Choosing appropriate motorcycle luggage has always been a struggle for me – and maybe for you as well. Depending on your bike, your options can be narrow or so vast that deciphering which luggage would work best is almost impossible. I tend to ride different bikes often, so I’ve always used universal-fit luggage and then adapted it to whatever style of riding I’m doing at the time. I often resort to using dry bags of various sizes to either fit inside my luggage or as the luggage.
This past year, when I decided to ride to Ontario from B.C., I packed up a Watershed Yukon 70-litre duffle – a modern take on a dry bag.
Watershed was founded in 1995 and builds durable and versatile waterproof bags that are manufactured in the U.S. The company manufactures duffle bags, dry bags and accessories for recreational and military use for both on and off the water. What differentiates Watershed dry bags from others is the unique airtight ZipDry closure – it mimics that on Ziplock food storage/freezer bags, but is a lot stronger. The triple-ribbed seal on a Watershed dry bag is an incredibly reliable air- and watertight seal. Watershed is so sure of its seal that the company boasts the seal is strong enough to withstand underwater pressure down to more than 91 metres.
Traditional dry bags use a roll-down buckle seal, which can cause issues when you’re packing up your gear and forget that style of dry bag can be filled only about two-thirds full before the waterproofness is compromised. This creates a fine line between packing the dry bag too full and not being able to roll down the top enough to seal the bag or not packing the bag full enough and creating too little pressure in the roll. Both scenarios often resulting in leakage.
When a Watershed Yukon dry bag is sealed and rolled down, its capacity is 54.5 litres and becomes 33 cm high x 69 cm long x 30 cm deep. You don’t have to roll down the top of the bag after you seal it, but doing so helps protect the seal and creates an easier overall shape to pack. Chemical- and UV-resistant 420-denier Cordura ripstop nylon in multiple layers of polyurethane make the Watershed dry bag both easy to clean and durable against abrasion and extremely cold weather. All seams are welded and have an additional layer of material to protect seams from wear. The lifetime guarantee is a nice touch.
Traditional dry bags are thin and tall with a small opening at one end, hindering access to items in the bag and you quickly regret putting that necessary item in the bottom of the bag. Instead, Watershed dry bags open along the length of the bag – the Yukon offers a 58-cm-wide opening – so you can organize the contents and see exactly what is in the bag.
Watershed’s ZipDry seal is easy to close. Opening the dry bag, on the other hand, takes a little more skill and practice to master. In typical Emily fashion, when I first received the bag, I quickly removed the tags before trying it out – only to spend the next 10 minutes trying to figure out how to open it …then I looked at the instructions on one of the tags.
I recommend spending some time practising opening the ZipDry seal before you hit the road, trail or water. Alternatively, the ZipDry seal would act as a great anti-theft mechanism because there is a specific technique to releasing the seal. To open the bag, you need to grab the two offset tabs along the seal of the bag, crimp the seal with both hands and then create an S shape with the seal to pop it open. Once you know how to open the seal, it’s easy.
Something I would like to see is more adjustment on the roll straps. There is a strap and buckle on each side of the roll but the straps are not adjustable once the buckles are connected. Adjustable straps would add more flexibility to such a versatile bag. I found that if I didn’t pack the bag full enough, the buckle over the top of the sealed roll didn’t hold down the roll tight enough; if the bag was too full, closing the buckle over the sealed roll was difficult.
I was confident the ZipDry seal would stay watertight even if the roll was loose, unlike on traditional, top-opening dry bags. The Watershed bag has two hooks on either side of the bag to strap on additional luggage or a shoulder strap. I found the hooks were too thin and narrow to use my ROK Straps; thin straps, such as Titan Straps or lengths of webbing, worked better.
The Watershed bag has durable handles incorporated into the bag, so removing the bag from the bike and carrying it was easy. Whether I threw the bag on the bike or tossed it on the ground to make my campsite, the Watershed dry bag was reliable, versatile and made me remember that you don’t always need motorcycle-specific gear to travel. The bag would be useful as a carry-on when flying, on kayak trips and, of course, any motorcycle trip. The 70-litre Watershed Yukon dry bag only weighs one kilogram when empty.
The Watershed Yukon duffle dry bag has become my go-to bag for my luggage both on and off the bike and, judging by the bag’s durability so far, it will continue to be my bag of choice.
For more info on the Yukon or other Watershed products go to drybags.com.
The Yukon Duffle starts at US$167.