The Story of DryTide

surfer with waterproof backpack

The pinnacle of my belongings getting wet was when I was floating in the middle of Indian Ocean, sitting on my surfboard, and watching our boat sink into the ocean. Our possessions and parts of the boat were floating around us. A mix of astonishment, fear, and confusion flowed through my head. Is this really going on? How did I get there?

Hey, my name is Klemen, I am the founder of DryTide and this is the story of DryTide. A story how a surfer from Slovenia started designing and producing waterproof backpacks. I always had a passion for the outdoors. Passion for being outside under the big blue sky, exploring seashores, hopping islands, climbing mountains, and especially surfing and swimming in the ocean. Pursuing this passion over the past 10 years has led me through all sorts of weather conditions. From hail and snow in the surf lineup to boardshorts weather in the middle of the winter, from gale force winds and roofs flying through the air to amazing sunsets and omg what does it mean double rainbows. And especially through countless rainstorms. You cannot run from rainstorms if you’re chasing storm surf around the Mediterranean Sea with your friends or making surf trips to tropical islands around the equator.

I don’t mind the rain. For the average person it simply means bad weather and nothing much to do but sit at home watching Netflix. But for me and other surfers around here it means surf, waves, smiles, and good times. It’s like every time I go into the sea, I came out a calmer and more relaxed person. Water is the source of life and source of endless joy. Unlike surfers, there are some things, however, that work better when they are not wet. Like my phone, my laptop, my camera, my wallet, my dry clothes, documents, money, sandwiches. Even dogs smells better when they are dry. With all the rain I have encountered, I’ve had some problems keeping my stuff dry in the past.

The Shipwreck Incident

surfing in indonesia

Somewhere in Indonesia

The pinnacle of my belongings getting wet was when I was floating in the middle of Indian Ocean, sitting on my surfboard, and watching our boat sink into the ocean. Our possessions and parts of the boat were floating around us. A mix of astonishment, fear, and confusion flowed through my head while an easy current was carrying us and the debris away from the sinking boat. Is this really going on?

How did I get into that situation? I was on a surfing trip to the Mentawai islands in Indonesia. Surfing here usually means staying on one of the small islands (or on a charter boat) and then taking a small boat to one of the surf spots in the area. When you arrive, you throw the anchor and everybody jumps from the boat and paddles to the lineup to catch some waves. That day, we were alone in the water, the waves were not that good and there was a little bit of wind, so we were the only ones that decided to go out. Our boat was anchored in the channel (deep water where waves don’t break) and there was literally nothing for miles around—not a single person or another boat. Just empty ocean. We were surfing for a good half hour when we noticed anther boat approaching our spot. We didn’t pay much attention to it until we heard screams. Surfers on the other boat were screaming at their driver, but it was already too late. How their boat managed to smash straight into ours at full speed in the middle of an empty ocean is still beyond me.

The side of our boat was destroyed and before we realized what had happened, our boat was full of water. Parts of wood floated around the wreck along with all our belongings. After the first shock subsided, we paddled around collecting things that were, of course, soaking wet. Lucky for us, we hadn’t brought our cameras or phones. The boat that had crashed into ours tied our boat to theirs and started pulling it so we could empty our boat of some water, enough to start the engine. Once the boat starts moving, a small hole at the bottom of the boat can be used to empty the boat of any water, so our captain Guntur managed to save the boat and get rid of all the water. It all ended well, but I made a mental note to finally do something to protect my stuff from water because this was not the first time my clothes had gotten wet; it has happened many times.

Some places are so rainy that a waterproof backpack is a must

Some places are so rainy and the rainfall can be so strong that having a waterproof backpack is a must. Bali is for sure one of them. Photo: DryTide

Ways To Get Wet

I was driving my scooter through Bali, returning from the hills above Medewi where we have been swimming under a hidden waterfall in a palm tree jungle. Suddenly, it got dark and a tropical rain storm appeared out of nowhere. Let me tell you about tropical rainstorms. They are WET. Raindrops are the size of beans and you are wet as soon as the first one hits you. All you can do is zip up your rain jacket (which only stops the rain for like 20 seconds), close the visor on your helmet to stop the raindrops hitting your eyes, and get home as soon as possible. They say skin is waterproof, so even if your clothes are completely soaked down to your undies you will be fine, it’s pretty warm, even when it rains. The bigger problem is that everything in your backpack is also getting soaked! Towels, t-shirts, wallet, phone, camera… everything!

Another time, my suitcase was on the back of a pickup truck going to the airport when it suddenly started to rain. There was a simple tarp stretched over most of the bags, but if your backpack contains your camera and laptop an impro tarp does not calm your mind in pea sized raindrops. Then my bags get sprayed by the sea while I am on my stand up paddle board or in a kayak all the time. And I could go on and on.

There has to be a better way, I thought. I tried using dry bags – waterproof bags that keep your belongings dry even in wettest conditions. For protection against water they worked pretty well. But dry bags are just big sacks, which makes them clumsy and uncomfortable to carry around and travel with. Try carrying a 15kg (33lbs) sack around the airport, to the airport shuttle, bus, train, hotel…and that’s just the traveling.

Then there is the trekking and adventures, driving around on your motorbike, there are just so many situations when it’s so much more convenient to have your gear safely stored in your backpack on your shoulders. Dry bags, unless they are really small, also make it really hard to keep your stuff organized; the small things always end up at the bottom of the bag. My solution was to pack a few dry bags into my backpack and then move all my “must not get wet” stuff into them every time it was necessary. It kept my belongings dry, but it was not ideal. Couldn’t there be an all in one solution to this?

A Waterproof Backpack?

I wondered if a backpack could combine the qualities of dry bags and regular backpacks? Dry bags work really well when it comes to water protection, but for traveling and keeping your belonging organized they are useless. I wanted something that was both a backpack perfect for traveling, hiking, walking around and a dry bag at the same time. I wanted a backpack that could withstand the worst rain possible and remain dry inside. Damn, I wanted a backpack that could fall into the sea and still be ok. And I wanted all the things that make backpacks so useful – padded shoulder straps, a hip belt, padded back, pockets for water bottles, and pockets for smaller belongings. I also wanted it to look cool; I didn’t want to look like I was carrying a sack of potatoes or a Kinder surprise toy:).

Waterproof backpack in the lineup in Indonesia

Waterproof backpack in the lineup in Indonesia

I searched around and there was nothing quite like it in the market. It looked like I needed to do this myself. That was how DryTide was born. I started with a list of the features I wanted in a perfect waterproof backpack. It is not easy to keep a backpack waterproof. Special design and production severely limits what is possible design-wise. Stitching a regular backpack together is pretty easy and cheap, but stitches leave holes where water comes in—even if you use the best waterproof materials. To make a backpack really waterproof means getting rid of all the stitches and using special welding equipment and a construction technique called ultrasonic welding to put the backpack together.

I started by designing how the backpack would look and learning what can be done with ultrasonic welding and what can’t. Then came the first sample. It was tested on every possible rainy day and on a few stand-up paddle trips to the Adriatic Sea. A list of changes and improvements grew and the second sample was almost perfect. After a month of testing in Indonesia, countless tropical rainstorms, boat trips, jungle treks, and even a small earthquake, the last few changes were made to the backpack.

The Launch

DryTide waterproof backpack launch

The launch event, April 2018

In April 2018 the first DryTide backpack, the DryTide 50L waterproof travel backpack was launched. Never again will you have to worry if your gear is safe from rain, water, or even sand and dust (which can be even worse for your electronics than water). A waterproof backpack is the ticket to a peaceful mind, and answers all your traveling worries. You might not need it every day, you might never even get caught in tropical rain storm or drop it into the sea, but you’ll always know your things are safe inside, just in case. If you are caught in heavy rain, if your backpack gets splashed on the boat, if you make stand-up paddle trips, if you do sea kayaking, if you go on fishing trips, hunting trips, jungle treks, rafting, surfing, or simply travel to the beach – the DryTide backpack will protect your belongings and keep your stuff organized. There is no need to wait for the rain to stop; just walk into the storm and continue to live your passion – no matter the weather.

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