See also: Ortlieb Duffle RS140
Weight (without backpack harness) 1100g
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
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 aren’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 included 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 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 also used Watershed’s 80-litre Westwater (above – more like 70L) 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. But 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 a cheap, chopped-down lightweight, big-wheeled folding trolley (right) from previous packboating trips to carry my packraft to Australia and New Zealand. With zip ties and straps, the trolley frame lashed securely to the rugged UDB’s harness tabs and I could roll it with the top handle. It weighed in at 2.7kg.
Interestingly, the rigidity provided by the UDB once fully inflated (as above) helped make it more comfortable to wheel and less of a sack on wheels. But one thing I did notice is that without a full-length telescopic metal frame the set up tends to bob up and down annoyingly as you walk.
The thinking was that once packrafting a river for a few days (I never made it), the UDB trolley would still be more compact than a regular wheeled travel bag, while enabling wheeling along paths and long gravel roads to get to the river.
It was all an attempt at not blithely splashing out the huge but pricey Ortlieb Duffle RS 140 (left) which I’d been eyeing up. A few months later I eventually did buy a used RS140 for the Seawave but can still see plenty of years use in the UDB.