Water Proof Backpack/Bag

Joined
May 28, 2014
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232
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Ontario, Canada
Ok, I am looking for some advice, but first the backgound...

I have been tripping for a few years, mostly Ontario Provincial Parks, with my paddling partner. We normally use a Swift Kipawa (in Kevlar fusion), so its a pretty good canoe to portage. Over the years, we have kind of settled into a gear rythm, and know what works and what dose not. In all, we have 2 packs and one dry pack foodbag. One pack is a large 70L Lowe Alpine, while the other, is a smaller 30L North Face pack. The food always goes into the dry bag, which makes it easier when you are looking for a snack. The way we carry at portages, is that one of the 2 of us will take the small pack and canoe, and the other one will take the larger pack, food bag, PFD's, and paddles. We will switch at the next portage. It's a pretty slick set up, and we will normally be unloaded, re-loaded and gone before many other people hit land.

So, here is the issue...(sorry it has taken so long to get to here :)) Last summer I had a little spill in a cottage canoe and it got me thinking that i really have no provision for dumping in the middle of any lake/pond/river I travel. I have been blessed with not having to deal with this through out my years. I guess it was kind of due.

I got looking into water proof backpacks and bags and having a hard time figuring out what I'd like to invest in. An MEC retail location is close to me and I have found a Scully 50L Duffle (I was thinking of getting 2 of them) but am not sure it will do what I want. It is completely water proof, and does have back pack straps, but it is still a duffle bag. See link below

http://www.mec.ca/product/5030-382/mec-scully-50-duffle/?q=scully

What do you folks think? What do you do to waterproof your gear?

Thanks,
Momentum
 

Glenn MacGrady

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You have three options.

1. Get backpacks that are waterproof. There are many of these on the market, at least in the US. They usually have roll-top closures or even waterproof zippers. This would be the most most expensive option.

2. Get a waterproof inner liner for your non-waterproof backpacks. People have used garbage bags, usually doubled, for this. Duluth Pack has sold poly liners in different sizes for many years, and these are available at other outlets. More expensive liners made of coated nylon are available from a few different sources. Liners, especially the poly ones, are probably the least expensive option.

3. Put everything in your non-waterproof backpack in various size small waterproof sacks, which are almost all of the roll-top variety. These are widely available from camping and canoe stores. Depending on how many sacks you need, this could be as or more expensive than a nylon coated liner.

As double protection, you could use both 2 and 3, which would likely be much less expensive than 1.
 
Joined
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If you're checking out MEC anyway, you might consider their basic pack liner.

http://www.mec.ca/product/5016-043/mec-pack-liner/

Comes in 2 sizes, the smaller one should fit your 30L North Face. I've used the large one in my non-waterproof canvas pack. Between this and a secondary compression drysack for critical items (clothes, sleeping bag) never had a issue. Just like Glenn mentioned, his option 2 & 3 together would likely be be less expensive then a new waterproof pack.

The duffle you linked too seems more for the rafting crowd where you'd expect a lot of splashing and soakings. Personally, zipper fails are a huge pet peeve so I try to stay away from things that can't be repaired well, especially in the field.
 
G

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You have three options.

1. Get backpacks that are waterproof. There are many of these on the market, at least in the US. They usually have roll-top closures or even waterproof zippers. This would be the most most expensive option.

2. Get a waterproof inner liner for your non-waterproof backpacks. People have used garbage bags, usually doubled, for this. Duluth Pack has sold poly liners in different sizes for many years, and these are available at other outlets. More expensive liners made of coated nylon are available from a few different sources. Liners, especially the poly ones, are probably the least expensive option.

3. Put everything in your non-waterproof backpack in various size small waterproof sacks, which are almost all of the roll-top variety. These are widely available from camping and canoe stores. Depending on how many sacks you need, this could be as or more expensive than a nylon coated liner.

As double protection, you could use both 2 and 3, which would likely be much less expensive than 1.

I'll report that I've been using 3 for sometime with no issues whatsoever. I've looked into other options but this works the best for me.

What I don't like:

My outer bag, when wet, gets heavy and the wet straps and belt make you wet, if you aren't already. I use a pack cover, but it doesn't protect the straps and belt and doesn't keep the bag fully dry.

What I do like:

It's simple to keep my gear organized. I use 3 dry bags. One small 15L and two 25L although I don't come close to filling them all the way, it is plenty for me.

I can keep my wet gear away from my dry gear. This is key when you've been in the rain. If you just have one big dry bag then your wet and dry is going to intermingle and become all wet (or damp, if you will). If my tarp or fly gets wet, it stays outside the dry bag - same with my rain coat or clothing that I swim in. Then I dry it out when I take a rest, but mostly it just stays damp in my bag and my other stuff stays dry in my dry bag until I get somewhere where I can dry it out. I've tried keeping my wet stuff in a seperate dry bag but it doesn't dry in there, and it gets kind of funky if you leave it in for too long. If it falls in the water and gets wet or wetter, oh well, I'll dry it later. The main items I want to keep dry, dry, dry are my quilt, clothes, inner tent body, stove, food and matches. And my quilt and matches are my top priorities for staying dry. Matches go in a dry lock plastic bag inside another dry bag. Quilt and pillow goes in it's own dry bag that never intermingles with anything else.

The outer bag I refer to is a 65L Lowe Alpine backpacking bag. My wife takes one as well with a similar inner setup.

It's not the best canoe tripping bag because it doesn't lay nice and flat. Lowe used to make a travel style, front-loading internal frame bag that works real well. If you look at Conk's TRs, the brown bag he uses is one like that. If you can find one used, pick it up, it's a good pack for canoe tripping.

The modern backpacking bags are bit round and higher profile in the boat - more like a barrel actually. Most canoe bags have that square, low thickness profile that's good for the boat, but they lack a good suspension IMO.
 
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Manitoba
I have been using this for a solo single cary system for the season- http://www.mec.ca/product/5030-380/mec-slogg-deluxe-70-dry-pack/ It is a 70lt drybag with an internal frame. Mine is the grey color that was on discount for $108 but looks like they dont have that color anymore :( Was a great color option as it wont heat up in the sun. A perfect bag for me other than the 5lb weight (not bad really)

I was considering moving to this for a weight savings but am unsure of the pack size- 65lt- and the huge cost ---- http://www.ula-equipment.com/product_p/epic.htm
 
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Hey Ice, you might want to try something like this, less cost, same basic thing. We have two of the 115 litre size. Never have they leaked, even when the boat was upside down and they were providing flotation until we got to shore. http://www.eurekatentscanada.com/products/view/467?s=section_5

Thanks but I need the carry gear with a hipbelt and suspension so the weight won't be on my back/shoulders. The MEC one is great, just heavy due to the materials used.
 
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I don't mind paddling and/or portaging in the rain so long as there's a warm and dry sleeping bag and change of clothes waiting for me at our next camp. I discovered one trip that I hate wet packs even though the contents stay dry. That's why I chose dry packs and a food barrel for our gear and food. Dry comp sacks double the chances of having dry stuff at the end of the day. The full hip belt and shoulder strap systems on these packs mean any portage length can be done in relative comfort. My wife loves our 115L. All our dry gear goes in it; s-bags, tent, tarp and clothes. If we're careful all our slimmed down kitchen kit goes into the barrel with our food. One more 40ish L pack completes the outfit. I don't mind if I get a little wet, just not my stuff.
 
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for decades I've used a typical canoe pack and drybags, and about 20 years ado I added a barrel. My clothes go in a red one, my bag goes in a yellow one, toiletries and meds (it sucks getting old!) goes in a bright green one, and I use a blue one for repair and misc. stuff.
I don't bag my tent, cook kit, or raingear since they sit out in the rain anyway.
By doing this, the stuff that needs to stay dry does, and the colour coding makes life so much easier if I need something in a hurry. also if I do get a leak, I'm only replacing one bag, not the whole pack.
 
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Thanks for your input so far everyone! I appreciate it.
I have had a look at some of the products out there, but as most of you will echo, they are expensive. I did spend quite a lot of money on my pack when I bought it 15 years ago, and it has been fantastic. I guess it doesn't owe me anything at this point. I am looking further into the options to figure out which will work for me.
Keep your ideas coming. I love to hear what others do with all their stuff
Thanks
 
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Feb 22, 2012
Messages
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Rochester, NY
I have a dry portage pack which only carries the sleeping gear and other "must stay dry" things. I don't consider food in that category as all of it is already in ziplocs. The portage pack is carried by the person with the canoe. It is a lighter pack since it contains mostly feathers and some fabric.

The other person carries my old external frame pack, pfds and paddles.. This has the cook gear, food, wet tarp, etc... While underway, we each might have a small dry bag next to us containing some snacks, camera, etc... These get put into the external frame for portaging.

It is neat that we all have developed our own system which works for us and our own style. The gear one brings will significantly change how one packs and portages it. My general style is packing like a backpacker. My gear is basically the same whether paddling or walking. The only major difference is the canoe accessories and the pack itself.
 
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How a pack fits into the canoe was mentioned. That was one of the irritating things about a really nice backpack I once had. It had a beautifully comfortable internal frame etc, but the external pockets made it very lumpy and bumpy around gunwales and thwarts. (It was the soggy pack I spoke of earlier.) Wrestling with it into and out of the canoe tested my patience. A portage pack, streamlined and sitting nicely below the gunwales suits me just fine. The old pack found a new home with a backpacker. I'm always looking at other people's gear, to maybe learn a thing or two. There's always something to learn.
My new old canvas portage pack is my current pride and joy. Although it doesn't fit with my waterproof ideals, it sure fits into canoes and my romantic notion of traditional gear; there's nothing wrong with that either. I've got several waterproofing products to try, and will likely use dry bags or a liner with the canvas pack. Who knows? I may come full circle and give up on dry packs altogether, and step forward to the past-all leather and canvas. I could easily wander back down that path again for old time sake. I love the look of Frost R., Woods and Duluth.
 
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When canoeing, critical stuff goes in a dry bag inside my pack (usually a GoLite Gust or ULA Conduit). Sometimes I bring an extra, smaller, canvas pack for food, or a wannagan. In that case, it's all in plastic ziplock bgs anyway. As mentioned, outside pockets on packs can be a pain, so i just leave them empty if they cause difficulty (it's usually water bottles on the side anyway, so i stick them in the canoe where I can reach them easily, like in a thwart bag, vs in the pockets.) In a rented Rapidfire, they were in the way. In my Old Town Yankee, solo, with just the one pack, there was room. With a wannagan, there's not room.
 
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Ha! It wouldn't take much convincing to fall in love with one of your beautiful boats Mihun. They are sooooo easy on the eyes.
Hey mem, I noticed your Outers are using barrels now. Have you retired the canvas packs? After my new-old pack arrived, thanks again btw, I left it hanging on a dining room chair for a few days, just so I could look at it (and smell the canvas-I know, I'm weird).
 
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Hey Momentum. You've gotten lots of great feedback about waterproofing your gear. Just found a trip report over on HammockForums.net of someone using the the MEC duffle bag you originally asked about. Scroll down to his "Day 4" write-up where he describes a small bit of gear failure with it. Might be important to you before you drop any big bucks on it.
 
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