The North Face Rolling Thunder 22″ bag is essentially a durable and spacious duffel, much like The North Face Base Camp Duffel, but adds wheels and a hard-shell frame on one side making it easy to travel with as a carry-on bag. It also has a retractable handle making it easy to glide through the airport without having to wear it over your shoulder or as a backpack. As a business traveler, I immediately was drawn to the durability, usability, and stability of this carry-on bag.
Sleek, but sturdy, design
This bag has a strong frame on the back and wheels so that it can more easily be used as a rollaboard bag for business travelers. The hard shell on the back protects the contents of the bag when it gets jostled around at baggage claim, on the baggage loading cart of a regional jet, or piled upon with other heavy items in the trunk of the car.
I took this bag on a busy trip where it got put through the ringer, and it performed well thanks to tough wheels and a water-resistant fabric exterior. The North Face has put plastic bumpers on the edges of the bag and surrounded the wheels with them to buffer the bag contents.
The large internal compartment is spacious enough to pack a lot of clothes, shoes, and travel gear together. The fabric of the bag means you can stuff it pretty full, and a sturdy zipper keeps that runs around the length of the bag keeps everything in place. Unlike hardshell bags where it is hard to overstuff a bag and close it, the fabric of this bag allows it to be flexible (a positive for overpackers).
There are also handles on the top and side in case you want to lift the bag into the trunk of a car or an airplane overhead compartment. When walking with the bag, a retractable handle glides out of the back; I liked how sturdy it was, which makes this bag especially convenient to roll when it is chock full of heavy things.
Best of all, it fits as a carry-on bag in most airline carry-on bag sizers given its size of 22 x 14 x 8.5 inches. For some low-fare carriers, the wheels may stick out a bit (since different airlines sometimes use stricter carry-on bag sizers) so it is always best to check online before booking a ticket. It weighs just over seven pounds, however, and some foreign airlines weigh carry-on bags so those stuffed with more than just clothes may cross over their woefully low (and often laughable) carry-on bag limits.
The wheels are exceptionally sturdy, which is another selling point for those that travel on busy street (or even cobblestone) sidewalks.
Smart and plentiful storage
With two external pockets for easy-access storage of quick-grab items plus an interior zippered, mesh compartment, the bag is well thought out for packers (especially those that are going with carry-on only). I liked the fact that there are so many options for where to store smaller things like charging cables, keys, coins, and other things you want to quickly access without rummaging through the entire bag.
It is worth noting that unlike some carry-on bags, there are not a lot of interior dividing sections for this bag. Essentially, it is one large pocket so if you plan to pack a blazer or something you want to remain wrinkle-free, plan ahead.
I did not love that The North Face logo was emblazoned on the side, but this company is so well-known for its solid luggage that many may appreciate its name on the side.
The North Face Rolling Thunder 22″ bag retails for $269 on The North Face website and comes in a variety of color combinations. The bag comes in a larger size for those that are looking for a durable checked bag. It is the ideal gift for the frequent traveler, especially those that make trips in a variety of settings and are looking for durability without sacrificing style.