On any given summer day when there’s swell in the water and a light south breeze has blown the marine layer out of the sky, a trek down to Lower Trestles can feel like a bit of a surf staycation. That is, no flights or drives or promise of undiscovered perfection that are the usual trappings of a typical surf trip. But, the walk (or skate, or e-bike) down the trail means that a one-hour session is tough to pull off. Tougher, at least, than if there were a parking lot right on the beach. And so, the mission associated with getting a few waves at one of Southern California’s most iconic spots, crowded as it may be, is all part of the fun.
A stroll down the trail and you’ll see surfers who’ve all developed different ways to dial in their respective experiences: from the tricked-out electric bike and rack to the no-frills, slap-your-wetsuit-over-your-board-and-walk type. No judgment here on electing to use wheels or not, but one essential piece of gear that if left overlooked can cause a pretty unpleasant trek back to the car is the humble backpack. I had the privilege of product testing Patagonia’s new Planing Roll Top wet/dry bag and can confirm that if you’re searching for something that separates a seeping wetsuit from towels, electronics, and other beach essentials, this fits the bill nicely.
Interior capacity: First, the sheer size of the inside is something to behold. When the top of the bag is fully unrolled, it seems way larger than what its 35-liter capacity might suggest. A small mesh inside pocket holds essentials like keys, wallet, or a phone (more on that later), and a dry wetsuit, towel, and changing mat all fit handsomely in the main compartment with plenty of room to spare.
Mesh outer wet pocket: The genius of this bag that makes it unique is the large outer mesh pocket to store wet stuff – in this case, a wetsuit. The water temps in SoCal at the moment are well within the trunk-able range, but to get the full effect of the capacity of this outer pocket, I chose to cart a full suit. Besides baking in the water, I was surprised at how easily my suit fit in this front pocket. What’s great is instead of trapping your wetsuit in an air-tight, simmer-in-its-own-juices type situation like most bags, Patagonia’s Planing Roll Top keeps your suit on the outside to air out a bit – meaning you’re not left with a horrid stank in the inner compartment after a few uses either.
Alternating buckles: Most roll-top bags have a singular closure option: roll down and buckle so the roll creates a sort of circle shape at the top of the bag. This bag has not one but two options. The first is the typical one and two other straps buckle across the front mesh pocket when not in use. But, for extra security, the opening can also be secured to the side straps, too, which is super nice for travel.
Inner pocket: I mentioned the inside of this bag is a portal to another dimension. The only problem is that when everything is in a single pocket it can be tough to locate the essentials. A small mesh pocket holds keys and a phone, but it was definitely smaller than I expected and in my case could not fit both my phone and keys.
No separate water bottle pocket: Patagonia makes another pack in its Planing line called the Divider Pack that is similar to the Planing Roll Top but has a zippered front mesh pocket and a water bottle pocket on the side. In terms of the functionality of the Planing Roll Top, the side straps that secure the opening, as I mentioned, would make it difficult to include a water bottle pocket, but that means for quick access your bottle needs to be shoved in with your wet wetsuit which isn’t the end of the world but not the greatest.
From a Ments boat trip to a stroll down to Lowers, a wet/dry bag is an essential piece of the quiver that’s not to be taken lightly. There are many options out there, but Patagonia’s effort definitely is one of the more premium options. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.