Weight (without backpack harness) 1100g.
With trolley (see below): 2700g
Capacity 96L (verified).
Size (fully ‘inflated’) 90cm long x 38cm wide. Circumference 120cm.
Features Grab handles at each end; holdall handles; basic backpack harness; small zipped mesh inside pocket; one-way inflation/purge valve.
Fabric: Don’t know exactly, a tough, abrasion-proof nylon fabric with a glossy coating on the inside.
Cost About £120 in 2011. No longer made. The new shape with slick fabric is 78L and here – or the orange pic in the gallery below.
I’ve been using this big holdall for four years now on kayak and packraft trips in France, Australia, Turkey, the US and in the UK, as well as a side bag on my motorbike. As it’s among my favourites it gets an upgrade to its own page.
‘One dry bag to rule them all’ I wrote back then and my UDB still ticks that box. Your typical roll-top dry bags isn’t submersion proof, yet in paddle sports submersion is a likely scenario. Using roll-tops I found myself packing drybags inside dry bags to keep important things like clothes and down bags dry. With the UBD you can just chuck it in and zip it up.
Initially I tried using the UDB as a backpack (left) but, like trying to do that with any holdall, it’s only a short term solution that puts a huge strain on your shoulders. Plus I found the harness was poorly positioned so the pack sat high on my back, further increasing the centre of gravity, but running the shoulder straps loose (as left) didn’t work either. It became clear the include harness was not intended for anything more than short hauls. What was needed was a frame of some sort or a better harness. You can read a summary of my experiments here. In the end I found the NRS Paragon pack harness suited my needs best.
What I like about my UDB is that it’s a simple, rugged and basic big-ass bag with handy handles and a reliably submersion-proof closure. There are no gimmicks unless you count the purge valve. On the water it eliminates any worries about stuff getting wet and of course it’s something to hold on to if your boat get shot out from under you by a dozy spearfisherman.
Watershed still make bags with drysuit zips – see the gallery below or the website. But they’re either huge or just a bit on the small side or are priced for military procurement departments only.
I’ve also used Watershed’s 80-litre Westwater (top left – more like 70L I reckon) for packrafting day trips, but pushed it a bit hard on one cross-country MTB ride which ripped out one of the strap fixtures. Like their handy 30-litre Chattooga day holdall (right, yellow), the Westwater has their slick watershedding fabric which is tough for sure but less agreeable or grippy when pressed against your back all day. And like the UDB the straps have the legal minimum paddling (though are easily replaced). Both use their chunky giant fold over zip-lock closure which I’m sure works as well as a drysuit zip. nBut if it had to be one bag it’s my UDB – ‘One dry bag to rule them all’.
What more is there to say about the Watershed UDB? How about that in 2019 I adapted it with the remains of a cheap lightweight folding trolley (right) from previous packboating trips to carry my packraft to Australia and New Zealand. With zip ties and straps, the trolley frame fitted securely to the rugged UDB’s harness tabs.
My load was way under the limit, but the thinking was that once on a river for a few days, the UDB and small trolley ought to still be compact, compared to a regular wheeled travel bag. It was a way of not buying the painfully pricey the but actually sameish- weight Ortlieb Duffle RS 140 I’ve been eyeing up. It’s the biggest one they do and ought to take the Seawave and, without a backbone frame, will actually roll right up even smaller than my contraption.
A handy aspect which may also apply to the frameless Ortlieb, was that being able to inflate the UDB into a firm airtight sausage made it even easier to wheel (but not as comfy as a full-framed wheel bag). I got some odd looks giving my bag a blow job at the luggage carousel, because at airline check-in I had to pull the zip open a bit to ensure it could air-off safely at 32,000 feet. In my hand I carried my nifty Ortlieb 30-L Travel Zip.