Ideas for Waterproofing Maps and an Aquapac Map Case Review [Water is Bad]

Friday, 24 July 2009
Aquapac Jumbo Whanganui Chart CaseAnybody who has gone on a canoe or kayaking trip will understand that keeping your navigation maps dry is super important. After all, you want to (eventually) find your way home and having wet maps makes it a touch more difficult.
There are many different ways to waterproof your gear. As an extremely poor outdoor recreation student back in the mid 90’s, I couldn’t afford to purchase topographic maps for trips so I would covertly photocopy the maps at $0.05 per page at the local library then attempt to waterproof them with sheets of sticky, clear vinyl shelf liner that I purchased at the dollar store. It worked ok, but not much longer then that weekend’s trip.

Of course there are much better methods of keeping your maps/charts dry then pasting them together between two sheets of mac tac.

If you are crafty, purchase a container of Map Seal from Aquaseal. Map Seal is a clear polymer that you paint over both sides of your map to create a waterproof coating. After drying, map can be folded and creased with no damage to the coating. The map can be written on with a pencil as well. If you decide to use this method, note that Map Seal is not suitable for maps printed on ink jet printers as it will cause the ink to run just as water does.

Map SealIf coating all of your maps isn’t your thing, invest in a good chat bag to keep the water out. There are several different types on the market with both good and bad designs. The key thing to look for is a seal that opens and closes easy that also won’t get impeded if sand finds its way into the opening.

SealLine makes a map case with a zip-lock closure seal that gets the job done. It’s pretty cheap to buy but the biggest problem I have with it is that the seal is difficult to ensure that it is fully closed. It’s fine if you are sealing it up while standing on shore but several times over the years I have had to pull the map out while on the water to unfold the next portion of the trip. Ensuring a proper seal while bouncing up and down on the water has always been rather tricky and sometimes with poor results.

Over the years, I have used three different types of map bags with various levels of success. I remember one had a great seal but the clear plastic bag got killed by the UV and the seam split open after 2 seasons. Another was a terrible designed zip seal that felt really beefy in the paddling shop but proved to be way to difficult to actually close with tired fingers out on the water trail.

That is why when Aquapac asked whether I would be interested in trying out their Jumbo Whanganui Waterproof Case I jumped at the chance. I laid eyes on this case for the first time last year when a guide friend of mine was showing off his new piece of gear that he just purchased. I was immediately jealous (I’m such a geek…)

The Jumbo Whanganui Waterproof Case is a large case not specifically designed for charts but rather a large submersible bag to carry books and magazines to the beach. The seams of the bag are designed to lay flat making it ideal (and large enough) to store charts on the deck of your kayak.

Aqua Clamp Animation
Aqua Clamp Demonstartion of Aquapac's smaller cases.
It has a very different design then many of the other bags out on the market as it uses three rotating clips to clamp down on the seal to keep the water out. The mouth is also designed to open up wide which allows easily access the bags contents even while out on the water. To close, I just need to press shut and seal with a twist of the three clamps. When that’s done, it’s a guaranteed waterproof seal.

When I first got the case in my hands, I though that the seal seemed rather big and was worried that it would get in my way while paddling. I haven’t found this to be the case. I just turned the case sideways so it hugged the curvature of my boat’s deck then rolled the plastic clamp under itself so there was nothing to catch on my knuckles. Once that got figured out, it’s worked out just fine and not in the way at all.

Over the past four months, the case has become a part of my regular gear for getting on the water when teaching as I also use it to carry my class lesson plans along with student hand-outs for the end of day.

Aquapac also makes a wide variety of other soft cases of items of all various sizes including VHF radios, cell phones and cameras. While you are on their site, take a look at the great looking waterproof backpacks as well as regular dry bags for tripping.

More info:

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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