How To Buy a Dry Bag

A dry bag is just that: a watertight bag that keeps your precious things dry. Canoeists, fishermen, SUPers, and anyone else who prefers their food, iPhone, or gear stay out of the river or ocean depend on them. Strong and abrasion-resistant, dry bags are essential tools on any wilderness excursion where things might get wet. This guide will help you choose the best dry bag for your needs.

Materials: Dry bags are typically made of one of two materials: vinyl or nylon.

Vinyl: Vinyl is used to make dry bags for small personal items. Some larger dry bags are made with vinyl but most are nylon.

Nylon: Nylon is a commonly used in dry bags because of its durability. The nylon is coated with siliconized CORDURA, which is a waterproof coating and also helps the bag fight abrasion. Nylon dry bags will have a number followed by a “D”. This is the denier of the nylon, or how dense the nylon fibers are. A higher the number equates to a higher the density of nylon and therefore a tougher bag.


Closure Types: Another great component of some dry bags is the reinforced, fully taped seams (meaning the seams are taped to be waterproof). This gives it extra protection against liquids and keeps your items dry even when the bag is fully submerged. All dry bags are sealable to keep water from getting in.

Hypalon roll top: These are predominantly used on roll-top dry bags because it seals out water more effectively. The rolling of the top and the snapping of the buckle keep the bag air and water tight. This also creates a handle of sorts to carry the bag, to string multiple bags together, or to secure them to a pack or boat using a carabiner.

Zipper Seal: Other dry bags have a press and seal type of zipper, kind of like a freezer bag. These are also effective in sealing out water. Unlike the roll top, proper lubrication is needed on zipper bags to keep the seal working correctly.


Size: There are many different sizes of dry bags. 5-liter bags are used to store small personal items such as electronics, medicines, first aid kits, toiletries, or a small lunch. These are great to store under the bungees of a kayak. 10-liter bags are also commonly used to store a change of clothes. 20-liter bags are able to hold a small sleeping bag, a few days worth of clothes, or a long weekend’s worth of freeze-dried food. 30-liter bags are perfect for two peoples’ clothes or will hold nearly everything one person needs to keep dry on a weeklong trip.

Carrying Straps: Many dry bags feature attachable carrying straps. Styles range from the duffel, where you can throw them over your shoulder, to backpack straps. If the dry bag has backpack-style straps, they will more than likely come with the bag. Straps are useful when transporting multiple bags from your boat to a campsite or vehicle.

D-Rings: Most dry bags come with a D-ring or you can purchase them at most outdoor retailers. D-rings are a ring in the shape of a “D” that is attached to the dry bag when rolled and buckled. They make it easier to string multiple dry bags together with a rope and to affix to the boat. If the boat capsizes, it is then easier to pull all of the bags in at once, rather than fishing them out of the water. The D-ring also keeps stress off of the buckle of the dry bag, and keeps the buckle from breaking when stringing bags together.