• StreamTrail DryTank II 25L Waterproof Backpack

    For anyone who lives in a city like Melbourne and cycles or motorcycles to work, riding in the rain becomes a part of life that is all but impossible to avoid. They don't call it 4 seasons in one day without good reason and I'm sure we're not the only city like this. Combine eratic weather with a love of technology and at some point you're probably going to need a waterproof backpack because water and electronics just don't mix.

    Most waterproof backpacks are not waterproof backpacks in the true sense of the word. They're more water resistant and even then, if you dropped them out of a boat, they'd keep your laptop dry for about a nanosecond because they're really just designed to handle a bit of rain. The true test of waterproofing is putting nothing in the bag and trying to squash it with the bag sealed. If it squashes, then it means water can get it because its not sealed. An extended outing in heavy rain is likely to impose a serious risk and car drives past and dunks you in a wall of water from a puddle you have a chance of discovering our laptop is as usable as a 18 month old Samsung phone with the latest Android update. it's this exact reason that a number of laptop users put their laptops in a plastic bag inside their backpack when cycling in heavy rain.

    Currently there are only a handful of bag options for waterproof riding, and today we're looking at StreamTrail, or more specifically the Streamtrail 25L backpack. StreamTrail as a brand is new, but its actually a joint venture between Caps and FeelFree. CAPS has been a fly fishing manufacturer for over 20 years; whilst FeelFree has been manufacturing kayaks for more than 10 years. StreamTrail are distributed in Australia by Ingaida

    In my case, I'll admit that I'm way too lazy to cycle to work, I'm hate being squashed on public transport and I don't like braving the city traffic in a car so as a result, I have a motorcycle. The requirements for motorcyclists are pretty similar except we don't hug as many tree's, hate wearing Lycra unless it's a superman outfit, and we're not as fit, as can be seen by the large number of pregnant looking male motorcyclists.

    They have a number of colour (and size) options available which include black, white, green, bright yellow and pink to name a few so you shouldn't have much trouble finding a colour to match your requirements. Our review unit was provided in white which is likely to appeal to those who like to remain visible in traffic. My personal preference would be for white or black if you intend using this for business but that comes down to personal preference and a visibility vs corporate look argument.

    Quality and Features

    The material used reminds me of a thicker version of the material you find in a passport cover. Its basically heavy duty tarpaulen. The 25L bag comes with a small front compartment with a clear window (with a waterproof zip) and a large 25L compartment for the rest of your gear. The bag I tested is not a laptop bag per say, it's a generic 25L backpack that would suit anything although from drinks to electronics. Drinks you say? Yes, it has a dump valve at the bottom of the bag to let out the liquid so as much as you can use it to keep things dry, you could also use it to keep things wet and cold, like drinks with ice. They do have a laptop specific bag which is 30L and includes a laptop sleeve. The laptop sleeve clips into the bag lining and there is an external mesh compartment which is removeable. If this is not ideal for you, they have another 30L option with two seperate compartments that would allow you to separate your clothing and electronics.

    The 25L bag has a couple of loops on it to allow you to attach anything you want. This could be anything from aluminium waterbottles to gloves, keys or a hat. All the StreamTrail bags have a reflective strip on the bottom of the bag and it comes with a tag to write your name and address on although its black, so I'm not 100% sure how you write your name? White pen?



    The backpack itself has shoulder straps, chest straps and waist straps so it will be secure while travelling. If I had to knock this model on anything, I'd probably say its a little light on padding but having a padded Moshi laptop sleeve, I had no discomfort while travelling. The laptop specific version seems to be padded a little better so if the lack of padding is an issue, this may be something you want to consider.

    All in all, its a pretty basic setup but it has everything you'd expect.

    Waterproofing

    The waterproofing comes from the mix of the material and the methods used to seal the bag. With conventional bags, you just zip them closed. Unless it has a specialized waterproof zip, the zip actually becomes a weak point for the bag. You'll find most waterproof bags tend to be glued or using a combination of glue and heat sealing because stitching is an issue. That aside, zips are generally at the top of the bag so they're exposed to a fair portion of the rain. In the case of the StreamTrail, the sealing style is more in line with conventional waterproofing techniques. Oddly enough this means you don't zip it. You close the top and then roll it up. The rolling up means that the likelihood of getting any water through firstly the top, and then the rolling is virtually zero. To test the theory, I fill the bag with air, closed it and attempted to squash it flat. Test it yourself and you'll find its pretty close to being airtight. It will eventually deflate but you won't be able to flatten it easily. Its a little like trying to flatten an inflatable mattress through one of those tiny deflation valve.

    In the absence of a CSI or Mythbuster waterproofing test, I used some slightly non scientific yet effective techniques. For my rain simulation, I inserted some material that I knew would show wetness. I then climbed into a shower (okay, I lie, I put the bag in the shower and observed from outside because it was on cold), did a full 10 minutes with the bag under the shower head to simulate a torrential down pour of the scale and magnitude that normally caused floods. This was aided by a non-water saving shower head we have in our second bathroom as most of the water saving models would be lucky to simulate a light drizzle and would barely get the bag wet. After 10 minutes, I stopped, dried the outside of the bag and tested the contents which were dryer than Ricky gervais's humour.

    For part 2, I dunked the offending bag into a bath of water to simulate someone riding their bicycle into a pool (just in case this happens regularly to you), or perhaps if you live on the flood plains in Queensland and didn't get mother nature's hint in the last flood.



    In the case of part 2, I was surprised to discover the bag passed the tests without incident despite the lack of zip. I have no doubt your laptop will remain safe and sound in this backpack no matter what mother nature throws at you. Whilst I don't believe it would survive a scuba diving expedition or a swim from the mainland to Tasmania, this bag is possibly the most waterproof type of laptop bag available on the market at the moment.



    Pricing

    If you're limited by a budget, the 25L Bag retails for $135 (including $10 Shipping) which great value for money. If you have a larger budget and want the laptop specific backpack, I'd definite recommend the 30L Roadster 2 with retails for about $40 more including a laptop sleeve and external mesh pocket. Whilst I didn't get to test the Roadster, I did get to see it when I collected the Splash and it looks good.

    The pricing puts StreamTrail into the mid tier price range for laptop bags but there are very few competitors that will offer similar waterproofing levels in the rain and its unlikely to find many competitors in the local market. Other products like Boblbee are more expensive but Boblbee is a hard case so it would be difficult to compare the two directly.

    Conclusion

    If you travel to work on a bicycle or motorbike and you're looking for comfort of knowing your laptop is always safe, then StreamTrail should be your bag of choice. The quality is outstanding, the price is reasonable and the waterproofing is class leading. Which model of StreamTrail you take is largely based on what you're carrying and what you need it for, but StreamTrail should have a bag to suit everyone's requirements.

    A big thanks to Tim from Ingaida for providing the review sample. StreamTrail is still relatively new in Australia so if you're looking for a local supplier, it may be best to contact them direct otherwise they can be purchased online through hardtofind.
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