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Gear test: ZipDry duffel bag

If you spend any time in or around the water, you know there’s always a need to keep things dry.

If you spend any time in or around the water, you know there’s always a need to keep things dry. Whether it’s clothing to change into, supplies that cannot get wet, or just temporary storage for almost anything else, there are other concerns aside from just keeping things dry. Your stuff needs to be readily accessible without having to dig through the entire contents of the bag, which means it should have a full-length closure. The method of sealing the bag should be simple and reliable, and the bag has to be durable as well as convenient to stow while partially or completely full.


Watershed, of Asheville, N.C., has been addressing these issues for more than 12 years, and the company has done it well. I was introduced to Watershed products about 10 years ago during a long weekend aboard a North Atlantic dive boat, where everything on board seems to get wet and stay wet. Several divers were using Watershed dry bags as waterproof luggage to preserve their snacks, bedding and street clothes.

For the past several months I have been using the Watershed ZipDry duffel that Watershed refers to as the Chattooga, measuring about 10 inches by 21 inches. As with all of its duffels, the Chattooga has rugged nylon web carrying handles, several hard lash points for securing the bag, multiple compression straps that allow it to be snugly collapsed when partially filled, and the patented ZipDry closure that runs its full length.

The ZipDry closure creates an air- and watertight seal that Watershed says will remain intact even when submerged to 300 feet. Unlike dry bags that require the user to fold it over several times, roll it up, and lash down the closure, the Watershed ZipDry seal is similar to those found on common freezer bags but opens and closes much more reliably. There is no pull or zipper. To close, snap the rubber seal shut at one end. Working toward the opposite end, press the seal together with your first three fingers and thumb, running along the seal. Leave a couple inches open at the end to bleed out excess air or to inflate the bag for increased buoyancy, then snap the seal shut. You will be able to immediately determine the effectiveness of the seal, both visually and by the bag’s internal pressure.

Justyn Thompson, brand sales manager for Watershed, says many dry bags on the market are constructed of a PVC-coated fabric that can emit chlorine gas as it breaks down. He says Watershed uses Kryptothane, a trilaminate fabric that has five times the abrasion resistance of PVC fabric and is more chemically stable. Polyurethane is applied in layers to 420 denier nylon pack cloth. All seams are fused with overlapping radio frequency welds, turning multiple fabric pieces into a single piece of material. (Radio frequency welding uses a combination of pressure and radio waves to speed and realign the fabrics’ molecules, bonding the multiple layers.) The end result is a totally waterproof fabric that won’t crack, fade or lose flexibility, even in cold weather, according to Thompson.

To test the company’s claims, I left the Chattooga bag — partially filled — in the bed of my pickup truck for three days during an ice/snowstorm. The bag remained flexible, and its seal was still easily operable. On a warmer day, I partially filled the bag with towels, evacuated most of the air, secured my 32-pound weight belt to the lash points, and dropped it off my local dock in 10 to 12 feet of water. The interior of the bag remained completely dry after its 30-minute dunking. The Watershed ZipDry Chattooga bag is convenient to use, performs as advertised, and is tough enough for daily use.

Accessories available from Watershed include an inflate/purge valve that allows the bag to easily be emptied of air for compact stowage or filled to provide positive buoyancy, a padded fleece/nylon liner with handles, an adjustable shoulder strap, Tear-Aid repair kit, and 303 aerospace protectant. The 303 protectant is useful in maintaining the bag’s seal and helps ease its operation. All Watershed products are guaranteed for life against defects in materials and workmanship (original purchaser only). Should a product be found defective, Watershed will repair or replace it at its discretion.

Look for Watershed products at quality outdoor stores or order directly from the company at . Watershed can be contacted at (828) 252-7111.