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.