River Crossings with Backpack

When it comes to dry sacks do you only put your gear that musn’t get wet into a drysack inside your backpack and cross river and end up other side with a wet backpack?

Or do you remove backpack and put entire backpack into drysack and then wade the river?

I am looking at option 1 with a lightweight drysack like this

I think if you go with option 2 you may need a thicker material as you must be careful not to pierce drysack on sharp sticks etc. That means more weight.

What’s your inputs on this? Thank you

I always have my sleeping bag and thermals in a lightweight dry-bag, irrespective of whether I’m doing a river crossing or not. For a river crossing where there is a chance of my pack being submerged, I put the entire backpack with contents inside a survival bag: Takealot


It depends on the type of hike or river crossing I do. If it is a short river crossing but my bag will be submerged then I will put my backpack in a strong bag and tie it securely and float it over. Your pack soaks up a lot of water so it becomes very heavy if it becomes wet.
If it is a kloofing trip and I need to carry the pack on my back then I will put all my belongings in a drybag inside my pack. I do prefer the stronger Big River Drybags from Sea to Summit for this.
If it is a dry hike and there is a chance of things getting wet then I will put my important belongings in a smaller lightweight drybag.

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main reason i am asking is just look at todays rain, rivers are flowing full steam ahead. I am doing Otter Trail next year March and I know people ensure they cross over at low tide, but should there be a sudden strong rain and the river is coming down quite a bit i would hate to do the long journey over to the top and around.

If a river crossing is safe i need to weigh in the good and the bad of gear protection.

Get yourself a good raincover for your backpack, one with elastic that fits nice over your pack. Then you just put your bag onto the water and the cover will keep all water out and your whole pack dry. That is the best way for crossing a river. It is also a very good flotation - you just hang onto it and kick yourself across.


If you don’t want to go through buying expensive gear…
Line your pack with a black bag. Wrap your sleeping bag with a black bag.
When crossing the river, put your whole pack in a black bag and just drag it through the river with you.
We did that when we were students and didn’t have money for waterproof gear. Works like a charm!


Can’t agree more with the last two guys: I’ve never owned a dry bag (love to however, it’s a cool nice to have gadget…) been kloofing since the late 80’s, only to realise in the 00’s that a rain/splash cover for the backpack (we did no have them back then…) does the trick: water repelling and floating device! For the rest e.g. sleeping bag and your essential clothes a couple of good/thick (!) “black bags” and ziplocks for food or electronic stuff will do the trick. Arno’s Coghlans - Survival Bag or French Polony is your classic (and cheaper at R80.00 than an uni-splash cover, if your backpack has none yet) South African solution, but will eventually puncture …on your second or third water crossing. But most of all: enjoy your Otter!!!

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Now this looks like a great idea.
Bit small for the Otter Trail though

Kinda feels like all the guys have covered the options here. Personally I have to say people can make a big fuss about the otter, but we hiked in April 2018 after a 5 day storm during spring tide (full moon) a.k.a. flood central. It really is all about timing-we were never more than ankle deep through any of the rivers. On another occasion we did have a family that struggled and was caught near high tide. Luckily each day’s hike is so short you can waste an hour or two if the current is too strong. I never used the heavy survival bag I logged with but its only R30 at Cape Union so just follow Arno’s suggestion.

@Chuckmyster the jubilee backpack is more suited to white river rafting and even larger sizes are uncomfortable to handle over a long distance (unless your cliff diving/jumping-then this is awesome). Doesn’t bust at the seems.

We/I have the following for heavy rain:
50L First Ascent DB

35L Sea to Summit Big river Dry bag

XL Event compression bags

1-The lightweight drybags work for light rain- not electronics.
2- The heavy duty ones work like a charm but they are hard to close and remove air.
3- Evac compression bags- THE ULTIMATE ITEM- 30L can compress down to 10L. I cannot stress this enough. If you ever need a replacement for a sleeping bag cover or just want to stash clothes in multiple rainproof bags- this is your go-to. I swear by this. It makes packing a dream.


Hey, sorry for reviving an old post, but does this mean that if there is time, waiting a bit for level/current to get better is a good idea, instead of taking escape route or something?

Sorry for the wait…The best option is to know the tide in advance. That way you can arrange your hike accordingly. Taking the escape route is a last-ditch effort and will spoil your hike. Planning will make this part of the hike more enjoyable.

Note that if you are hiking on 1) Spring tide (full moon) 2) during a rainstorm 3) following flood warnings, then I would highly recommend that you consider that exit route especially if you have hit the timing way wrong (aka floodwaters normally come down for a period after a storm then subside). Merely waiting will not ease the floodwaters (this may take 24-48 hours or longer after a storm). Waiting only helps if you know the tide is receding and will be lower in an hour or two.