Simply put, the Aquapac Waterproof Backpack ($85) is a gem: it’s compartments are easily-accessible, using it takes no frills, and it's craftsmanship is sturdy.
My first impression was that this drybag-like pack would be a raft guide's nightmare. It's material felt surprisingly lightweight (read: snaggable) and it had a multitude of straps hanging off the pack (read: also snaggable). I was skeptical that the supple material wouldn't hold up to the rigors of a river man's daily life.
From the start, I knew that the bag had very good features such as ultra-convenient and nicely-sized side pockets, hydration-bladder compatibility and a "wet bag" section inside to keep wet and dry gear separate. That said, I needed convincing that the bag would stay in one piece through the violent surf season on West Virginia's New River.
Bottom line: my durability skepticism was for naught. The bag held up to the demands of the daily grind with ease.
The bag is as waterproof as it is durable. Not meant for repeated and prolonged submersion, the TPU-coated nylon fabric and taped seams never failed to keep contents dry. The roll top allowed water in only on rare occasions when the bag was torqued in such a way that the roll top opened up a bit. This could be because the roll top has a design flaw. Three rolls, as recommended by Aquapac, wasn't really adequate. It needs four to keep completely watertight. During big water and notoriouslynasty surf holes, the bag’s performance noticeably improved with an extra cinch. You would think you can just give it an extra roll but the bag has smallsecuring loops that only work if the bag is rolled three times.If these loops were moved an inch south to accommodate afourth roll, torsion in the bag's top wouldn't make for a leak.
In the end, people buy backpacks to put things in and not usually for their waterproofness. Size-wise, this 25-liter (1,525 cubic inch) backpack does fit enough clothing for a change or two and an extra shell or dry top for particularly nasty weather. The interior wet bag, a road-construction yellow, provides ample space to separate the wet from the dry. It can also be used in a survival situation, as its vivid color can be visible from the moon, or at least by a passing airplane.
In a market dominated by entrenched brands, such as Watershed, the bag’s $85 price tag makes it a true competitor--any higher and one might just want to go with the old tried-and-true.
Jason Reott spent the first two years of his professional raftguiding career living out of a tent along the New and Gauley Rivers inWest Virginia. He also logs nearly 20 miles a week on nearby hikingtrails.
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