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.