In Focus: Camping / Road Trip Gear

If you’ve followed along with my recent travels, you know I took a trip out to West Texas for a quick four day weekend and after all the dust settled, I decided to make a few videos to showcase some of the products I used. Take a look!

A clean campsite is a wonderful thing and if you’re tired of dirt or sand gathering on your ground covering, the CGear Sand-Free Mat is perfect for you. I recently took the 8′ x 8′ version (we also have a 10′ x 10′) out into the real world so check the video for the verdict!

Adventuring can work up a thirst but with the NRS Dura Soft 6 Pack Cooler, you don’t ever have to be too far from cold beverages. I recently took the cooler on a road trip to test out its cooling powers and the results are in the video.

I used the NRS Dri-Stow dry bag to hold all my clothes and gear on my road trip and used the NRS Tuff Sack dry bag to hold essential “just-incase” items for the car. These are two tough bags that lived up to their initial promise so watch the video for my insight.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to be without your music or mobile devices (mostly…) when you’re out camping or on the water. I used the Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel / Rock Out Speaker Combo and I wanted to showcase this unique device and those awesome little speakers.

-Trent @ ACK

Product Testing in West Texas

I recently embarked on a trip out to the great wide open of West Texas and took some products we sell here at ACK along for the trip. Let me start right off the bat by saying everything I used served its purpose very well and I will give you a rundown of what I used, how I used it and what I may have run into along the way.

I really didn’t want to go the route of the cramped duffle bag for this trip so I decided to use a couple of different bags from NRS: the large Dri-Stow bag and the small Tuff Sack dry bag.

NRS Dri-Stow (large)
NRS Dri-Stow (large)

For four days worth of my clothes and other assorted items, I used the large Dri-Stow bag and still had plenty of room, even without tightly smooshing things down. The bag seals up very securely at the top and creates its own carry handle for added convenience. I always like it when one things serves multiple purposes and this bag certainly does. All the Dri-Stow bags are see through which is really great if you have a lot packed in them. You can pack it in such a way that everything is nicely visible. I packed my towels at the bottom of the bag which seemed like a mistake when I wanted to get them out for a shower after a long day of hiking but even though a lot of other gear was on top of them, I just slid my hand down the side of the bag and was able to pull my towels out without disturbing the rest of the contents. Had I packed it again I probably would’ve left the towels on top but it really wasn’t that big of a deal. If you have a bunch of wet gear you want to keep away from your dry stuff, throw it in this bag and you can rest assured it will keep the two separate and won’t leak all over your dry gear if you seal it up properly.

I used the Tuff Sack for the necessary stuff I like to take with me on a road trip like trash bags, plastic grocery bags, and zip-lock bags because you never know when you might need that stuff out on the road or out on the trails! While I didn’t have to use those items very much, I liked having it sealed away in the bag and could rest assured that once I had properly closed it, those items would stay in the bag away from the rest of my neatly packed car.

I listen to music while I work, drive, clean the house or during just about any other activity. Its always on and why should I have to be away from music while I’m out on the trails, the water or sitting by the pool? I shouldn’t and neither should you thanks to the Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel and Rock Out Speaker Combo. There’s been an influx of solar powered devices in the market recently and I have to admit that I was skeptical of this one. I wasn’t sure how well it would work or if it was just a gimmick to begin with. The Nomad 7 panels work wonderfully with the Rock Out speakers and will charge them in about four hours. I had them sitting in the back window of my car soaking up the sun on my drive out west and they were charged by the time I got there. The speakers have an internal battery so they won’t drain your devices’ and will stay charged for about 20 hours, according to the manufacturer. I used them over a couple of days and certainly not for 20 hours but I didn’t have to recharge them in between and that was nice. The solar panel has a spot for a USB plug, which charges the speakers and can also charge your mobile device in about one to two hours. I charged my device in my car so I didn’t use the solar panels for that but I’ve heard from others that it works well with a cell phone as well. There is also a port for a 12 volt adapter, one of which comes with the package, and that will charge any applicable device you have as well.

CGear Sand-Free Mat at Balmorhea State Park

Cleanliness is a big deal to me and after using the CGear Sand-Free Mat on this trip, I don’t think I would use another ground cover for a basecamp or just lounging around outdoors at a festival around town or at the Barton Creek Greenbelt for a day with friends. I took the CGear mat with me when I went to Balmorhea State Park to lay out by their pristine spring-fed pool. I had my gear and my towels laid out on the mat and the dual-layer weave technology kept sand and other small debris off the mat with ease. When something small gets on top, all you have to do is run your hand over the top layer and the debris falls through. It really is that easy. I was skeptical at first but the mat works really well. I was also worried about it getting hot in the sun but that just didn’t happen.

NRS Dura Soft 6 Pack Cooler with two larger Gatorades at Balmorhea State Park

The last product I was able to enjoy on my trip was the NRS Dura Soft 6 Pack Cooler. This little bag can hold a lot, keep it cold, is easy to pack and even easier to clean. I loaded a six pack and a frozen ice pack into the cooler before I hit the road. After driving for six plus hours, I was surprised to find that my six pack was still cool inside the Dura Soft cooler. I really couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have to put my drinks in the fridge and could just pop one open as soon as I got there. Truly awesome. Aside from the six pack, at a different point in my trip, I put two of the larger Gatorade bottles and one additional small water bottle in the cooler and it held those with room to spare! Also, the liner on the cooler is removable so when I was finished and ready to clean it out, all I had to do was remove the liner (it fastens in with velcro), clean it out in the sink and pop it back in the cooler. When there’s nothing in it, you can smoosh it down and pack it with the rest of your gear without taking up that precious cargo space. NRS really thought ahead when they were designing this bag.

-Trent @ ACK


Canoeing the Rio Grande: And keeping dry with NRS

We met Shane Townsend, outdoor blogger for Bat City Outdoors and avid paddler, halfway through his mission to write about fifty paddles in Texas that anyone can do. We decided it was the perfect opportunity to do some product testing and got him outfitted with some NRS dry bags. Here’s what he had to say.

Back-country paddlers have a long-standing challenge: Keep the water out of the gear.

People have addressed the problem using animal skins, waxed canvas, rubber, dry boxes, temperature-sensitive coated fabrics and PVC. New technology is on the way.

As kids, we fashioned our own sort-of-dry bags by using garbage bags to line Army-Navy surplus duffels. The trick worked; but, duffels got wet; garbage bags tore; and on every trip, at least one piece of gear got just wet enough to notice at 3 a.m.

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Last week, my race to 50 Texas Floats put me on a four-day float through the Rio Grande’s Boquillas Canyon in Big Bend National Park. The 33 trips before this one were day trips or involved only car camping. So, if I made a small misstep and got wet, there was always an escape hatch so to speak. I could get in the car and turn on the heater or just drive home.

On a multi-day, back-country canyon trip there are no exit options; so that same misstep has a different set of consequences. On this trip the weather forecast was perfect: High temperatures in the 70’s and lows in the 40’s. The spring fed river was meant to be in the 60’s. Even in these mild conditions, hypothermia was a risk to consider.

Our team decided to trust NRS dry bags to keep our gear organized and dry. Austin Canoe & Kayak ( provided the complimentary gear and we headed to the river.

Our NRS Dry System

Name Size Dimensions Volume Material Price
Bill’s Bag Dry Bag


33″ x 16″ 109 L 34 & 21-oz PVC/Polyester $80
Tuff Sack Dry Bag Large 11.5″ x 23″ 38 L 18-oz PVC body & 30-oz bottom $30
Tuff Sack Dry Bag Medium 9.5″ x 20″ 22 L 18-oz PVC body & 30-oz bottom $27
Dri-Stow Transparent Dry Bag Medium 9.5″ x 20″ 22 L 17-oz vinyl $23
Dri-Stow Transparent Dry Bag Small 7.5″ x 13″ 10 L 17-oz vinyl $20
Cylinder Case


7 7/8″ T x 5 3/8″ at top & 3 5/8″ at bottom < 1 L Plastic $10

NRS 3.8 Bills Bag Dry Bag Highlights:

The NRS Heavy-Duty Bill’s Bag proved to be a really solid piece of gear. It carried the bulk of the gear for two people: tent, clothes, and assorted other small bits.

  • • The StormStrip closure at the mouth of the bag helps the bag seal quickly and tightly; so even with just a couple folds the bag is watertight. For me, this is the standout feature
  • • Padded shoulder straps and comfortable grab handle come in handy when moving the gear
  • •  Fits and fastens well in the bottom of a canoe and between cargo racks
  • •  Sturdy and durable and the reinforced bottom provides some peace of mind when setting it down on concrete driveways and cobble riverbanks
  • •  At 6,500 cubic inches, the bag can carry a lot of gear, and four compression straps help cinch the bag and the gear down to fit the gear inside
  • •  I really like this bag, it’ll be my go to on future solo outings when one bag will do

NRS Tuff Sack Dry Bag Highlights:

Two Tuff Sacks (large and medium) carried sleeping bags, clothes, and other items.

  • • As with the Bills Bag, the StormStrip closure is the standout feature
  • • Bags are sturdy and durable and the reinforced bottom provides some peace of mind when setting it down on concrete driveways and cobble riverbanks
  • • Sturdy buckles create a handle and can clip bags together or to the boat
  • • 1-inch D-ring adds another option for securing the bags
  • • A handle on the bottom of the bag would help remove tightly packed gear
  • • Packed well in the boat and tied in easily

NRS Dri-Stow Transparent Bag Highlights:

The two NRS Dri-Stow Bags (medium and small) carried different things at different times. But, they really stood out when packed with small things.  We used the smaller bag for electronics, headlamps, etc. The other we used for a SAS Survival Manualriver guidebooks, notebooks, pens, field guides, and so on.

  • • See-through feature is great advantage
  • • Sturdy buckles create a handle and can clip bags together or to the boat
  • • 1-inch D-ring adds another option for securing the bags
  • • Bag is particularly sticky when stuffed with a sleeping bag or the like, a handle on the bottom of the bag would help remove tightly packed gear but, if you’re using it to hold smaller items, there’s no need for that bottom handle
  • • Smaller bags packed well around other larger gear and helped make the most of every inch of the canoe’s cargo space
  • • Bags aren’t as sturdy as the Tuff Sack; but the see-through feature is great so I’ll put a Dri-Stow Transparent bag in my favorite backpack and make it my day bag

NRS Cylinder Drycase Highlights:

The Cylinder Drycase carried wallets, river permits, and a few other small things. It’s a good option for small things you want to keep dry, easily accessible, and in their original, unaltered form (e.g. first-aid kits, fishing tackle, an apple). Note: NRS discourages using it for electronics.

  • • Orange color makes the case easy to keep track of
  • • Lid’s lanyard makes it easy to secure the case to other gear, ideally a second lanyard would connect the lid and the case
  • • O-ring helps keep water out, but it’s prone to falling out; so be mindful of that
  • • Simple little case is helpful, versatile; and I’ll continue to use it

Splash Down Performance

About half an hour into day two, a river devil – we’ll call him Sneaky Pete El Duende del Rio – jumped up from a strainer in a swift, tight turn and rolled the canoe.  While I chased my paddle downstream, the rest of the team sorted the flooded boat.

The  results:

  • • All the bags were tied in and remained with the boat
  • • The extra river clothes we kept in the small bag were dry
  • • When we set our tent, rolled out our sleeping bags, and pulled out clothes for the cool night, we found everything was bone dry.
The Verdict

Across the board, I was pleased with the NRS dry bags and case. The gear did what it was meant to do. After the trip, it cleaned up and stored well.
  • • Each piece of NRS dry gear was a little different and offered it’s own particular strength. This allowed us to build a dry system that met our particular needs.
  • • About $190 will buy all the NRS gear in our dry system. Is it worth it? Compare it to the cost of a ruined smart phone, a cold wet night, or a dose of hypothermia.

I can’t yet speak to the lifespan of the gear, but, for now, I’m comfortable and confident in the dry system I’ve put together for the rest of my 50 Texas floats.

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If you’re a paddler or would like to be, please be a steward to our natural resources and an ambassador for our sport. If you’re preparing for a paddling trip, have a look at Essential packing list for a paddling trip and Essential packing list for a fishing trip.

In the meantime, follow the water.

Thanks for reading,

Shane Townsend