Bag it Up: Part One Table of Contents: Introduction to kayaking gear bags and storage systems and what we’ll be reviewing in this post Travel…
Bag it Up: Part One
Table of Contents:
Before you board a plane, press the pedal to the floor, dip a toe in the ocean, or peel out of the safety of the put-in eddy and point it downstream, all travellers find themselves in their garage, basement, one-room-apartment tackling the first order of business and maybe most daunting challenge of the trip: packing. Kayaking and water-travel in general requires some specific considerations, so we’ve reviewed a few of our favorite gear-hauling machines.
We focus here on a group of versatile, mid-large capacity travel bags. These bags are great for getting to and from the put-in, hopping a plane, as well as storing or airing out your gear in the garage….because inevitably when you get back from whatever paddling paradise you whisked off to, you’ll return to reality with a bag full of wet, miserable gear. We’ve got you covered there, too.
Whether you’re heading for a weekend jaunt or heading off on a multi-day expedition, all paddling adventures start with the same existential question: How am I going to carry all this crap to the put-in? We’ve broken down a few options, from rugged, waterproof downriver worthy dry-duffels to glorified gym bags that keep your paddle gear contained during travel without becoming putrid. So, happy traveling…and eventually paddling.
A classic big-volume waterproof expedition and travel duffle bag from a classic company: Northwest River Supplies (NRS). The beauty of this beast is in its simplicity. Everything you need and nothing you don’t, well almost. There’s only one qualm with the whole bag, which we’ll get out of the way: the zipper-only closure system. While NRS’ quality is very trustworthy, and their TIZIP zipper is in all likelihood bombproof, if the zipper blows while you’re in a wilderness canyon or traveling to some far flung corner of the globe, well, in that case you’ll be left holding the bag, a very wet bag.
However, NRS has thought of that scenario, and though the bag may cease to be river-worthy, the cross straps with their rugged aluminum hook closures, so you can still keep your stuff contained. Another redeeming, smart part about this zipper design, is that it extends well-past the seam of the cylindrical bag’s end pieces, which allows it to open wider like a traditional duffle.
Additionally, you could check out NRS’ High Roll Duffel, which is a nearly identical bag featuring a roll top closure instead of a zipper. The ends of the bag have super-duty grab handles make this easy to pull out of a raft or a truck and the removable shoulder strap makes for a nice option while traveling. Lastly, this bag is adorned with many, many lashpoints, both webbing chains and hardpoints.
A Mississippi sized duffle bag worthy of a riverboat-load of gear, this no-nonsense duffle bag can hold all your gear, plus a few aces up it’s sleeve. It has a large, easy access full-zipper opening. The rugged watertight zipper, combines with a roll-top closure style to provide redundant waterproof security.
Watershed states that their “singular” mission is to, “build waterproof bags in the USA that we, as adventurers, could trust to keep our most cherished possessions dry under any conditions.” This is Watershed seem to be walking that talk: The addition of four (4) straps allow you to secure the folds of the rolled top, to withstand jostling, water, tossing around of rugged travel and use. At least six hard points for lashing this thing down. And all of these bags can be made with MULTICAM, a military grade fabric.
The fact that the US Navy uses Watershed products, should say something about durability, quality, and function. Watershed makes a similar versions of the Mississippi duffle in three other sizes Colorado (75.5), Yukon (54.5L), Chatooga (22L), Ocoee (10.5L)
Just like it’s manufacturer’s name suggests, this expedition bag is a beast. With YETI’s over-engineered reputation in coolers being applied to many paddle and outdoor products, this bag does not disappoint in style, ruggedness, and function.
Featuring a simple shape with sturdy, waterproof zipper opening, it differentiates itself from the, ahem, rest of the pack, with metal (not plastic) buckles and clips – a welcome innovation for remote field situations where they hold up better to wear and could theoretically be field repaired.
Backpack straps are a welcome addition in this large, expedition-bag category, which make the inevitable endless airport security line, short portage, or riverbank campsite carry a little easier on the body. For all of the awesome and unique feature of this bag, there are a few “interestingly” designed features, so the pro/con list below is a little more detailed than usual to…um, unpack it all.
This is a classic bag. The Boundary Pack is at home in the cockpit of a canoe, comfortably humping over long portages, galavanting off in the underbelly of a plane, or strapped to the deck of raft headed down big water. Portage straps make this the most comfortable bag in this category when it comes to wearing as a backpack. They are also easily removable making this pack shift effortlessly between travel, portage, and tie-down haul drybag. While designed with canoe expeditioning and portaging in mind, this is a truly versatile jack of trades and master of most of your paddle needs.
A great bag to segue this section’s travel & expedition emphasis into the air-it-out and storage bag emphasis. Advanced Elements Funk Bag is exactly what it sounds like. This is a bag in which even the funkiest of gear can find a home (at least temporarily, let’s hope).
A simple gym-bag style duffel, with a large main compartment. Wear resistant nylon fabric construction and large mesh vent along top of bag. Very similar to the Advanced Elements Funk Bag, however there is an extra cool story here. Each NRS Purest Remix Duffel is constructed from leftover scraps of nylon from the NRS factory floor. Reduce your environmental footprint and your “funkprint” at the same time!
With so many great options, choosing one may be difficult. We first recommend thinking about both what type of kayaking you most often find yourself doing. After that, consider what mode of transportation you’ll be using: air, road, hiking, horsepacking, etc. Start more versatile and then start adding more specific packs as needed.
For instance, the Purest Mesh Duffel is a versatile bag around town for those short trips and even doubles as a gym bag. However, the SealLine Boundary Pack is takes versatility to the extreme. It’s at home transporting expedition gear via airplane, strapped to raft, portgaging in the wilderness, or simply holding your gear in the garage.
As your kayaking ambitions and disciplines increase, then it’s time to expand your quiver of quivers. Until then, happy paddling and packing!
Needing a more storage-focused option? Check out our review of storage-focused bags coming soon…
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