Lowepro’s new DryZone bags come in two different models, a 40-Liter backpack (40L) and a 20-Liter duffel (20L). Lowepro has been making bags for years, and these are a new entry into their DryZone series. These new bags have an IPX6 waterproof rating, which means they can take a significant amount of water blasted onto them and keep your kit dry. Think rappelling through a waterfall or taking on some white water rapids in a small boat. This review will focus solely on my experiences with the 20L and how well it performed.
So who is this bag for? If you’re the kind of shooter who is traipsing through moist jungle environments and wading through the occasional waist-deep river, the backpack would probably be great for you. If you like to spend time on a kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or maybe even a color run event, the duffel would be a solid choice. Personally, I’m near the Great Lakes as well as the Huron River, so I get out on my kayak often, and love to take my DSLR with me.
The obvious thing that stands out about this bag is it’s vibrant yellow color. While I felt it was a bit gaudy at first, it’s just an example of function over aesthetic. It’s meant to be bright so that you can easily spot it while it’s floating down a river. It’s pretty typical for this kind of bag. On the inside, you’ll find your standard customizable camera insert. It’s in its own bag with a zipper, so that adds another layer of protection to your kit. In a smart design move, Lowepro made the inner bag removable, so you can ditch the canary-colored exterior when you’re not playing on the water. Imagine if you were paddling 15 miles along the coast to get to a campsite: once you reached camp, you can leave the outer bag with the boat, and just carry the inner bag to your site.
The stitching of straps and the placement of buckles seem to be well thought out, and I very much like that the top straps have a Velcro wrap handle to make it easier to carry around. There are 2 D-rings on both the front and back, and 2 more on the ends of the rolling strap. The D-rings, as well as the numerous loops in the stitching is a great addition for carabiner junkies like me who like to clip all sorts of things to their gear bags. These are also great for securing the bag down when on the water.
There is a single zippered pocket in the front, which is nice but I’m not sure I’d put much in there as it’s not made to keep its contents dry. There is extra room built into the bag so that you can take some personal items, so don’t be afraid to put your keys or other belongings inside.
One design element I disagree with are the additional compression straps. They run parallel to the handle straps, and allow your to really cinch the bag down. That’s great, but I wish these were buckles rather than hooks. A minor thing, but it does require me to fiddle with the pack more than I’d rather.
Rolling the bag up needs to be done properly to ensure that you won't have any leaks. I didn't cover how to do this in my video, since Lowepro already documented it in the video below.
To test this bag, I decided to take it out on the water, strapped to my kayak. I’d attempt to clip it to the top of my hull, and see how dry the contents were after taking a pretty good bath from the Huron River. Watch the video if you haven’t already.
I loaded the DryZone 20L with a 60D, 3 lenses, some audio gear, and some other accessories. The bag can hold quite a bit, so you could easily stash keys, a phone, or other belongings in here. After making a few runs over some easy cascades and getting the bag splashed a few times, I could tell the bag just shrugged it off. Everything was perfectly dry, and it left me wanting to push the limits a bit. So my thought was to capsize my boat! Before doing that though, I removed my camera kit and added some rocks for weight, along with a dry towel that I could check for wetness. The DryZone isn’t rated for being submerged in water, so I didn’t want to chance it.
After rolling my kayak over and then checking the contents, everything was still bone dry. So as far as its main function goes, this bag is great at what it’s meant to do: keep your kit dry. I could see that in field this bag would be great for shooters who spend time on boats or around the water. The bag offers great protection from wetness and can pack quite a bit for being such a small bag. While I wouldn't expect it to stay dry if I dunked it in the water and left it there, my tests make me feel very comfortable about my kit being fine in the event I flip my boat over.
I spent about 4-6 hours out on the water that day, and loaded and unloaded the DryZone bag several times. While using it, a couple of minor issues did reveal themselves. For starters, one of the handle straps came loose on me a couple of times. Not a big deal, as there were still 3 points of contact, but it did give me pause the second time it happened. I’m not sure if it was wet so the strap didn’t catch, or what. I can easily fix this myself if it happens again, by wrapping a few loops of tape around the end.
Another small annoyance was removing and replacing the inner bag. The inner duffel sits flush with the shape of the dry bag, so it takes a minute to really work it in or out. It’s definitely not a grab and go. However for the purposes of a dry bag, I think the inner bag needs to be flush, so there probably isn’t any way around that.
The bag runs about $150 US. Considering that it’s built for a particular segment of photographers and videographers, and it does a great job, I think the price is fair. I mean, you’re essentially getting two bags for the price of one. Dry bags alone can run anywhere from $35 for the most basic types of bags, all the way to $300 for brand name bags with a higher capacity and more features. In the past I’ve tried to hack it by using just a dry bag, and it’s not very convenient or practical. Having a camera-specific water bag makes shooting on the water much easier. With the DryZone, you’re getting the padded camera duffel, the dry bag, and when put together, a fantastic solution for a dry camera bag.
What I liked:
Kept my camera and belongings dry, even after capsizing my boat
Bright, easy to spot
D-Rings and loops for carabiners and securing it to a watercraft
It’s two bags in one!
What Could be Improved:
Replace cinch strap hooks with buckles
An easier way to remove the inner bag if possible
For the last few years, I’ve been taking my DSLR and a few lenses out on the river, just sticking them in an oversized dry bag that cost about $60. I’d wrap them in a towel, and have to just sit them in my boat– certainly not the most protective or convenient setup. It was a pain to get small things like batteries and filters when I needed them. Now with the DryZone, my kit is well protected, and easy to get to. If you're someone who likes to take your camera kit out on the boat, or into places with wet conditions, I would definitely recommend this bag for you– I'll certainly be taking mine out every time I go kayaking or canoeing.
Thanks to Seth McCubbin for coming out and shooting video on a hot summer day!