loading, one second please...

Ems Dry Pack Practical For Portaging

Reviewing: Ems Seal Line Boundary 70 Dry Pack  |  Rating:
Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Boats & Boating Expertise:
Image for EMS Dry Pack- practical for portaging

A canoe trip with 26 portages inspired me to buy this dry sack that can double as a backpack.

Going on a week long trail work expedition to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota sent me to the store to find a way to pack my gear that would be practical in a canoe. We wanted to make as few trips as possible over the many portage routes, and this seemed ideal. You can put your gear on your back and still hoist the canoe over your head to carry it at the same time.

The EMS Seal Line Boundary 70 HD was perfect. It is just a large waterproof vinyl bag with no pockets or extra compartments. The volume of this one is 3940 cubic inches– plenty large enough for your camping gear! I had a tent, all my clothes for weather that included freezing nights, and some tools. Food was carried in a common pack, but there would have been plenty of room for our week-long trip if I had needed to pack my own food. There is an easy-to-use fold down top. “Sealing strips” are folded together and then held in place with clips to keep out the water. You can clip either of these straps around a thwart to hold the pack to the canoe. I never had occasion to test this with a long stint in water, but it definitely keeps the water out with quick dunkings. But the feature that made me choose this particular bag was that it can double as a backpack.

You would never want to confuse this bag with a balanced, engineered backpack. However, for ease of use with a canoe or kayak, this is great! One problem with using a conventional backpack while portaging a canoe is that they often have a top section that rides above the level of your head. If you are portaging a canoe or kayak this really interferes with carrying the boat. Of course, this also means that the weight is just hanging on your shoulders and banging on your behind. But portages are generally short enough that being able to carry all your gear in one trip is worth this aggravation.

Our group had 2 people to a canoe. At each portage one person carried one pack and the canoe, and the other person carried the other pack and the paddles and life jackets and any other oddments. Since my canoe partner had a regular backpack it was great that I had this pack so that the person carrying the canoe (we took turns) could wear it. Our canoe crew had the best gear for the portages thanks to what became known as the “Chubby Canary.”

The shoulder straps are removable if you would want to do this, perhaps for a trip where there will be no portages. But it still would be handy to carry the pack from the docking point to the actual campsite it my estimation.


Some people have trouble figuring out how to fold the top to make the seal work. However, it is clearly labeled right on the pack which direction to fold, and how to clip it. You just have to pay attention.