack straps to carry it in, then once we’re at the check-in desk, it only takes a few seconds to remove and stow those straps when we use the Black Hole.
When we pick it up from the carousel once we reach our destination, we quickly put the straps back on so we can easily carry it out of the airport. And when we get to camp or wherever we’re staying, we might take the straps BACK off so they don’t get in the way when we’re digging around in the duffle for a few days.
Doing all of that with the Allpa would be very annoying, and we’d probably just leave the straps on, which is fine, they might just run a higher risk of getting snagged in airport machinery.
But like I said, none of that may matter to you. Especially if you’re just throwing it in the back of the car for a road trip.
Other Important Distinctions
What else differentiates these duffle bags? The Cotopaxi Allpa comes with a lifetime warranty and is made of highly durable materials and the bag is ethically made, but it isn’t made of recycled materials.
The Black Hole, on the other hand, is made of fully recycled ripstop fabric that’s also Bluesign approved.
Both brands let you send used gear back in for repair and resale and give you a store credit, which is cool. And both come in a bunch of different color combos, though the Allpa is probably a bit more fun in that department.
As for price, the duffles are comparable. The Black Hole is a bit more expensive at $169, but it’s also a bit bigger. The Allpa is $140.
Duffle Bag Comparison: TLDR
Need a recap or just want the quick and dirty breakdown? Here it is.
- More zipper storage
- Expandable bottom compartment
- Durable materials
- Lifetime warranty
- Available in fun colors and other sizes
- Shoulder straps are hard to remove
- Not made of particularly sustainable materials
- Easily removable shoulder straps
- Packs into its own pocket
- Available in several colors and other sizes
- Made of recycled materials
- Pockets are small and only semi-useful
- May be too big for some airlines
Patagonia Black Hole vs Cotopaxi Allpa: Bottom Line
So did the Cotopaxi Allpa blow the Patagonia Black Hole out of the water? Well, maybe not as aggressively as we first thought. Honestly, both duffles are quality pieces of gear.
While I like the size and design of the Allpa better, I do prefer easily removable pack straps and gear made of more recycled materials.
That said, which duffel you’ll go with just depends on your travel style or just what you plan on using it for. Air travelers may prefer the Black Hole and the easy-to-use straps while colorful Cotopaxi Allpa may be more suitable for those who want more usability in a more compact package.
Either way, pack well and wander on.
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Alisha is a freelance outdoor journalist and photographer based in Ogden, UT. She loves backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and snowboarding (even though she’s terrible at it). She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. alishamcdarris.com