On my recent trip to Mexico, I knew I would be spending a lot of time in and around water. I had plans to snorkel in reefs and cenotes, cliff dive, kayak, and just hang poolside and at the beach. I also knew I would be bringing a good deal of camera gear and, even though much of that gear was waterproof, I wanted a bag to provide extra protection for the cameras, as well as keep non-photo items—phone, wallet, keys, maps, and money—safe and dry.
The Watershed Chattooga Duffel Bag
The Chattooga Duffel Bag, from Watershed, was just one of many on the B&H site, and I decided to try it based on a simple reading of its specs. I could not have been more pleased with my decision. I also brought along the Overboard Pro-Sport Waterproof Belt Pack and the Aquapac Belt Case, both of which I used in limited settings with success, but the Chattooga Duffel was really the star of my show.
The Aquapac Belt Case
Let’s start with the two belt packs, though, one of which—the Overboard—I used primarily for my smartphone and wallet, and kept inside the larger Chattooga for trips to the beach or kayaking. It was never tested to its full capability of 19' submergibility, but it did keep its contents totally dry even when it sat in a pool of water (in the hold of a kayak) for two hours. It opened and closed easily and did everything it was asked to do. The Aquapac case got tested a bit more thoroughly. I threaded its included belt through the loop and wore the pack as I snorkeled and even as I climbed a temple pyramid at the Mayan ruin of Coba. The pack withstood abrasion from the rocks and remained waterproof throughout several dives. Its twist-lever closing system was perhaps a bit easier to operate than that of the Overboard, but this is a minor point. Perhaps the most extreme test of the Aquapac came when my kids filled it with nachos, submerged it in the pool and then gave the chips the “crunch test.” I’m happy to report that each and every chip extracted from the pack was as crisp as when it went in.
The Watershed Chattooga Duffle Bag, in a wet and rocky place
As for the Chattooga Duffel, it served not only as a waterproof adventure bag but as my carry-on luggage and camera bag. A few times, I placed my Tenba messenger bag into the Chattooga to maintain the advantage of pockets and space dividers. It fit perfectly but I found out later that a dedicated padded liner is an available option. The polyurethane-coated nylon construction of the Chattooga seemed impenetrable—and also received compliments from a designer friend on how good it looks. I had the blue model and its surface finish, texturing, and black trim do look cool, and while good looks are clearly not its raison d’être, it’s always nice to receive a compliment. If blue is not your thing, you can try the Black, Orange, Coyote, or Clear models. The clear model does offer the see-through advantage, which would have been helpful in some situations as I pawed through the bag, pulling out gear to find the camera I needed.
The wet, steamy jungle is no match for this waterproof duffel bag.
The bag itself is submersible to 300' and closes with “ZipDry” closure, which is similar to a powerful freezer bag. It can also be rolled down from the top closure and secured with multiple compression straps to further ensure impermeability and safeguard the contents. Four hard lash points allow the bag to be strapped to anything you can put a rope around, and I kept it strapped to my kayak through several rough encounters, without a problem. In addition to being safely submersible, if closed with sufficient air inside, the bag will float, and this too proved to be helpful as I snorkeled in calm water with the bag floating above, holding extra gear.
A padded, waterproof liner is available for the Chattooga Waterproof Duffel bag.
A neoprene padded handle made it comfortable to carry; however, an optional shoulder strap is available. While the ZipDry closure is so sturdy that it can be a bit tricky to figure out at first, once mastered (in about three tries) you will have a bag that is useful and steadfast in any rough weather situation or water-based activity.