Slipping into the water because of a missed step or an unexpected change in the currents is no way to experience the great outdoors. Some things, like torrential rain, a floundering life raft or a catastrophic flood are completely out of your control. Even if you are confidently prepared for every survival contingency, it won’t matter if your gear gets completely soaked. Wet matches, wet socks, wet bandages or wet sleeping bags won’t help whatever the situation has befallen you. Keeping your gear stored and transported in a dry bag will greatly increase the usability of your gear, and more importantly, your chances of survival. But these aren’t your regular dry bags.
For years, cheaply-made roll-down sacks were the only choice available to keep your gear dry. Watershed developed not just a standard dry bag, but it revolutionized the concept of keeping gear dry by reinventing the very bag itself, from the top closure down to the bottom seams.
Similar to a standard freezer bag, the Watershed bags lock shut, keeping out water and moisture, but also making it completely airtight. The bags don’t need to be rolled over, and even under the pressure of three hundred feet of water, the ZipDry seal will maintain its integrity. To release the strong seal, insert your thumbs into the straps and slide your hands past each other (don’t pull away as it will not give).
Another element of the previous generation of “dry” bags that tended to fail was the fabric itself. A cloth fabric coated with a layer of PVC became stiff in the cold, deteriorated in the sun, and eventually cracks and leaks. The 420-Denier Cordura nylon ripstop fabric of the Watershed bags is coated in a polyurethane that maintains its flexibility at all temperatures and is five times more resistant to abrasions and the elements than standard PVC. The fabric is UV and chemical resistant, and according to Watershed, will never crack, fade or lose its flexibility.
Instead of sewing or gluing the seams together, Watershed uses radio frequencies to weld the layers of fabric into a single piece of material. The handles and buckles are stitched to military specifications (and not just because these bags are used by the U.S. Military). Watershed offers a variety of products broken down into two categories: recreation and military. Duffel bags, backpacks, boat and kayak bags, and smaller urban packs round out the recreation portion (they also feature the Torpedo gun case that will keep your rifle dry — and it floats!), while the military side offers larger bags specifically to hold an assortment of gear, including three larger weapons bags.
With a capacity of 4,500 cubic inches, this 27-inch-tall pack comes from Watershed’s military line. It has removable backpack straps and waist belt. There are compression straps on the sides and back to keep the gear stowed tightly. The 21-inch-wide opening (which is three inches larger than the bag’s body) provides easy access to the entire pack. Its most important feature is that the pack, when sealed, is buoyant enough to float not only your gear, but you as well. On the outside is an inflation tube to add more air once in the water. It comes in three colors, alpha green, black, or MultiCam and weighs just over four pounds empty.
According to Watershed, this is one of its most popular and versatile duffel bags. At 20 inches long and 12 inches high, it holds an impressive 1,800 cubic inches of gear and tips the scales at just under two pounds. Compression straps keep the 17-inch ZipDry seal tucked down while in transport (on the sides and top). The handles are rugged and incorporated into the strap material at their bases and lash points. Available colors are orange, blue, coyote, black, clear, and MultiCam.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.