NRS Bill's Bag Review
Cons: Leaks if packed improperly, tough to keep organized
Compare to Similar Products
NRS Bill's Bag
$159.95 at Backcountry
|$219 List||$34.95 at REI||$25 List||$15.00 List|
$12.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Durable, easy to remove backpack straps, large capacity||100% watertight, high-quality construction, easy to pack||Easy to pack, translucent material, welded seams||Lightweight, rectangular shape, simplicity is a feature||Three bag set, weather-resistant, small handy sizes, simple design, inexpensive|
|Cons||Leaks if packed improperly, tough to keep organized||Expensive, large||Not 100% watertight under pressure, can tear on sharp objects||Not abrasion resistant, must be part of a system||Durability concerns, 10L bag is very narrow|
|Bottom Line||A durable backpack option that can be great for multi-day river trips, but may be over the top for simple everyday use||Be prepared for even the wettest adventures with this versatile and impenetrable product||Easy to compress and simple to close, this is a great choice for your day trip essentials and more||For backpackers and day hikers, this model is a packing cube dry bag hybrid||These bags offer reasonable weather resistance at a great price but are not the most durable option|
|Rating Categories||NRS Bill's Bag||Watershed Colorado...||SealLine Discovery...||Osprey Ultralight D...||Outdoor Products 3-...|
|Ease of Use (25%)|
|Quality of Construction (15%)|
|Specs||NRS Bill's Bag||Watershed Colorado...||SealLine Discovery...||Osprey Ultralight D...||Outdoor Products 3-...|
|Weight||51.7 oz||54.0 oz||6.8 oz||2.0 oz||0.7 oz (2L), 1.0 oz (4L), 1.3oz (10L)|
|Tested Size (liters)||65L||75L||10L||20L||2L, 4L, 10L|
|Closure Type||Roll-top||ZipDry||Dual strip roll-top||Roll-top||Roll-top|
|Attachment Points||4 plus 1 handle and removable backpack straps||6 plastic D-rings, 2 handles, 1 removable shoulder strap||1 plastic D-ring||1 fabric loop||0|
|Style||Roll-top w/ detachable shoulder straps||Duffel||Dual-strip fold down w/ purge valve||Roll-top||Roll-top, 3-pack|
|Material||21 oz TobaTex||Polyurethane-coated nylon||PVC free 12 oz polyurethane film body; 300D 18oz polyurethane-coated polyester bottom||40D ripstop nylon||Polyurethane coated ripstop 60% cotton, 40% rayon|
Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested the 65-liter Bill's Bag (and have tested the 100-liter in the past), an oversized roll-top model with comfortable and removable backpack straps. It's made of 21-ounce (body) and 32-ounce (bottom) TobaTex PVC with sewn and welded seams and aluminum fasteners. It features a storm flap for added security, and a velcro strip helps you align the wide mouth correctly so it can be rolled closed securely.
The 65-liter Bill's Bag is a large beast that provides some solid water protection with a bit of a learning curve. It's a roll-top bag of XL proportions. A soft, wide storm flap along both edges of the opening help to seal the top securely. A small velcro tab in the middle of the opening makes lining the edges up to roll them down a breeze. Rather than buckling in a circle like a typical dry bag, the Bill's has four aluminum clips that cinch it closed into a simple cylinder that's easy to lash into your raft or canoe. With two on each end and two over the top, you can crank down on this thing to add a bit of compression to your 50+ liters of gear and clothing. We found through trial and error that closing a smaller load in this sack is less likely to provide a watertight seal. But with a full load pressing back on the compression applied from the exterior straps, the NRS can keep out the typical sprays and splashes that come with most water adventures.
The Bill's Bag is a classic site on most multi-day raft trips; however, if there is a chance of a raft flipping, expect savvy users and experienced guides to double up their important items in extra waterproof bags. When dragged underwater, the Bill's Bag can be penetrated, resulting in damp patches on the top corner of your bag.
Ease of Use
The Bill's Bag is a no-frills model with just one large compartment for your stuff. A 2-inch velcro strip in the center of the opening makes it easy to line up the two edges correctly before you roll. The added storm flap helps to ensure waterproofness without needing any additional work on your part. Helpfully, it's easy to get three — or more! — rolls into the top of this bag before running into the backpack strap attachments. We can't say it's that easy for some other models we tested. The aluminum buckles are simple to slide into place, and sturdy webbing easily pulls your load tighter for transport. Padded shoulder straps make carting this pack a manageable and comfortable task. The straps' attachment with those same easy aluminum clips makes it a matter of seconds to transform this bag from a backpack to just a dry bag and back again.
The biggest downfall to the usability of the Bill is its size. With 65 liters of gear, clothing, or food all stuffed into just one huge compartment, it can be challenging to stay organized. You practically have to have other bags inside this one to ever have a hope of finding anything without dumping all your gear on the ground to rifle through it. But if your strategy is to pack your regular expedition or travel bags and then fit all of them into the NRS while you journey through wet terrain, it's much easier to stay organized. One other issue we had while using this model is the futility of the sternum strap. Though you can raise and lower it, we found its range to be so low as to be effectively useless for anyone under six feet tall.
Quality of Construction
Made of TobaTex PVC material (21oz body and 34oz bottom), the Bill's Bag is impressively thick and durable, made to withstand the rough and tumble adventures of any rafting trip. The aluminum buckles are also much stronger than any plastic clip could ever hope to be and attach to thick, sturdy webbing and loops. Seams that are both sewn and welded also help to add durability (and waterproofness) to this already impressive bag.
Really the only thing that looks even a little suspect to us is the few tiny threads that are hanging off the edges of the loops where the aluminum clips attach. They were hanging off when we received this bag new and looked identical by the time we finished our several months of testing, so it's likely a non-issue.
The removable backpack straps are the most obvious feature of this bag and our favorite. They're comfortable and useful, easy to use, and simple to remove or reattach. The storm flap and velcro strip along the opening are close seconds for how easy and simple they are to use and how much they improve the overall experience of using this bag. Even after removing the backpack straps, a single loop on top remains, allowing you to transport this beast with relative ease.
While, in general, we like the aluminum buckles that hold the Bill's Bag closed, they do take a bit longer to line up and loop closed than a quick plastic clip. There are also four of them to line up, loop closed, and tighten down every time. Additionally, there are no specific lash points on this bag, despite its overall size. With how big it is, though, you're unlikely to take it on any small craft without lash points on the boat itself that you can secure it to.
One of the more expensive bags we tested, the NRS Bill's Bag is a solid performer. Considering how large it is and that it needs to be filled to work properly, it's not the most versatile bag out there. However, if you're looking for a larger bag to hold all your regular non-dry bags in one waterproof place, the Bill's is solidly worth what you pay.
The Bill is a big bag that offers solid protection. It's a great solution for holding several smaller, non-waterproof bags in one spot or everything you need for a long journey. With some packing practice and a full load every time, your gear will stay dry in this classic river backpack.
— Maggie Nichols
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More