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Sea to Summit Big River Review

This fairly-priced model has a simple design, great water resistance, and good durability
Sea to Summit Big River
Photo: Sea to Summit
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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 ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 2, 2021
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 14
  • Waterproofness - 50% 7
  • Ease of Use - 30% 8
  • Features - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 7

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 make this a high-value, versatile option for many uses.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Nearly watertight, durable, lightweight, white interior helps you find thingsVery waterproof, clear window, easy to locate things, sturdy buildGood water protection, easy to use, replaceable clipLightweight, rectangular shape, simplicity is a featureVery water resistant, useful shape, simple to use
Cons Will leak under duress, no easy carry straps, seams taped not weldedFlat shape is odd, extra access stepSingle stitching, not tall enough to roll properlyNot abrasion resistant, must be part of a systemNo submersions, must pack full, weird clips
Bottom Line This fairly-priced model has a simple design, great water resistance, and good durabilityA seriously waterproof bag we trust with our most sensitive items at a very nice priceAn inexpensive windowed dry bag with solid water resistance and some easy to use featuresFor 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 Sea to Summit Big R... NRS Ether HydroLock Sea to Summit View... Osprey Ultralight D... Outdoor Research Ca...
Waterproofness (50%)
7.0
10.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Ease Of Use (30%)
8.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Features (10%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
6.0
Specs Sea to Summit Big R... NRS Ether HydroLock Sea to Summit View... Osprey Ultralight D... Outdoor Research Ca...
Weight 8.0 oz 2.3 oz 1.7 oz 1.6 oz 4.4 oz
Tested Size (liters) 35 L 5 L 4 L 20 L 15 L
Closure Type Roll-top HydroLock and roll-top Roll-top Roll-top Roll-top
Included D-Rings? Yes Yes Yes No No
Style Roll-top Roll-top Roll-top Roll-top Roll-top w/ compression straps
Material 420D heavy duty nylon 30D silicone-impregnated ripstop nylon, urethane window 70D nylon, TPU window 40D ripstop nylon 70D ripstop nylon, TPU laminate

Our Analysis and Test Results

We tested the 35-liter 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 help you see your belongings more clearly.

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.

The Big River 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 keep the bag upright and in one place while packing or unpacking. 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, making 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, sacrificing 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 and simple, versatile design combined with its low price make it a high-value item for a wide variety of possible uses.

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.

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

Maggie Brandenburg