SealLine Dry Bags (SealLine & Baja) Review :
With a trip ahead of us spanning the globe, it was always understood that the gear that we brought with us had to last. Having traveled enough in rainy weather to know that it can ruin more than just your mood, protecting my gear from saturation was a huge priority.
I decided to hold and protect all my worldly possessions with SealLine Dry Bags. I browsed through the selection for the sizes most appropriate to accommodate my Xtracycle world. My goal was to distribute the weight as close to the bottom bracket as possible to counter the stresses inherent to off-road bicycle touring.
2-10 Liter bags would be perfect to put towards the front of the Xtracycle and contain up to 10 days worth of food.
1- 20 Liter bag would fit all my clothes and 1 30 liter bag would hold my rain gear, Thermarest and sleeping bag.
And so in about 70 liters I could contain my entire worldly possessions.
The transparent See-Bags were appealing because I could avoid having to dump out the contents of my ever changing arsenal of calories when the chef requires an ingredient I was carrying. And if I needed that one specific extra layer I could focus my search more accurately. Even more appealing was that they were a few dollars less. This price reduction should have had me suspicious, but I have always respected Cascade Designs for their extensive warranty support and expected their product to be reliable.
I settled with three transparent See-Bags and 1-30 Liter Baja Bag (Bright Green). The See-Bags are made with thick clear plastic vinyl, a similar fabric used to create windows on jeep soft-tops. The opening of the bag is reinforced with two thicker black plastic strips that are used to help seal off the top. A few folds are all it takes to create a waterproof seal.
I quickly got used to the convenience of being able to see exactly where everything was in my bags. This was a welcomed convenience in the chaos of the beginning of an epic journey. After about a week of use, I started to recognize signs of weakness at the edges of the black plastic strips. It presented itself as the smallest sliver of a crack around the outside edge of the bag.
After about 7 days of use, I was mighty disappointed to see that they were failing already. What made it worse was that it was obvious that the tear would not only get worse, but that it was an inherent flaw that would inevitably destroy the other two I had recently purchased as well.
Within about three weeks (of constant use, naturally), all three of the See-Bags were failing despite my efforts to baby them by rolling the tops as smoothly as possible. This made them mostly waterproof, which was okay considering I was not planning on submerging them (at least not, yet). It did however limit the space from 20 liters total to about 14, which made some of the less-supported segments of our trip more difficult.
By the end of the month, there were 4-5 inch tears in the clear vinyl at the lining the black strips exposing an obvious deficiency. The fabric was never truly designed for tight creases/folds necessary to create the seal that makes Dry-Bags, jus that, dry.
Every time I went to grab my dry bags they were threatening to tear away the top four inches, rendering them useless.
The inevitably rapid failure of the bags leaves me to wonder how SealLine can even sell them without offering a large warning sticker deeming, “These bags are not intended for extended use. They will work just fine for a week long rafting trip, but your expectations for these bags should proportionally decrease with each passing moment.”
The Baja Bag, however, has worked superbly, without any complications or fear of complications. Costing a couple bucks more, it is entirely worth the added hassle of not being able to instantly determine where the contents of the bag are. The fabric is a heavy duty weaved vinyl that is very tear-resistant, operating on the same idea that duct-tape and rip-stop nylon use. If you get a small tear it would stay that size because of the inter-weaved fibers.
Unfortunately, Cascade Designs has repeatedly failed to honor their warranty for their equipment, consistently claiming that because the gear is being used so much, and thus "worn and torn", they will not help. I advise getting dry bags from Gaia Sports as their warranty policy is solid, "If it ain´t dry, it ain´t right."