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Staying Dry in a Wet World

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Staying dry while kayaking is an impossible task. Nathan says it best:

Kayaks are more like submarines than boats. When we're sitting in the hull, our bodies are below the water line, as is most of our stuff.

When there's windchop on the ocean, we often have waves breaking over our bows and covering our boats and bodies. And as much as we like to believe they're sealed, hatches and spray skirts always let a little water in. To keep ourselves dry, we have some sweet drysuits from Orange Canoe in Port Moody, BC. Keeping our stuff dry is a whole other challenge, especially for key pieces like clothing & sleep systems, as well as photography equipment that we need access to while on the water. For our most sensitive gear, we've been using Sagebrush Dry bags.

Drones & SLR cameras stored on exposed decks using Sagebrush Dry bags. Next to icebergs. In Alaska. For 71 days, and counting.

Even off the boat, we have a lot of rainy days in the Pacific Northwest and Alaskan Southeast when we need to keep our gear dry when it's on land. Some days have been absurd, with my paddling jacket soaking through and setting up camp in the rain on wet logs and wet sand. Having bags that you can take out of your boat that you trust to keep your gear dry goes a long way to relieving the stress of being wet.

The weather coming in to West Cracroft Island sucked. Rain and Windchop. I'd made the mistake of not wearing my drysuit and there were few places to land, so I was COLD and not stoked. As soon as we landed I changed into dry clothes and started drinking hot tea. Nathan set up our MSR Thru-Hiker 100 Wing kitchen tarp so we had a dry place to cool and organize.

John & Greta from Sagebrush invited us to stay with them in Kake, Alaska just before we left Victoria in April 2023. Stoked to hang out with some cool paddlers and gear geeks in Alaska, we happily obliged and added a stop in Kake in June at the last minute.

Baranof Island viewed from Kake. There's 3 miles of paved road in Kake, and 10% of Southeast Alaska's population are commercial fishers. Life happens on the water here. And water is wet.

Sagebrush builds bags for use in Alaska, which means fishing, hunting, and being rugged enough to stand up to years of abuse. Greta said "we build bags people here can use, but also are able to afford." The bags are not cheap, but long term durable gear pays off. John used to be a mountain biker, but since moving to Alaska he's spent increasingly more time hunting, fishing, and foraging (as well as building the business). Greta is a sailor and a paddler, in addition to being a hunter, fisher, forager, and Harbour Master. They love to be outside, as do the communities they live in, and need things that are built to last. It's not so easy to submit a warranty claim in Southeast Alaska, and a drybag that regularly gets holes is pretty useless when your regularly out on the water. So, John & Greta build the bags they and their community needs.

John snacking on some seaweed he harvested and dried, but hasn't finished processing.

The Sagebrush factory is pretty cool, they have two RF welding machines to make waterproof joints in the high end double PU coated fabrics they use. They have steel ruled dies and hydraulic presses to precision cut the thick, durable, materials they use. And, most importantly, they have a big tank of water in which they bubble test every bag that they produce, to make sure they are 100% air tight.

John showing how the bags are leak tested after being inflated to 5 PSI prior to being shipped.

We've been using a few Sagebrush bags for the last 70 days. I've been using mine for my sleep system, including having it lashed on to the outside of my deck for the first few days of the trip, including during a gale warning. Nathan has had his drone strapped to the deck of his kayak in a Sagebrush bag, and has been using his other bag for clothing. And Jordan, our 35 day stowaway, has been using a Sagebrush bag to keep his DSLR camera in his cockpit - with a very old, very leaky, spray skirt. We've trusted thousands of dollars in equipment and critical sleep systems for weeks on end, through fog, high wind, big swell, rain, submersion, and even gritty mud flats. And honestly, the bags barely look used.

One of these bags has been on the water for 71 days with 0 maintenance, the other is brand new. Guess which is which.

Nathan and I take staying dry pretty seriously, as it can turn into a safety issue really fast. It would suck to have one rainy day cause your clothes to be wet for the next 20. We pitch tarps over our tents and hammocks. I wear my drysuit as often as I can, and have my clothes split into multiple drybags in case one gets a hole.

Rain in the forecast, so tarps were pitched over every hammock and tent that night.

Staying dry, in addition to being a safety issue, is also a psychological one. People love sitting under a dry tarp and sipping a hot tea in clean & dry camp clothes when the weather has taken a turn for the worse.

Chatting under a tarp with a hot drink, thinking about pastries and coffee in the city.

And most importantly, when you trust your gear to keep you dry, you have more fun. You're not stressed about wet sleeping bags, or leaky tarps, or falling in the ocean. You can play in the ocean, hang out and chat in the rain, and sleep soundly even when the weather turns rainy and cold.

Thanks to John & Greta at Sagebrush dry for hosting us in Kake. We're looking forward to the next visit!

It was a hot day at Le Conte glacier, so Nathan decided to cool off

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