Exped UL Dry Bags – A Bit Too Light For Camera Kit?

For the TJR I switched from using the extremely reliable Ortlieb Aqua Zoom (that I mentioned before) to trialling a simple Exped Fold Dry Bag UL, Small (24g) for the camera and another identical bag for the two lenses that weren’t on the camera. It was no big risk, the bags then live inside the pack liner – they’re just a second layer of waterproofing.

I carried a Canon EOS 550D attached by a little Nitize S-Biner to a length of 10mm webbing fixed to a shoulder strap on the GoLite Pinnacle pack. It very handily fits snugly into one of the side pockets of the pack. I used that technique along the GR20 and the camera survived just fine.

I also took the excellent value Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS (dubbed “Ibex lens”), the Canon EF 35mm f2.0 (“People lens” – wouldn’t be without this, it’s 56mm equivalent on the 1.6 crop body of the EOS 550D) and the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f3.5-4.5 USM (“Landscape lens” of course!) which as usual was on the 550D most of the time.

The bags were tested when new and were completely waterproof.

I was fully expecting to trash the bag I used on the camera; perhaps not during the trip but a trip soon after. These bags aren’t meant to be very strong – I accept that. This was an experiment to see how long it would last.

Trash it I did – there must have been upwards of thirty holes in it, one or two you could see daylight through and several others that wept water so fast I decided it wasn’t worth attempting to repair. I honestly didn’t expect it to fail that badly, that fast.

The bag that I kept the lenses in only got tested a few days later, just to be sure, since I fully expected it to be fine. It had only held the lenses and had mainly lived wrapped up in a fleece or waterproof in the pack. To my astonishment I found it had six weeping leaks. I really am not sure that the amount of use it has seen should result in leaks like that. It’s disappointing since I have a great deal of respect for Exped. I’ve always found their products to be very well made and more than up to the job at hand.

I know others have had bad experiences with Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks but I’ve had several and each has taken a reasonable thrashing for a couple of years before giving up. In fact the 35Ls we use for compressing and waterproofing down (sleeping bag and/or duvet jacket) at the bottom of the packs are still fine. They have seen a great deal of bashing around in the packs for many weeks since before the Iceland trip, including seven weeks on the GR5. Meaning they’ve seen three years of service for every big trip and many day walks (for down jackets).

So I’ve just taken delivery of a 4L Ultra-Sil (26g) that’s the same size as the Small Exped UL.

It will be getting a fair kicking, wrapped around the nasty pointy bits on the 550 and being shoved into the pocket around behind my back. I’ll take a while to put the two weeks of use on it that the Exped dry bags saw in Switzerland but I have an inkling it will survive better.

I’ll leave an update here when I know more!


4 Replies to “Exped UL Dry Bags – A Bit Too Light For Camera Kit?”

  1. I have one Large Exped drybag that I just use for my down quilt, and it must have done at least a hundred trips by now without any problems.

    However I find that this kind of thin single weave dry bags easily get holes from grazing. Any kind of hard item in the bag will rub a hole, or graze the fabric enough to allow water to weep through after just a few days use, if the object is in contact with the fabric at all. A heavy SLR in one the dry bags can rub holes in it just as it bounces around in the pack during a few days hiking. It’s just a limit of the fabrics toughness I guess.

    1. Fully agree Tomás!

      What surprised me was just how fast the holes appeared. I really think the Sea To Summit Ultrasil (almost identical in weight, I should have said) will last longer under the same conditions, but I’ve yet to test the theory… :)

  2. Do you use any protection (!) for the camera or just wrap in spare clothes? I keep thinking of looking for a neoprene or similar pouch for my dSLR as I,ve been more concerned with knocks than water.

  3. No I only use the dry bag around the camera but I do tend to wrap a fleece around it or stuff it underneath something in the top of the bag so that if the bag falls over it doesn’t get knocked.

    Neoprene sounds like a very good idea though!

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