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Sea to Summit Big River Review

An inexpensive model that provides great water resistance at a reasonably low price.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $43 List | $24.95 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  ⋅  Sep 18, 2019
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80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 11
  • Waterproofness - 70% 8
  • Ease of Use - 10% 8
  • Features - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8

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's durable enough to withstand regular use and inexpensive enough to fit a tight budget. Superior quality, practical design, and a low price earns it our Best Bang for Your Buck Award.


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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 useWaterproof for short submersions, lightweight, easy to close appropriately
Cons Will leak under duress, no easy carry straps, seams taped not weldedExpensive, largeExpensive, rigidNot for use as a stand-alone bagVery tall and skinny shape, compression is awkward, fabric eventually soaks
Bottom Line An inexpensive model that provides great water resistance at a reasonably low price.This product keeps out water, no matter how rough and wet things might get.Rugged and perfectly watertight, this pack is ideal for traveling.This model is your classic lightweight stuff sack with the added bonus of waterproof material.Mostly waterproof, though a bit awkward to use.
Rating Categories Sea to Summit Big River Watershed Colorado Duffel YETI Panga 50 eVent Compression Outdoor Research Airpurge
Waterproofness (70%)
10
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8
10
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10
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10
10
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9
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8
Ease Of Use (10%)
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8
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4
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7
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4
Features (10%)
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7
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6
Durability (10%)
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8
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5
Specs Sea to Summit Big... Watershed Colorado... YETI Panga 50 eVent Compression Outdoor Research...
Weight (pounds) 0.5 lb 0.3 lb 4.3 lb 3.2 lb 0.3 lb
Size We Tested (liters) 35 L 75 L 50 L 20 L 20 L
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/ compression straps
Material 420 Denier heavy duty nylon Polyurethane-coated nylon Laminated high-density nylon 70D nylon 70D with TPU-coated nylon

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, tape-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 this inexpensive bag.
We're impressed with the waterproofness and fairly durable design of this inexpensive bag.

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 the only model well-suited for general, day-use that scored this high in waterproofness and costs less than $60. 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.

Easy directions and a simple to use design make the Big River a breeze and a joy to use.
Easy directions and a simple to use design make the Big River a breeze and a joy to use.

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 pretty 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.

Features


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

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

Durability


The Big River is made of 420D thermoplastic urethane-coated nylon which makes it both resistant to scratches and tearing and lightweight. Though the seams aren't welded, like some of the heftier models we tested, they're taped over their seams, 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 an 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 lash patches on each side are also made of a welded TPU fabric. Thus it offers significantly more durability than many of the less expensive models.

Metal pins holding the clip together add to the durability of this ripstop model.
Metal pins holding the clip together add to the durability of this ripstop model.

Other Sizes and Colors
Sea to Summit makes the same model in seven total sizes ranging from 3-liters to 65-liters. The smaller versions, 3, 5, 8, and 13-liters, differ only 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 blue, green, yellow, black, and orange.

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 across the board combined with its low price make it an easy choice for our Best Buy award.

A great size for day adventures and a price low enough to be worth it.
A great size for day adventures and a price low enough to be worth it.

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 of 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