We used multiple XPS bags to protect all the gear necessary to sustain three guys on a four-day wilderness canoe trip.
You can usually spot a float camping novice by the way he stows his gear, and a canoe overloaded with bulging trash bags is a tell-tale sign of a canoe camping greenhorn.
I recall my first canoe camping experience and how I had to suffer a drenched sleeping bag and clothing for the duration of the trip because my trash-bag suitcase had marinated in the muddy water in the bottom of my canoe the entire first day. A small, unnoticed tear in the bottom of the trash bag allowed my sleeping bag to act as a sponge, sucking up all the water that entered the canoe. I had no idea until I went to lift the heavy bag out of the canoe — a hard lesson on keeping gear dry.
Even the heftiest trash bag can't stand up to more than a few hours of abuse from snagging limbs, sharp gravel bars and standing water in the bottom of a canoe. And if you happen to capsize, expect to pick up clothing and gear for the next mile or so -- whatever isn't lost, anyway.
Dry bags are the best way to protect your gear and keep it dry when kayaking and canoeing, and the XPS Heavy Duty Dry Bags are particularly well suited for multi-night canoe camping excursions. I recently returned from such a trip -- a 25 mile float fish stretched out over the course of four days — on which I put three different XPS dry bags to the test.
In used a 55 liter bag to stow a warm-weather sleeping bag, camp pillow, small tent and collapsible poles. I used a 30 liter for my clothing and shoes for base camp. I kept a 10 liter bag containing most everything else that I might want at a moment's notice (lighter, small flashlight, GPS, fishing license, wallet, phone, etc.) buckled onto the canoe's thwart.
The bag's roll-top closure with heavy duty quick-snap buckle creates a watertight seal.
First off, the dry bags kept my gear dry. An unexpected storm the first night on the river gave a good soaking to everything left outside a dry bag. Everything inside an XPS bag stayed perfectly dry.
Bags partially submerged in the water in the bottom of the canoe also remained dry. Also, I never capsized, but I did completely submerge my clothing bag on the last day of the trip to see if water would seep through the bag's roll-top seal, and I was pleased to find no water had infiltrated the XPS bag.
Transparent panels found on some dry bags make locating items quick and easy, but typically aren't as sturdy as reinforced vinyl bags. I opted to sacrifice the see-through advantage for the more rugged material used to construct the XPS Heavy Duty Dry Bags. As the name implies, these bags are very sturdily constructed. They're made of heavy duty waterproof fabric with heat-welded seams. I chucked the gear-laden dry bags out onto the rough gravel bar at the end of each day and never even gave the action a second thought. Aside from a few superficial scrapes, the bags held up fantastic.
As for color, I'm not a huge fan of the canary yellow, and I typically opt for natural tones when choosing outdoor gear. That being said, these bags are meant to protect gear in a capsizing event, and the bright yellow will help me spot my gear from a distance if it's swept down river. Knowing it serves this function, I can live with the yellow.
The two D-rings -- one on the roll-top and one on the bag's side — are really a bonus. These D-rings make tethering bags to watercraft a quick, easy chore. On my previous dry bags I've had to purchase a vinyl d-ring patch and use an adhesive to adhere it to the side of the bag for attachment to watercraft. (Another lesson learned the hard way — ALWAYS secure your gear like you're gonna swim!)
The quick-release buckles used to finish off the roll-top seal feel very sturdy and lock firmly in place. If this buckle were to break, the top would unravel and your gear would get soaked, so this is definitely not a design feature you want to overlook.
The XPS Heavy Duty Dry Bags performed flawlessly on my four-day river trip. If you've got a canoe camping trip in your future, I'd highly recommend these dry bags to ensure your gear stays dry and protected.