In a line: A huge wheeled duffle which manages to tick all the boxes for packboating.
Cost: £180 (shops from £230)
Weight: 3170g (verified)
Where tested: Up and down the hall
• Durable wheel design
• Rolls up
• Waterproof TiZip
• Non-rigid design is less prone to damage
• Lockable main zip
• Exterior mesh pocket
• Detachable backpack harness for non-wheelable terrain
• Rigid handle eliminates bobbing
• Costs a lot, but so do they all in this size
• PVC feels a little thin
What they say
… the Duffle RS is made to withstand the rigours of the most adventurous of expeditions while at the same time offering a high degree of travel comfort. The bag’s heavy-duty wheel system is connected to the body of the bag in a waterproof manner. The 100 mm wheels and the rigid floor plate made of contoured aluminium offer increased floor clearance – ideal for both airport terminals and rugged outdoor terrain. And given the importance of lightweight luggage, especially when travelling by plane, the bag’s designers opted for an adjustable grip that guarantees plenty of leg clearance and comfortable towing instead of a heavy telescopic towing frame. The foam padding at the base of the bag offers enhanced stability when the bag is fully loaded and the watertight zipper that runs across the whole length of the bag gives you quick access to your gear. The zipper can also be locked using the integrated wire loop and a small cable lock (not included).
A year or so ago the axle on my ageing, rigid 100-litre Samsonite collapsed. It had been handy for IK transporting and air travel, but the small wheels were more suited to swishing elegantly through airports than negotiating rough riverside tracks.
In need of a replacement for NZ, I chopped down a cheap collapsible trolley and lashed it to my trusty 96-litre UDB sausage bag (left). It worked pretty well and weighed in at just 2.7kg. With airline baggage limits at 22kg or so, luggage weight becomes important, but luggage must also be robust enough to withstand rough treatment, not least by weary baggage handlers.
One nifty thing I noted when wheeling my airtight UDB: with its integrated inflation/ purge valve (right), off the carousel I was able to pump it up hard to make the bag rigid and less of a sack to wheel around. Inflatable kayaks and packrafts work on similar principles. But, lacking a rigid frame and handle, it could work itself into an annoying bob when on the move, and the inability of being able to stand it up on end was also a surprising nuisance. Lean it on a wall and it’d roll away.
This bodge was a valiant attempt at not splashing out on Ortlieb’s RS140 Duffle which I knew fitted my needs. A few months later an unused, BNWT RS popped up on ebay about 20% cheaper than the shops, and like the feeble consumer I am, I fell for it. More gear, sigh…
Orlieb does two types of wheeled duffles: the RG series in 34-, 60 and 85 litres with a rigid floorplate or frame (right) supporting an extendable aluminium handle, like regular wheeled luggage. And the more unusual frame-free ‘roll-able’ RS series in 85, 100 and 140 litres.
Wheeled duffles are nothing new: all the major outdoor outfitters do models up to 140 litres (Mountain Equipment). But like the Ortleib RGs, they all use rigid frames for the telescoping handles which can see weights exceed 5 kilos. None claim any level of IP-rated submersibility, and few have a backpack harness which, at these huge capacities, is more realistic than a shoulder or holdall straps.
In a kayak and especially a packraft, a rigid bag is a nuisance. Only the Ortlieb RS can be rolled up (left and right) and only the 140 is big enough to easily take a big IK and gear.
With wheeled bags intended for rugged terrain, large 100-mm ø wheels roll over irregularities better and can give better clearance. What’s important is a solid mounting as the wheels will give the bearings or axles a hammering when loaded up on rough ground. The RS’s wheels have a smooth solid feel and have replaceable bearings and the solid alloy plate – effectively part of the axle – also takes the knocks from stones.
It’s the full-length TiZip which makes the bag special; IP67 waterproof rated which will do me. because it’s long, getting my Seawave in there was easy and left plenty of room – 30 litres at least – for camping and paddling clobber. If you just want a day transports for a solo IK, the RS 100 will do you. when closed the zip hooks on to a stud and you can slip a padlock under an embedded cable to lock it in place (right).
On the water, the idea is that, once you’ve removed the boat, the bag carries the rest of your camping stuff in a more compressed form with a guarantee that it won’t get wet inside. This makes the RS a truly do-it-all big hauler on land and sea.
At the other end the two-part handle has one rigid part and the other adjustable for length and I actually found the bag rolled along better than my UDB setup. It didn’t bob because of the rigid handle, and it didn’t catch my walking legs either.
Inside, a 20mm-thick foam base is glued in to protect the floor from sharp impacts; the floor gets an additional layer of Cordura on the outside too. And the compression straps incorporate a zipped document pocket. The backpack straps are very thin and basic – good for stairs but not really fit for any extended walking.
They join up with velcro to make a carry handle and there’s another handy grab handle at the wheeled end. As they’re removable they could easily be replaced with something cushier, but it’s a big load on the shoulders.
Four bag-top tabs (not really ‘daisy chains‘) allow you to lash on more gear, like paddles. And there’s also a handy zipped mesh pocket (left).
I have to say the thickness of the PVC is from regular Ortlieb bags. For something able to carry such heavy loads and getting knocked about in and out of airports, I’d have preferred something more durable. That would of course add to the weight, and one good thing with this stuff is that it’s dead easy to repair, either with tape or a dab of Aquaseal for a small hole.
I hope to take the RS for a proper test spin shorty.
Valves and airtight bags
The guy in the video mentions how floppy the bag is when not packed full. Little does he know that, because the RS should be airtight, fully inflated it ought to hold its form and be less of a sack. To do that it helps to fit an inflation valve. The one-way valve on my UDB is actually a nickel-plated Halkey Roberts jobbie – probably overkill if I could even find where to buy it.
Whenever I checked in my UDB I always opened the zip a bit so it wouldn’t burst or strain the seams in the decompressed hold. I was over-thinking it. Cargo holds are actually pressurised the same as the rest of the craft; the tubular fuselage shape (right) requires it, same as the side tube of an IK. Yes, it is reduced to less than sea level pressure, but only by about 20%. That’s why occasionally some containers leak a little.
Another good reason for a valve on a bag like this that you can blow it up as a buoyancy aid, either to cross a river, or get to shore after an orca bites your packraft. Either way, for wheeling rigidity or emergency, I think an oral inflation valve is handy when using such a bag for paddling. Just tell me where I can buy one easily.