Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A mixed bag from OverBoard: waterproof kayak deck bag and SLR bag review and test.

You either love deck bags or hate them We rather like them. I keep my DSLR in a deck bag so that I can get at it quickly when I see a photo opportunity. We recently got two new deck bags from OverBoard. (We already have other bags from Seal-Line and Northwater but these have weatherproof zip entry rather than a dry bag roll top. They resist rain and spray but not a quick immersion when rolling.)

OverBoard make some pretty strong claims for these bags:

"Keep it all dry in our range of waterproof kayak bags.
Designed to take a beating and a dunking, our range of durable waterproof kayak bags includes everything from waterproof kayak deck bags and backpacks down to waterproof pouches for smaller valuables.
Clothes, technology and even maps – chuck it in an OverBoard kayak bag and keep it all dry…"

OverBoard 20 litre waterproof Kayak deck bag.
The first bag is the 20 litre waterproof kayak deck bag at £37.49.  At first it looks much too big but that is because you roll the top over on itself 4 times to seal the bag. It is made of heavy duty PVC tarpaulin with welded seals. It comes with a removable shoulder strap for off kayak use and has three quick release straps with buckles on either side to secure to the deck lines. On the top of the bag there is a weatherproof (not waterproof) zip flap for storing thin items that could stand getting a bit wet such as a waterproof VHF radio, sun tan lotion bottle etc. There is also an overlapping set of elastics with an adjustable toggle that is great for holding water bottles, pogies, a hat or even a cag.

It is advertised as: "Waterproof Rating 3Waterproof so tight it floats or can handle quick submersions. The product could be permeated by water in any of the following applications: prolonged submersion, submersions greater than 3 feet in depth, high water pressure applications."

We took the bag for a test of this bold claim. A rolling session seemed to fit the bill and even after about 10 rolls and wet rescues, only a couple of drops of water made their way in to the interior. The bag has remained totally dry after many kilometers of paddling in rough and wet conditions. We have used it on day trips and also camping trips where space is at a premium. There is plenty of room for flares, midge jackets, energy bars, mobile phones (perhaps in their own waterproof case) etc.

Jennifer was so impressed with the OverBoard kayak deck bag that she trusted her Hasselblad medium format film camera to it (albeit with it wrapped inside a smaller lightweight nylon dry bag to ensure no stray drips did any damage).

The verdict? 10/10 for this really excellent bag.

Over-Board 6 litre waterproof SLR camera bag
The next bag was the one I was really interested in. It is the Over-Board 6 litre waterproof SLR camera bag at £22.49. It also has a roll top and is made of the same material as the deck bag and also has welded seems. Very promising. It comes with a shoulder strap and also has 4 sturdy D rings, which can be used with 4 mini carabiners or shock cord with quick release clips to secure to the deck lines. There was plenty room for my Canon 5D Mk2 full frame DSLR fitted with a Canon 70-200 f4.0 IS L lens. The inside of the bag is lined with soft nylon fabric to help  protect the camera. All good.

Did I test the bag with my Canon kit? Thankfully no! I tested it with an old newspaper. After rolling the top of the bag, I did one quick roll in the kayak. Afterwards half of the newspaper was soaking wet.

I noticed that the lining was very wet indeed. I decided to try an easier test. I held the bag just under the surface of water in a pail for 5 seconds. Less water got in but the top of the newspaper ball was wet and the lining was again all wet. This bag has a slight taper to it and as you put the rolls in to the bag seal, the rolled material gradually works its way in from the buckles. I noticed that the edge of the lining material was exposed to the outside. This is undoubtedly the source of the water ingress.

Ireally wanted to like this bag but would I trust an SLR to this bag on a kayak? Absolutely not and as it clearly does not live up to its claims, I award it 0/10, yes, that's nil points.

A bit of a mixed bag from OverBoard then! However, the 20 litre deck bag is really very good indeed.


  1. Now THAT is what I call a review. Tells me exactly what I need to know, and I didn't lose a significant chunk of my life reading it.

    Mark R

    PS Medium format from a kayak? Wow!

  2. Would you use the deck bag in preference to the zip lock Ortlieb bag? Not sure I'd trust the roll down closure as much..?


  3. Thanks Mark. It's Jennifer that does the medium format stuff, not me!

    Hello Will, I will continue to use the Ortlieb Aquazoom. It has survived an accidental capsize when I was swapping paddles with someone. Because I didn't have a proper hold of the paddle I didn't roll and bailed out then did a reentry roll. Despite that it did not let a drop in.

    I am now on my second Aquazoom bag and after two years' use each zip has cracked at the spot the slider sits when the zip is fully open. I think the angle of flex is too great when stuffing a large slr in. Next time I will buy the Ortlieb video bag which has a longer zip and bigger opening.


  4. I was so hoping the camera bag would be a good one, it is 1/3 of the price of the Ortileb bag which it clearly copies in certain respects (the original Ortileb had a roll down closure and a zip). Never mind, should be at least 18 months of life left in mine, maybe overboard will have sorted their design out before I need to make the choice.

  5. Oh wow, looks amazingly useful! I hope I will be able to get one here (i live quite far). Amazing review, let us know how it goes in later tests!

    Just dial

  6. Hi Jim, I hope that OverBoard will improve the design, their construction and price were excellent.

    Thank you Jimmy.


  7. Hi Douglas, my name is Sarah and I look after OverBoard's PR in the UK. I'd like to have a quick chat with you and find out why the SLR bag leaked, as we haven't heard of this happening before. We'd also like to give you some more OverBoard kit to review if you'd like. Can you drop me an email at and then I can give you a call? Thanks, Sarah

    1. I have the similar experience with my 1 litre bag. I tried to contact OB via phone. 1 line no answer. The other line was disconnected. Sent email just now, HOPING for response and help.

    2. Hello Kahiso I hope you are able to get help from Overboard. It might be easier to contact their distributor in your country. Good luck!

  8. Hello Sarah, it is good to hear from you. I emailed you on 29/7/11, did you get it?

  9. Hi Douglas,

    I´m Carlos from Spain and I´m searched a dry deck bag for my DSLR. Today ... Are you happy with OB dry deck bag?


    1. Greetings Carlos, I am very happy with the large yellow OB dry deck bag for most things but I don't keep my DSLR in one. Taran Tyla from Wales lost his Canon 5D mk2 in one though he only had two rolls in the opening. I would go for the Ortlieb Aqua Zoom.

  10. Thanks for the review. Overboard dry bags are normally good but I would agree that some of there smaller bags are lacking.

  11. Nice review. i am looking for a small dry bag for my DSLR and I will check out the prices on this one.

  12. Thank you sir!
    Very nice review!
    Did find any better choice until now?
    Congratulations for the whole blog!

    Radu Cruceana

  13. Hello and thank you Radu. I currently use the Ortlieb Aqua Zoom and Aqua Cam bags but I note that currently Ortlieb have no camera bags on their website. Maybe they are developing a new line of bags. Some retailers may still have stock of the above bags. :o)