The Best Dry Bags For Keeping Your Valuables Safe and Not Waterlogged
Ever shown up for a day on the water only to realize—shoot, where am I going to put my phone/sunglasses/money? It sucks. But instead of leaving all your goods on the beach or on the dock and sending a little prayer to the cosmos that they’re still around when you return, we have another suggestion: dry bags. Dry bags are exactly what they sound like—waterproof bags that keep your gear dry. They come in several different sizes, from petite pouches meant for a day at the beach or the water park to massive excursion-ready bags made for rafting, kayaking, and other wilderness adventures where wet gear isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a safety hazard. So no more stuffing your smartphone into your pocket and hoping for the best. Just know that when you bring a dry bag along, you’re likely to get more than one, “hey, can I put my stuff in there, too?” requests from friends.
Dry Bag FAQs
What Is a Dry Bag Used For?
First and foremost, dry bags are used for situations where you’re going to be on or near water. That could be rain while you’re traveling, a day on the lake, or hanging out with the kids at a water park. If you’re concerned about your stuff getting wet, dry bags have your back. But dry bags can also be used in other ways, too. Turn it into a compression sack by stuffing with clothing or a sleeping bag and squeeze all of the air out of it before sealing. Turn it into a pillow by stuffing it with your softest items, or a laundry bag when you need to keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean ones. It also makes a nice carrying bag for wires and other electronic items that really shouldn’t be getting wet. Going camping? Use it as a water bag to carry fresh water back to camp (er, just make sure the bag’s clean first.) And hey, if you want to get creative, turn it into a makeshift weight when you want to workout on the go by filling it with heavy items or even tap water.
How Do Dry Bags Work?
There are a few different styles out there. All of them help prevent water from getting into your stuff thanks to a combination of waterproof materials and closure design. Most are made with a roll-top enclosure, where you roll the top of the bag a few times to create a seal, and then snap it closed. Some bags use zippers or other methods to seal the deal.
However, there are different levels of “dry” in dry bags. Primarily, they break down to water-resistant or splash-proof (good for a sprinkle but not a downpour), waterproof (great in the rain but not underwater), and fully submergible (you could go for a swim with it and be A-OK.) Companies aren’t always clear about which category their dry bags fall into, though customer reviews can be a useful source to help you determine.
The more impenetrable they get, the heavier and more expensive dry bags are. So it’s good to understand what purpose they’ll be serving before purchasing, so you don’t break your budget unnecessarily.
What Should I Look For In a Dry Bag?
Three main things: waterproofness, size, and functionality. As discussed, it’s good to understand just how dry your dry bag is going to be. If you’re hanging out by the pool, you probably won’t need more than water resistance. But if you’re floating down the Colorado River and navigating its many rapids, you’ll likely want something more heavy-duty, as water will inevitably surge your raft and soak your belongings.
Next is size. By having an idea of what you’re trying to keep water-safe ahead of time, you can determine how big of a bag you’ll need. For example, if you’re headed on a multi-day river-rafting trip and need to keep your entire kit dry (including campsite essentials like toilet paper and paper towels), then a large bag will be required. But if all you really need is a bag to keep your cellphone dry on a stand-up paddleboard, then you can opt for something much smaller.
Last, with functionality, you’re understanding how you want to carry your bag and if there are additional features you need. Do you want something that you can hang around your neck or tie around your waist? Or is no special carrying mechanism necessary because the dry bag will be inside another bag or tied down separately?
The Best Dry Bags
Best Dry Bag Overall
Made from a heavy-duty abrasion-resistant nylon, this waterproof bag is designed for big river trips on kayaks, canoes, or rafts—but it's equally useful on bikepacking excursions or car camping. Lash loops help you secure the bag wherever it’s needed, and it comes in sizes from three to 65 liters for any size of adventure. Reviewers report that the bag both floats and keeps gear dry when submerged, and one person even used it as a flotation device when he was thrown from his boat.
Best Duffle-Style Dry Bag
A duffel bag makes a nice traditional-luggage option for a dry bag, and the Panga 100 from Yeti is top of the line. Even if you wanted to drown this duffel bag for some twisted reason, it would keep your gear nice and dry as it’s fully submergible. (If you're in a pinch to entertain your kids, have them soak the bag in every way they can think of, only to pull out perfectly dry contents every time.) Simply zip the bag closed when you’re done and it’ll keep out snow, rain, and river—no roll-top enclosures to wrestle with. It’s also one of the largest options out there, so you don’t have to leave anything behind.
Best Roll-Top Dry Bag
There are a lot of roll-top bags on the market, but the version by Earth Pak stands out for its simplicity, functionality, and affordability. Each bag has either a shoulder strap (smaller models) or backpack straps (larger models) for easy carrying. Reviewers have used the bags jet skiing, kayaking, camping, and one even held it underwater in a bath tub to test its effectiveness. While it’s not completely air-tight, it consistently kept everyone’s gear dry. Plus, the bag comes with an extra, separate pouch designed for keeping smartphones dry but still useable for photos.
Best Small Dry Bag
Fanny packs are in again, which means not only does this small dry bag keep your stuff water-free, it’s also cool! The fabric is totally waterproof, and also see-through, so it's easy to find what you’re looking for. Think of it as a large Ziploc (but better looking), so it's great for a day at the water park or in a kayak, but we're not sure we’d go deep-sea diving with this strapped to our bellies. That said, several reviewers reported submerging the bag—either as a test or while they were snorkeling or swimming—and reported the bag had no problem keeping things dry.
Best Large Dry Bag
The largest bag on our list, this pack clocks in at 115 liters of packing space. To carry it all, the bag functions as a backpack, with a back pad and a chest and hip belt (all removable) to help distribute weight while you move. The bottom of the bag has an additional layer of fabric for abrasion so you don’t have to worry about setting it down on the ground repeatedly (which, you know, tends to be necessary when you’re carrying 115 liters worth of gear).
Best Lightweight Dry Bag
Need a waterproof bag that's as light as possible? All sizes of this Hyperlite Mountain Gear option are under two ounces—from the small (which offers about 3.7 liters of space and weighs less than an ounce) up to the jumbo (which offers about 44 liters of space and weighs 1.8 ounces). When you’re backpacking and trying to keep your bag light, it doesn’t get much better than that. Hyperlite claims the bag is a good fit for both backpacking and paddling trips, but we probably wouldn’t submerge this one.
Most User-Friendly Dry Bag
None of these options are hard to operate, but if you always struggle to get the last bit of air out of your bag, the SealLine Bulkhead helps by building in a water-tight air valve that allows you to further compress the bag after it’s closed. That’s especially helpful if you’re having to store it in a small compartment (say, under the seat of a raft) or otherwise have limited space. The bag also has a clear window to make it easier to see what you’re reaching for when you open it to grab one of your (still perfectly dry) items.
Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Dry Bag
Osprey is a respected name in outdoor gear, and their dry bags are no exception. This three-liter bag is all you’d need for a short day trip on the trail or to keep small electronics safe. Reviewers say it kept their items dry, even if they were tossed into the water briefly, and costs about the price of lunch on your drive home. Sounds like a smokin’ deal to us.
Best Splurge-Worthy Dry Bag
If you want a dry bag with a little more fashion sense, the Watershed Ocoee is here to serve. The duffel-style bag has a roll-top closure and sophisticated-looking handles. Oh, and it’s secure as heck. The brand claims the bag is watertight down to 300 feet. AKA, when you’re setting sail on a kayaking trip and want reliable gear that'll look good in pictures, this bag’s your match.
Best Waterproof Purse
Just looking for something to keep your phone and cards dry while you enjoy the sun and waves? This phone bag from Geckobrands lets you still use your phone even when it's enclosed, and has air pockets on either side so that it floats should you drop it. Just squeeze any excess air out so that you’ve got a tight seal, and you can even take photos while your phone is inside. Wear it around your neck or on your shoulder.
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