Saturday, October 6, 2012

Keeping Stuff Dry

I've had several friends inquire about how we kept stuff dry on the Green River trip. Packing gear for a canoe trip is somewhat influenced by regional experience. For example, many canoeists in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area default to a device that looks like a canvas pillowcase with shoulder straps and a flap forming a lid, commonly known as a Duluth Pack -- or one of its modernized relatives. Keeps things together and easy to portage, but it's not waterproof.

With some western whitewater and kayak exposure, we've long used roll-top dry bags in various sizes and materials. The yellow bag is now at least 10 years old. While it's branded REI, I suspect it was made by SealLine who have long made a line of urethane coated nylon dry bags. They can be stiff in cold weather, and don't stuff in the kayaks as nicely as lighter weight dry bags but they are super tough and as such, some of them get invited on every trip.  The blue bag by Sea to Summit is one of many that we've added to the collection. They aren't as tough as the heavy urethane coated bags, but slide into the boat and past other dry bags nicely. Empty, they nearly disappear. Sea to Summit also makes wonderful compression dry bags which are great for squeezing sleeping bags.

For the canoe, as long as there are no portages expected, the red Watershed bags are my first choice. They're too big for kayak hatches, but they are very tough and absolutely waterproof. Certainly not the least expensive option, but you only need to buy them once. They use an overgrown "zip lock" style seal that is then folded under and clipped in place. The small one is my "day bag" and goes along almost every time the canoe is on the water. The larger one is large enough to handle all my personal gear, clothes, sleeping bag, air mattress, etc. We have a second one generally used by whoever paddles bow.

If the trip involved portages, I default to an NRS "Bill's Bag" which is a 110 liter roll-top dry bag with shoulder straps.

The sit-on-top kayaks with a tank well for a SCUBA tank in the back can leverage a larger waterproof container. The large Watershed bag or the Bill's Bag are options, but blue barrels are another packing system popular with some canoeists. While I've never used the two barrels I picked up on e-bay in the canoe, the approximately 40 liter barrels fits nicely in the sit-on-top tank well. Often used for shipping olives, the ones I got had been used for shipping pharmaceutics. The forward hatches can handle medium sized dry bags like this vinyl coated nylon roll-top bag.

Of course, there are other options. Every year we see canoes with black garbage bags piled high. They'll do the trick as long as they don't get any holes or tears and you aren't one of the handful each year that flip their canoe. Another option is to rent dry bags from an outfitter. Keeping the boat right side up is by far the easiest way to keep things dry. ;-)

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