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Sea to Summit Big River Review

An inexpensive model that provides great water resistance
Sea to Summit Big River
Photo: Sea to Summit
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $55 List | $29.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Nearly watertight, durable, lightweight, white interior helps you find things
Cons:  Will leak under duress, no easy carry straps, seams taped not welded
Manufacturer:   Sea to Summit
By Maggie Brandenburg & Leslie Yedor  ⋅  Jun 6, 2020
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 12
  • Waterproofness - 50% 8
  • Ease of Use - 30% 8
  • Features - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7
RELATED: Best Dry Bag

Our Verdict

The Sea to Summit Big River is a top-notch, classically designed dry bag that is well-suited for advanced and recreational watersports enthusiasts alike. Its material repels water and will keep your gear nice and dry unless it is subjected to prolonged submersion. Even then, only a small amount of water can manage to sneak its way in. It comes in a ton of different sizes for just about any adventure and is durable enough to withstand regular use and inexpensive enough to fit a tight budget. Excellent quality, practical design, and a low price continue to earn it this bag our Best Buy Award for several years running.

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Price $29.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Nearly watertight, durable, lightweight, white interior helps you find thingsDurable, easy to use, comfortable to haul aroundSuper durable, completely waterproofLightweight, easy to use, good compression designVery durable, easy to remove backpack straps, oversized capacity, simple metal clips
Cons Will leak under duress, no easy carry straps, seams taped not weldedExpensive, largeExpensive, rigidNot for use as a stand-alone bagLeaks if packed improperly, metal hooks take longer to use, tough to keep organized
Bottom Line Quality protection from splashes and brief submersions for a low priceThis product keeps out water, no matter how rough and wet things might getRugged and perfectly watertight, this pack is ideal for travelingThis waterproof stuff sack has all the features you need to keep your sleeping bag warm and securely stowedAn easy to use design that's well designed and durable, but overkill for many trips
Rating Categories Sea to Summit Big River Watershed Colorado Duffel YETI Panga 50 eVent Compression NRS Bill's Bag
Waterproofness (50%)
8
10
10
9
8
Ease Of Use (30%)
8
9
4
6
6
Features (10%)
8
8
9
7
8
Durability (10%)
7
8
9
6
8
Specs Sea to Summit Big... Watershed Colorado... YETI Panga 50 eVent Compression NRS Bill's Bag
Weight (ounces) 8.0 oz 4.8oz 68.8oz 51.2oz 65.6oz
Size We Tested (liters) 35 L 75L 50L 20L 110L
Closure Type Roll-top ZipDry HydroLok zipper Roll-top Roll-top
Included D-Rings? Yes Yes No No No
Style Roll-top Duffel Duffel Roll-top w/ lid and compression straps Roll-top w/ shoulder straps
Material 420D heavy duty nylon Ppolyurethane-coated nylon Laminated high-density nylon 70D nylon 21oz TobaTex

Our Analysis and Test Results

We tested the 35L Sea to Summit Big River, a traditional roll-top dry bag. It is made out of 420D TPU laminated nylon with double-stitched, fully taped and sealed seams. It features four tie-down points, two D-rings next to the buckle, and a white interior to make finding specific contents easier.

Performance Comparison


We're impressed with the waterproofness and fairly durable design of...
We're impressed with the waterproofness and fairly durable design of this affordable bag.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Waterproofness


This model performs well in this metric. Against splashes and even being sprayed by a hose, it holds up solidly. While a small amount of water seeped inside during submersion, the manufacturer does point out this product is not designed for full submersion. Even so, only a small corner of the towel we placed inside for testing was wet after being submerged, and just a coaster-sized portion was wet after being dragged.


This product is one of very few models that's well-suited for general day-use, scores this high in waterproofness, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. While several other high-end models we tested offer absolute protection from even the smallest droplets of water, they often cost more than four times as much. Many of them are also designed for much more intense activities, like several weeks navigating a river. The Big River can take you there too, but it is also a great choice for a single afternoon paddleboarding.

Easy directions and a simple to use design make the Big River a...
Easy directions and a simple to use design make the Big River a breeze and a joy to use.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Use


Although this bag is taller than it is wide, it's shallow enough for you to reach the bottom of the bag and still keep your eyes on the contents. The flat oval base also helps to keep the bag upright and in one place while you are packing or unpacking it. It's a simple, easy-to-use roll-top bag that's hard to mess up. Four lash loops help you secure it to whatever craft you prefer.


The Big River provides no special carrying system. You can sling your arm through the loop made by the roll-top to get it to your boat, but it sports no additional features for long-distance carrying. One of the things we like most about this model is the white interior, which lightens things up inside, making it easier to locate what you're looking for without needing to up-end the entire thing. This is particularly helpful the larger size you get, as it otherwise has no additional pockets or organizational features.

Not the most elegant to carry, but not the worst.
Not the most elegant to carry, but not the worst.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Features


Quality features earn this model a pretty high score in this metric. Two welded TPU lash patches adorn each side and provide two secure points for attaching the bag to your craft. Two plastic D-rings are also located along the roll-top, which can be clipped together by a carabiner to attach or even hang the Big River anywhere you want.


With one reinforced lip at the mouth of the opening and the other featuring a rubbery texture, it's easy to get a pretty good seal by rolling this sack in the appropriate direction. Though it doesn't have some of the extra pockets, backpack straps, or bonus protection sleeves of some other models we tested, the Big River is a no-nonsense dry bag that is incredibly easy to use and works consistently. It also comes in a myriad of sizes, helping you to find the perfect fit for whatever you need.

Four reinforced lash points are there when you need them and out of...
Four reinforced lash points are there when you need them and out of the way when you don't.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


The Big River is made of 420D thermoplastic urethane-coated nylon, which makes it resistant to scratches and tearing and lightweight. Though the seams aren't welded like some of the heftier models we tested, they are taped, adding additional water protection and durability. When dry and empty, this model only weighs a few ounces (depending on exactly what size you get). Lighter models may be a fraction of the weight, but they need the protection of an outer pack to prevent holes from forming with regular use. The Big River is a great compromise of decently durable fabric that doesn't require an outer layer to function properly while still maintaining overall supple, lightweight functionality.


One feature that we love is the plastic buckles of the Big River. They're reinforced with stainless steel pins, helping them to feel solid and secure. The plastic itself also feels strong and not as flimsy as many other lightweight models, which sacrifice durability to shed ounces. The lash patches on each side are made of a welded TPU fabric, another aspect that offers significantly more durability than many of the less expensive models.

Metal pins holding the clip together add to the durability of this...
Metal pins holding the clip together add to the durability of this ripstop model.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Other Sizes and Colors
Sea to Summit makes this same model in seven total sizes ranging from 3 liters to 65 liters. The smaller versions, 3, 5, 8, and 13 liters, differ by offering only one lash point on each side instead of the two per side found on the 20, 35, and 65-liter options. All of the various sizes are offered in several colors, allowing you to choose your favorite or color coordinate the different sizes you decide to buy.

Value


Depending on what size you get, this model varies slightly in price but is one of the less expensive options we tested. And yet, it still boasts exceptional quality and functionality. Its high scores combined with its low price make it an easy choice for our Best Buy award.

A great size for day adventuring and a price low enough to be worth...
A great size for day adventuring and a price low enough to be worth it.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


The Sea to Summit Big River is the perfect bag for day trips on the water of all shapes and sizes. While it may not offer absolute protection from water if you drag it behind your boat, your clothes will still be dry if you get caught in a wake while out on your paddleboard. This product offers a simple and durable way to store your gear away from water at an exceptionally reasonable price. From beginners to more advanced water-goers, this product covers the basics and beyond.

Maggie Brandenburg & Leslie Yedor