Watershed Futa and NRS Hydrolock stowfloats


NRS Hydrolock Stowfloat, Blister Gear Review.
NRS Hydrolock Stowfloat

NRS Hydrolock Stowfloat

MSRP: $75

Dimensions: 30″ L x 18″ W, tapers to 7″ W (measured inflated)

Inflation Tube: 20.25″

Days Tested: ~6 days

Locations Tested: Northeastern Quebec

The Hydrolock is NRS’s (Northwest River Supplies) newest stowfloat. It is made of 70-denier nylon with an interior coating of urethane, and it has welded seams, a few less compression straps than the Futa, and a lower-quality inflation tube and valve. The seal on the Hydrolock is also zip-style, but it’s not nearly as bulky as the Futa’s.

The Hydrolock costs $25 dollars less than the Futa, and it is significantly lighter than the Futa. It weighs 286 grams (BLISTER weight) as opposed to the 701-gram Futa. So, how does it compare?


The Hydrolock fits about the same amount of gear as the Futa, and it takes up the same amount of space inside my boat. If anything, it accommodates slightly more stuff, and the fabric is stretchier, so it’s a bit easier to get the bag into the stern of the boat.

Dryness and Durability

The Hydrolock bag has remained fairly dry (though not bone dry), so far. There’s been light condensation on the inside of the bag.

I have owned several float bags with the same inflation tube as the Hydrolock, and found that they’re prone to failure. Granted, I haven’t had any issues yet with the Hydrolock’s tube. The seal worries me a bit as well. The inter-locking ridges on the seal are small and fragile and can easily be damaged if you don’t take care to keep them clean of dirt.

The lighter fabric could also be a cause for concern. Stowfloats take a lot of abuse going in and out of boats, and I have owned several 70-denier urethane coated dry bags from companies like OR that have torn.

These are not the characteristics I look for in a drybag that will carry my sleeping bag and dry layers. But the Hydrolock still serves an important purpose…

Day Trips 

While the Hydrolock is marketed by NRS to fill the same niche as the Watershed Futa, this is simply not the case.

The Futa is a well-built, impressively dry, durable bag that you can count on to keep your important items dry during an expedition or overnight trip. Because of the weight and price, however, I would not use the Futa as an “everyday” float bag for day trips.

The Hydrolock is neither incredibly dry nor durable, but it is very lightweight. While I would not trust my important gear to this bag, gear that can get damp is a different story. This bag is ideal for things like your tent or tarp, a mess kit, stove, or food. The Hydrolock is also light enough to use as an everyday float bag, and it lets you access gear while you’re paddling, which is a great feature.

Bottom Line

If we remove the nuance from this comparison, here’s what you end up with: If you need a stowfloat that you absolutely trust to keep things dry, the Futa is the one, hands down. But if you’re going on short day trips and want to save some weight, the Hydrolock is a great option. It won’t keep your gear bone-dry, but that’s okay, depending on the situation.

The Hydrolock bag could be a great companion to a Futa on an expedition. The Futa would carry the gear that needs to stay totally dry, while the Hyrdolock can store your less hydrophobic items.


2 comments on “Watershed Futa and NRS Hydrolock stowfloats”

  1. I have both of these bags and agree, with one important addition. That black tubing that NRS has put on all of their float bags rots VERY quickly and will crack and break off in under 2 years. You have to hope it doesn’t happen when something important is inside the bag or when you are relying on it for flotation or displacement. I will never buy another NRS bag. I’ve had several Watershed bags for 20 years that are still as good as the day I bought them and I use them heavily.

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