NRS Bill's Bag Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Very durable, easy to remove backpack straps, oversized capacity, simple metal clips
Cons: Leaks if packed improperly, metal hooks take longer to use, tough to keep organized
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested the 110-liter Bill's Bag, an oversized roll-top model with comfortable and removable backpack straps. It's made of 21oz (body) and 32oz (bottom) TobaTex PVC with sewn and welded seams and aluminum fasteners. It features a storm flap for added security and a velcro strip to help line up the monstrous opening for rolling.
The 110-liter Bill's Bag is a behemoth beast that provides some solid water protection with a bit of a learning curve. It's a roll-top bag of epic proportions. A soft, wide storm flap along both edges of the opening help to seal the top securely. A small velcro tab in the middle of the opening makes lining the edges up to roll them down a breeze. Rather than buckling in a circle like a typical dry bag, the Bill's has four aluminum clips that hold it closed into a simple cylinder that's easy to lash into your raft or canoe. With two on each end and two over the top, you can crank down on this thing to add a bit of compression to your 100+ liters of gear and clothing. We found through trial and error that closing a smaller load in this sack is less likely to provide a watertight seal. But with a full load pressing back on the compression applied from the exterior straps, the NRS can keep out any deluge.
Once we employed our new-found knowledge of best practices with a full bag, we had no problems with leakage. Spraying it with a hose didn't phase it. Tossing it into the lake, where it handily floated, made no difference. Even laying on it in an attempt to submerge it let no water inside. Before we discovered this fullness secret, we had many issues with water leaking in. Practicing your packing technique is particularly important with this option from NRS. And if you don't think you can fill up 110 liters, there's also a 65-liter option that may be more your speed.
Ease of Use
Despite being a gigantic dry bag, we're decently impressed with how simple the Bill's Bag is to use. It's a no-frills model with just one large compartment for your stuff. A 2-inch velcro strip in the center of the opening makes it easy to line up the two edges correctly before you roll. The added storm flap helps to ensure waterproofness without needing any additional work on your part. Helpfully, it's easy to get three — or more! — rolls into the top of this bag before running into the backpack strap attachments. We can't say it's that easy for some other models we tested. The aluminum buckles are simple to slide into place, and sturdy webbing easily pulls your load tighter for transport. Padded shoulder straps make carting this gargantuan pack a much more manageable and comfortable task. The straps' attachment with those same easy aluminum clips makes it a matter of seconds to transform this bag from a backpack to just a dry bag and back again.
The biggest downfall to the usability of the Bill is its sheer size. With 110 liters of gear, clothing, or food all stuffed into just one huge compartment, it can be challenging to stay organized. You practically have to have other bags inside this one to ever have a hope of finding anything without dumping all your gear on the ground to rifle through it. But if your strategy is to pack your regular expedition or travel bags and then fit all of them into the NRS while you journey through wet terrain, it's much easier to stay organized. One other issue we had while using this model is the futility of the sternum strap. Though you can raise and lower it, we found its range to be so low as to be effectively useless for anyone under six feet tall.
The removable backpack straps are the most obvious feature of this bag and our favorite. They're comfortable and useful, easy to use, and simple to remove or reattach. The storm flap and velcro strip along the opening are close seconds for how easy and simple they are to use and how much they improve the overall experience of using this bag. Even after removing the backpack straps, a single loop on top remains, allowing you to transport this beast with relative ease.
While, in general, we like the aluminum buckles that hold the Bill's Bag closed, they do take a bit longer to line up and loop closed than a quick plastic clip. There are also four of them to line up, loop closed, and tighten down every time. Additionally, there are no specific lash points on this bag, despite its overall size. With how big it is, though, you're unlikely to take it on any small craft without lash points on the boat itself that you can secure it to.
Made of TobaTex PVC material (21oz body and 34oz bottom), the Bill's Bag is impressively thick and durable, made to withstand the rough and tumble adventures of any rafting trip. The aluminum buckles are also much stronger than any plastic clip could ever hope to be and attach to thick, sturdy webbing and loops. Seams that are both sewn and welded also help to add durability (and waterproofness) to this already impressive bag.
Really the only thing that looks even a little suspect to us is the few tiny threads that are hanging off the edges of the loops where the aluminum clips attach. They were hanging off when we received this bag new and looked identical by the time we finished our several months of testing, so it's likely a non-issue. The backpack straps also have some plastic clips and pieces that may not be as durable as the rest of the bag, though we had absolutely no issues with any of them during our testing.
One of the more expensive bags we tested, the NRS Bill's Bag is a solid performer. Considering how large it is and that it needs to be filled to work properly, it's not the most versatile bag out there. However, if you're looking for a gigantic bag to hold all your regular non-dry bags in one waterproof place, the Bill's is solidly worth what you pay.
The Bill is a big bag that offers solid protection and is our Top Pick for Long Hauls. It's a great solution for holding several smaller, non-waterproof bags in one spot or everything you need for a long journey. With some packing practice and a full load every time, your gear will stay dry in this impressive behemoth backpack.
— Maggie Brandenburg