Patagonia, DryCase, Rip Curl & Dakine wet-drypacks scrutinized
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 28 December, 2016 - It all started when I left my backpack inside the high tide zone on a camping trip. The pack flooded but the tent stayed dry. As far as bad-things-on-a-camping-trip go, wet socks and soggy crackers are tied for first place.
So did I learn to move away from the high tide line? No. Like many of us I just decided I’d buy something to prevent this from happening in the future.
For this feature we reviewed waterproof backpacks/wet-drypacks (the marketing terms vary) from Patagonia, DryCase, Rip Curl and Dakine. All bags use a roll & clip closure method and welded seems. The welded seams are important because stitched seams expand when a pack is filled to the brim. The space between the stitches allows water in, so welded is the way to go.
All bags passed the immersion test to keep items dry. Just be sure the roll-and-clip feature is folded over at least three times. This can be a task if you have overfilled the bag, so be sure to consider storage capacity needs when selecting.
These bags also work just as well keeping wet things inside and the outside dry, as they do keeping water out. For this reason we included a guide as to how many size large 4/3 wetsuits will fit in each bag.
Also, consider what you’ll be using the pack for. While some bags have heaps of pockets and features, maybe you’ll just need a simple bag with one extra pocket for your uses. If you’re cycling, taking public transportation extra straps can become a liability, with the potential to snag on several things. Conversely if you’re hiking into a secluded spot you’ll want an elaborate strap system to make the journey more comfortable.
Patagonia Stormfront Roll Top Pack
This one’s super functional. Made for more serious hikes than the other packs, the Patagonia Stormfront roll top pack has a solid, hefty feeling to it. The first thing we noticed with the Patagonia pack was the PU exterior coating and single-side interior TPU-coated nylon as it feels really solid, like what you’d find on a inflatable Zodiac boat. The closing system at the top of the bag is re-enforced and very easy to fold over.
The outside pocket made for smaller items is water-resistant as well. It also has an internal mesh pocket. Besides the heavier material, the other thing different about this pack are all the external lash points, so you can connect as much extraneous gear as you’d like. It has a very comfortable fit with padded shoulder straps and an adjustable waistbelt, so it’s good for longer hikes.
Summary: Heavy duty high-end pack for serious weather and long hikes.
What we liked - The heavier material and extra storage pockets
What worked - The solid feel of the pack and it’s functionality combined with simple styling
What we didn’t like - It has a lot of straps which if you’re just taking a day trip to the beach, can collect a lot of sand when wet.
This Pack is Best Suited For: Long hikes and serious weather
Holds 4 fullsuits comfortably
DryCase makes dry storage products for electronics, gear and heaps more. They dominate the SUP daytrip/boater end of the market. So we thought we’d see how their packs function in a surf-context. The Masonboro, like the other packs we tested, has welded seams holding together heavy duty waterproof vinyl in its main storage compartment.
What sets this pack apart is all the external pockets, carrying handle, adjustable lash-ties & bungee straps. But the biggest feature is the two-way purge valve which makes it easy to drain water after use or to compress all the air out the pack to make room for more contents.
You can also fill the bag with hot water, open the purge valve and use as a shower. The Masonboro has heavily padded, comfortable waist and back straps and the overall feel of this pack is that once you put it on it’s not slipping off.
Summary: Has the most features and places for storage of the packs we tested. Contents stayed dry during our immersion tests. Just make sure the purge valve is closed all the way.
What we liked - All the pockets (including a velcro-detachable inner bag), heavier material and the two-way purge valve (you could even use it as a hot shower).
What worked - The external storage, vinyl handle grip and the many tasks and trips this bag could be used for.
What we didn’t like - With so many pockets, straps and features, it’s a very busy waterproof bag. If you value simplicity and minimal styling, this bag won’t work for you.
This Pack is Best Suited For: Aquatic crossings on a SUP or Kayak where you need to bring a lot of extras
Holds 3 fullsuits easily but not 4
Rip Curl F-Light Marine Dry Backpack
The pros to this bag are the lightweight material and simple styling. Rip Curl uses a welded waterproof construction on material that is thin enough to turn inside out for drying if you choose to use it as a wetsuit bag. The breathable molded EVA back panel and shoulder straps make this lightweight bag easy and comfortable to lug around. The large, padded, external stash pocket is not waterproof, but is easier to access than on the other packs and makes this the bag of choice if using to transport a wet wetsuit, and miscellaneous surf gear like wax, earplugs, sunblock etc.
Summary: We really dug this bag because it’s very basic and works well. There are no extraneous features or extra pockets, straps. Super simple.
What we liked - Simplicity of design and functionality.
What worked - The lightweight material; the larger padded outside pocket and the simple, attractive styling.
What we didn’t like - The only way to improve on this pack is to make the external pocket waterproof as well.
This Pack is Best Suited For: Daytrips to the beach and using as a wetsuit bag or use as a commuter pack (minimal straps)
Holds 3 fullsuits just barely
The Dakine Cyclone is the lightest, material-wise, of the bags we tested. The material has a more plastic than rubberized texture and it, like the Rip Curl bag was easy to turn inside out for drying after carrying wet things inside. This pack has the largest waterproof external pocket of the bunch. Cool feature is that this pocket has room to expand so if you pack the bag beyond it’s capacity (as most of us will) there is still room to fit things in this external pocket. Bag also has a mesh side pocket for water bottles.
Summary: Ticks all the boxes for functionality: stays dry inside the main storage compartment and the external pocket.
What we liked - Large storage area at 36 liters and the waterproof external pocket.
What worked - This one’s just super-functional all the way around, plus the lighter material keeps the weight of this bag to a minimum.
What we didn’t like - Just personal preference but stylistically we didn’t care for the shiny look of the material.
This Pack is Best Suited For: Use as a wetsuit bag during day trips when you need a lot of storage area and a waterproof outer pocket.
Holds 4 fullsuits snug & tight