Lateral access to my gear was a phenomenal convenience on my recent 15-day river trip in the Arctic. The biggest concern anyone has regarding the functionality of a dry bag is “does it keep my gear dry?”. In short, yes. Granted, I never tipped my boat to have it mauled by massive rapids as a potential test. But everything I put in those bags for days on the river stayed totally dry – guarding against full over-the-bow waves and a few squalls of rain.
I had two 45-liter bags with me and I organized them roughly by gear I needed for my in-camp kit: sleeping bag, pad, warm clothes for around camp, cook kit, etc. The other bag was filled with gear used for other aspects of the trip like boots for day hikes, hiking clothes, bug nets, various hats, and the such. The bags do have little windows in them and I had to make use of those as both of the bags I had were the same color. There’s the one change I would make on my next trip: different colored bags to distinguish them. Having two 45-liter bags instead of one large 90-liter bag kept my gear more organized and I often found myself all packed up and ready to get on the river well before some of my companions dealing with larger bags. Granted, most of our individual circumstances and styles varied, but I was able to develop an efficient system.
It was so nice to no longer have to think about what order to pack things as was the case with the standard top loading dry bags (what goes on the bottom and will be hard to get to vs. what needs to be easy to get to on top). I could open the lateral access and see nearly everything in the bag. Closing the bag was simple. With the standard style of folding, purging, rolling and clipping there was no learning curve to transition to the lateral style. The only hiccup I found in the workflow of this style is the clips on the side of the bag flop around some (as they’re attached to the cinch straps) and often ended up under the bag. I had to lift the bag and take a hand to fish them out, placing a knee on the top of the bag so it didn’t come undone.
In closing the bag, there are two options. For full waterproof protection there are clips on the side of the bag with cinch straps as described above. But if you’re in camp and just want to seal up the bag so it will withstand whatever weather might blow through camp, OR placed opposite style clips on either side of the bag so you can pull the two sides together much like how smaller dry bags close.
Another nice aspect of using the smaller 45-liter bags was I had more options in the configuration of strapping them to my raft. On a packraft options are very limited, but we had to make some major accommodations to be able to fit all of our gear and food and other supplies on these smaller style boats. More on that in the packraft review.
In the end, these are great bags and I recommend them.