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Dry Bags for Swimming Rivers
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Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Dry Bags for Swimming Rivers on 06/29/2013 16:28:44 MDT Print View

I'm going to be in a very remote area this summer and will be crossing some rivers. Hopefully I'm only wading but I might end up swimming.

Anybody have a suggestion for a good lightweight dry bag that can take being submerged? Preferably something I could grab at a local REI.

david delabaere

Locale: Northern VA
maybe on 06/29/2013 16:41:00 MDT Print View

I asked this question a year or two ago; everyone (and I do mean all of them) recomended agaisnt using the lighter duty backpacking dry bags even if double or triple bagged while swimming. Even the idea of using cuben or sealed plastic packliners as well were shot down...

People recommended the heavy duty drybags used for water sports or purpose made containers but recently I went canyoning and the plastic canister an experienced family member used failed (seems to run in the family since that trip my gopro housing wasn't waterproof).

Those kind of events make me weary trusting just one bag, hence the double or tripple bagging idea and ziplocking the electronics in addition to that.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Dry Bags for Swimming Rivers on 06/29/2013 16:50:56 MDT Print View

I like Outdoor Products dry bags available at Walmart (probably REI too) in a three pack. I wouldn't SCUBA dive with them, but inside a pack, well-burped, closed, and buckled, I've had good luck. Being sil-nylon, they are pretty light. Factory seam-sealed. The measurements are pre-sewing so 22" long for the largest one means a 14"-inch-long cylinder. The two other measurements (e.g. 6.75" and 10.75") are the diameter when full and the width when laid flat. I like them as much for water-proofness as my heavier kayaking and canoeing dry bags, although if I was dragging them over rock and tossing in a sandy boat bottom day after day, I'd guess they'd fail sooner.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Dry Bags for Swimming Rivers on 06/29/2013 17:07:36 MDT Print View


Packrafters frequently swim turbulent white water with all of their backpacking gear drug down the river along with their flipped boats. I speak from a lot of experience doing this (smile).

Seal Line Storm Sacks are excellent solutions that are widely available in different sizes and reasonably priced. I use a 6.7 oz., 60L version, as a pack liner for two week trips.

If you want a ULTRA durable dry bag of comparable size, you can order the military version called the ILBE from Alpacka raft but, it weighs 12.6 oz.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Seal Line Storm Sack on 06/29/2013 17:23:36 MDT Print View

Thanks Richard, just ordered a Seal Line Storm Sack off I'll put one or two smaller bags inside that for really important things like my sleeping bag and electrics.

Philip Tschersich
(Philip.AK) - MLife

Locale: Kodiak Alaska
More details? on 06/29/2013 17:32:25 MDT Print View

Does the OP want a single, large bag that they can slide their entire backpack inside of to truly swim? Or a drybag big enough to use as a liner inside the full body of their backpack? Or individual smaller drybags, like one one for your sleeping bag, one for your clothes, etc?

The crazy-superlight bags are waterproof, but tear absurdly easily. I have even ripped them just gently stuffing a puffy coat into one. An example of these are the Sea to Summit "Ultra-Sil Nano" bags. Avoid these at all cost. The Sea to Summit regular "Ultra-Sil" dry bags are light and will survive normal use with care. The inexpensive Outdoor Products bag that DT mentions work fine and are about the weight fabric that is durable enough but still light enough to hit the sweet spot. OR 'Ultralight' (not truly the thinnest and lightest out there) are also durable enough if you are careful, in my experience. As a long time sea kayaker I don't think you really need to go for the heavy duty drybags. Anything that is seam sealed and isn't so light that it will tear within normal use should do fine. They all work on the same roll-down principle: basically forming a labyrinth seal. With light drybags, you just need to avoid stuffing sharp objects into them (this includes zipper pulls- fold/stuff the object so the zipper is on the inside), don't place the bag on rocks or twigs when you stuff them, and don't pull up hard on the mouth of the bag as you stuff. The stitching at the roll-top closure of bags is where you can get a tear to initiate. Use a slightly larger bag than you absolutely need, stuff it with medium pressure, and then 'degas' the bag to achieve a smaller package.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re More Details on 06/29/2013 17:57:21 MDT Print View

Basically I need a way to ensure I don't ruin my camera and/or get my insulation wet 20 miles from help on a solo trip.

I've ordered a big bag (60 liter Seal Line) on the theory that some air in there my actually be a good thing for river crossings. I'll probably put my camera in a ziplock inside a cheaper dry bag and do the same with my sleeping bag.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
Seak Line good Choice on 06/29/2013 23:54:57 MDT Print View

You made a good choice with the Seal Line. I use those as my dedicated raft, kayak, and boat bags and I throw them and drag them around more than I should......very durable and waterproof. The lightest bags that I would use with real wet stuff and possible submersion on the sea to summit event bags. These are the lightest bags that I've used that will deal with prolonged wet conditions and temporary submersion. All my sil-nylon bags under these conditions get at least most on the inside under these conditions. I use the event bags only for backpacking where I baby them because I don't think they would stand up to my boat use (too thin). It is a good idea to pack the really important stuff (as you said that you would do) also in ziplocs just in case. An "in between" bag that I've also had good luck with are the "Big River" Sea to Summit" bags that I use to house my small expensive items like a camera.

Edited by chinookhead on 06/29/2013 23:56:39 MDT.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
A simple approach on 06/30/2013 05:42:56 MDT Print View

I have found that the simple trash compactor bags VERY securely tied work wonderful for full submersion. I have put all electronics in its normal ziplock into the bag for double protection. While this system would not be my choice for pack rafting, constant threat of submersion, I find it plenty adequate for occasion hairy stream crossings. .

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Dry Bags for Swimming Rivers on 06/30/2013 16:06:33 MDT Print View

A couple of 20 L garbage bags have always worked well for us. They cost very little and weigh very little. They live in a corner of the pack in a small protective plas bag.
But! we only use them for the actual swim. We repack immediately before and after the swim. This avoids abrasion holes from long use on the track.


Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Dry Bags for Swimming Rivers on 06/30/2013 16:16:37 MDT Print View


As Nick mentioned the Sea line bags are very good, I have one that's about 10 years old that has outlasted all other dry bags I have had over the years.

Exped ones are good also but you need to check them for leaks after a lot of use by filling them with water and look for holes, I then patch them with tenacious tape once dry.