Where are Houdini and James Bond? Experts try to lock themselves inside The North Face Duffel as part of British spy death investigation

It doesn’t quite equal a product placement in a James Bond movie, but The North Face and it’s iconic Base Camp Duffel bag, for better or worse, is getting play in a real-life British spy drama.
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It doesn’t quite equal a product placement in a James Bond movie, but The North Face and it’s iconic Base Camp Duffel bag, for better or worse, is getting play in a real-life British spy drama.

The story begins back in 2010 when the intact body of a MI6 counterterrorism agent was found dead, locked inside an extra-large red TNF Duffel in the bathtub of his assigned government flat in London.

While the first thought for many might be of some torturous espionage murder, British investigators considered the possibility that Gareth Williams may have put himself in the bag as part of a sexual fantasy.

We’ll spare you all the kinky details (unless you like that sort of thing — there’s plenty of coverage from the New York Times to the Daily Beast). What’s more interesting to us is that authorities went to the lengths to test if someone of Williams' build and size — muscular and 5 feet, 7 inches tall — could indeed zip and lock themselves in a TNF Duffel unassisted.

According to the New York Times, police hired two men — one a yoga expert and the other a former military man trained in escape techniques — to try the feat. Despite up to 300 tries by one man and 100 by the other, neither could complete the task.

Video clips of their failed attempts — revealed at last week’s inquest of the case and provided below from the Telegraph — show the two men getting close, but unable to completely close the bag and get the lock on. This has led investigators to believe someone else was involved.

While every outdoor brand loves to receive free viral video coverage of their products, The North Face officials told SNEWS they are downplaying the event.

“Clearly, that’s not what it [the duffel] was intended for,” a TNF official told us.

In case you’re wondering: TNF duffels do not carry a warning against zipping yourself inside. But we wouldn’t advise trying the stunt. Experts in the case said that a human enclosed within the bag could die of suffocation in as little as three minutes.

Guess we'll stick to packing gear and schwag in our duffel at Outdoor Retailer this August.

--David Clucas

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