Safeguard your most important gear from getting soggy or soaked on your next adventure outdoors.
Dry bags have a vital responsibility to keep their interior possessions arid as a bone. If you’ve ever had your whitewater raft lodged upside down, only to find that every single item of overnight clothing is drenched, then you know a dry bag is a sanctuary in the wilderness. We’ve been there, and it inspired our hunt for the best dry bags around.
On top of extensive research, we enjoyed putting these dry bags to the test. Our testers include a professional photographer, search-and-rescue personnel, two expert multiday standup paddleboarders, and a recreational standup paddleboarder. These dry bags protected our overnight apparel, camp gear, and electronics on back-to-back water-travel days in Colorado’s central high mountains.
There are a ton of dry bag sizes and applications, and a single bag won’t suit every person. To help you find the right bag for your adventure, we’ve highlighted a variety of options. And if you need help deciding, check out our buyer’s guide at the end of this article.
The Best Dry Bags of 2020
Best Overall: YETI Panga 75 Dry Duffel ($350)
The Panga stands out among waterproof duffel designs. This YETI is super durable, holds a ton of gear (11 x 12 x 15.5 inches), and is incredibly adaptable in the ways it can be strapped to a boat.
“My favorite quality of this duffel is the variety of tie-down points, which makes rigging up the gear super easy and helps keep everything tight,” said one tester, who took the duffel on a multiday river and flat-water canyon trip.
The bag’s six lash points are uniquely arranged in a line, like a daisy chain. And there are four handles — two on the top and two on the bottom — plus four points where the comfortable backpack-style dry-haul straps attach.
And the HydroLok zipper performed well. “I’d never used a dry bag with a zipper closure, but not a drop of moisture got into my bag on the entire trip,” our tester reported. The EVA-molded bottom is waterproof and rugged, and the laminated, high-density nylon shell is thick enough that even the long nails of an excited 60-pound husky didn’t puncture the walls.
We’ve checked this bag countless times while flying, stuffed it to the gills, and submersed it regularly. Through it all, our gear has come back dry, safe, and protected. Yes, it’s an investment, but it’s one that will last.
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Best Budget Dry Bag: NRS Bill’s Bag Dry Bag 65L (From $140)
Bill’s Bag is simple, classic, and reliable — and about one-third the price of comparably sized bags. We like that the bag is durable, can hold all our apparel for overnight trips, and is also malleable enough that it can compact down and fit as a day bag on the front of a standup paddleboard.
“Plus, the fold-down closure system is soft and easy to use,” said one tester, who hiked with the dry bag and board during a mountain lake to paddle.
The adjustable backpack harness with padded shoulder straps is convenient but removable, which is key for reducing potential snag. The four compression straps help condense and cement gear into place, and the aluminum fasteners on the straps are dependable.
One drawback: Fold-down or roll tops are easy to use, but there’s room for user error. Make sure your roll is tight and practice before you go.
Best Compression Sack: Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack (From $33)
Trying to cram as much gear into your bag as possible? It’s time you met the eVent Compression Dry Sack. Condensing gear has never been so easy and achievable. The design’s 70-denier nylon waterproof fabric keeps water out, and the eVent waterproof-yet-air-permeable base allows air to expel when the straps are tugged to tighten the load.
These bags are particularly useful for maximizing space with big items. From clothing to pillows, you just stick it and cinch it down. One tester reported using the 14L for a voluminous sleeping bag. The sack packed down the bulky bag with little energy and no hassle. We’ve used one for several years now. Even after lots of use, it shows little signs of wear.
Best Day Bag: Watershed Chattooga ($129)
The quality and durability of the 22L Chattooga sets a high bar among dry bag standards. At 10 x 19.25 x 9.5 inches, this duffel is an ideal day bag for anytime access to important gear. Four hard lash points create durable tie-down points. And two compression straps squeeze together the load. We like that the convenient carry handle is lightly padded for comfort.
Plus, the ZipDry closure on this bag is bombproof. We could hardly get it open once it was closed, which is reassuring but can also be slightly annoying. It’s basically a heavy-duty ziplock bag closure.
“No water or animal or dust particle is getting inside that bag,” said one tester, who used the dry bag to carry goods for two people on a standup paddleboard day trip in the mountains.
The ZipDry closure tab is made from a new superstrong material, Armathane, for an even longer lifespan. Note: After January 2020, these bags will include a clear reinforcement panel on the top of the sides for additional durability.
Best Backpack: OtterBox Yampa 105 Dry Duffle ($350)
The Yampa wins big points for its ergonomics and shape. Not only does it expand to a really large capacity to hold all the essentials, but it also packs down. The backpack harness and neoprene shoulder pads are noteworthy for comfort, which is key during an approach or hike-out. Three large handles and two hard lash points provide versatility for transport and mounting on boats.
The interior of the dry bag is lined with a low-density foam that provides an extra layer of protection and padding. The same padded texture is along the back panel, and it’s really cushy, which is great for sore backs and shoulders. Two easy-to-use big clips help compress the bag’s size.
And the zipper closure is top-notch. “I hate rolling dry bags: Praise the zipper. It was smooth and successfully kept all my stuff dry,” one tester reported.
Best Accessories Bag: SealLine Discovery View Dry Bag (From $30)
If you’ve never used a dry bag with a valve, it’s time you tried it. “I’ve never been able to get this much air out of my dry bag with ease. The PurgeAir valve is ingenious,” raved one tester, who used the 20L dry bag on a multiday trip over rapids, wakes, and long stretches of glassy water. The valve makes the Discovery easy to pack and unpack frequently.
Given the bag is uniquely translucent, it’s easy to spot gear without unnecessarily unraveling the roll top. One caveat: The fully welded seams are durable and reinforce waterproofness, but the exterior PVC-free material is not very durable.
As one tester explained, “I carabiner-clipped a half-loaded 10L Discovery View Dry Bag to my other dry-bag backpack for a 0.2-mile approach to the water. After setting down the gear for a break, a bush had poked tiny holes in the Discovery.”
We love the soft feeling of the material and the see-through aspect, but we recommend you keep it inside another more rugged dry bag. Between the convenient translucence and quick-purge valve, this is the bag to choose for stashing your phone, hat, puffy, or any other accessories you may want throughout the day.
How to Choose a Dry Bag
Dry bags might seem simple, but they’re incredibly diverse. Each design complements specific water activities, outdoor needs, and personal preferences.
Testing dry bags while SUP camping in Colorado; photo credit: Eric Phillips
The Perfect Fit
A few of the primary factors to consider when choosing a dry bag are the shape, capacity, and straps: Will the bag fit where it needs to be stowed, and how far will it need to be carried? When the bag is loaded, is the carry system ergonomic for the bag user?
Some larger dry bags have backpack straps for easier transport that are also removable, which decreases chance of snag.
The durability of the dry bag handles, lash points, straps, and material is crucial. Will the exterior withstand environmental encounters like rigid juniper branches along the river, thorny bushes on the trail’s edge, transport over boulder-strewn banks, or a large dog’s sharp nails?
Look for an extra layer of waterproof, durable material on the bottom of the bag or where it will experience high use. Lash points can be hard or soft, and strap variations include those for carry or compression.
Obviously, the bag needs to be waterproof and the closure system needs to completely keep water out — even when submerged. And to top it off, the closure should be easy to use. Both zippers and roll-top bags require you to use them properly.
Be sure to fully close your zippers and tightly roll your bags for a waterproof seal.
Have a favorite dry bag we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.
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