Keeping your gear dry is critical when you are in the backcountry, and one of the best ways to do that is to use dry bags. I was first turned on to dry bags when I started whitewater kayaking, and I’ve always owned two or three since then.
Recently, I got my hands on a Sea to Summit Big River Dry Pack and thought I’d share my thoughts on the bag. The major distinction between the Big River Dry Pack and traditional other dry bags is the inclusion of backpack straps, which makes it a lot easier to carry if you need to haul something heavy and/or for a long distance.
What I like about having straps on the Sea to Summit Big River Dry Pack is that it makes the bag much more versatile. I can use it for general dry storage in my overlanding rig and around camp, but also for hiking or other excursions. For instance, when I’m home in San Diego, I use it to carry towels, wet suits, and other items to the beach and back.
In case you aren’t familiar with dry bags, they are often used in river rafting, sailing, fishing, and other water activities to protect items from water. They seal out water by rolling up the top of the bag and clipping it shut. They can be used as an alternative to waterproof cargo cases, or in combination by putting gear in a drybag and then into a case for double protection.
The Big River Dry Pack is equipped with an adjustable EVA foam pack harness, a sternum strap, and a removable 1.5″ webbing hip belt. These features make it much more comfortable to carry, especially when carrying something heavy or needing to carry a load further than a few feet.
Another advantage of the Big River Dry Pack is its substantial size, available in both 50L and 75L options. This means that it can hold quite a lot, whether you’re preparing for a weeks-long overlanding trip or a short camping excursion.
In terms of durability, the Big River Dry Pack seems quite robust. It’s made from heavy-duty 420D nylon fabric, which should stand up to general wear and tear. The base of the bag is triple-coated to enhance water-shedding capabilities and overall durability.
The roll-top closure is made with non-wicking Hypalon to prevent water and the bag has fully taped waterproof seams to keep out moisture. Clips on the side of the bag keep the roll-top fastened shut, which in my opinion, is an improvement over traditional dry bags where the sides of the roll-top clip to each other instead of to the bag itself.
My only complaint about the pack’s lack of small pockets on the outside. Adding a pocket or two would have made the bag more functional as a stand-alone day bag. For instance, when I go to the beach, I need to put everything into a single compartment. This lack of compartmentalization makes it a bit challenging to organize smaller items.
That said, I’m guessing adding pockets might undermine the Dry Pack’s intended use as a dry bag. The outside of the bag does offer a daisy chain for attaching extra gear externally, and I’m planning to get a smaller bag that I can clip to this for carrying things like my phone on day trips.
To sum up, the Sea to Summit Big River Dry Pack is a great choice for those who value dry storage capacity and don’t mind the lack of small compartments. Its backpack straps are definite pros for me, but if you don’t need the straps you’ll probably be fine with one of Sea to Summit’s more traditional dry bags.
As an aside, you might be wondering why you’d need a dry bag if you’ve already got cargo cases. In my experience, most cases designed for overlanding that are will let some moisture in, especially the large ones. For instance, I have two Pelican Cargo Cases, which are some of the best cases on the market, but some moisture still gets into them.
This isn’t true of smaller water-proof boxes made by Pelican and other companies, which I’ve been using for my cameras for years. Not sure why this happens with the larger cases – maybe it’s something to do with the larger size cases naturally containing more air that condenses with temperature changes?
Whatever the cause, dry bags are another layer of protection for gear that’s essential to keep dry, especially if you will be in wet weather. Even if you aren’t in a rainy place, dry bags can help keep dust off of your gear. The take-home message is that it’s worth investing in a few dry bags to round out your gear storage situation.