African Field Test: The Rugged Red Oxx Safari Beanos PR5 Duffel

WellRigged.com is entirely devoted to the most durable products on earth. 

I recently returned from a three week trip to West Africa. While I was there I took the opportunity to do a full review of one of Red Oxx’s best selling duffels.

Their Safari Beanos PR5 is reputed to be one of the toughest duffel bags in the world.

As some of you may know, my appetite for “buy it for life” products was born out of necessity during my years of non-profit work in Africa. (More about that here)

I’ve got to say, Africa is one of the most brutal crucibles for testing truly durable products.  What better place to do a Safari Beanos PR5 review?

Safari Beanos PR5 Review at a Glance

Price

Pros

  • Practically indistructible
  • Wheeled luggage pass through adaptor
  • Simple, organized and plenty of capacity.
  • World-class quality

Cons

  • Premium Price point
  • No smart device pockets
  • Larger hardware may be overkill for some tastes
  • Not exactly a business traveler’s bag

Preliminary Thoughts On Duffel Bags

Duffels are extremely adaptable pieces of luggage.  Try using a wheeled carryon for daily trips to the gym…yeah lame.

Say you need excess baggage space for just one portion of your journey but don’t want to haul around an extra suitcase. Duffels are great for that.   When you don’t need it just slip it compactly back into your other luggage and you’re off. Simple. 

Before you Buy your New Duffel 

A well built duffel costs more but it will easily absorb a full lifetime of abuse.  Unfortunately, marketing hype has really muddied the waters and made it hard to sift out the truly worthy bags from the junk.  

Furthermore,  the term “lifetime warranty” doesn’t really mean much any more. The term is widely used by marketers to oversell really crappy products and then cover their butts with pages of fine print.  

Still, there are a few honest luggage companies out there that offer true “forever” warranties.  

Red Oxx is one of them.

Red Oxx earned a well-deserved spot on WellRigged.com’s Top 5 Luggage Warranties for their comprehensive “No Bull” lifetime warranty.

Unlike mediocre companies, Red Oxx, really does mean it when they guarantee their bags forever…literally forever and they stand behind that claim 100%

Their “No Bull Warrantee” reads:

“As time rolls a ceaseless course, only the genuine guarantee remains. The mountains will persist, the oceans are bound to endure and Red Oxx will continue to be rugged, reliable, and tough. To the depths of the Amazon basin to the peaks of the Himalayas, Red Oxx Manufacturing is infallible. Our products are guaranteed forever, be sure to include them in your will. Cheers, Jim Markel CEO”

That’s why I chose to reach out to Red Oxx first when I wanted to review a duffel bag. They were up for the challenge and sent me a sample of their Safari Beanos PR5 duffel/carryon for a trial.

Red Oxx: A Company Overview

Red Oxx was founded by retired Capt. Jim Markel who began by manufacturing gym equipment.  As time went on Jim Markel(Junior) took the reigns and the company diversified into making super-rugged gun cases and luggage.

Based out of Billings, Montana, Red Oxx has focused on direct-to-customer online sales thereby cutting out the middleman and associated inflated costs. It’s a smaller company which means they are also able to focus more on tight quality control.

All of Red Oxx’s bags are manufactured in their own factory in Billings. No outsourcing.

If you know me, I’m a huge advocate of supporting companies like these.  As consumers, we should reward companies who hold to higher standards in a marketplace of so much compromise.

3 Reasons I chose the Safari Beanos PR5

Firstly, the PR5’s reputation precedes itself.  One mark of a great product is that it builds a large following without any marketing hype or ad campaigns. That’s what the  PR5 did.

Secondly, I naturally tend to get grumpy on long haul flights(especially ones with layovers.) I’m usually in a no-nonsense mood while traveling and I expect my luggage to be as no-nonsense as I am.  

Thirdly, I prize practical functionality and I despise half-baked gear with gimmicky “whiz bang” features.  Simple designs are almost always more useful, better built, more reliable and easily repaired if needed.

What’s with the “Beanos” name?

Yeah, “Beanos” is a weird name for a duffel bag. It’s actually named after a Red Oxx employee nicknamed “Beano.”

Apparently, Beano was so nicknamed after his grandfather who was a bean farmer.  I guess one day Beano decided he needed a carry-on legal duffle for his weekend travels.

He must have complained loud enough that the folks at Red Oxx listened and made Beano a duffle bag suited to his standards. The rest is history.

The Beanos became a hit and has seen 4 generations of progressive refinements.

Features of the Safari Beanos PR5

The PR5 is simple and symmetrically laid out. It features a large central compartment, two generously sized end compartments and flat pockets on all fours sides.

One of the side pockets pulls double duty via a lower zipper that opens to accept the telescopic handle of wheeled luggage.

Specs at a glance.

  • Capacity: 2400 cubic inches(39.3 Litres)
  • Weight:  3.4 lbs(1.54 kgs)
  • 24″L x 10″W x 10″H (61cm L x 25.4cm W x 25.4cm H)-Carry On Legal Size
  • Available in 12 colour schemes
  • Main Compartment (10″W x 18″L x 10″H)
  • Heavy Duty USA sourced canvas
  • Heavy duty #10 YKK VISLON®  Zippers(YKK’s largest zipper and also field repairable)
  • Heavy duty turn-lock main compartment closure and D-Rings for cable lock if desired.
  • Structural handles cradle the entire duffle meaning they can never separate or pull off.
  • Monkey Fist zipper tabs for quick access even in the dark.
  • Side pass through so you can mount on wheeled luggage handles
  • Large flat side pockets for passports/ reading materials.
  • Generous end compartments for quick over-head bin access to electronics, toiletries, etc..
  • Grippy “No Slip” shoulder strap with 360 degree swivels- quick detach via heavy duty claw clamps.
  • Comfy button clasped carry handles that distribute weight without bunching up in hand.
  • Heavy duty “double box” parachute stitching at stress points like handle anchors etc.
  • Seams and edges bound and stitched with Nylon webbing.
  • Heavy Duty, clasps, hard ware and closures
  • 96-97% USA sourced raw materials

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The African Field Test

No I didn’t go on a Safari, I was leading a team of five to run a camp for HIV affected children in Benin, West Africa.  This blog actually helps fund my full time non-profit work. 

During the trip the PR5 was with me for:

  • 7 Days without anything else(my checked baggage got lost)
  • 48 hours of flights/layovers
  • 6 hours on African bus lines
  • 18 hours in bush taxis
  • 10 hours of self-drive
  • 5 Guest houses stays
  • Several nights at various homes of colleagues.

What I used the PR5 For

  • My main Carry-On
  • Transporting Digital equipment(SLR, cables etc)
  • Overnight bag
  • Primary clothing

The Safari Beanos as a Carry On

I used the PR5 as my carry on for 4 long haul flights and two domestic legs including lengthly international layovers in Europe. Outbound to Africa I was heavily loaded with supplies.

The main compartment of my Safari PR5 swallowed a large SLR camera bag, toiletries, medication and several changes of clothes without a problem.  I could have fit more clothes in if I wanted to.

Pros

Airport Security was a breeze.  With quick access to the main compartment, I had my ziplock of gels and liquids out and packed away in seconds after security screening was done.

The “monkey fist zip knots” (paracord zipper grips) made opening the bag extra quick.

Duffles are so much more forgiving when space in the overhead bin is limited.  They’ll fit where nothing else will. Our flight into Benin was packed to the nines. Bin space was at a premium so it came in handy.

On-board, accessing the end pockets for my phone charging cables was easy.  I didn’t need to pull the whole bag out of overhead bin.

During our longest layover (7 hours,) it was nice to have the organized compartments. It meant I didn’t have to turn everything upside down to find a change of cloths, my shaving kit and fresh socks.  Ease of access and organization was a an advantage that my daughter’s wheeled carry on didn’t have.

Cons

The Shoulder strap

The shoulder strap is really well put together, but it’s just not comfortable enough for long heavy carries in airports.

I much preferred the carry handles which are well made and distributed the weight nicely across my hand.

A Couple Solutions

1. Thankfully the PR 5 comes with a super handy pass-through so you can slide it over the telescopic handle of wheeled luggage.

What a back saver! That feature was a God-send!  I mounted the bag on my daughter’s spinner carryon and was able to wisk along with ease.

2. Red Oxx has responded to this common complaint and now offers a “Long Hauler shoulder strap” as an accessory.  It offers much more substantial padding and weight distribution for those long concourses. 

If I were Red Oxx, I’d ditch the “no slip” strap and ship the PR5 with the Long Hauler.   

I’d highly recommend adding it to your order if you plan on using this bag as a carry on.

The Safari Beanos as an Overland Field Bag

Safari Beanos + Land Cruiser= A Buy it For Life Match

You think airline baggage handlers are rough?  Try African taxi-men! I think their life motto is, “You can make anything fit if you crush it a little more.”

Still, it’s rather entertaining to watch two grown men mercilessly shoulder ram their own van’s tailgate until it finally latches closed on 5 crumpled suitcases.  My Safari Beanos was amongst them.

Pros

Accessing the end pockets amongst the luggage made life way easier at road-side stops without pulling the whole bag.

My favourite use for the Safari Beanos in my travels was for the self-drive portion of my time in Africa. Its a great duffle for a road trip.

I lived out of it for 7 days on the road(unplanned-lost checked luggage).   Still, it was more than adequate to the task.   Everything stayed nice and organized right out of the trunk.

Loading up the PR5 for a bus trip

Cons

Crushable: Soft-sided bags like the Safari Beanos don’t offer great protection for delicate equipment. Obviously things are  liable to be crushed by over-zealous taximen.

So, just because the bag will handle the abuse doesn’t meant the contents will. I removed my SLR Camera before the taxi-men started “packing.”

Beware of Dirt and Mud.  It’s quite easy to forget that moisture from wet grass, and mud will find its way through your bag.  So before you pull it out of the Land Cruiser make sure the ground is decently dry or store it high.

Conclusions

 It’s not that Red Oxx “reinvented the wheel” with the Safari Beanos.   They just took a classic duffel design and did it better than everyone else.

The end result is the most durable duffel bag I’ve come across so far.  It’s simple, versatile and intensely practical for multiple tasks.

The brilliance of the Safari Beanos is really found  in the sum of its many functional details, hardware and practical features.  It’s a clearly a well thought-out design and it wasn’t slammed together overnight.

I think that’s why so many folks find the Safari Beanos compelling.  I just works and it takes a beating while it’s at it.

The Safari Beanos is actually available in 4 sizes: Two “checked” bag sizes(PR 6& 5.5) and two carry-on sizes (the PR5) and the gym bag size(PR4.

My Favourite Features

  • the wheeled luggage pass through
  • Unparralled build quality
  • Heavy duty self locking zippers and turn lock closures
  • Ease of access and simple organization

Consider it if…

  • you’re and adventurer
  • you’re practical/utilitarian
  • you do road trips
  • need a bullet proof bag

Skip it if…

  • You’re a business traveler(check out the Red Oxx Air Boss instead)
  • Your a tech geek and want lots smart phone pockets etc.
  • you like more refined looks
  • you’re tight on cash

Final Recomendations

The Safari Beanos is engineered way beyond regular consumer grade bags.  So it may be more than some would need.   Its definitely a “lifer.” You’ll never have to replace it.

If the Red Oxx’s Safari Beanos PR5 isn’t among the most durable duffel bags on earth I’ll eat my shirt.

FYI: You can only buy Red Oxx Bags through their website.

There are no Authorized sellers of Red Oxx Bags on Amazon.  

If you’re looking for a gym bag or day bag consider the PR5’s little brother, the PR4.  It’s identical but a little smaller and would be perfect for that.

As a carry on, I’d definitely recommend purchasing the optional Long Hauler shoulder strap.

Another rugged carry on option is Red Oxx’s best selling Air Boss which has been well-praised amongst business travellers.

(Disclosure: Red Oxx sent me a free sample for this Safari Beanos PR5 review, however, I do not receive any sales commissions from this article nor am I sponsored or compensated in any way for the views I have expressed in this review)

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