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Reviews > Stuff Sacks > Dry Bags > Sea to Summit Big River Dry Sack > Test Report by Michael Williams

SEA TO SUMMIT BIG RIVER DRY BAG
TEST SERIES BY MICHAEL WILLIAMS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - January 14, 2011
FIELD REPORT - April 04, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - May 31, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Michael Williams
EMAIL: mlebwill@yahoo.com
AGE: 37
LOCATION: Milliken, Colorado, United States
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I was introduced to backpacking as a teenager through scouts in Colorado Springs, Colorado and fell in love with it. I continued to actively backpack through college and took a break to start a career and family. A few years ago we decided as a family to become very active in hiking, backpacking and camping. Currently my wife, son and I hike and backpack extensively in Colorado and South Dakota as a family. We continually look for the right balance of lightweight, durable, comfortable and safe gear for our family to enhance our outdoor experiences.


INITIAL REPORT

Product Information

IMAGE 1
Courtesy of Sea to Summit
Manufacturer: Sea to Summit
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: www.seatosummit.com
Listed Weight: 4.2 oz (119 g)
Measured Weight: 4.4 oz (125 g)
Listed Dimensions: 20 x 9 x 6 in (51 x 23 x 15 cm)
Volume Tested: 13 L (Various sizes from 3 to 65 L available)
Color: Orange (Blue, Black, Green and Yellow are also available)
Number of Lash Loops: 2 (one on each side)

Product Details

The Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag is a roll-top closure storage sack that is water resistant. The sack, which is a 13 L volume bag, has an oval base, or bottom, that is designed to prevent rolling while stored as well as two lashing points, one on each side. The only other feature of the bag is the roll-top closure (which is actually the opening or access point of the bag) that consists of a stiffened hem, a set of quick release buckles and a plastic D ring on either side of the closure. Additionally the Sea to Summit logo is silk screened on the center of the bag.

The bag is constructed from a 420 D nylon rip-stop fabric that the manufacture claims to be "Super Strong and Abrasion Resistant". This rip-stop fabric comprises the exterior of the bag and the interior is made from a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) laminated fabric that has a 10,000 mm waterhead, which is a scientific term to identify how water resistant the laminate is. The bag is constructed using double stitching which is reinforced with fully taped and sealed seams. The low profile lash loops are made from a non wicking and very durable Hypalon fabric that is also used on the non-stiffened hem of the roll-top opening.

Initial Impressions and Testing Strategy

My initial impressions are that this is a heavy duty bag. While it is relatively heavy for a 13 L storage sack it seems lightweight when I pick it up and feel how durable it appears. The bag is well made with what looks to be quality materials and fine craftsmanship. The first thing that I did when I got the bag was to fill it up with water, about 8 L. I then closed the top and set it aside (vertically) for 2 hours to see if there was any weak points in the material or stitching, I did not find any and none of the water escaped.

Closing and securing the bag is very easy, I simply face the logo towards me and roll or fold the roll-top closure away from me four 180 degree turns. By making four turns, the quick release buckles and the D rings align themselves in a way that I can couple the connections towards me (above the logo) and have the D rings positioned on the outside of the closure for use.

It should be noted that the Sea to Summit instructions indicate that the roll-top closure should be rolled at least 3 times to maximize water resistance; however, I'm not sure if that is 3 - 180 degree turns or 3 - 360 degree turns. Regardless, the method that I am using with the 4 turns appears to work very well. In fact, while writing this I am practicing the closure method and I have sealed the bag with nothing but air and the bag has remained fully inflated for some time. What is interesting about this is that the oval shape of the bag makes for a perfect camp pillow; if the bag holds the inflation perhaps this could be a dual use item and something further to incorporate into the test (however the fabric leaves something to be desired).

I have also closed the bag with gear in it. I have stuffed a sleeping bag as well as cloths and a very heavy winter coat into the bag and it secures nicely. I have noticed that when closing something that is lofted such as a down coat or a sleeping bag that the water resistant features can trap a lot of air in with the gear. To circumvent having a balloon storage sack, I loosely roll the top down and simultaneously press down on the contents of the bag to push out the excess air. Once I am satisfied that the air has escaped, I re-roll the lid and secure the quick connects. This method allows for a very compressible bag.

While this is a highly water resistant bag, it is not waterproof due to the roll top closure. As a result, Sea to Summit does not recommended that the bag be submerged for an extended period of time. There are additional warnings from the manufacturer with regard to sharp objects or excess abrasion that could weaken and compromise the fabric.

While this bag was designed for water based activities such as boating, rafting, kayaking or canoeing I plan on using this bag around frozen water and snow. This test will occur during the winter months and this bag will be used for winter camping trips and will most likely be lashed to a pulk. A pulk is a gear hauling sled for use during cross country skiing and snowshoeing activities.

Summary

In the winter, wet gear is very dangerous and we will see how well the Big River Dry Bag performs. I am very excited to use this bag, especially the lashing loops as I think these will work nicely when packing my pulk. While a 13 L bag isn't going to handle all of my gear, it will accommodate a lot of the important gear. I like the idea of compartmentalizing gear when not in a backpack and multiple 13 L sized bags could be ideal.

This concludes my initial report; the Field Report which details my use during a two month period has been amended below.


FIELD REPORT

Field Conditions and Performance

During the Field Report phase of the test series I have used the Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag on 3 overnight trips and 2 day hikes for a total of 9 field days and approximatly 40 trail miles (64 km). Both day hikes and 2 of overnight trips were in Rocky Mountain National Park during winter conditions with heavy snow and below freezing temperatures. On both overnight trips the dry bag was on a pulk (gear hauling sled) that was covered with a tarp and on the day hikes the bag was inside of a 30 L day pack. The other overnight trip was in Canyonlands National Park (desert area) and the weather conditions were dry, hot and breezy.

IMAGE 1
The bag is in the Pulk under the blue tarp
During the trips in winter conditions the bag performed as it was designed, the gear that was stored in it was protected from the elements. On the two overnight trips, clothes were stored in the bag and were kept dry while camp was being set up during a snowstorm. During these trips I found the bag was very easy to use and the roll top closure and buckles were equally easy with or without gloves on. The only negative item I noted during these tests was when I tried to put the dry bag inside of a backpack. This was during the day hikes and the bag contained food and miscellaneous kitchen gear. I had trouble getting the dry bag to fit well in the pack and I think it was due to the waterproof coating of the bag causing friction with the pack material. To give a very generic description, the dry bag was sticky; I found this very odd as other bags I have used have slid into place very easily and were almost slippery. On a side note, we had to hike a little bit to find snow that we were sure was not contaminated in order to melt it and make water on one of the overnight trips. I used the dry bag to carry snow back to camp and it worked great and I wouldn't hesitate to use the bag in that method again. I did turn the bag inside out to make sure that outside material was what was containing the snow.

For the final trip in Canyonlands National Park the bag was used to keep fuel from my alcohol stove contained and separated from the rest of my gear. On this trip I kept all of my kitchen gear and fuel in the dry bag and there was a lot of extra volume in the bag, but that just let me roll the top closed even tighter. The bag worked well and I found that my kitchen gear was the only gear in my pack that did not have sand all over it. I poured a good amount of sand out of the bottom of my backpack after my trip and I'm glad my kitchen gear didn't get coated and I wasn't chewing on sand during the trip. The bag held up well to the abrasiveness of the slick-rock and sandstone in the area.

Summary

So far I think the Dry Bag has meet my expectations as a very durable and functional dry bag. I really like the oval shape of the base and I found that it worked well when I was using the bag on the pulk and the bag fit into it well. Without a doubt the material is heavy duty but I'm a little disappointed using the bag inside of backpack since it was really difficult getting it in and out of the pack. For my winter use the 13 L size was just perfect for extra cloths and the volume worked really well, but I found the size to be a bit much when I needed to store other items such as my cooking kit.

I really like the bag, while it is heavier than other dry bags I have used, I think this bag is much more durable which allows it to be more versatile such as a pillow or snow carrier. This concludes my Field Report; my long term report has been appended below.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Field Conditions and Performance

I used the Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag on one additional overnight trip during the long term phase of testing. This trip was a quick weekend outing just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park at an elevation of 8,000 ft (2.4 km) in rainy and soggy weather. The trip was wet and damp and I was glad that I packed my sleeping bag and extra insulation inside the Big River where it stayed very dry. I had a rain cover on my backpack and the rain did not get anything wet on the inside of the pack, but when I broke camp on day two to move to the second camp site, my tent was soaked and it got everything inside of the pack wet. So without the dry bag, my down sleeping bag would have gotten wet and with nighttime temperatures around 30F (-1 C), that isn't something I want to try. Another added benefit of using the bag with my sleeping bag and insulation layers was during packing, I didn't care if it was outside in the rain while I took my tent down since I knew it would stay dry.

Final Conclusion

I like this dry bag. I feel secure using it and I have confidence that it will keep whatever I stuff inside of it dry. In my opinion it has a lot of smart features on it. I like the roll top closure with the stiffened lip as well as the tie down points on the side; however I think the best aspect of it is the oval shape of the base which prevents it from rolling around when stowed. For my general use, I think it is the perfect dry bag for a pulk in winter conditions and because of this I plan on purchasing a few more. I'm definitely going to buy 1 or 2 more 13 L bags and a few 20 L bags to outfit my pulk for next year.

I find the material that the bag is made out of to be very durable. I have put a lot of use on this bag and it still looks relatively new. This durability comes with a cost of added weight which I can accept, but the coating on the fabric makes it really difficult for me to pack in my backpacks. All of my backpacks are top loading internal frame packs and packing the dry bag inside of the packs is very difficult (maybe the issue is my backpacks, but I experience this with both Deuter and Osprey packs). The easiest packing job I had was when the bag was wet on my last trip, but that is far from ideal conditions. Still I really like this dry bag and what frustrates me when using a backpack is what makes me like using this bag in a pulk during winter.

This concludes the Long Term Report as well as testing of the Big River Dry Bag. I would like to thank Sea to Summit and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the opportunity to test these snowshoes.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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