FE Active Cloudbreak Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack Review:  A Pack Equal Parts Adventure and Travel

Ever wish your 30 liter day pack was fully waterproof?  Like many, we’ve used various Durable Water Repellants on backpacks and tried several ill-fitting rain covers to protect the goods inside only to be disappointed when that much needed mid-layer is found soaking wet.  Water finds a way.  So does snow, dirt, mud, and ants.  Freaking ants.  If you’ve decided that DWRs and rain covers that aren’t true to size are no longer an option to waterproof your pack, consider the Cloudbreak 30L Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack by FE Active.

At first glance, the Cloudbreak 30L immediately brought to mind images of adventures when it would have worked far better than the one hundred and fifty dollar, outdoor gear mega-manufacturer labeled pack.  Simply put, it is a top loading day pack that is completely waterproof.  No, it doesn’t have a front compartment with pockets conveniently sized for a smartphone, pens, and other stuff.  It doesn’t have a laptop sleeve inside, although that would be a great addition in our opinion.  Nonetheless, the external features and roll top closure add up to make the Cloudbreak a really cool choice when you want to carry a lot of stuff comfortably and require a true defense from water and debris.

The Features

FE Active’s dry bag backpack is similar to others in construction and design within the same category.  The pack is made from PVC tarpaulin material, radio frequency welded seams, nylon webbing straps and plastic hardware.  The manufacturer doesn’t indicate the density of the PVC, however given the volume, it is likely to be 500D like most other waterproof PVC dry bags.  In the spirit of being eco-friendly, FE Active highlights the fact that the manufacturing process of PVC does have potentially harmful side effects on the environment.  They don’t go into details but indicate that they do their part to reduce such hazards as much as possible.

Backpack Straps

If you had to go all in on one feature of a dry bag backpack it would have to be the straps.  The Cloudbreak features a well-designed system of straps, attachment points, padding and mesh resembling what is found on most high quality hiking day packs.  The straps themselves are quality vinyl, adding to the overall waterproofing, and are form fitted with a bit of padding.  Nylon webbing on the straps is horizontally stitched in two places adding points to clip on additional items.  It isn’t quite a daisy chain, but provides a similar option.  Taking it a step further, the system includes padded mesh at the shoulder blade and lower back areas increasing both comfort and ventilation.   This feature is uncommon to dry bag back packs, yet very useful.

Chest Strap

While the chest strap is part of the harness system, we decided to highlight it separately for two reasons.  One, like the padded mesh, it isn’t a feature typically found on packs of this type.  Two, it works in conjunction with the straps and padded mesh to stabilize the pack.  Given the volume of 30L, the Cloudbreak can be packed and weighted down significantly.  Adding a chest strap increases comfort and stability under heavier loads across greater distances.

Dual Mesh Side Pockets

Two mesh pockets attached to either side of the pack easily store small to medium sized water bottles or can accommodate a set of rainwear, top and bottom.  In good weather, they can house items like a GPS, although we recommend tying such devices to other parts of the pack to prevent loss.  In the city, the pockets are great for umbrellas or any item that requires quick access.  Each pocket includes a cord and toggle closure to help keep things in place.

Corded Front

If you’re like us, and you constantly over pack or over layer, any pack with a corded front panel is a big win.  The Cloudbreak includes a bungee cord woven through eight total eyelets, four on each side, and the panel is RF welded to the body of the bag.  Stuffing a bike helmet might stretch it, however it will hold any sized layer and lot of other equipment.  For the watersport enthusiast or parent who likes to minimize mess, the bungee corded panel is a great place to stuff wet or dirty items to separate them from the rest of the bag’s contents.

Roll Top Closure and Carrying Handle

FE Active uses higher quality plastic buckles then some of its competitors.  They can be found on the chest strap and the roll top closure.  The closure itself is a standard dry bag closure that when rolled two to four times and sealed, it maximizes waterproof protection.  As for submersion and sacrificing volume for waterproofing, the same is true for all dry bags; it will hold up when submerged but not forever and typically two to three rolls will maximize both volume and protection.  The addition of a more generous carrying handle is yet another feature that replicates a regular day pack, although it is one that indicates a higher level of performance and utility.

Best Recommended Use

Like most dry bag backpacks, the Cloudbreak is extremely well suited for hauling essential gear for watersports like standup paddle boarding, scuba diving, kayaking or fishing.  With its size, one could arguably make this the one and only bag needed for such adventures.  The Cloudbreak works just as well as an excellent alternative to standard day packs when hiking from basecamp during sketchy weather.  If the outdoors isn’t exactly your thing, this bag can be used as a carry on when travelling.  It can easily hold a weekend’s worth of essentials or the items you don’t typically want in checked luggage.  The best part is you don’t have to worry about it getting beat up or dirty.  The PVC material is heavy duty and cleans up easily.

Final Verdict

Win.  FE Active’s Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack is in the top third of waterproof products we’ve reviewed for its design, features, and cost.  This is a bag you could own for a very long time.  Better yet, FE Active advertises an emphasis on participating in and giving to charities that focus on the importance of nature, education, and other areas.  Cool product.  Great causes.

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