- Buyer's Guide
A Quick Guide to Dry Bags
Dry bags are designed to do exactly what the name suggests – keep the contents dry. But diving beneath the surface reveals more to this carry niche than a simple all-encompassing design approach. Dry bags differ in a range of factors, from materials and size, to intended use and level of waterproofness. When choosing a dry bag, it’s important to consider where it’s going to be used and what it needs to carry. The following can help you decide on the best dry bags for your particular needs:
Size: Dry bags come in a range of sizes to suit smaller items such as phones and money, and larger items such as clothing and sleeping bags. One bag may be sufficient for your needs or you may be better off with a mix of sizes. If you’re worried about a dry bag failing, separate your carry into multiple dry bags so that if one fails, you can limit the negative impact to your gear.
Material: Dry bags come in a variety of materials. Some favor durability, while others favor light weight and flexibility. Vinyl for instance provides good durability and suits gear that is heavy or has the potential to cause abrasions. Silnylon on the other hand sacrifices some durability for weight-saving benefits and flexibility, making it handy for packing in tight spaces. The lighter and more flexible a dry bag is, the easier it will be to store away or stash in a larger bag until needed.
Closure method: Dry bags don’t all close the same way. For instance, some may have a roll-top closure, while others have a zipper seal. Consider how a particular closure will affect waterproofness, as well as speed and ease of access, and whether it best suits your needs.
Intended use: Dry bags should suit their intended use. A demanding boat trip where dry bags will be constantly exposed to waves, splashes or potential scrapes against rocks requires a rugged and heavy-duty construction. But if you’re commuting during the occasional drizzle and just want some peace of mind for tech or documents within a larger bag, a lighter and more easily packable dry bag will suffice. More demanding environments will require reinforced construction that can handle both external forces as well as internal abrasion and pressure from the contents. Think about what you’re doing (kayaking, hiking, camping, traveling, commuting, etc.) and what you’re carrying (tech, food, clothing, documents and so forth) and choose a dry bag accordingly.
Extra features: Do you want a choice of carry options? Do you need a dry bag that also includes padding to protect your camera? How about quick-access pockets or external attachment points? Dry bags vary from simple and pared down, to offering a range of different features to suit different needs.
Level of waterproofness: It’s important to remember that the majority of dry bags are not intended to withstand extended submersion. Rather, they are designed to protect the contents against splashes or short periods of submersion. While it’s recommended to follow a brand’s guidance for intended use, it’s also a good idea to test a dry bag before use. In addition to his useful advice for keeping gear dry, Jim Wood has a simple and effective method for testing a dry bag: turn it inside out, fill it with water and wait to see if it leaks.
So now you’ve got an idea of what factors to consider, but which dry bags should you be looking at? Get inspired below with some top picks that will help keep your gear dry in a range of settings…
The Sea Lion 10L dry bag finds a great balance between durability and flexibility. Constructed from a 500D waterproof polymer, the 100% waterproof bag weighs 0.7 lbs (317g) and features high-frequency welding, along with reinforcement at stress points. Resistant to abrasion and flexible enough to accommodate a range of uses, this dry bag also comes with an adjustable and removable shoulder strap.
The roll-top Mariner comes in 10L, 20L and 30L sizes to suit a variety of carry loads. With its non-toxic PVC fabric, welded seams and double bar tacked construction at stress points, the bag is tough enough to resist abrasion, punctures and frequent use. This 100% waterproof bag also delivers some extra features to further its functionality, including reflective detailing, padded and adjustable shoulder straps, as well as a side handle.
The Stylin is a good option for those seeking more backpack features in a dry bag, while still remaining fairly lightweight at 1.9 lbs (860g). The adjustable shoulder, chest and hip straps deliver carry comfort for heavier loads and longer journeys, while the splash-resistant front zip pocket offers quick-access storage. The 100% waterproof dry bag backpack is built using a 420D ripstop fabric with a TPU lamination and DWR coating, heat taped seams, and double bar tacked stress points.
If minimal weight is a top priority, the Uberlight CTF3 Drysack is definitely one to have on your radar. The bag is available in a choice of sizes, all coming in under an ounce in weight. Made from Cubic Tech Flexible Fiber Film (CTF3), the bag’s eVent waterproof-breathable base is designed to allow air to vent out as the bag is compressed with the roll-top closure.
Burly and ready for more demanding situations, the Baja features durable 19 oz. scrim-reinforced vinyl sides complemented by a tough 30 oz. scrim-reinforced vinyl bottom. Available in six sizes, the bag uses SealLine’s Dry Seal™ roll-top closure and includes a D-ring for securing it in place while on the go.
Forgot where you stored a particular item? Want to avoid rummaging around in multiple bags? With the EcoSee range of clear bags that’s not a problem, as the transparent urethane construction makes the contents easily discernible. Resistant to punctures and abrasion but still light in weight, the bags come in four sizes and secure with a roll-top closure.
Sea to Summit’s Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks lend themselves well to use as dry bags within larger bags. The dry sacks are constructed out of Ultra-Sil™ nylon, a polyurethane coated siliconized Cordura. This results in bags with a slippery finish that are very lightweight and flexible for convenient packing. The seams are tape sealed and double stitched, and the Hypalon roll-top closure includes a stiffener for an improved seal.
The Sensor Dry Envelope keeps the small things you can’t afford to get wet safe and dry. A combination of waterproof nylon fabric and a VaporLock™ waterproof seal keeps water, dirt and dust at bay. Available in three sizes, the Sensor Dry Envelope can store a variety of items such as tech gadgets, passports, maps, money, cards, cash and medication. The transparent window is touchscreen compatible and also keeps the contents visible.