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NRS Bill's Bag Review

A simple, durable backpack option, but may be over the top for simple everyday use
NRS Bill's Bag
Photo: NRS
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $160 List | $139.95 at Backcountry
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
Manufacturer:   NRS
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 18, 2019
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 14
  • Waterproofness - 50% 8
  • Ease of Use - 30% 6
  • Features - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The NRS Bill's Bag is a large capacity backpack dry bag that's super durable and easy to use, making it our Top Pick for Long Hauls. We tested the 110-liter version (it also comes in a 65-liter size), which is perfect for long trips and stashing other bags packed full of gear when you need them protected. Four aluminum buckles help to compress this roll-top sack for easier transport, and four more make removing the backpack straps a cinch when you don't need them anymore. It does take some practice packing this thing correctly to prevent leaks, but once you get the hang of it, you're golden. If you need to combine other travel bags into one dry storage bag or take a TON of stuff with you down the river, the Bill's Bag has got you covered.

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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $139.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Very durable, easy to remove backpack straps, oversized capacity, simple metal clipsDurable, easy to use, comfortable to haul aroundVery waterproof, clear window, easy to locate things, sturdy buildLightweight, rectangular shape, simplicity is a featureVery water resistant, useful shape, simple to use
Cons Leaks if packed improperly, metal hooks take longer to use, tough to keep organizedExpensive, largeFlat shape is odd, extra access stepNot abrasion resistant, must be part of a systemNo submersions, must pack full, weird clips
Bottom Line A simple, durable backpack option, but may be over the top for simple everyday useBe prepared for even the wettest adventures with this versatile and impenetrable productA seriously waterproof bag we trust with our most sensitive items at a very nice priceFor backpackers and day hikers, this model is a packing cube dry bag hybridAn easy to use compression dry sack with solid protection and a capacity larger than it seems
Rating Categories NRS Bill's Bag Watershed Colorado... NRS Ether HydroLock Osprey Ultralight D... Carryout Airpurge
Waterproofness (50%)
8.0
10.0
10.0
7.0
7.0
Ease Of Use (30%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Features (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
5.0
6.0
Specs NRS Bill's Bag Watershed Colorado... NRS Ether HydroLock Osprey Ultralight D... Carryout Airpurge
Weight 65.6 oz 51.0 oz 2.3 oz 1.6 oz 4.4 oz
Tested Size (liters) 110 L 75 L 5 L 20 L 15 L
Closure Type Roll-top ZipDry HydroLock and roll-top Roll-top Roll-top
Included D-Rings? No Yes Yes No No
Style Roll-top w/ shoulder straps Duffel Roll-top Roll-top Roll-top w/ compression straps
Material 21 oz TobaTex Polyurethane-coated nylon 30D silicone-impregnated ripstop nylon, urethane window 40D ripstop nylon 70D ripstop nylon, TPU laminate

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.

Performance Comparison


An exceptionally large dry bag for exceptionally long trips or the...
An exceptionally large dry bag for exceptionally long trips or the ability to gather a whole bunch of other gear into one watertight package.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Waterproofness


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.

A velcro strip helps to line up the two edges and a wide storm flap...
A velcro strip helps to line up the two edges and a wide storm flap makes a better seal.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

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.

Taking off the backpack harness of this bag is easy and takes just a...
Taking off the backpack harness of this bag is easy and takes just a matter of seconds.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Features


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.

Aluminum buckles are more time-consuming than plastic clips, but...
Aluminum buckles are more time-consuming than plastic clips, but still easy and much more durable.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


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.

Teeny tiny fibers sticking off the edges of the closure loops - they...
Teeny tiny fibers sticking off the edges of the closure loops - they were that way from the beginning though, and didn't change at all during our testing.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


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.

Leave nothing behind with this fantastic dry bag that has room for...
Leave nothing behind with this fantastic dry bag that has room for just about everything.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


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.

Be ready for your next big adventure with a big bag.
Be ready for your next big adventure with a big bag.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg