Drybags: The Difference Between The Good and The Bad

Understanding what differentiates one dry bag from the next isn't easy. I am going to do my best to help those that might not have much experience with dry bags figure out what attributes and features to consider before purchasing one.
First and foremost, consider how your going to use this bag. Is it for a day trip getaway on a flat-water river? Are you about to embark on an epic two week adventure down the Grand Canyon or some other rollicking rambunctious river? While an inexpensive no-name dry baf will probably suffice for a quick hit on your local lake or river, I would hesitate before I relied on this same no-name cheapy to keep my clothes dry and camera protected on a long trip with more severe soaking potential. Be a realist. Optimists abound in the outdoor industry. In a perfect world, it never rains while we are camping and the boat never flips over…. Right?… Wrong!  Mother nature is known for throwing curve-balls, weatherman are wrong and boatman flip boats. That's the adventure!
Then I look at the material the dry bag is constructed from. A lot of times the no-name brands will simply paint the inside of the bag with a waterproof coating. I have owned plenty of these cheaper type material dry bag and after a short while I can easily peel the waterproof coating off the base material. It peels off like old paint. You are left with a bag that is as waterproof as a cotton army duffel. Watershed layers the bag material with waterproofing agents that permeate the material and will never separate from the mother material. NRS uses PVC ( Polyvinyl Chloride….for you scientific types) plastic. Durable and easily folded, NRS dry bags are standard issue among the professional river running community. 
    Next, look at how the bag closes. Generally, there are two types of closures; the roll down style and the press together zip-lock style. Most dry-bags utilize the roll down style where the owner fills the bag, pushes the extra air out of the bag, then rolls the bag from the top down until pressed against the contents. Then, the edges are buckled to the buckles sewn to the side of the bag. This is a proven and effective method for securing your dry-bag and, if done properly, works very well. The other style is essentially a burly over sized rubber zip-lock style closure. The top edges of the bag are pressed together ( just as you would do with a zip-lock plastic bag) to make a water tight seal. Watershed is the undeniable master at this type of closure. Their patented seal system really works and will last many, many years. I have seen imitations of the Watershed style closure. None are as good. Personally, as a professional river guide I use both NRS and Watershed dry bags. NRS being the roll-down style and Watershed the Zip-lock style. Both work incredibly well. I have pulled many a bag from the underside of a flipped raft and been delighted to see the contents dry. Personal preference dictates your choice here.
    Finally, I consider how a dry bag is constructed. Quality dry bags have welded seams, meaning where the fabric pieces meet at the edges they are welded together with heat not stitched or glued. Stitching falls short by allowing water to find its way through the minuscule stitches and glues tend to come unglued after time. Watershed uses a welded seam as does NRS In my opinion, welded seams are the way to go.
     I  own at least three each of the NRS and Watershed bags. Both are my constant companions on river trips. Submerged, scorched by the sun, abused by the elements and still they are waterproof. Bottom line is that these brands are incredibly reliable, I don't float without them. They keep my stuff dry.
To buy Watershed and NRS dry bags click here.