Whether you're sailing, canoeing, fishing or partaking in any other kind of water-based sport, you're likely lugging around stuff that isn't meant to get wet at all – dry clothes, phone, food, beacon, camera, whatever. Over time water enthusiasts end up with a collection of retired dry bags that are either torn, gapped, or otherwise spent. After the zipper on one of ours failed recently, we found ourselves in the market (again) and discovered WaterShed ZipDry bags. Thanks to their watertight enclosure system, they've quickly become a trusted favorite.
Founded back in the 1980s, WaterShed, based in Asheville, North Carolina, was the brainchild of a group of river guides who were continuously disappointed with rollup-style dry bags. Their complaints were wide-ranging: The bags could handle only a small volume of gear, which made accessing contents quickly difficult, and, most crucially, the bags weren't reliably watertight (which meant discovering wet clothes and food as they went to set up camp at the end of the day). The guides' brainstorming resulted in the rubber ZipDry enclosure. Resembling a Ziploc on steroids, the entire top of the bag is an easy-access opening. But not too easy: There's a specific method required to open the enclosure, which, once mastered, becomes second nature (the key is placing your hands in an S shape at the center of the opening and pulling outwards). Being able to get to gear through the large opening eliminates the hassle of having to pull out everything on top first and is a real selling point.
WaterShed uses a novel approach and some cutting-edge technology to fashion its dry bags. The base material is a polyurethane that's coated in multiple layers over 840 nylon packcloth; compared to PVC (the most common dry bag material), it's five times more abrasion resistant. And since polyurethane is chemically stable, it doesn't degrade in sunlight like PVC, which, it's worth noting, is also environmentally toxic. WaterShed then takes this polyurethane-coated fabric and uses radio-frequency welding to excite the molecules at the bag's seams, fusing them together under intense pressure until they bond then form one single piece of material. The result is a high-strength, seamless construction that keeps stuff dry, even in extreme conditions – for instance, down to an astounding 300 feet underwater. Now grabbing our dry clothes while sailing offshore at midnight is just another task, instead of an event. [From $87; drybags.com]