UKH

Ortlieb Dry Bags and Cases Review

© Dan Bailey

Ortlieb are well known for their waterproof luggage, particularly bike panniers; but it may be the humble yet very handy dry bags and map cases with which many walkers and winter climbers will be most familiar. While they're hardly exciting - if anything the opposite of that - dry bags can be more than a bit useful, protecting vulnerable equipment and essential clothing on rainy days, river crossings, or on aquatic adventures such as sea kayaking. They're also good for keeping stuff organised in the jumble of a rucksack.

Here I've looked at a map case, a phone case, and drybags in various sizes from Ortlieb's lighter PS10 range.

Useful not just for keeping stuff dry, but also for keeping it organised   © Dan Bailey
Useful not just for keeping stuff dry, but also for keeping it organised
© Dan Bailey

PS10 Dry Bags  £15.50 - £24

Coming in a number of sizes, from a tiny 1.5L to a pretty spacious 22L, the PS10 bags are a good weight for walkers and climbers - light enough for backpacking and mountaineering, while also feeling sufficiently robust to cope with said activities. If you're pottering around in boats, it'd be worth considering something more heavyweight (Ortlieb do those too).

3L bag for gloves and hat, 7L bag for an insulated jacket  © Dan Bailey
3L bag for gloves and hat, 7L bag for an insulated jacket
© Dan Bailey

An alternative model with an inbuilt valve is also available. While this allows you to more completely squeeze out the air for more compact packing, I would instinctively favour the lighter and cheaper valve-free design on the basis that there's less to go wrong. It's fairly easy to 'vacuum-pack' even a valve-free drybag, in any case.

The stiffened rolltop buckle closure is easy to use, and creates a reliably watertight seal with just a few turns.

Reinforced base, welded seams, handy handle...  © Dan Bailey
Reinforced base, welded seams, handy handle...
© Dan Bailey

Sizes

The PS10 comes in five capacities:

  • 1.5L - good for electronics, first aid stuff, or your lunch
  • 3L - ideal for hats and gloves
  • 7L - where I stash a duvet jacket so it's definitely dry when needed
  • 12L - can be used as a reassuringly waterproof sleeping bag stuff sack
  • 22L - big enough to serve as a liner in your day pack

Weight and robustness

For their size these seem pretty light - the 3L weighs 39g, while the 22L is 107g. The 12L version weighs just 52g, which compares favourably to a Sea to Summit 13L drybag I reviewed some years ago (76g).

While I'm sure lighter drybags are available, and you can certainly get a lot thicker and more rubbery ones in Ortlieb's own range, the PS10 strike a sensible balance between weight and durability for walkers and climbers.

The PU-coated waterproof nylon fabric and welded seams have a suitably tough feel, while a slightly reinforced base panel (and grab loop) are a nice addition. It's a simple design, but one that seems built to last.

Ethics and environment

Made in Germany, a jurisdiction with high levels of worker protection and environmental standards, these products are PVC free. You can read more about Ortlieb's sustainability policy here.

Value for money?

Ranging from £15.50 to £24, these aren't a budget buy, but what you're getting is a quality product that should last well. Ortlieb are known for producing durable products, and I'm pretty confident these dry bags will still be seeing regular use several years from now. If so then they will look like good value (and environmentally friendly) compared to a cheaper but flimsier product.

For more info see ortlieb.com

Map-Case £19.50

For hillwalking or winter climbing, a paper map is essential, whether used as your primary navigation aid or carried just in case your phone battery dies. You could use a home-made print-out just covering the area you're aiming for, or a full sized folded map, but either way you need to keep it dry, and a map case is the obvious solution. This one from Ortlieb is a bit of a premium product as map cases go, since you can pick up something usable for a half or even a quarter of the price; but much like the dry bags, if you're using it a lot then this simple, robust case would probably seem worth the investment.

At full size it gives you a big area of map to work with  © Dan Bailey
At full size it gives you a big area of map to work with
© Dan Bailey

It's fully transparent, which is miles more convenient than map cases with a window only on one side, since it allows you to view both sides of the map.

Though the IP64 rating of this product officially only covers it for light rain and spray, I'd say that in practise the roll-top velcro closure is watertight enough to use the case kayaking on the sea or inland lakes, or walking all day in Snowdonia (which often amounts to similar levels of wetness). Perhaps the map might get a bit damp if you roll your boat, but I don't imagine that being the issue it might be with electronics. With four attachments points you could secure it to your boat, or bike, or wear it around the neck like a professional rambler with the clip-on adjustable cord that comes supplied.

Easily folds in half if you don't need to see so much  © Dan Bailey
Easily folds in half if you don't need to see so much
© Dan Bailey

Weight and robustness

At 57g (not counting the strap - well, would you?) it seems pretty light for something that feels this tough. I've had a similar but smaller Ortlieb case for a good 10-15 years, and other than slightly yellowing with age it's still going strong. I can't see myself having to call in the five-year guarantee this new one comes with.

Size

Having often crammed my map into smaller document cases, I'm sold on this larger version, which allows you to open up an OS or Harvey-sized map sheet into a convenient two-leaved square shape. This gives you loads of coverage without having to fiddle around extracting and re-folding your sheet every time you walk over a fold.

It's roomy enough that you could chuck your phone and even wallet and car keys in here along with the map, if caught in a downpour. On the other hand it's soft and easily folds in half for carrying in your jacket pocket (infinitely preferable to around your neck).

Value for money?

Overall it's a nice simple product, well-made and, I'd say, worth the money considering the many years of use its likely to offer.

For more info see ortlieb.com

Safe-It £29 - £31

Your phone isn't going to be much use in the outdoors if you have to hide it away at the first sign of rain, so in the UK I think a waterproof case is pretty much essential. Rucksacks and jacket pockets are rarely 100% watertight. Even more so than the map case, Ortlieb's Safe-It case looks pricey, but it also feels well-made, and might seem an investment worth making to protect a device that typically costs hundreds of pounds.

On a showery day you can safely keep using your phone for navigation   © Dan Bailey
On a showery day you can safely keep using your phone for navigation
© Dan Bailey

With a roll-top velcro closure, the case will happily keep out rain and dust. It's sufficiently watertight for walking or cycling, but since its IP64 rating only covers spray and not full immersion I wouldn't trust my phone to it for a day on the water; kayakers will need a fully waterproof alternative.

Coming supplied with an adjustable clip-on cord, the Safe-It can be worn around the neck, fixed onto your bike handlebars via the four robust attachment points, or even slotted onto a belt or rucksack strap, allowing you to consult phone mapping on the move. For winter or multi-pitch rock climbing, you could tether it to a lanyard from a pocket, keeping the phone secure should you want to check out the route on the Rockfax app.

It's a tough and dependable phone cover for outdoor sports  © Dan Bailey
It's a tough and dependable phone cover for outdoor sports
© Dan Bailey

Sizes

Two sizes are available, roughly corresponding to a standard sized smartphone or one with an oversized screen. I've got the smaller case (officially Medium), which neatly holds my iPhone 8.

Weight

In the smaller size the Safe-It weighs just 19g, which isn't adding much to the weight of a phone.

Material

Made of tough UV-resistant polyurethane on the front, with a textured black material on the back, the case feels pretty durable. Touch screens can be operated through the transparent film, and there's a window in the back for a phone camera. Picture quality is soft and misty when viewed through it though, so if you want to take a photo in the rain it's best to quickly slide the phone out of the sleeve (which can be a bit of a struggle since the inside is clingy). Spot the difference:

Photo through the film  © Dan Bailey
Photo through the film
© Dan Bailey

And with no cover  © Dan Bailey
And with no cover
© Dan Bailey

Value for money?

The Safe-It is a decent protective case for rainy weather, but while it's clearly made to last I do think it's over priced when you consider that far cheaper alternatives are available. Many of these are more waterproof, and good for full immersion rather than just splashes. Arguably this phone case is the least good value of the products we've looked at.

For more info see ortlieb.com  



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