Frost River vs Duluth Pack [Which is Better!?!]

Did you know that both of these companies were founded in the same town of Duluth, Minnesota? This is because many of the employees that were fired from Duluth decided to make their own company, and that is how Frost River was founded.

When it comes to hiking, camping, or any long-term outdoor activity, packs are one thing that is needed as much as anything else. A compass and supplies are great and all, but without something to put them in, you are pretty much out of luck. Having one of these is almost as important as having a compass or a water bottle.

What is just as important as having a pack, is making sure that they are durable and well made. It would be a shame for you to be halfway into a forest, or part way up a mountain, just to have it tear on you, and have all of your stuff pour out on the ground. Because of this, we have to figure out the difference between the two biggest outdoor pack manufacturers out there. Which one is better? Are they worth the money you shell out for them? Let’s find out.

Duluth Pack vs Frost River Comparison

The below links will bring you to Amazon:

  1. Duluth Pack Wanderer Review
  2. Frost River Pack Nessmuck Review

1. Duluth Wanderer Review

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The Duluth Wanderer is a great one to get for the price, and it will do everything that you really need it to do when camping, hunting, etc. It has two larger pockets on the side to hold drinks or extra materials, and one large pocket in the front for extra storage.

Some Notable Specs

  • 1845 cubic inches in volume (not including pockets)
  • 15 oz canvas
  • Leather Straps
  • 16″ x 15″ x 6″ (not including pockets)
  • It has a front buckle pocket and two side buckle pockets
  • Comes in Tan, Black, and Olive Drab colors

What Makes It Better?

The Duluth Wanderer is pretty standard when it comes to camping and hiking packs. However, expanded, it has far more room than the Nessmuck does in terms of cubic inches, as well as in pocket space. This can be very helpful if you have a lot of stuff that you need to bring with you when hiking or camping. It would be a shame to go on a camping trip, but later find out that you need something that you couldn’t bring with you because you didn’t have to room.

It also does not have waxed canvas, meaning that it is lighter as a result. Having too much weight on your shoulders when you are hiking is a bad thing, and although the pack is meant to distribute the weight evenly, that is not always the case, especially if it is far too heavy.

Duluth also has a far longer history in the business, and because of this, are more trustworthy when it comes to the quality of their products.


2. Frost River Nessmuk Review

Frost River Nessmuk

Similar to most backpacks built for travel, the Frost River Nessmuck has two small pockets on one side, a large one on the other for holding things like water bottles, and unlike their competitor, does not have an extra pocket in the front. As a result of the fewer pockets, it has less storage compacity.

Some Notable Specs

  • 16″ x 12″ x 5.5″ (not including pockets)
  • Premium leather straps
  • Solid brass buckles
  • 18 oz waxed canvas
  • 1056 cubic inches, but can expand up to 1900 cubic inches (not including pockets)
  • Only comes in one color
  • 3 external pockets, the long pocket measures 12″ x 5.5″ x 2″ while the two short pockets measure 6″ x 5.5″ x 2″, and it has 1 zipper pocket on the inside.

What Makes It Better?

What it lacks in storage compacity it makes up for in quality. For instance, the Nessmuck is made with a much thicker cotton canvas and even has it waxed. While not all bags need this, it means that this bad boy is not only fit for durability, so it will last a long time but that it is waterproof as well.

Because of the wax, your goods in the bag should be able to avoid getting wet. This works great in climates that are very rainy, such as tropical climates. However, it may not be as useful in the warmer areas.

This son of a gun also has a leather handle on top, so you can carry it around even when it is not on your back. The Duluth pack does not have this feature, so it is definitely a plus for our friend here. A leather handle is a great way of making sure that you have many ways to carry around the bag, so it does not feel as cumbersome.

I really enjoy the fact that the buckles and straps are made out of strong brass and genuine leather. This showcases that the pack is durable, and is made out of high-quality materials. That is one of the things that I keep an eye out for when I am considering a major purchase.


The Best Action-Packed Features To Look For

When it comes to getting a great deal, there are many specific things that you should look out for. While you don’t need all of these to have good gear, keeping in mind all of them is important to make sure that what you are getting is useful in the terrain and environment you are going to be in.


When you are going on a hike or hunting for food, bringing as much with you to survive as you can cal always be a plus. As a result, you may want to look for a pack that is larger in size, depending on how long you are going to be gone for. The longer you plan on being gone, the larger you should get.

When looking for the size of the bag, make sure that you see not only the product size but the volume of the product as well. This will be shown in Cubic Inches or c.i. This will show you how much the bag itself is able to hold, so you can prepare for your trip a little easier.

Waxed Canvas

Wet weather is always a pain, and if you have a regular canvas bag, it is going to get soaked, and so will everything inside of it. So one way which you can avoid this is by getting a bag that is waxed. The wax is hydrophobic, so it helps keep that obnoxious water away from potentially damaging the goods in your bag.

In more rain prone places, such as any place near the equator, having wax on your bag can be a lifesaver. However, it depends on what you need. If you live near a place that does not get much rain, you may want to weight the options. However, if it comes free with the product, that is always a plus.


Although the pricing for these two companies is similar, one thing you should definitely look for is quality for your price. Iss one company utilizing more valuable and strong materials as opposed to the other? Do you get more bang for your buck if you purchase from this company instead of that? These are the questions you should ask before you even ask “how much does this cost?” There should always be room in a budget for quality.


If you are going to be putting hundreds of dollars down on a pack, the last thing that you really want to happen is for it to fall apart. Because of this, finding well-made ones that last a good long while is always a plus. It is even better if they have a thicker canvas, as it will be able to withstand the wear and tear a lot easier.

Having god strong buckles and well-made leather straps is always a benefit as well. These will last a long time, and you can keep your gear for years to come.

Why Should You Buy A Duluth Pack

These bad boys are often much lighter than their competitors, simply because they do not often come with a wax coating. It is also not hard to expensive to add some beeswax for cheap if you are going to be using this in wetter climates.

Duluth is also cheaper overall than their competitors, however, the quality of the packs may be lower as a result. However, even with the lower quality, for the vast majority of buyers, they are still great to use and are highly durable for even the avid camper.

They have also been around for longer. Although this does not say much about how well they make their products, it does show that they have been in the business for a long time, and know what they are doing.

Why Should You Buy A Frost River Pack

Frost River packs tend to not only be cheap for the high-quality that they give, but they tend to have many features to enjoy as well. For instance, while many Duluth packs come with waxed canvas, Frost River one’s seem to come with them automatically. This can be highly beneficial in more wet climates, as it keeps your belongings from getting wet. However, in more dry places, you may not want to deal with the extra weight of the wax.

Another great thing about Frost River is the quality that they put into their packs. There is a reason they put quality into their work, as the founder of Frost River, Steve Emerson, worked for Duluth for 20 years before the whole team was fired by new management because they were being “paid too much.” As a result, Steve started Frost River and hired many of the otherwise fired skilled workers to ensure that their work is quality.

This is why the cotton used for the canvas, the genuine leather used for the straps, and the solid brass used for the buckles are all top notch. If that is not a reason to pick Frost River than I don’t know what is.

Is it a good idea to use these for travel?

While both the Frost River and Duluth backpacks are an aesthetically designed, is it truly possible to use these packs for long-term travel? Using either of these bags to carry books to your college night class or to bring along a few folders of documents to an important business meeting certainly feasible. However, is this pack suitable for a two-week vacation or a backpacking trip around Europe?

One of the main advantages of using the Frost River or Duluth pack for travel is that you can essentially avoid the cliché “backpacker” look and thus avoid the attention that comes with trying to board a bus or train with an oversized hiking pack with dozens of straps and zippers. While other backpacks built for travel might offer a bit more comfort if you plan on hauling a pack for several days, both the Frost River and Duluth packs are made from waxed canvas meaning that you will not have to worry about running for cover every time a light rainstorm comes up.

Do They Make a Good Women’s Backpack For Travel?

Another thing I would like to mention is that Duluth provides plenty of different color choices, similar to these, while Frost River generally comes in just one color. While getting all namby-pamby over the color of your gear may seem to be a bit silly, it may be something good to note if you want something a bit different.

There are definitely benefits to be found on getting both of these, but if I had to choose between the two, I would pick the Frost River pack.

However, it all depends on what you need and what your desires are. As well as other things, such as your price range, and how high the quality of the product is. While one sack may work out well for one person, it may not be a good fit for someone else. So always ask yourself the important questions before making a decision.

I hope that you found this article helpful, and if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us.

Final Thoughts

The Frost River pack has to be the best of the two, in my opinion, hands down. The canvas is covered in wax, which makes it the best for pretty much any occasion. However, with a few minor tweaks, you can always just wax a Duluth bag as well. So I guess it depends on your train of thought.

Frost River also has far better quality as opposed to Duluth as well, having stronger buckles and straps. Since the company is founded on experience and craftsmanship, that is not shocking at all.

However, the Duluth pack seemed to be much larger due to the extra pockets. I tried to showcase two that were about the same size and used for the same thing, but the lack of pockets on the Frost River lowered the volume of it. I guess because of such it would be understandable that the Nessmuck one is much cheaper. However, for the quality that you are getting, it a steal.

Scott Moey

Based in Brooklyn, New York, entrepreneur and philanthropist Scott Moey lives a wild life as an adventurer, explorer and traveller. He blogs about his love for the outdoors on

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