Gear Review: Watershed Westwater Drybag

Watershed Dry Bags Perfect for SUP Touring

Watershed Dry Bags Perfect for SUP Touring

A good touring or expedition drybag needs to be durable, have a secure watertight closure and it needs to be easily secured to the deck of my touring board. Backpack straps for portaging or carrying the gear to the campsite are key.   There are a wide variety of dry bags out there but the ones made by Watershed stand out.

Watershed was started back in the 1980’s by a group of river guides who wanted to improve on the standard roll-over closure featured by most bags that was prone to failure.  They came up with something that is akin to zip lock baggie closure on steroids- the patented Zipdry closure. It creates almost a vacuum like seal that will not let water in.  It’s so strong, it takes a bit of practice, and instructions to get into. The Watershed website spells it out for you:



Do not force bag open by pulling the tabs apart! ZipDry bags have a very tight, completely leak-proof closure; improper opening could compromise the seal.

  1. Grip bag by its closure with both hands, laying thumbs over the grip tabs. Keep index fingers on the tracks of the seal.
  2. Squeeze and kink closure into both palms, forming and “S” with hands offset.
  3. Bag will pop open easily. This technique becomes easier with a little practice.

Make sure closure is clean and properly lubricated with silicone spray or similar lube. If in the field and none of these are available, use oil, saliva or water in the closure tracks as necessary.

Cleaning and Lubrication:
This closure provides a very close-fitting rubber seal. It is therefore necessary to occasionally clean and condition it to maintain ease of use and reliability. Thoroughly clean tracks.

  • Spray lubricant/ protectant (we recommend 303 aerospace protectant) on to brush and thoroughly brush into full length of closure.
  • Snap closure together and pull apart a few times to evenly distribute lubricant/protectant.
  • It is recommended to store closure in closed position to prolong time between cleanings.
  • If lubricant/protectant is not available, similar products are effective. In the field, any lubricant, saliva, or water will work to help close the tracks if they are dry.

The result is a dry bag you can trust.  As long as you take care of it.  Combine this with fabric these bags are made of and you have the best dry bag you will ever buy.  Watershed bags are made with Cordura nylon that is coated with polyurethane, making them extremely abrasion-resistant but also flexible.  The process used ensures that these dry bags will not lose that pliability and crack with age – a common complaint with standard, old school PVC dry bags. And the Watershed bags aren’t nearly as heavy.

The closure system allows Watershed to make great dry duffles that are super-easy to get into and find things in, but I prefer the more square shape of the backpack when touring  or camping off my paddleboard.  It just fits on the deck better.  Watershed makes three sizes of the dry backpack – the Westwater is the largest of the three at 80 liters.  That is huge.  Let me put that in perspective: the backpack I use for up to five-day trips is 65 liters. I can easily get just about all of my gear in one of these babies, although for board trim, I might what to split it between two smaller bags, positioned in front and behind my cockpit. The Animas is smaller at 54 liters and the Big Creek is the smallest of the backpacks at 24 liters.

One of the key features of the Watershed backpacks is the removable strap system.  If you don’t want buckles or bulk coming into contact with the deck of your board, you can take the straps off the bag. Either leave them at at home if you don’t think you’ll need them, or tuck them inside the bag and re-attach when you need to shoulder your gear. Brilliant.

Watershed also makes a variety of kayak deckbags, dry totes, and boat bags.

I’m not the only one impressed with the Watershed bags.  The Atlantic Sup’r Girls love ’em too!


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