Introduced to Oi Polloi just over a year ago, Watershed bags have made us rethink everything we ever thought about haulage. Oversized rubber sandwich bags may sound a bit odd, but for damp-free wanderings, these can’t really be beat. But enough of the sales spiel — we fired a few questions over to the ever-helpful Deja at Watershed, and in fine interview tradition, here are the answers…
Slightly unrelated pictures of people in canoes taken from the Watershed website
First things first, how’s it going?
Things have been hectic here. Just returning from our huge yearly trade show in Salt Lake City, Utah and I’m personally gearing up for a dive vacation in the Bahamas next week!
How did the idea for the Watershed bag come about?
Watershed’s founder, Eric Revels, has been at home on the water at the coast around New Orleans, Louisiana, and the rivers around Asheville, North Carolina. After attending a nearby camp here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Eric became an avid C1 kayaker, competing in many events. He spent day after day on the water, and consistently he and his friends’ so-called ‘dry bags’ left them with damp gear. This was the impetus. Surely it was possible to produce a true dry bag, that you would feel secure enough to put not only your lunch or dry clothes, but also your valuables. First and foremost was the closure. Simply rolling something a handful of times, and lining it with a trash bag for good measure, is not secure, nor would it keep out water if it were submersed. The ZipDry® seal was born. It’s modelled after a freezer bag closure, but is strong enough to keep out water even when submerged or under pressure.
Watershed bags are welded using radio waves. Without getting too technical, can you explain how this works?
Essentially, radio frequency welding uses a combination of pressure and radio waves to speed up the molecules which realign to bond multiple layers of fabric into a single layer.
A fair few people here swear by Watershed bags, yet they rarely, if ever, travel via canoe. When you lot were designing it did you ever think it would be used by inner-city coffee drinking types?
Maybe not at first, but we love our products and take them everywhere with us so it wasn’t a surprise that other people would think the same. Here in the mountains it cools off significantly every night, so even if it’s not going to rain and you’re out camping, you need to have everything covered or it will be wet with dew and downright soggy in the morning.
You also make bags for the military. What do they use them for?
We make bags for many different divisions of the military. We specially design bags for both US and European divisions that special request them. Usually they are different sized day packs that can either be used alone, or to drop an existing back pack into. Then there are the specific use bags, like the Gas Mask bag, or GRID Tablet bag.
With such a great fabric it seems like you could make all sorts of waterproof gear. Have you ever thought about branching out beyond bags?
We have considered different applications, and we do sometimes work with other companies to do some part of their production as a silent partner. The truth is we are so very busy producing our current products and designing prototypes for some specific use customers, that we don’t have the time! When Watershed was first getting started we dabbled in some joint products with companies like The North Face and others. However, our focus is to remain the world’s best and most durable dry bag manufacturer and we are committed to manufacturing in the United States.
What’s next for Watershed?
At Watershed we are constantly tweaking and improving our designs and materials whenever possible. For 2014 we are changing up our fabric for a fresh look. All colours will have a flat, matte finish, and will now be constructed of a 420 denier Cordura nylon ripstop material (instead of a 420 denier nylon packcloth), giving it a cool look and texture, as well as even more tensile strength. We are also changing our colour selection completely, which we like to do from time to time. Our new colours will include Coyote, Black, Orange, Blue and our Clear option.
It seems like you’re quite the adventurous bunch, what do you lot get up to when you’re not designing bags?
All of us here definitely enjoy thrills and spills of all kinds. From mountain biking, hiking, camping and motorbiking, to scuba diving. In fact three of us are about to head off for a week of live-aboard diving in the tropics. We all also get out on the French Broad River every week, some of us almost every day! It runs right behind our factory space and includes easily accessible areas of flat water for leisurely stand up paddle-boarding (SUPing) and excellent white-water sections for kayaking and rafting (or SUPing if you’re brave).
Anything else you’d like to say?
Finally, we are excited to be a part of Oi Polloi’s high end line up of quality products. We hope to continue our relationship with both the adventure junkies and the inner-city crowd of discerning consumers across the pond. Thank you for your time!