I'm always looking for ways to organize myself in the backcountry. I used to be a fan of backpacks with pockets galore until I purchased a Badlands pack that had so many on it that it was like one of those Russian dolls that starts big and keeps getting smaller and smaller. There were so many pockets and pockets within pockets that their basic function was lost altogether. I used it one time and hated it so much that I returned it as soon as possible. That moment was like a dropping off point for me. My obsession with organization got the best of me and I had to find another way. Yes, having some pockets on a pack is good, but what tends you happen if there are too many available is you find yourself forgetting where you put your things. Additionally, the more pockets a bag has means the heavier it will be due to the added fabric and zippers. So, as the saying goes, sometimes less is more.
Years ago, Kifaru came out with these simple and lightweight zippered pullout bags for organizing your gear inside a pack. I had been eyeballing the Kifaru Pullouts for a while and nearly pulled the trigger multiple times but for some reason, I just couldn't get myself to do it. I'm inherently concerned about rain in the PNW and these pullouts, while probably water resistant, were not waterproof. I didn't need them to be a hard-core dry bag, but I needed some sort of reassurance they were going to hold up if the worst happened. My wish for simple, lightweight, zippered, dry bag came true but it wasn't from Kifaru, it came from KUIU.
KUIU was having a great sale before Thanksgiving and I happened upon what they call their Zip Dry Bag. Take a Kifaru Pullout, slap a KUIU logo on it and you pretty much have the same thing. The only difference is that KUIU has their pockets seam sealed and totes them as being a waterproof solution. Given that they were on sale, I eagerly snapped up 3 smalls, 3 mediums, and 2 larges.
The minute they arrived I began stuffing various items into them to see what would fit and what wouldn't. The website describes the small sizes as being good for phones and small electronics, the medium for toiletries, game bags, or bulkier items, and the large for clipping into the back panel of your KUIU bag for organization. The large can hold 3 medium bags or it could be used to hold a water bladder. To be frank, KUIU hasn't done a good job of showing off their sizes on their site (which is why I wrote this review). While I may be able to conceptualize the size of toiletries or phones, I know that those items come in all shapes and sizes and the sizing was still a mystery to me. Kifaru on the other hand, does an excellent job of providing videos and pictures showing size comparisons to well known objects that a hunter or backpacker would know. Needless to say, when the bags showed up, I was thrown off a bit by the sizing.
Here's a quick look at what each size provides.
The small bag is small. I mean it's tiny. I almost started laughing at the thought of someone trying to sew together such a small bag. Don't get me wrong, sometimes you need a really small organization pouch, but these might actually be just a bit too small. I was able to fit some hand sanitizer and wet wipes into one of them, which I suppose, will work just fine for those purposes, but there's not a lot of room left over. I'm thinking I might use one of them to store a patch kit or hygiene kit.
The medium bag is an okay size. I actually thought the medium was the small until I pulled out the small if that tells you anything about the sizing. The medium bag is great for stowing a first aid kit, a kill kit, or even a hat or two. It's not big enough to stow a set of base layer in, which is what I was hoping for, but it's certainly a useful size.
The large is also an okay size for larger bulkier items. It features the quick disconnect clips that allow you to attach it to the inside of your pack, but I don't personally think I'll ever find myself doing such a thing. I have a particular way of packing my pack and it will never involve having something hanging from the inside. The large fits 3 medium bags in it, but again, I don't really see myself wanting to do that. I was able to fit a lightweight set of rain gear or a set of base layers in the large size very easily, but there was a lot of room to spare. Again, it's a useable size and I suppose having more room is better than less room except if you're the type who likes to pack extra things they'll never need. In that case, the extra room provided in the large Zip Dry Bag is not good.
Since receiving the Zip Dry Bags, I have yet to test them in the field, though I'm not sure I really have to in order to get an idea of how they'll perform. They're incredibly lightweight, seam sealed, and have what looks to be a weatherproof zipper. By no means is this a real dry bag as the label says it is, so for those of you who do want a legit dry bag, go with a roll top style like the one KUIU offers. Since the Zip Dry Bags zip closed, there is going to be an inherent gap on the closure of the zipper where water can make its way in. If you plan on dunking these bags in water, I highly advise not to. What these bags are designed for is someone like myself who may not need an airtight organizational pouch, but rather one that will do 99% of the repelling of water. If I need 100% protection, I'll use my Sea to Summit roll top bags. Roll top bags are great for items that you won't need access to often and for storing sensitive equipment.
If you're like me and need a solution to organizing yourself in the backcountry and would like the reassurance of using something waterproof, the KUIU Zip Dry Bags are the way to go. I’m certainly glad they’re in my kit now and look forward to giving them a go.
· Made of ultra lightweight waterproof material
· Zippered for easy access
· Seam sealed
· Come in three sizes
· They can come in white, which is somewhat transparent so you can see what's in the bag.
· Waterproof zipper
· Great for organizing items of all sizes in your pack. Also adds an additional layer of protection to those items.
· Not really a true dry bag
· Sizing is a bit odd. They're either too small or too large. The small is really small, and the medium is kind of small but kind of large.