Why do you need a waterproof dry bag? Well, the more time you spend on the water the more you will tire of getting your gear wet. After a nice day of canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing or boating the last thing you want is to get out of your wet clothes and get into, yes you guessed it, more wet clothes. Or to get to your camping destination and find that your sleeping bag is wet.
The truth of the matter is that it will depend on which activity you are doing, where you are doing it and for how long you are doing it, as to whether you need a dry bag or whether you can get by without one. It isn’t just about keeping your belongings from getting wet from the river, sea or lake. It’s also about keeping them dry when you have that unlucky moment and it starts to rain – water above you and water below you, we have all been there.
But hey, I can’t make that decision for you. Only you can decide whether you need a dry bag and whether you will get the benefit of using one when you go out onto the water, when you go camping or when you go hiking. Let’s take a look at why they are so popular, why so many people do use them and what are the best waterproof dry bags on the market today.
These are the most popular type of dry bag and the ones you will see most often. No prizes for guessing why they are called barrel dry bags as it’s obviously due to the fact that they are shaped like a barrel.
One end is sealed and the seams are welded together to make it water tight. At the other end is the opening and, once you place all your gear in the bag, you create a water tight seal by pressing the material together and then rolling it down about 4 – 5 times. You then use the built in clips to keep it in place (How to Close a Dry Bag).
They will have a D ring on the outside so you can attached the bag to you vessel if you wish and a shoulder strap for carrying it when you are not on the water. Some barrel dry bags have a pocket on the outside for storing things like cell phone but these are sometimes only water resistant rather than water proof so be careful what you store in them.
The key to using one successfully is to pack the things you are more likely to need more often or sooner on the top so you can locate them quickly and easily when you want to.
Well you all know what a duffel bag is right. So duffel dry bags are just the same as an ordinary duffel bag except they are waterproof. The good thing about these types of dry bags is that they have a wider opening through which to pack your gear and that makes it easier to find everything in there.
Duffel dry bags can be harder to close properly as the opening is wider and you still have to roll the material over several times to achieve the water tight seal you want. Dry duffel bags will have a shoulder strap and handles by which to carry it.
Backpack dry bags, or rucksack dry bags, are available in some slightly different shapes. Some are pretty much the same as barrel dry bags but with 2 shoulder straps so you can carry them over longer distances easier.
Some designs are exactly like standard backpacks so you get the look of a traditional backpack with the waterproof ability to keep your equipment dry.
Backpack dry bags are not just popular people taking part in water based activities, they are also popular with people involved in other outdoor activities such as hiking as they like the security of knowing their gear is dry even when it is pouring down with rain.
Kayak dry bags are specifically designed to be used in kayaks as they are tapered to fit into the nose of the kayak. Some kayaks also have designated spaces for waterproof deck bags which are great for additional storage.
Many kayaks have hatches in which to store gear but, as these are not always effective at keeping the gear dry, I recommend using a standard dry bag to store your gear and place this in the hatch.
Fanny pack dry bags are great for carrying your important items such as keys, passports, cell phones and cameras. As these are important and expensive it is good to know they are not going to get wet.
They simply strap around your waist and sit comfortably at the base of your back or on your hip. Most of them will have just 1 compartment but there are a few available with 2 or more compartments if you need them.
The intended use for these are for some of the waterproof fanny packs are for keeping your items dry from waves & splashes or if you find yourself falling into the water. They may not be designed for you to wear for long periods of time in the water. As they use the standard rolled closure method you can find that prolonged submergence in water can result in some water getting through. Make sure you read the specifications and, if possible, read some of the customer reviews.
If you are like me then you don’t go anywhere without your cell phone. Of course it’s also a good idea to take your cell phone with you anyway so you can contact emergency services and make contact with home should the need arise.
Waterproof bags for phones are designed specifically for your cell phone as they have a clear window at the front which means they will work with touch screen phones.
As with fanny pack bags, these are not always intended for prolonged submergence in water but are great at keeping your cell phone safe and dry. Check out the specifications first.
First Aid dry bags are specifically to carry your first aid kit and keep it dry. The upside of having a waterproof bag for your first aid kit is that it is small and you therefore have the flexibility to store it where you want. As the vast majority of them are red and contain the first aid logo/text it also means that it is easily identifiable.
Do you need a First Aid Dry Bag? Not really no, what you need is a first aid kit, no matter what you store it in, just make sure you take one. You do need to ensure that it is kept dry but you can achieve this by simply putting it in a normal dry bag.
If you do this then make sure it is on the top to make it easy to grab when you need. If you are travelling in a group then make sure everyone knows where the first aid kit is as it might not be you that is getting it out of the bag.
If you want to know more about dry bags then continue to read about the different sizes of bags and the materials used. If not then you can simply check out our Waterproof Dry Bag Reviews and recommendations below.
Different Size Dry Bags
No matter which dry bag manufacturer you look at, you will find they offer a few common sized bags. This is great for the flexibility you need to cover different types of trip. Short trips or long trips, there is a dry bag to cover you needs. I have found that having a small, medium and large bag gives great flexibility as you can use 1 bag for short trips and use 2 or 3 bags for longer trips.
That being said, the main factor should be how and where you are going to store them. Also consider how you are going to group the items you are going to pack. Two large dry bags might sound good and may fit in everything you need but you might find it difficult to fit them in your boat of strap them onto your paddle board. Having a mixture of sizes or several small bags might be better for your setup.
TIP: Don’t over pack your bags. Taking time to stuff as much as you can in when you are in the comfort of your home is easy but repacking them after a night of camping isn’t so easy and will take more time than you think or have (particularly if it’s raining when you’re repacking).
The most common sizes are 5 liter, 10 Liter, 20 Litre and 30 Liter bags but you can also get 25 Liter, 40 Liter and 50 Liter dry bags.
5 Liter Dry Bags
5L Dry bags are excellent for storing small items such as your camera, cell phone, iPad, small items of clothing and towels, toiletries, medicines and maybe a first aid kit (although you may want to buy a dedicated waterproof first aid dry bag - link).
10 Liter Dry Bags
10L dry bags are classed as medium dry bags and they are excellent for storing laptops, larger towels and larger items of clothing.
20 Liter Dry Bags
20L dry bags are classed as large dry bags and they are excellent for storing sleeping bags, tents, large towels and large/ thicker items of clothing.
30 Liter Dry Bags
30L dry bags are classed as extra large dry bags and they are big enough to store clothing for 2 people or maybe everything one person needs – my advice is to get 2 smaller bags if you are packing for one person as this is easier to store them on your craft and it is also easier when you need to access your items.
40 Liter Dry Bags
Someone has always got to one better, got to go bigger. 40L dry bags have their place. They are great for when you are on longer trips and you have a lot of large items. Some of them have a interior padded laptop sleeve so your laptop is not only kept dry but also kept safe. It really just depends on the size of your vessel, what you are taking and how long you are going.
50 Liter Dry Bags
See, someone’s already gone even bigger again with a 50L dry bag. I think we have said enough on the different sizes of waterproof dry bags. Have a think about your vessel and how long you are going for. There really is a lot of choice so all you have to do is make the right choice for you.
What Materials Are Used to Make Dry Bags?
There are different types of materials used to make dry bags and just to try and confuse you, some of them have different names but are essentially the same material. There are typically 2 types of material used to make waterproof dry bags, Nylon & PVC (also described as Vinyl or Tarpaulin).
There are different thicknesses available and the thickness is measure in Denier or D rating. The smaller the number the thinner, and therefore lighter, the material is. D ratings usually range from 400D to 600D for dry bags with the vast majority being made with 500D material.
The thicker the dry bag the more robust it is and the more it will withstand abuse without ripping. They also are good for storing tents as tent pegs and poles can sometimes rip thinner bags. Thick dry bags are used when you are taking part in more rigorous activities such as white water rafting and kayaking where you know they, and you, are in for a rough ride.
Why Are There So Many Colors?
Because we are all individual and we like to pick a color that matches our life jacket or maybe match our kayak or paddle board. Ok so not really. There is a practical reason for having different color dry bags.
I have no doubt you will end up with more than one dry bag (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t by the way) and my advice is to buy different colors for different size and/or purpose of dry bag. This helps you to quickly identify what is in each bag. Green for food, red for clothes, yellow for tent and sleeping bag etc. you get the idea. For me this is much easier than having 3 or 4 yellow dry bags and having sift through them to find what I want.
I always buy brighter colors as they will stand out if they do happen to fall into the water and I also buy colors that are different to the color of my kayak & SUP as this makes it easier for me to spot them when packed away.
The Last Word
The cost of dry bags is relatively low compared to other equipment and definitely when you consider the benefit you get. I have spent more on some things which I class as gadgets and maybe I didn’t need them but the money I have spent on my dry bags has been worth every penny.
I am a firm believer in the power of the customer and I place a lot of faith in customer reviews. Why? Because it’s one thing for a manufacturer to claim how great there product is but it can perform differently when I have it out in the real world.
When a lot of people provide positive feedback for an item I intend to use in the way I intend to use it then I know it’s up to the job and I am confident I am making the right decision and spending my hard earned money in the right way.
When I am out on the water I want my mind on enjoying myself and not thinking about whether my gear is staying dry and safe or not.
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