Adventuring in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a simple reality that you’re going to have a lot of wet weather days. While a rainy hike or climb in the snow isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does tend to wreak havoc on gear. Even with waterproof packs, trash-bag liners and other supposed rainy day solutions, keeping my camera and other essentials dry has always been a pain so when Montem reached out asking me to try out their Oceanum Dry Bags*, I was immediately on board (if you haven’t heard of Montem before, they’re a fairly new name to the outdoor market mostly known for their trekking poles which recently got a top pick from The Wirecutter.)
Skipping back a bit for some context here, long before I caught the mountain bug, my regular adventures were watersports. I built my first website community around scuba diving, have owned ocean kayaking, and grew up taking summer white water rafting trips so dry bags are something I’m quite familiar with. Still, in the world of hiking, climbing, and even car camping where it’s all about saving ounces and compressing down to the smallest space, the idea of using a traditional dry bag on my adventures never really crossed my mind. Instead I’ve gone through everything from grocery store plastic bags to ziplock bags to ultra-light, waterproof stuff sacks but none of them have really held up enough to rely on. And if you’re thinking “well, why not a waterproof backpack silly!” My main pack is just that and it helps but with all the openings, zippers and just the time a bag can spend on snow or getting rained on, that’s far from perfect.
Made of 500D PVC, the durability comparison between my dry bag and ultra-light, “hiker” bags are night and day different though at 10.4 ounces versus 1-2 oz, it’s also a night and day difference in weight. Obviously, a heavy traditional dry bag does not make sense for every adventure but sacrificing 8 ounces for extreme durability and protection on a rainy hike, photo shoot, or even a one day climb has been totally worth it. Let’s be real, if you’re going to lug around a 5+ pound dSLR or a complete GoPro kit, investing a few more ounces for something to keep it all protected really shouldn’t be a big deal.
That’s not to say it’s all about rainy day or hiking, one of the unexpected perks I’ve discovered to keeping a dry bag with me this winter is essentially having a bonus day bag; a tough, waterproof, and rather theft-resistant day bag that is. Whether I’m wandering a mountain town and want to bring my camera and a few essentials with me or need to carry stuff to a campground shower, I just clip on the shoulder strap and go, no need to carry a separate pack around.
Now I realize that advocating for a dry bag for hiking may seem like a stretch. Of course, my main use for my dry bag will be Spring and Summer river trips but I wanted to illustrate the opportunity that comes with using gear creatively rather than having to buy a special version of everything for every different adventure. Spring car camping? You’ve got a bag to keep your electronics covered. Winter hiking? Essentials from spare gloves to snacks to your down jacket stay easily accessible and truly dry. Summer? Go play in the water or in the middle of the dusty desert without worrying about ruining your phone.
As for this bag versus others, Montem tells me that they strive to use the best quality materials and sealing processes on their bags while also maintaining a competitive price. Since Dry Bags are all similar, I take that to mean that they’re trying to offer a higher end version at a competitive price and with a few months of use, that seems like a fair assessment. You can certainly find a cheaper bag with more basic materials or features and premium brands tend to charge a few bucks more though at $14 – $19 (depending on the size), the gap is small. More importantly, I’ve dragged my bag around for most of winter, used it as a knee pad while taking photos, tossed it in with ice axes and crampons and it’s still totally unscathed… compare that to the ultra-light bag I last used which my camera’s plastic lens hood was able to rip apart.
The bottom line: While they’re not the lightest of tools, a dry bag is a worthy addition to any adventurer’s gear locker providing true waterproof reliability across a variety of sports for a relatively small investment. Montem’s solution is fairly priced, well featured, has a limited lifetime warranty, and that’s reason enough for me to recommend it.
Product Specifications (for reviewed version):
- Features: Waterproof bag with clip-top and removable shoulder strap
- Material: 500D PVC, vinyl coating, welded seams
- Capacity: 10L (Roughly 8.0” x 18.5”)
- Weight: 10.4 Ounces
- Price: $15.99
- Buy it online at MontemLife.com
* Montem provided their Dry Bag for me to use and review as I saw fit.