Urban Exploration: Paddling the Mighty Mississippi in Minneapolis

It’s the first warm day of Spring. Minnesotans crawl like crabs out of concrete cracks in the city to feel the sun kiss their skin; to remember what it is like to simply sit outside. Not scurrying from building to building or waiting for a bus in below zero weather. Not skiing or running faster to keep warm in our freezing northern climate. Many of us love winter. But when that first sunny warm day hits there is a collective sigh of relief rising from the busy bike paths, parks, and brewery patios. We exhale and remember something we forgot we knew: seasons change. Time passes. I put away my broomball shoes and skis and dust off my bike and canoe for a full summer of paddling ahead.

packing a kayak with dry bags from SealLine

No matter the season, my soul is always trying to get back to the river; back to a time when my biggest concerns were the direction of the wind, the weather, the next portage or whitewater set. I’ve paddled over 7,000 miles in a canoe. My boat has flowed through the aqueous veins and arteries of North America, from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, from the vast expanse of pristine arctic tundra to the industrial Chicago sanitary canal. While I do not lament that I’ve picked up more responsibilities in life since those long carefree expeditions, a part of my heart still belongs to The River. It shows when I get lost in the view out my window. When I drive slowly over bridges just to catch a glimpse of the water. When I feel sorrow but can’t quite pinpoint why, or from where. The river is always calling for me. And today, this perfect warm Spring day, I answer.

Diane and Lee, strong women I’ve paddled with for over a decade, not surprisingly agree to come along for the journey. We met when we were young, wild, and free; loose cannons paddling our summers away. Not much has changed, but now we are lawyers, marketers, photographers, writers, scholars, partners, homeowners, and much more. Our life paths vary but our shared roots are always reaching for the river. We fill a bright orange SealLine Bigfork Dry DayPack to the brim with too many snacks and tuck away our phones and personal gear in our individual Skylake Dry Daypacks. The canoe creaks when we put her on top of the car, stretching her bones after hibernating all winter. They take a moment to settle into each other before remembering the summer routine. Canoe, car. Car, canoe. You’ve met before. Now take us to the river!

Urban paddling in Mississippi

The Mighty Mississippi River flows through the heart of Minneapolis and St. Paul. This is our playground. The river here has a history akin to other cities on major waterways throughout the country and the world, one filled with industry, economic growth, and pollution. Historically, many towns and urban areas turned their backs on the river due to water quality issues, fear of flooding, and dams. During the Progressive Era (1890-1920) dams went up across the country in response to the government’s call to turn a “menace” (rivers) into a resource; to tame them and subdue their power to wreak havoc over our lands and buildings. Political rhetoric of the Progressive Era centered on people using science and technology to dominate nature, with a common understanding that rivers were wasted if they ran freely to the sea. America strived to harness the power of rivers to contribute to a capitalist economy, always searching for new and innovative ways to foster growth. This desire to use rivers for our benefit has folded over on itself: today, cities like Minneapolis are turning back to the river for economic growth that centers social and ecological benefits.

We launched on the flooded Mississippi just north of downtown Minneapolis. The smell of sizzling grills and the sounds of laughter and music filled the air, creating a quintessential summer vibe. The river took us into her current for a nine-mile float into downtown. The scars we’ve made on the landscape–a century of industry, pollution, and development–were visible in the metal walls along the riverbank, holding back piles of gravel and scrap metal. I felt like a historian, letting the current setting sink in before it changed forever, just like those who painted or wrote poems about the river before the changes wrought in the industrial period. This is the stretch of river I paddle every week in the summer, usually by myself, preferably during sunset. I want to remember every loading dock and graffiti mural before big industry leaves the river corridor. Urban riverfronts as we have historically known them–as dumps, as dangerous, as dirty–are about to change forever. For Minneapolis and St. Paul, this means amphitheaters, parks, interpretive centers, potential dam removals and whitewater parks, trails, apartments, restaurants, river access, and outfitters. Looking at the concept plans for the corridor shows the entire face of the river changing in the next decade or so.

urban paddling with SealLine dry bags

We pulled over north of downtown and started the two-mile portage around a falls and two lock and dams, stopping for breaks at the iconic Stone Arch Bridge and, of course, for ice cream (not every portage can boast an ice cream pit stop). Someday we might be able to paddle right up to the lock. Someday we might be able to paddle rapid sets in the heart of downtown. Someday we might be able to live, eat, breathe, exercise, sit, and play at nearly every stretch of the Mississippi River through the Twin Cities. But just as the promise of industry to boost the economy and build a better world had unforeseen negative impacts at the beginning of the Progressive Era, we have to consider what impacts, good, bad, and everything in between, could result from our quick turn to redevelop and re-purpose our riverfronts.

As communities start to see waterfronts as assets and envision a future of rediscovered natural space, new businesses, and recreational opportunities, it is important to look critically at the plans and processes in motion. This is a pivotal moment in history for urban river development, here and around the world. But will we use it wisely? Who decides what a park is? Is it just a bike trail, or does it have basketball courts and skate parks? Who gets to live by rivers? Are we including equitable living and low-income housing or will the increase in property values displace people who have lived by the water for generations? Some communities, generally poor communities of color, have been unjustly separated from the river by highways and industry, often suffering through unhealthy environmental conditions and poor access to natural spaces. Now, during the planning phases of many of these development projects, is our moment for intervention and opportunity to reconnect everyone to the river. Who is the river for? Who should the river be for? Without asking these questions, we risk creating just another urban white space that prioritizes profit over our diverse societal and environmental needs.

bigfork daypack

We plunged the canoe back into the river south of downtown. The aches and pains from portaging seemed to dissipate as soon as we returned to the water. I felt a strong sense of hope for the river that runs through my home, and pride in the people who work to improve it. Maybe one day it will be healthier. Maybe one day it will be a safe space for people from all walks of life to heal; to get lost in the ancient truths of nature; to respond to the call of the river, just like we did on this sunny Spring day.

Natalie Warren lives in Minneapolis and is a PhD student at the University of Minnesota studying Environmental Communication. She has paddled over 7,000 miles in a canoe and her passion is rooted in rivers and recreation. Her book Hudson Bay Bound, a tale about being one of the first two women to paddle from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay, is currently in production. Natalie works with communities to develop and improve water trails and river towns. Follow Natalie on Instagram @nwarren1188.

Packrafting Mexico: Gear that Gets You There

For the small price of a ticket south, we were headed to Mexico where some of the best whitewater rivers flow. All we needed were our passports, a lightweight packraft, and a sturdy waterproof pack that could get us through a month of paddling.

Packrafting adventures in Mexico

We knew we needed one backpack for a variety of uses, as it would be the way we carried all our gear. It needed to be super durable and able to withstand all kinds of weather. It needed to be big and able to carry a lot of weight, everything from first aid and repair kits, to clothes, food and stoves. Comfort and weight distribution were also top priorities, especially while hiking to put-ins. But most importantly, we needed a dry pack that would remain completely dry on the inside for the entire trip.

We decided to go big with the 115L Boundary Dry Pack made by SealLine. For over a month, these packs were an extension of ourselves. We paddled five rivers and dropped 30 waterfalls down a sacred Mayan river with these dry packs. The Boundary packs carried our inflatable boats, tents, sleeping bags, helmets, safety gear, and everything we needed for a month. We didn’t just need a backpack, we needed the right piece of gear to get through whitewater adventures in Mexico. The Boundary Dry Pack carried our boat from one city to the next, and ensured we had dry socks and clothes after a day on the river.

Packing Rafting Mexico

The idea to packraft Mexico came to five sea kayak guides over a couple of beers in a garage in the San Juan Islands of Washington. We bought a guide book and dog-eared every river that seemed like a possibility and started researching.

Turns out, no matter how much groundwork you do, there is still beta you can only get from locals. We arrived in Mexico City starving for tacos and aching for the smell of a rushing river. But getting to our first put-in would take a 14-hour bus ride from Mexico City to Palenque.

Hiking in Mexico

One of the rivers we were planning on running was just outside of the city of Palenque. Several locals stopped us and told us not to go up river, “there are bandits there, they will rob you.” We stared at the river with lumps in our throats. But it wasn’t fear of bandits that caused us not to run the river – there was hardly any water. The river was so low that the rocks protruded from the waterline like sharp mountains. We couldn’t run it, but there was one deep blue hole so we jumped in to swim instead. We swam until our fingers were prunes and then sat under a tree, reading our guidebook looking for other viable options.

Waterproof Drybags

The next day we headed for a small dirt road 50 miles outside of the city where we’d put-in our boats, but trying to get a ride felt impossible. With our packs on and the sky scorching, sweat poured from every pore. Pax, the only one who spoke fluent Spanish, talked with bus and taxi drivers, but where we wanted to go was out of their jurisdiction. “The river? You mean the ruins?” they’d ask, confused that we didn’t want the package deal.

We finally found a bus to get to the beginning of the road then hitched a ride in a pick-up truck to take us to the put-in. I’ll never forget our excitement as we laid eyes on our first river – perfectly blue with palm trees waving in a soft breeze.

Paddling in Mexico

The mountains seemed to fold around us as we paddled deep into the jungle, our rafts bobbing and packs strapped to the decks. We didn’t see another person the rest of the day, just monkeys swinging through the trees. They were unimpressed as we whooped and hollered through each rapid, paddles digging into the swift current.

The rest of the trip went similarly. We’d take four or five buses to get to a road that we’d have to walk down another mile or so, looking for a secluded space to inflate our boats and pack our gear. Then we’d paddle into the jungle until nightfall and look for a place to camp.

Often times the buses would be so full, our backpacks would be strapped to the roof with tiny ropes or bungees. When we hit speed bumps (which there are so many) we joked they’d fallen off and we’d never see them again. But our Boundary Dry Packs remained loyally strapped to the top, a little dirtier but just as sturdy and just as ready to hop into the next river. They were stuffed into the backs of taxis, often with the trunk still open, because five packs in a tiny sedan is a hard fit. They swam through rapids and got pummeled by rainstorms. Yet they always remained dry inside, a dry pack we couldn’t have paddled without.

Waterproof paddling packs

Packrafting Mexico was one feat after another. We took countless modes of transportation, we hitchhiked, motorcycled our way to waterfalls and rivers, hiked up mountains, paddled through the rain and 30 mph winds. We dropped waterfalls on a sacred Mayan river, portaged boulder fields and barbed wire fences. We had paddled and traveled all over Mexico just like we had dreamed, only it was better and left us fuller than we imagined. It wasn’t an experience we could have by reading one trip report.

You see, there isn’t a ticket you can buy to take you there, where the only sound is macaws flapping through the trees. There isn’t one guidebook you can highlight or a pin on a map that you can hitch a ride to. Getting there is often an adventure you have to grab by the hand and run with. And just know that even though it won’t be as easy as a one-way flight to paradise, it’s an adventure that calls for interaction with intention, map reading and research, maybe some dirt on your hands and classic determination to find solitude. The kind of adventure where flexibility and imagination are currency and getting there can be half the fun when you’ve got the right gear. Getting there is a river, there will be rapids and they might just take some scouting.

Kayaking Through the Inside Passage

Our Paddling North expedition launched from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia in May 2018 and ended in Glacier Bay, Alaska in September 2018. The Inside Passage is a network of passages stretching from northwest Washington to southeast Alaska. It is one of the most uniquely raw and wild places in the world and a dream destination for paddlers.

Water gets everywhere and on everything when you’re kayaking on the ocean for four months, especially in a wet region like the Pacific Northwest. We had kayaked and camped on the coast prior to the expedition, so we understood the importance of keeping all our gear dry from the elements.

After months of researching and preparing for the expedition, we started to dehydrate meals. We packed up our food in various sizes of the Discovery Dry Bag, divided in breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack bags. Organization was essential with food packing; the View Dry Bags allowed us to easily see what goodies we had in the bags without emptying the contents.

We gathered all our gear and packed our kayaks, curious to see if everything we wanted to bring would fit. The first dry bag to go into the bow hatch was our Bulkhead Tapered Dry Bag. Utilizing space to the maximum, this dry bag fits perfectly into the tip of the kayak. The PurgeAir™ valve allowed us to easily squeeze out any remaining air from inside the dry bag.

Once we launched, it only took us a few days to fall into the rhythm of waking up before dawn and paddling all day. We grew accustomed to landing on a beach then carrying our gear and boats above the high tide line. One of our favorite SealLine products was the Boundary Dry Pack. This waterproof backpack allowed us to haul more gear at a time through the intertidal zone. It was also essential to have a large, waterproof backpack for our time in towns.

What we experienced in those four months of paddling was beyond exceptional. We savored living outside for the summer, being in tune with nature, experiencing the power and beauty of the ocean, and pushing our own comfort limits. As a result, we were rewarded with the most stunning wildlife encounters, beautiful and rugged coastlines, connections with inspiring people, and breathtaking nature events like kayaking among glaciers and icebergs.

A highlight was seeing a group of humpback whales bubble-net feeding. With our hydrophone (underwater microphone) dropped in the water, we were able to listen to their feeding calls – incredible! Along with the hydrophone, we kept the audio recorder and speaker protected in the Discovery Deck Dry Bag, which doubled as our lap bag. It was the perfect bag to take into towns – rain or shine!

Kayaking the Inside Passage gave us an idea of how the rainforest and ocean interconnect, but we also saw the negative impact we all have on the natural world. Despite all the wonders we encountered, we also witnessed numerous unsustainable industrialized sites, clear-cut forests, fish farms, mining areas, and general habitat degradation along the way.

We learned that paddling is a wonderful way of exploring the coast in a human-powered, low-carbon-footprint way. It allows you to be part of the ocean and the shore at the same time. Having durable, waterproof gear was essential to our successful expedition through the Inside Passage – a place we hope will remain wild and intact, allowing everybody to appreciate its specialness.

Learn more about Leonie and Rebecca’s story on their website paddlingnorth.com/ or on Instagram @paddlingnorth

Desert Scouting with the SealLine WideMouth Duffle

In the shoulder seasons, I spend my free time in the desert, exploring forgotten mining roads in my 4×4, scouting for potential cycling photoshoots, and just soaking in the beauty that is the American Southwest. As with any endeavor, there are a great deal of products involved to make these jaunts not only enjoyable but hassle-free.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of desert exploration it’s that sand and zippers do not mix. After going through two very expensive duffle bags as the zippers not only jammed, marring the teeth but straight up broke under the force of closure, I was immediately turned onto the SealLine WideMouth duffle. With the main closure utilizing a simple roll and clip method, there’s no way for dust to enter the bag when it’s secured, or for the bag to open up, even when strapped to a roof rack.

With a durable outer layer, even an area riddled with goat head thorns – like my campsite for example! – left me worry-free as I was sifting through my clothing to find the best outfit for the day. With two sizes: the 40L and 80L, the WideMouth can be used in any number of applications.

The D-rings make for easy mounting points for roof rack tie-downs and the rubber hosing over the handles provide grip without adding hotspots to your hands while sprinting through an airport to catch a flight. You can even use it as a backpack or shoulder bag over short distances.

Since using the WideMouth, we’ve driven through 115º heat in Death Valley, to High Sierra snow and ice storms, and even had one jettison itself as we were careening through Mojave Byways when a ski strap snapped. It’s exceeded my expectations and survived numerous excursions into the hottest and driest deserts on Earth. Not many products can live up to those standards!

As with all good products, the best way to see if it’s right for you is to head to your local dealer and check it out in person.

John Watson
Cyclist, Overlander, and Rad Human
Owner/Contributor The Radavist

Beach Packing Like a Pro with Surfer Yadin Nicol

Pro Surfer Yadin Nicol

Last year, while on a surfing and fishing trip to Alaska with Smith Optics, I was given a 115 liter SealLine Pro Pack to keep my backpacks, clothes and camping stuff dry. It was the perfect huge haul bag to keep my valuables out of the elements, and make it easy to transport everything around.

I’ve never been so far out off the grid and the roll-top closure paired with the durable material made the pack perfect for keeping out unwanted water. While we were camping on the beach we had a crazy downpour that would have ruined the rest of our trip if it weren’t for the pack keeping everything dry, I literally put my whole life for those days into that pack!

I honestly didn’t think I would use the bag much outside of Alaska because of the enormous size of it. Little did I know it would become my go-to beach bag that swallows my wetsuits, towels, water bottles, food, fin pouch and backpack with ease. The support that it gives you is second-to-none and the straps can easily be adjusted to your height too.

Not only is it perfect for lugging everything you could ever need for the beach, it also makes a killer wetsuit changing mat to keep the sand off of my suit (I use it to assist my kids King and Sailah with changing too). The material is durable enough that I’m always confident that sand, rocks, and ocean spray don’t stand a chance of ripping this thing.

It also makes for a perfect wet bag to just haul it all. I never need to worry about stinky, sandy, and soaking wetsuits or towels dripping all over me on the walk back from the beach. It easily washes out with a hose and is ready to go again. Plus, the material is UV-resistant enough to allow me to just leave it to dry in the sun.

For active dads that need to carry crazy loads to and from the beach, I highly recommend the Pro Pack. I can haul my stuff, my kids’ stuff, and there’s still room to spare!

You can follow Yadin on Instagram at @yadin_nicol.

Packing Systems for Quick Trips

Fast packing with sealline blocker series packing systems

Autumn in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a beautiful scene to behold—or so I had been told. I’d lived in Washington, D.C. for about five years, but had never actually made it out to the nearby national forests for a backpacking trip. The drive to Saint Mary’s Wilderness was just under three hours from my apartment; it was totally doable for your average weekend warrior. However, I’m not a natural weekend warrior. I can get bogged down by the time it takes to plan a trip, think through what I’ll need to bring, and get everything packed and ready to go.

So, there I was, five years into my D.C. residency, finally willing myself to quickly grab what I needed to get on the road. I wanted to have enough time for adventure before having to be back in the office by Monday. I did eventually make it out to the trail, but I was only about a mile or so in when the sun began sneaking behind the mountains. Without the inherent weekend warrior drive, I’ll admit that this wasn’t my first time setting up camp in the dark, merely imagining the beauty that must surround me.

Packing Systems Blocker Series kayaking

One of my recent, quick adventures took me to Kansas City, Missouri where I found myself kayaking the Missouri River, strolling city parks, stopping for lunch at a coffee shop, and heading off to a concert—all in the same day. I’ve come to learn that when weekend warrior-ing, travelers need to be able to pack and plan for an array of activities. Utilizing the Blocker Series as my packing system, I’ve finally begun to master making the most out of a quick trip—and even showing up before dark!

The Blocker Series allows adventurers to protect and organize their gear so they’re ready for all the twists and turns of the journey. A quick trip requires flexibility, and I’ve found that the Blocker Series offers a wide enough range in security and function to meet my evolving needs while traveling. Since I don’t always know exactly what my gear will be put through—from airplane overhead bins to kayaks—I appreciate the thicker, polyurethane-coated nylon that gives the Blocker Series extra strength.

SealLine Packing Systems Blocker Series

For day trips, I use the Gossamer Gear Vagabond 23L daypack as my main bag. It holds all I need and is stylish enough for urban environments, while still tough enough for the trail. For weekend warrior-ing, I typically use my Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L backpack as I’m traveling with extra clothing and additional items.

Below are some of the ways I’ve used the Blocker Series packing system in conjunction with my main packs to become a better weekend warrior:

Color-Code to Organize

I use the Blocker Cinch Sacks and Blocker Dry Sacks in similar ways; which one I grab depends on the adventure ahead. If I know I’ll be on the water, or if I expect bigger storms, I’ll use the Blocker Dry Sacks to ensure I have waterproof protection. However, if I’m not planning to do any paddling, I use the Blocker Cinch Sacks, which still offer some protection in the case of light rain or a wetted out pack, while allowing for slightly easier access.

Packing systems for fast packing

These sacks are my go-to for organizing my backpack, suitcase, or kayak. I’m overwhelmed by loose items strewn about, and these sacks solve that. I can keep my gear color-coded by bag to quickly grab exactly what I need (e.g. snacks in orange, sleeping clothes in navy, first aid in green camo, etc.). They’re particularly good for non-compressible items, such as books or journals, or my stinky, stinky Teva Sandals that I’d really rather not touch everything else.

I keep many of my go-to items organized in these sacks post-adventure so they’re ready to grab again and quickly throw into a pack or boat when the next weekend rolls around.

Keep Essentials in One Place

The Blocker Zip Sacks are among my favorite in the series. The small size makes for a perfect around-town clutch that can be dangled off your finger using the zipper loop. I used one to hold my wallet, phone, keys, and concert tickets while exploring Kansas City. It’s nice having these essentials well-organized and protected so I can easily keep track of them, all in one place, throughout my trip.

Blocker Zip packing systems

The size and ease of the zip sacks are also perfect for use in the snug cockpit of my sea kayak. I use a zip sack to hold items I want regular access to while paddling, such as my day snacks, sunscreen, and lip balm. Since the zip sacks are splashproof, I still have some protection for my belongings, but don’t have to wrestle roll-tops each time I want more peanut butter pretzels.

Compress Clothes to Save Space

I use the Blocker Compression Cinch Sacks mainly for clothes. These sacks offer a little protection in the case of some rain, while utilizing a fast cinch cord opening. The best thing about these sacks is the amount of space they can save. They make it possible to take along an overall smaller pack—the kind that can still fit under the seat in front of you when the overhead bin space runs out. I also always bring one with me when using a suitcase because it works perfectly as a travel laundry bag to keep my dirty clothes separate.

Keep “Sacred Socks” and Sleeping Bags Dry

The Blocker PurgeAir Dry Sacks and Blocker Compression Dry Sacks both have one-way, waterproof valves to let excess air escape. This really helps with preventing ballooning of the bags and makes compressing softer items a breeze. When space savings and high protection are important to me, I grab these sacks.

Blocker dry cinch sack packing systems for fast packing

Since the Blocker PurgeAir Dry sacks compress down so well, they fit easily in all of the nooks and crannies of my kayak, making packing a lot less burdensome. Also, given their waterproofness, I feel confident that my “sacred socks” and change of clothes will still be dry by the time I’m wanting them the most.

Regardless of the situation, the Blocker Compression Dry Sack is my go-to for sleeping bag storage. I use a down sleeping bag, and want to make sure it stays dry. It is also one of the largest items I travel with, so the compression is key. This past winter, I took my -10-degree bag out for weekend camping trips in Badlands National Park and Black Hills National Forest. In its fluff sack, this sleeping bag comes up to my waist, but once in the Blocker Compression Dry Sack, it is just over the size of my hand in height and slips right into my 60L backpack with plenty of room to spare.

Ready, Set, Go!

If you’re like me, weekend warrior-ing doesn’t come naturally. It can feel exhausting to get everything prepared for such a quick trip. However, those out of office hours we get are precious, and it’s important to make the most out of them when you can.

Utilizing a packing system like the Blocker Series helps keep gear organized and protected, which shaves time off of the planning stage of an adventure. These sacks have become my trail-ready “grab bags” that move in unison with wherever my adventure takes me.

The Art of Packing: Ultralight organization in the Hoh Rainforest

Blocker compression with map

As an avid backpacker, early summer in the Pacific Northwest is an antsy time of year for me. There’s too little snow for winter fun in the mountains but still too much snow to really get out on the many trails that I’m eager to get back to exploring. But the in-between means that it’s also a time to get prepared for the season ahead, both physically and logistically. So with my sights set on the low elevation trails and backcountry camps of the Hoh Rainforest, I set out to stretch my legs and to refine my gear organization.

Enter the ultralight packing system. By utilizing a combination of sizes, colors, and features, I was able to easily organize and protect my gear to streamline my experience on-trail. Here are some tips and tricks from my time in the Hoh to get you started:

On organizing efficiently

Color-coding I use one yellow and one blue 2.5L BlockerLite Dry Sack to easily distinguish which sack has part of my 10 essentials kit (lighter/matches, headlamp, compass, utility tool, etc.) vs. my extra camera gear (SD cards, batteries, remote shutter release, etc.) without having to look inside.

Color coded packing systems

Diversify: I use a mix of stuff sack sizes to help utilize space efficiently and effectively. It’s important to minimize air pockets in the pack, so my trick is to not over-tighten compression straps, which can create bulky or awkward shapes if over-compressed. I’ll use cinch sacks or keep compression to a minimum to create more moldable shapes to fill my pack. For some items, like sleeping pads, I just want something simple to keep them protected (the 5L BlockerLite Cinch Sack fit like a glove for my pad).

Waterproof redundancy: this is a necessity in some areas (like the rainforest!). No matter what, some spots of my pack get wet even with a pack cover – having waterproof stuff sacks adds an extra layer of protection for gear I need to keep dry.

Which items to use a packing system for

Well, anything, really. But here are some of the most important ones:

blockerlite cinch sack

Sleeping bag: This is my bulkiest item and also the most critical to keep dry. A 20L BlockerLite Compression Dry Sack was the right fit for my 10-degree down bag. SealLine’s PurgeAir™ feature on this bag is a real help in getting any trapped air out. Make sure you have enough extra volume to ensure a secure closure (three times should do it).

Clothes: While in past years I’ve separated my socks and underwear from the rest of my clothes, this trip I found it more helpful to have them all in one place for easy access. I also do double duty with this sack by using it as my pillow, which not only saves space but also keeps my clothes warm, which helps with extricating myself from my sleeping bag in the morning.

Food: Nobody wants to dig around for food items here and there in a pack. I found the 10L cinch sack ideal for this trip since it not only made for easy bear hanging by just doubling the cord over and tying a simple knot to create a loop but also has a built-in secure closure (unlike other cinch sacks I’ve used). This meant my food not only stayed dry, but even after three days in a rainforest the Saltines I had brought along were still crunchy.

Flexibility: I give myself a little extra volume in my sacks to allow for changes on-the-go. Being in the rainforest, I knew that any damp clothes from rain or sweating during hiking wouldn’t dry at all, let alone by the next day. In order to keep my other clothes dry, I ended up putting damp clothes/socks in the smaller 10L compression sack that also held my wet tent.

In the end, we all have different gear and different needs, so while things like volume, color, and type of packing system you use may vary person to person, the benefits of organization, reducing weight, and protecting your gear can be used by all.

Which Packing System is Right for You Infographic

Everyone understands the importance of organizing and protecting important gear, but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming to find the best solution to do so. With the introduction of our new Packing Systems, there’s a lot of technology, features, closure styles, and materials to choose from.

To help make the decision process a little easier, we’ve created this nifty infographic to assist you in selecting the proper sack.

Which packing system is right for you infographic

A Simple Legacy:

Celebrating a Decade with the Urban Backpack

“Some days are like riding through a dishwasher,” says Stacie Langtry, SealLine Category Manager, referring to commuting in Seattle roughly September through May.

Seattle’s “wet season” enjoys a certain level of notoriety, and those who use alternative, more-exposed means for their commutes (whether via bicycle, motorcycle, public transportation, or otherwise), could certainly be called “hardy”.

Photo: Kaitlin Bailey

When we launched our Urban gear ten years ago, we thought of it as an extension of our waterproof dry bags and gear—many of us in the office had alternative means of commuting that, through the seasons of Seattle, often necessitated durable and easy-to-access waterproof protection. Urban was our solution.

“We thought there were better ways to still have the protection of a roll-top dry bag, but make it much faster and easier to access for daily use,” said Erik Flink, SealLine Brand Director during the Urban pack’s development. “Our portage packs were really successful, so making an urban-specific product was the natural progression.”

That progression from paddling-specific designs and manufacturing processes to a new, urban-specific product proved challenging, however.


“We had a few design requirements—like quick access without using a velcro closure—that required a lot of design engineering to make it work the way we wanted,” continued Flink. “From a manufacturing standpoint, some of the designs were more technical than anything we’d done before, too, but we wanted to ensure it all stayed simple and easy to use. That was a hard thing to overcome.”

Undaunted, the design team moved forward. What eventually became the QuickClip™ design borrowed some inspiration from a holster. All-new materials were tested and selected for their blend of waterproofness, durability, and metropolitan look. Manufacturing hurdles were resolved. After a number of iterations and refinements, a deceptively simple Urban backpack emerged.

“Simplicity was a big part of the design,” said Josh Buesseler, an Industrial Designer who worked on the project.


Indeed, the pack’s apparent simplicity belies the thoughtful design behind it, as well as the technical challenges overcome in order to ensure it functioned as designed (don’t ask how many steps it takes to weld a padded, mesh-covered back panel onto a three-dimensional shape).

“People were really blown away when we launched the Urban,” added Flink. “They didn’t know what to think of SealLine making an urban-centric, fully waterproof pack. It surprised everyone, but they got it.”


Soon after launching, Urban products were recognized with accolades from within the outdoor industry (OutDoor Industry Award) and design publications (I.D. Magazine), reaffirming the success of the team, and the product, in blending rugged performance with smart, simple design.

It didn’t take long for Langtry to recognize an opportunity with the frequent use of the packs—she started making one-off packs out of materials she wanted to test, giving them to the numerous passionate, year-round bike commuters in the office.

Photo: Mikk Kaschko

“Every year, we look for new materials to innovate and play with,” said Langtry. “I have to know if those materials are going to meet our standards. Typically, you just have a lab test things, but I like to see what happens with real, daily use. People are rolling and unrolling the packs multiple times a day, most days of the week. It puts a lot of stress on the materials. Because of the daily, real-world testing, the pack really helps us identify ideal materials for use in all of our dry gear.”

Phil Hitch, Director of Product Development, has been testing Urban packs since they were first prototyped.

“It’s the most waterproof thing I own,” says Hitch. “Everything else I commute with may be soaking wet—my socks, under my jacket, everything—but I know whatever’s in the pack will be dry. For ten years I’ve been commuting with one, and I know that much. They haven’t changed much. They haven’t needed to.”

“That it’s gone ten years with basically no changes—I think that speaks to its success as a design and product,” said Buesseler. “Simplicity was a key part of that.”

Raising River Rats

Playing in the John Day river

Photo: Scott Schell

“Wow, that looks relaxing!” my friend remarked as she flipped through photos from my recent rafting trip. I laughed.

“What?” she queried.

“Relaxing” would not be the first, or the fifth, adjective that I would have used to describe the recent trip. At the particular moment in the photo, it was our fifth day on the John Day River, 63 miles into a 70-mile trip on the north-central Oregon river. Instead of the forecasted temperatures in the mid-80s, the mercury was pushing towards 100 degrees. And though I was in one of the boats, shaded by an umbrella and drinking a beer while everyone else unloaded gear at our final camp, I was also trying to remind myself that while I wasn’t physically helping the group, I was helping Wiley by letting him finish his nap.

With no shoreline trees for shade, getting out of the boat would have put us in direct line of the “death star”. So, we chilled in the shade of the umbrella on the boat, Wiley asleep on my chest. He’s 20 months old and I knew this snuggly-yet-slightly-uncomfortable-can-I-move-and-not-wake-the-child? moment would only become more infrequent.

Before long, he lifted his pink-flushed cheek and took in our surroundings. There wasn’t much to see since the umbrella blocked most of the view, but I think kids are so much more sensitive to the elements of the earth—the gentle coolness of a slight breeze, the sound of the water rippling against the raft. “Bird,” he signed. The he roared like a lion at me.

Photo: Becca Cahall

When we had our first child, Teplin, my husband Fitz and I initially did a few backpacking trips with him, but we wanted to find a way to get out in the wilderness for more than two or three days at a time. Three days isn’t enough time for me to relax to a new pace, to let my thoughts spin like little eddies. Before I can totally settle in, my mind switches to thinking about the end of the trip, to rehashing those thoughts from the “real world” that I momentarily put on the back burner. Close friends suggested canoeing, and we thought, “Sure.” So, the first time I ever paddled a canoe for more than 2 hours, we headed out on an 8-day trip to explore the Boundary Waters in Minnesota when Teplin was 21 months old. Eight months later we paddled 100 miles on the Green River in Utah. We loved the expansive desert, the short hikes from our camps, Teplin’s voice echoing off the canyon walls, and the quiet contentedness that fell over all of us as we paddled the boat towards the Colorado River. We returned again the following spring.

Then, as we welcomed Wiley into our lives, getting out for just a weekend felt like a win. We didn’t seem to have the resources, physically or mentally, to contemplate even a short backpacking trip. Our trip on the John Day would be our first wilderness trip as a family of four. The unknowns felt more daunting this time, but we wanted to make it happen. We recruited some friends and launched—6 days, 70 miles.

Photo: Becca Cahall

In every trip where I’m moving beyond my comfort zone of what I normally do, there is a moment where I think, “This was a bad idea,” and seriously question how I ever thought it could be a good one. That feeling seems to amplify when I start to fret over what possible “harm” I might be inflicting on our kids. Call it mom guilt, fretful, or over-protective, what have you—it feels silly and yet those thought spirals are undeniable.

On this trip, my moment came on the third day. Over-tired, over-stimulated, over-hot or simply over-it-all, Wiley wanted out of the boat. My mind spun with doubt and uncertainty—Was Wiley not ready for this kind of trip? Had I overestimated his ability to settle in to the changing routine? If that had been our last day on the river, I would have walked away and thought, “Well, we tried. Maybe it wasn’t the right trip. Maybe he’ll like it when he’s a little older.” But we were halfway through the trip and the only reasonable option was to keep heading downstream.

Then, on the fourth day, Wiley seemed to settle in to the flow of the river. He pretended to drive the boat, contentedly munched on snacks, shrieked at his brother (less), and let me dip his toes in the river as Fitz rowed. As Wiley’s attitude changed, I felt myself relax more, and suddenly little Wiley giggles led to bigger giggles by all of us on the boat. Our final days felt easier and diluted the sting of the harder moments that had felt impossible to ignore just days ago.

By the time we reached the take-out at Cottonwood State Park, my memories were forming around the other moments: Watching a dragonfly nymph emerge, Teplin’s infectious enthusiasm, catching bullfrogs, cautiously watching a rattlesnake move through camp, rock throwing, and long days that felt even longer under a waxing moon. Teplin had become a river rat—jumping gleefully into any flat-water stretch, hitching a ride on Shane’s kayak and learning to take the eddy “elevator” to float a rapid. And, after a few days, Wiley seemed like he might come around to river life.

We’re already planning the next river trip.

Photo: Becca Cahall

How to Choose Waterproof Gear Infographic

Should you use a dry bag, or a dry sack? What goes in a dry case? Why would you use a dry backpack instead of a dry duffle? What is the best waterproof protection for a sleeping bag?

We routinely hear the above questions, and with so many choices when it comes to selecting waterproof gear, we certainly understand—to help ease the process of choosing waterproof gear, we made the below guide for identifying and choosing between our waterproof dry bags, dry sacks, dry packs & duffles, and protective cases & accessories. We hope this helps you choose the right waterproof option for your next journey!

How To Pack A Sea Kayak

Photo: We Are Unicorns

Editor’s note: The below was originally created by one of our colleagues, Diane L. as a presentation for Canoecopia, which she’s given several years in a row now. She started paddling in the mid-90s, doing primarily whitewater kayaking until she took her first multiday sea kayak tour in 1998. As she puts it, she brought too much stuff (including five books) and her boat “looked like a junk show”. This first journey helped her realize the importance of a gear list, gear selection, and the nuances of loading a boat. Since then, she’s completed numerous self-supported sea kayaking trips, many on Vancouver Island’s wild west coast. We’re immensely thankful that she’s shared her hard-earned advice and wisdom with us below, and we hope it helps you out on your next sea kayaking journey!

By Diane L.

Foremost, before packing a kayak, consider your style of packing and how much gear you prefer to bring—whole hog? minimalist?—and the length of the trips that you like to take. If you don’t already have a boat, the size of the boat you’re using (rented or borrowed) will dictate what you can and cannot bring.

  • A quick note: typically, it’s the overall volume of gear (not weight) that is the limiting factor when loading a touring kayak.


Photo: We Are Unicorns

You’re ready to pack, now what?

    • Use a gear checklist—this will help keep you from forgetting things.
      ○ This is flexible and depends on several factors, including where you’re paddling, for how long, and your personal style.
      ○ (We’ve included a checklist of suggested items at the bottom of this post.)


  • Choose your dry bags wisely.
    ○ An assortment of small- to medium-sized dry bags (e.g., 5L, 10L, 15L, and 20L sizes) will optimize space usage better than large ones. Large bags tend to leave unfilled spaces.
    ○ Tapered bow and stern dry bags will maximize available space. It’s handy to tie a length of cord onto bow & stern bags for easy retrieval.
    ○ Dry bags with nylon fabric will typically slide easily in and out of hatches.


  • For packing clothing:
    ○ Divide into two different colored bags:
    ○ One for items you’ll want ASAP/that night, such as your hat, long underwear, toiletries, headlamp, or clothes you’re going to sleep in.
    ○ The other for spare items or clothing you’ll use later.


  • For packing food:
    ○ Sort into 3 different colored bags—breakfast, lunch, dinner. Keep in mind, some items don’t need dry bags, such as oranges, canned foods, canned beer, wine, etc.
    ○ Consider freezing some foods at home—they’ll serve as chiller/ice to keep other foods cool and you can eat them once thawed.


  • For bulk water:
    ○ You can reuse bags from boxed beverages (add a fabric cover to protect and make carrying easier).
    ○ Other options are 4L-10L water storage bags or collapsible water carriers.


Photo: Diane L.

Alright, you’ve organized and packed your gear… now what?

  • Load smart! Use thought and reason when loading your gear into your boat—it’ll make a huge difference.


  •  Ensure you have quick access to important/emergency gear (flares, spare paddle, paddle float, throw bag, water bottle, waterproof/floating VHF radio, wool hat, snacks, paddle jacket, bilge pump, compass).
    ○ For flares, stow them inside a deck bag or in the cockpit—there’s a better chance they’ll stay dry and less of a chance of losing them.
    ○ Secure spare paddle, paddle float, and throw bag on the rear deck to minimize spray deflection.
    ○ Water bottle (tie down!).
    ○ Waterproof/floating VHF radio, wool hat, and snacks can go inside a deck bag.
    ○ Paddle jacket (behind seat).
    ○ Bilge pump can be stowed next to seat.
    ○ Compass can go atop deck bag or, if your boat has it, the molded-in flat spot designated for compasses.


  • When loading up the boat, tuck small items around bigger ones.
    ○ Loading a boat involves some compromises: Items stored in dry bags lend greater integral buoyancy and more convenient handling; loose small items make better use of space.


  • Place heavy items low and centered towards cockpit for ballast.
    ○ Arranging items this way can improve boat handling by reducing swing weight, and the boat will react to waves more quickly, helping you stay drier (with heavy items at the bow or stern, those ends of the boat will be more easily submerged by waves; the lighter you can keep the ends of the boat, the more likely they’ll tend to stay on top of the water and minimize submersion and splashing).


  • Store bulk/extra water in the cockpit, behind the seat, or forward of foot pedals if there’s room.


  • Keep food items cool by placing them along the keel line.


  • Distribute and balance weight between fore and aft, port and starboard.
    ○ A bow-heavy boat will plunge into waves and be awkward to steer in a following sea; a stern-heavy boat will tend to weathercock in beam winds.
    ○ Boats with port- or starboard-heavy loads will feel awkward and unbalanced and will tend to turn toward the heavier side, forcing the paddler to lean the opposite way and constantly correct with paddle strokes.


  • Keep large ferrous metal items away from the compass.
    ○ Large ferrous metal items, like a cast iron Dutch oven, can affect compass readings; stow them the minimum recommended separation distance specific to your compass (e.g., four feet).


  • Minimize gear on the boat deck.
    ○ On-deck gear adds windage and raises the boat’s center of gravity.
    ○ Ensure any on-deck gear is tied down—items tucked under bungees can be easily lost.


  • Know if the tide is coming in or going out and place a boat accordingly on the beach.
    ○ As a general rule of thumb, allow approximately two hours to break camp and load a boat on big trips and/or if you bring lots of gear.


  • Get help when lifting and moving a loaded boat—support under the hull; do not drag.
    ○ A loaded double kayak can weigh as much as 400 lbs.!
    ○ Good-sized toggles at bow & stern make carrying more comfortable.
    ○ Lifting straps make it easy for four people to carry a loaded boat.


Diane paddling along Vancouver Island’s rugged west coast. Photo: Lesley L.

Additional general tips:

  • Use large mesh cargo bags (with solid bottoms) to haul gear to & from boat.


  • It can take a long time to break camp and re-pack your boat well.
    ○ Allow two hours to break camp & load boats on big trips (plan accordingly w/currents & tides).


  • Loading becomes easier as the trip goes on
    ○ You’ll become familiar with what goes where, and there will be less food/beer!


  • And of course… HAVE FUN!!


For quick and easy packing, Diane shared with us her packing list—it’s cumulative, so the gear listed for a weekend trip is in addition to the gear you’d bring for a day trip. Here’s the list:

SealLine Sea Kayak Packing List

Please note: These tips and packing suggestions are just those: suggestions. Exercise your best judgment in determining what to pack and how, ensuring your choices are appropriate for the trip and conditions.

Behind the scenes:

The machines and people that make a dry bag

Our waterproof dry bags are made in our US factory

It may not look glamorous, but we’re proud of our factory—the people and the machines—and the dry gear that we make in it every day. Photo: Stacie L.

“Every machine has a name,” she said. I stopped and looked up from my notes.

“Wait, what?” I replied. Stacie Langtry, SealLine Category Manager, smiled. Eleven years ago, Langtry started working for SealLine as a production engineer on the factory floor, managing the daily ins and outs of making dry gear in our factory. Six years ago, she transitioned into a Category Management role for SealLine, and has been guiding the development and manufacturing of SealLine products since.

“Yeah, on the factory floor, every machine is named,” said Langtry. “There’s the ‘Baja Bottomer’ machine, the ‘Big and Tall’ machine, and a bunch of others.”


Each new SealLine dry bag has a long, hands-on past behind it—someone designed it, someone made the tools necessary to make it, someone cut the materials for it, someone held the materials a specific way so they could be properly welded (by a machine that has a name), and so on.

When we started in 1986, we had radio frequency (RF) welding machines and a number of ideas on how to make high-quality waterproof bags, though we soon found that our ideas exceeded the capability of our machines, particularly when we tried to make round bottoms for our dry bags.

The machines, as they existed on our factory floor, simply couldn’t make dry bags with round bottoms. We believed strongly enough in the benefits of a rounded-bottom dry bag design that we decided to modify our machinery. Through engineering, trial and error, and a few discussions with the machine manufacturer, we were able to modify our RF welding machines to allow us to make dry bags with rounded bottoms. At the time, our modified RF welding machines were more advanced than the new machines being made by the machine manufacturer.

Baja dry bag uses an angled weld on its round bottom for waterproof protection

Developing the round bottom of our Baja dry bag required creating a tricky angled RF welding process.

Production supervisor Rurt, who was with SealLine at the start, remembers the process, “For those rounded bottom welds, there’s an angle—between 45° and 60°—and depending on the thickness of the materials and the coating, the angles give you more or less of a bend in the fabric,” he said. “With lower angles, you have more of a bend in the fabric, and you can get more wrinkles in the weld. I mentioned, ‘Hey, let’s try this, see how it works…’ and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. It depended on the material. We tried some tricks and got it to work.”

Though the RF welding machines play a significant role in the making of our dry bags, it’s really the hands-on skill of the operators that makes the difference. Anyone who’s worked on the factory floor is quick to mention the various tricks, machine quirks, and “secrets” one must learn in order to correctly weld a dry bag.


Making waterproof dry bags is a hands-on, skilled process.

Making dry bags requires hands-on work that blends science and skill. Photo: Stacie L.

“RF welding is almost like a ‘dark art’,” said Langtry, as we continued our conversation. “Our more experienced engineers work with the newer ones to ensure knowledge is passed along. RF welding is complicated—you have this hard, fixed shape of the machine, but you’re taking these highly flexible pieces of fabric and laying them in the machine in a very specific way. Those pieces of fabric don’t want to stay in place, yet you’re trying to make a 3D shape. Plus, the machine settings have to be just right, and there can’t be any dust or a loose hair anywhere—those can cause an arc and start a fire. It’s all super hard. It looks like a simple thing to do, but it takes a lot of skill.”

Between the skill of the people, and the capabilities of the machines, there’s a bridge that connects them: what we call “tooling”—pre-made forms, casts, and dies—that ensures consistency and accurate manufacturing. For instance, we use tooling to ensure that the sealing strips are straight and in the right place when we make a dry bag. These “tools” are made in-house in our own machining and tooling facility. This in-house capability enables us to quickly explore ideas and rapidly improve upon them.

Our machining facility helps us make tools for welding waterproof dry bags in our US factory.

Our in-house tooling facility allows us to rapidly make new tools to use with our RF welding machines. Photo: Stacie L.

Frequently, our colleagues on the factory floor will have an idea for a product tweak or a manufacturing improvement. They’ll let us know of these ideas, and in turn we’ll often machine a rough tool within a day or two and get it to the factory floor to prove the idea out, sometimes yielding initial prototypes within a week. Being able to iterate concepts and prototypes like this has a simple outcome: we’re able to improve products quicker.

This agility recently paid dividends once again: in the initial development of our new, stow-friendly Bulkhead™ series of dry bags, we identified some potential manufacturing complications. With input from our factory floor, and some quick tooling modifications, we were able to quickly adapt some manufacturing processes we’d developed for our military-grade dry sacks, which allowed us to move forward with making the Bulkhead bags to our standards while avoiding a major slowdown in production.

Instead of a slow back-and-forth—which can be the case with out-of-house manufacturing—we were able to identify and fix a problem within a matter of weeks. Our in-house manufacturing and tooling teams played a critical role in enabling us to do this so quickly.

In-house engineering improves the development of waterproof gear and dry bags.

By tweaking the design of our air-purging valve, our engineers were able to improve air-venting performance on our new Bulkhead Compression dry bag.

Our in-house engineering expertise also plays a big role when we develop new products. For example, with our PurgeAir™ valve, which is RF welded into all of our new Bulkhead dry bags, we thought the air-purging performance of the valve could be improved. After some R&D and a few design tweaks, our engineers were able to improve the valve significantly—compared to the old design, the valve now vents air twice as fast and takes half as much effort to do so. Less work and faster venting means less hassle when packing and loading a boat. This in-house engineering capability plays an essential role in our efforts to design and build great gear, and perfectly complements the efforts of our factory and tooling shop.

Waterproof Bulkhead tapered dry bag fits into kayak hatches for dry protection

A lot of work by a lot of people goes into each dry bag that’s used to protect your gear while you’re out paddling. Photo: We Are Unicorns

From our design tables to the tooling shop to the factory floor, we’re proud of the numerous hands (and machines) that contributed to the development of not just our new Bulkhead series—the View, Tapered, and Compression dry bags—but all of our waterproof bags. We believe that all of those hands make a difference when it comes to the end product, and we think you’ll enjoy the results of those efforts on your next voyage.

SealLine: Then to Now

Discover the Evolution of Our Dry Protection

Early waterproof bag designs for keeping paddling gear dry

Two of our earliest waterproof dry bags.

When it comes down to it, a dry bag is deceptively simple. It’s just a bag, right? Sure, it uses waterproof materials, and the closure definitely matters—but, really, how complicated can a dry bag be?

How about fire-coming-out-of-machines complicated?

In 1986, opportunity presented itself and a passionate group of paddlers wound up with some radio frequency (RF) welding tools. RF welding uses concentrated radio frequencies to join separate pieces of coated materials at a molecular level, creating a highly durable and impermeable bond between them. While these tools were originally used to make gear for the maritime industry, our originators had the notion to use them to make waterproof bags for kayaking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, and other paddling activities—the vision was simple: surely, paddlers would also enjoy industrial-strength waterproof protection while out on the water. Thus, our brand was born.

The bottom of our early waterproof bag design was square. Our early dry bag design had a fold-over flap, too.

Our early square-bottom and fold-over flap designs.

Our early dry bag designs looked more like paper grocery bags—they had a squared-off bottom and sealed with a fold-over flap with a hook-and-loop closure. Arguably, a dry bag’s closure is the most-used (and most important) part of a dry bag. It’s part of what makes the bag “dry”, after all. We wanted to improve the user experience of this critical aspect, and after two years of the fold-over flaps, we came up with our Dry Seal™ dual-strip roll-top closure, which made it easier to properly seal our dry bags. Two years later, recognizing that the “points” of the squared-off bottoms were high-wear areas, we introduced rounded bottoms. Ever evolving, our passion as paddlers informed the improvements we made to our dry bags.

Materials were our next area of focus. As an alternative to our solid-colored bags, we introduced transparent dry bag options, which used clear films to allow paddlers quickly identify and access the bag’s contents. We then expanded our materials options to include polyurethane-coated (aka, PVC-free) options. The benefits of PVC-free materials were significant—they’re eco-friendlier, lighter, and more durable than polyvinyl chloride-coated (aka, “vinyl”) materials. However, it wasn’t an easy transition.

Making dry bags fully waterproof requires welding seams, which can burn if not done properly.

RF welding is a tricky process. Materials can catch fire if the welding settings aren’t just right, or if some dust is in the wrong place.

“Expanding into PVC-free coatings was a huge technical challenge—the materials are trickier to weld, and it stretched our knowledge of RF welding at the time,” says Stacie Langtry, SealLine Category Manager, 20-year shepherd of the brand, Canadian expat, and lifelong canoeist. “We had fire blankets next to the welders because, as we tried new materials, stuff would catch fire in the machines. For years, my whole job was materials research as we figured out how to make PVC-free dry bags to our standards.”

While sorting out and optimizing materials, we also started making protective dry gear for more specific uses—dry bags that fit better inside kayak hatches, waterproof packs for canoe portages, and gear-hauling duffles—tailoring shapes and adding features that better served the more specific needs of the people using our gear. Our products, and brand, continued to evolve as paddling, and paddlers, continued to find new and different ways to adventure on water and over land.

Two years ago, we felt there was an opportunity to rock our proverbial boat, so we set out to overhaul our entire dry bag line. Because coming up with all-new dry bag designs, updating our Dry Seal closure to make it easier, revamping our air-purging valve to make it faster, and revisiting shapes wasn’t enough, we wanted to bring some life to the look of dry bags.

We evaluate the coatings of our dry bags to ensure high quality

Microscopic cross-section of polyurethane-coated materials.

A little-known thing about dry bag materials is that they typically use a base of a woven thread (often polyester) that’s then heavily coated on both sides with a polyvinyl chloride (“vinyl”) or polyurethane (“PVC-free”) coating. Since these base threads are typically an undeyed white (natural greige is the technical term), the coatings are dyed to achieve the desired color of the dry bag—thus, a green dry bag is green because the coating is dyed green.

In designing our top-of-the line Discovery™ dry bags, we knew we wanted a fresh look to go along with the new designs, so we looked into printed patterns. We soon rejected the idea of prints since they would eventually rub or scrape off with repeated use. We wanted something more durable, so we looked to one of the oldest ways to distinguish fabrics: woven patterns.

Woven plaid waterproof dry bag materials offer distinctive style with full waterproof protection

Individually colored threads are behind the look of our new plaid bags. Photo: Ben Sandall

Plaid was one of our earliest ideas, and it proved the most viable. By using dyed threads woven into a plaid pattern, then coating the woven materials with a clear PVC-free coating, we were able to achieve a distinct and, more importantly, durable look for a dry bag. A fun fact about our two plaid options—though the orange plaid and blue plaid may look distinctly different, they both use the same threads, just in different proportions. We loved the pattern so much, we decided to offer it as an option for two of our new dry bag designs… which brings us to the bags themselves!

New Discovery waterproof dry bag

Discovery Dry Bag. Photo: N. Coltrane

Discovery Dry Bag

Sometimes, all one needs is a straightforward dry bag. In designing the new Discovery Dry Bag, we looked to our heritage as a starting point. Going back to the notion that the bag closure is the most-used (and most important) part of a dry bag, we wanted to one-up our original Dry Seal dual-strip roll-top closure. In making a few tweaks to the two strips and their spacing, we were able to make the closure easier to use, helping ensure a proper seal for maximum waterproof protection.

Continuing to work backwards from the needs of end-users (that’s you!), we tested and optimized the PVC-free materials to ensure they’re ultra-durable and able to withstand exposed conditions year after year. We also used different coatings to provide a light-colored interior (for the solid colors), which fixes the “black hole” effect often found with large, solid-colored dry bags. We then moved away from the classic round bottom shape, opting for an oval-esque bottom which helps prevent the bags from rolling around; we also found that this shape makes it easier to pack and stack the dry bags. And, finally, we ensured it’s available in a bunch of fresh colors, including our new plaids.

New waterproof Discovery View dry bag is easy to see within

Discovery View Dry Bag. Photo: We Are Unicorns

Discovery View Dry Bag

For our Discovery View Dry Bag, we found a simple change solved a few challenges.

“The biggest evolution of our View bags was the addition of texture,” says Langtry. “Before, we had either a heavy, sticky vinyl film that had challenges with flexibility, or we had an amazing, lighter and more flexible PVC-free clear film, but it was stickier than the clear vinyl film, which made it harder to pack. So we evolved the PVC-free film by adding texture to it, which gave it a frosted look. You can still see inside to find gear quickly, but the frosting also made it less sticky and easier to pack.”

Beyond the materials update, we also tweaked our welded, waterproof air-purging valve to vent trapped air faster for easier sealing (and less ballooning of bags). The View waterproof bags also got the updated Dry Seal closure for better, easier sealing. We then color-coded the oval-esque bottoms by size to make them easier to identify and organize.

New Discovery waterproof Deck Dry Bag can be carried, lashed down or stowed

Discovery Deck Dry Bag. Photo: Jordan Siemens

Discovery Deck Dry Bag

As a capstone to our efforts, we went all out and created the Discovery Deck Dry Bag.

We wanted our pinnacle product to be the most versatile, so we loaded it up with features. First, welded lash points and a carry strap were added to make it easy to carry the bag to/from a launch spot, strap it to a standup paddleboard, or lash it to a deck. We then added our other features, including our updated air-purging valve, the more stable, better packing and stacking oval-esque bottoms, and of course the ultra-durable PVC-free materials. And, because this is our top bag, we definitely made sure it’s available in our awesome new plaids (along with five other color choices).

And there you have it! It’s been a fun two-year journey, and we’re proud to launch the culmination of those efforts. From the rad plaids to a bunch of new features, we think the Discovery bags are pretty awesome and we’re excited for you, our beloved customers, to get your hands on these new bags and use them on your own upcoming journeys.

About SealLine

For over 30 years, we here at SealLine have endeavored to make protective gear to stand up to water, wind, and dirt in challenging outdoor environments. We believe your pursuits shouldn’t be limited by your gear, so we design, test, and build our products to deliver protection you can depend upon.

Our legendarily rugged dry bags, dry sacks, packs, duffles, cases and accessories will safeguard your essentials on paddling, camping, hiking, biking or traveling adventures.

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