Bone Dry: Laptop Pack Passes PS Test

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Waterproof Backpack

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Necessity, as the saying goes, is the mother of invention. And sailors tend to be an inventive lot. So, its 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 theyre delicate,” explained Kriese, “and its 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 doesn’t claim to make the only waterproof backpack designed to house a laptop, but hell tell you that most manufacturers put out a product that suggests theyre not really serious about protecting the computer.

His backpack offers two layers of protection. Theres the coated nylon case with adjustable straps, and inner and outer compartments, which seals out the water via coated zippers, and theres 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 thats built out of the same waterproof fabric, and expressly designed to secure and protect its contents.

We closely examined Oceanracing.coms 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 wearers 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

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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.coms backpack keep your sensitive instruments dry if the pack goes into the drink? Kriese says the pack wont 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 don’t 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.coms 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.

PSs 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 don’t know, but well continue testing this backpack over a span of several months to see how the construction endures, and well report any significant findings in a future issue. For now, Oceanracing.coms 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

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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