Portage PacksReviews

Duluth Pack Northwoods Review

Duluth Pack’s Northwood pack is a burly portage pack made in the Canadian style that canoe-hero Bill Mason used and loved. It’s made from 18-ounce canvas with a double bottom. It has leather shoulder straps that are riveted into the pack. Two 36-inch long leather crossover straps secure the pack and allow the internal flaps to expand when carrying large loads. It has two side pockets big enough for water bottles. The shape is designed to fit into the contour of a canoe and it rides low. The pack comes with a 6 ml poly liner and a tumpline. A waist belt is an upgrade.

I’ve owned a Northwood pack with a custom hip belt since the early 2000s and have used it on many trips into the BWCA, down slow-moving rivers and on car camping trips. I’ve thrown it around, dragged it up rocks and across the ground, it has sat in the bilge water, got rained on, ended up in the mud and generally abused. I’m not careful with my packs. Other than some wear on the leather, it looks new.

When I first got the pack, the leather shoulder straps were stiff and dug into my shoulders. It took several trips to break them in, but now they fit me perfectly. When someone else uses the pack, they tend to feel some slight discomfort. At first, internal flap system confused me. Essentially, you use cotton straps threaded through grommets to secure your load into the pack before closing it completely with the top flap and two crossover straps. Duluth Pack claims the flaps allow it to carry the biggest loads. Although it can carry a large load, the limiting factor is the size of the top flap. With larger loads, it just doesn’t cover the top enough. The pack itself is large enough to carry enough lightweight gear and food for two for a week. In a tandem canoe, this means that one person portages the canoe and the other carries the pack and paddles.

Overall, it’s a great pack. I like Northwoods simple design better than some of Duluth Pack’s other packs, and the boxy shape makes it easier to pack than the envelope shape of the original Duluth Pack. The beefy construction seems like overkill, because it adds extra weight, but that same construction means that you’ll own this pack for your entire life. Then after you die, your kids will use it. The proven design of the Northwoods will never become dated, especially in canoe country where Duluth Packs are standard. If Duluth Pack could grant me one wish, I’d take one of these in silnylon. Make it 1.5 lbs., please. I have the perfect name picked out.


  • Dimensions: 23H x 22W x 8D extends to 29H x 22W x 8D
  • Capacity: 5,200 cubic inches extends to 6,230 cubic inches
  • Construction: 18 oz canvas, box pack design, double sewn side seams, double canvas bottom, two 36” leather crossover straps, leather reinforcements for all rivets and high stress seams, includes M-217 poly liner

Price: $195 (Plus $50 for the waist belt) | More Info

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