SealLine Urban Review
15th July 2018
Two hundred and twenty four. That's how many sausages you can fit into the SealLine Urban rucksack, but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Welcome to the 110% scientific review of the Urban.
The SealLine Urban (Large, 37 litre) is a proper technical dry bag which has been turned into a rucksack. It has a number of nifty features designed to create the perfect waterproof seal, it's available in large or medium sizes, can be ordered in a variety of colours and it's well worth a look if you want to keep your stuff safe from the British weather while you're riding. RRP is £113 for the small, £129 for the large.
30 Minutes In
Okay so this thing is huge, like an entire week away huge. It feels incredibly well made, the material that the main compartment is made from feels like the same sort of tough stuff they make rubber dinghies out of and there are clearly a few clever little touches built into the design.
The roll-top has a handy plastic strip on the back edge to get a good tight roll started, the strap hooks onto one of three plastic slots on the front, it's partly elasticated to let you pull the metal hook over the slot before it snaps back for a tight fit and the middle of the harness forms a handle for picking it up off the floor.
What Is It?
It's a PU-coated 600D polyester and scrim-reinforced urethane roll-top dry bag, with a 400D TPU-coated nylon bottom panel, made into a rucksack. Scrim-reinforced simply means the main sack is made from two layers of material sandwiched together.
Inside it's basically a thick waterproof plastic bag and on the outside it's polyester fabric that gives the bag a nice finish. The seams are welded together at the molecular level using radio waves for a perfect seal; RF welded seams have roughly twice the strength of sewn/taped seams.
SealLine, a Seattle based company, make a huge line of dry bags for kayaking, waterboarding and canoeing so they aren't messing about when it comes to keeping the British weather well away from your stuff. They claim it can withstand quick submersion in water and will actually float if dropped in the wet stuff. I only got as far as my two star canoeing test but I'm buying into the thinking behind it.
The most important part of a dry bag is the seal and the best way to get a good seal is by folding over the top of the bag a few times before securing the fold, just like a bag of peanuts. To help get a good consistent fold across the whole width there's a small plastic strip on the back edge. This makes it really easy to start off the roll and is really effective at ensuring it's consistent across the whole width of the opening.
Once the roll is nice and tight, held in place with one hand, the strap to secure it can be pulled tightly across the top using the D-ring on the end of the strap and then hooked into one of three slots on the front. The strap is part elasticated so it's easy to pull it over the slot you're aiming for before it snaps back into place, keeping the strap properly tight over the fold. It's a really clever system to be honest and works a treat.
It may not be immediately obvious but the correct way to fold the top is towards the rear of the ruck sack, with three folds. This reduces the height of the bag quite a bit so bear that in mind when loading it. You can use the three slots on the front to gauge roughly how much it will take and SealLine recommend "burping" any trapped air out of the bag before folding the top down.
Inside the bag, just behind the harness, there's a thick removable plastic rectangle which slots into four tabs. They look fairly robust but, first impressions wise, it looks like the plastic could potentially slip out under heavy use. It's there to provide a bit of structure to the bag when it's empty, making it easier to load without it constantly collapsing in on itself and it does a good job too because the bag will pretty much just sit on the floor supporting its own weight.
Beyond the main compartment, which is one massive unstructured space, there is a little 25cm by 25cm zipped pocket on the front. It isn't waterproof like the main compartment though (SealLine describe it as "splashproof") and if the bag is rammed with stuff you won't get much inside it. Think of a Galaxy S9 or iPhone X maximum. It's also not really lined and the fabric is a little rough so you would probably want to make sure the phone is in a case first.
We tested the large grey pack, which is happily much darker than the press pictures suggest in real life, but it's also available in a range of bright colours if that matches your scheme:
SealLine also do a smaller version which would probably be the best option for day-to day commuting. The large size is more suited to a few days away or full touring. Dimensions are for the bags fully sealed:
- Large: 37 litres, 25cm x 35cm x 58cm, 954g
- Small: 17 litres, 10cm x 38cm x 46cm, 818g
How Many Sausages?
For this part of the test we used the industry standard Ye Olde Oak American Style Hot Dogs in brine (8 per jar). It's a premium pork recipe with a smoky flavour and only 111 calories per dog. The answer is 28 jars, tightly packed, formed of two layers of 12 with another 4 up top on their side. That's 224 sausages.
The tricky thing with this bag is knowing where to stop loading it such that there is still room for the three fold seal. We initially tried to cram in 36 jars and this seemed absolutely fine until we tried to close it. Maybe SealLine will paint a load line on the inside for the next version.
On Your Back
The main straps are padded with a similar waterproof foam mesh to the back panel and are pretty comfy, as is the back panel itself. They adjust in length like every other bag but can also be moved out from the bag a bit as well. The small chest strap works well and can slide up/down over roughly 10cm to give plenty of adjustment potential.
One feature we loved is the little tabs on the bottom corners. These hide away the waist strap if you're not using it, keeping everything nice and neat.
How Waterproof Is It?
To keep things scientific we popped several new kitchen rolls, fresh out of their plastic wrapping, into the Urban and then took a 10 minute power shower with it. No, it's not exactly British rain, but it is very wet and very predictable. Sealing up the bag was deliberately quick and imprecise, just like you would do out on the road. Pictures for this bit are not included...and you're very welcome!
The torrent of water sounds exactly like a rain shower hitting a large tent and we found that very re-assuring. Afterwards the remaining drops simply rolled off the outer fabric and the kitchen rolls were as dry as they went in. You can actually see the effectiveness of the roll-top as you unroll it; by the time you reach the first roll all hint of the wet stuff has vanished. We are convinced that roll-tops are the way forward for keeping the wet stuff out.
Like any rucksack in the rain the straps did absorb a little bit of water, but didn't become sponge-like at all or unusable and the same can be said for the foam padding on the back. If we had to unexpectedly jump in a river or somehow ended up in Sharknado 6 then we would totally trust this rucksack to keep our lappys and cameras in a usable condition.
How Does It Arrive?
Wrapped in a heavy duty plastic bag inside a rather large cardboard box. In short it's really well packaged but even if it wasn't we're in no doubt the bag would be tough enough to survive a trip through the post.
At £113 for the small and £129 for the large we think it represents great value for money. It's probably the best way to keep your gear dry in the British weather and it's built like a tank. The only slight downside is the not particularly useful pocket on the front and the lack of internal structure, but depending on what you're planning to carry around, that could be easily sorted with a few internal bags to give at least a little structure. An internal organiser would definitely add to the package and make it a fully fledged solution.
We also felt that the straps could be improved a little but that's only really a problem with a properly heavy load and minimal layers between your shoulders and the straps.
Check out this quick video from Always Riding: