Chandlery January 2007 Issue

Bone Dry: Laptop Pack Passes PS Test

Waterproof Backpack
Oceanracing.comís waterproof backpack is designed to protect everything from a laptop to clean laundry.
Necessity, as the saying goes, is the mother of invention. And sailors tend to be an inventive lot. So, itís not surprising that when Ed Kriese, a veteran racing sailor and the owner-founder of Oceanracing.com, became dismayed at the lack of a reasonably waterproof backpack for laptops, he invented one.

"I have a real reverence for laptops, but theyíre delicate," explained Kriese, "and itís hard to find a reliably marinized laptop computer." While sailing in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Montego Bay Race several years ago, the idea dawned on Kriese to design his own solution. "I found a manufacturer whose gear I liked, and I specified some important elements for this product, like welded seams, etc., and we set out to make a prototype."

Kriese doesnít claim to make the only waterproof backpack designed to house a laptop, but heíll tell you that most manufacturers put out a product that suggests theyíre not really serious about protecting the computer.

His backpack offers two layers of protection. Thereís the coated nylon case with adjustable straps, and inner and outer compartments, which seals out the water via coated zippers, and thereís a neoprene envelope with a hook-and-loop closures that cushions and protects the laptop. Once inside the sleeve, the laptop then can be packed into a compartment thatís built out of the same waterproof fabric, and expressly designed to secure and protect its contents.

We closely examined Oceanracing.comís backpack. The seams are both stitched and welded. The back panel has a rigid plastic plate sewn inside to assist in protecting the laptop, and foam-padded bumps that rest against the wearerís back. There are four outer compartments, two of which are waterproof, and two of which are constructed of mesh for drainage. The Achilles heel may be the powder-coated metal zipper slider.

Waterproof Backpack
Weíre a bit leery of the packís powder-coated metal zipper slider, but only time will tell whether it will hold up to regular marine use.
This product would be entirely suitable for cruisers who tend to ferry an assortment of sensitive items groceries, laundry, mail to and from the mothership via dinghy. But the big question is, will Oceanracing.comís backpack keep your sensitive instruments dry if the pack goes into the drink? Kriese says the pack wonít keep its contents entirely dry if it is fully submerged for several hours, but "if the backpack ends up in the bilge in the middle of the night, and you donít find it until later, the laptop will be fine."

By way of a test, we stuffed the backpack full with crumpled paper and a 10 pound weight, zipped it up, and set it adrift for 10 minutes. Then we rotated the pack onto its side, upside down, and onto its other side. Upon inspection 20 minutes later, the contents were bone dry.

Oceanracing.comís backpack lists for $150, about mid range of other "waterproof" laptop packs we came across during a quick web search. A less expensive alternative is to buy a regular laptop pack or case (starting around $30) and put it in a dry bag (starting around $12) when need be. PSís dry bag test (July 15, 2001) found Watershed and SealLine bags to be the best of the test field.

How does the Oceanracing.com pack stand up to wear and tear and UV degradation? We donít know, but weíll continue testing this backpack over a span of several months to see how the construction endures, and weíll report any significant findings in a future issue. For now, Oceanracing.comís waterproof backpack seems like a good bet for anyone with a shipboard laptop to protect, or even some recently laundered clothes.

Contact

Ocean Racing Inc., 313/887-8415,
oceanracing.com

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