One of the paradoxes of sailing is that water is both one of the best and worst parts of the experience. Plenty of water under the keel? Essential. Fresh spray on a hot afternoon? Heaven. Having damp clothes that never fully dry out on a chilly passage or a phone that drowns after being inadvertently placed in the splash zone? No thanks. Fortunately, today’s sailors have plenty of options when it comes to keeping their belongings dry. Choose the right kit for the job, and you’ll be able to pack safely and efficiently for your next trip onto the deep blue.
Back to Basics
When it comes to dry bags, the classic style is a cylindrical pouch with a roll-top that buckles to create a handle. Typically these don’t have much in the way of internal pockets. However, the clip top makes them easy to secure pretty much anywhere, so they’re good for daypacks on dinghies or keeping essentials together. Plenty of companies make them in sizes from pocket to backpack, but the quality and construction varies. If you’re going to put some wear and tear on it, invest in a bag with substantial material or anti-abrasion patches on the bottom. If not, opt for a light, flexible fabric that can be packed down super small. Less is also more with dry bags. Get the smallest size that will suit your needs, so it’s won’t take up any more valuable space aboard than necessary.
If you’re the type of adventurer who travels to sail, you might want a bag that roughly equates to a water-resistant suitcase. Your needs will differ depending on whether you’re flying into O’Hare for the Chicago Mac or arriving in the BVI for a week of paradisiacal cruising. Wherever you may be bound, at the end of the day, if you’re taking it on a plane you need to consider weight and size restrictions, durability and, again, what you’re bringing. (The good news is sailing bags are easy to spot on a luggage carousel, especially if you pick a bright color!) Do you need space for a life jacket, or will one be provided? Are you going to wear a bathing suit all week long, or will you also be needing salopettes or thermal layers? The right choice is specific to the adventure. This year’s Duffel Bag 2 from Helly Hansen is a great travel option, in part because comes in sizes for every need, from 30 liters all the way up to 90 liters (From $90, hellyhansen.com). The 30L and 50L options are even carry-on friendly for most airlines (though be sure to remove your knife and, sometimes, life jacket cartridges before going through security). While there is no shortage of sailing duffel bags, a standout feature of this particular model is the shoulder straps, which make it comfortable to carry even if you pack heavy. I've found them a godsend whenever l need to cover any kind of distance on foot during my travels. Also, a U-shaped zipper makes for easy access, and there’s a mini version that fits inside (the Wash Bag 2) for personal items.
You’ll probably also want some waterproofing specifically for your tech. As a general rule, if you’re wearing foulweather gear, your phone or tablet probably should be wearing it too. That goes double if it’s a part of your navigation setup. Rain and spray will make a touch screen difficult to use, puddles on deck can short it out, and if it goes overboard, all is lost. Although there are many companies that make waterproof cases, the ones from Ugo are especially well suited for going offshore (From $75, ugowear.com). Among other things, the cases, which come in both phone and tablet sizes, float. They’re also spacious enough to store other voyaging essentials, like passports or an extra charger, and include plenty of attachment points for straps or carabiners to ensure your tablet stays close at all times and there's no risk of it going overboard.
Suited for you
Finally, when considering dry bags, think about how you spend your time on the water and whether there’s a specialty protective item you might need. For me, a waterproof camera housing has been critical. No matter what your tech, it would be hard to beat the super-sturdy Rumrunner backpack from commercial fishing supplier Grundens, a longtime favorite of the SAIL staff made heavy-duty 500D PVC tarpaulin ($90, grundens.com). In addition to being 100 percent waterproof, the Rumrunner combines a classic roll top (plus an alternate clip option) with multiple pockets inside and out.