The Ultimate Dry Bag Gear Test Involves a Kayak Lost at Sea [Waterproof Gear]

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Rear Kayak Hatch. Flickr Photo Credit: vikapproved

Think your waterproof gear is actually waterproof? Think again.

Last week two paddlers were rescued via helicopter from their tandem kayak on Lake Superior. It was a pretty serious rescue and the Coast Guard credits the fact that they are alive today due to the personal locater beacon which alerted the authorities that emergency help was needed.

The thing to remember is when the Coast Guard comes out and saves your butt; they never rescue your kayak or canoe. In those windy conditions all they care about is you. That’s what happened in this case. When the helicopter plucked the paddlers from the water, all their gear and the boat was left to the fate of the wind and waves.

The day after the accident a couple staff from Naturally Superior Adventures in Wawa, Ontario went out in a motorboat to try to find the kayak as well as any floating gear but they came back empty handed. Luckily a day or so later the boat magically washed up on shore in the wind. When the boat was finally towed back to the shop the staff started pulling the gear out of the boat to see what got lost and what was still dry.

From their blog:
[blockquote]As I set about to put all the gear out to dry (nothing worse than mildewy clothes and tent and rusty gear), I noticed that every single dry bag that I came across was full of water.  There were a few different brand names and I was hopeful that I would come across the one that was still bone dry so I would know which would be the superior choice for my next purchase.  I have to say I was disappointed.[/blockquote]
The thing to keep in mind is that even though dry-bags are labeled waterproof they are not submersible. When held under water for more than about 5 minutes, water pressure will force water through any minor leaks in the top. That is why it’s important not to over stuff your bag and allow at least 3-4 good rolls with no creases in the material before snapping it shut.

If you are looking for something that could be submersed then you really need to invest in a solid box with a rubber o-ring gasket to keep the water out. Just make sure that when closing to take the time to check for any sand or dirt in the gasket that could lead to a leak.

Of course you could argue that a tandem kayak (with one missing hatch) lost at sea for two days is extreme conditions for anything to stay dry but I guess the take away learning when it comes to waterproof packing is to, “plan for the worst and hope for the best”.

You can read the full analysis of what got wet and what stayed dry here.

Update: Willi Gutmann of @Willi_H2O fame wrote a great article just a couple days ago full of great tips on keeping your gear dry.

Flickr Photo Credit: vikapproved - Photo license: Attribution, Noncommercia

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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