The best kayaking dry bags are simple and effective to use, so you can enjoy your paddling adventures without worrying about gear getting drenched
There is nothing worse than getting to a take-out point after a paddle, only to find your ‘dry’ gear, provisions or camping equipment has been soaked through while you’ve been out on the water. It can lead to a pretty miserable evening experience, or worse if you are adventuring somewhere chilly and relying on getting thermal protection on quick-smart as soon as you stop.
For this very reason, the unsung hero of many a paddling escapade is the best dry bag, which has quietly done its duty, keeping your camera, fleece, food or sleeping bag bone dry during even the most eventful and epic kayaking journeys.
Often you don’t realise the high value of a good dry bag until something goes wrong, and then you will either be left congratulating yourself on making a good choice, or rueing the decision to cut corners by not investing in decent bags.
Dry bags are an ostensibly basic piece of kit: just a waterproof sack. And yet, they are not all made equal by any means. Various thicknesses of material, dimensions and designs are available, and the very best dry bags have well-thought-through features that place them in a class way above the more basic products.
Things to look out for include lash points, purge valves, contents windows, the robustness of the fabrics used and, of course, how secure the seams and closure points are.
Some of these things are subjective, or lend themselves to a particular style of paddling, but here we take a look at the best dry bags for kayaking, no matter what kind of craft you are paddling.
The best roll-top dry bags: for storing stuff inside your boat
Sea to Summit Big River dry bag
A tried-and-tested, very reliable dry bag, available in a big range of sizes
Specifications: Capacity: 5L, 8L, 13L, 20L, 35L, 65L | Design: Standard cylindrical bag | Materials: 420D ripstop nylon | Closure: Hypalon non-wicking roll-top closure with clip | Weight: 5L: 135g, 8L: 160g, 13L: 192g, 20L: 250g, 35L: 308g, 65L: 433g |Colours: Yellow / Blue / Grey / Red
Reasons to buy: Robust build quality and reliable waterproofing; good range of sizes; excellent grab handles and lash points; PVC free
Reasons to avoid: No visibility of contents
Australian brand Sea to Summit make excellent accessories for kayaking and paddle sports, and this family of classically designed cylindrical dry bags is no exception. The Big River bags range from a 5-litre little one, ideal for phones and other electronics, to 60-litre behemoths, great for open-canoe and rafting trips. In between are the 8-litre, 13-litre, 20-litre and 35-litre options that kayakers will get the most use out of.
Made with 420D ripstop nylon they are really tough and reliably waterproof, yet still have enough flexibility to be squeezed into all sort of small spaces, including the corners of cockpits and storage hatches. The bottom of the bags is oval shaped and triple coated for extra durability and performance, and the roll top section is made with hypalon, a substance that can take a whole lot of use and abuse.
All sizes of the Big River range of dry bags have low-profile grab handles and there’s a D ring next to the closure clip, all of which can be used as lash points to securely attach the bags to all kinds of boats. The bags are also compatible with Sea to Summit’s Dry Bag Sling, which is extremely useful during portages and carry-ins to put-in points. The bags are all covered by a lifetime guarantee.
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SealLine Baja View Dry Bag
A see-through dry bag that makes it easy to locate whatever you’re looking for
Specifications: Design: Standard cylindrical bag | Capacity: 5L, 10L, 20L | Materials: Transparent 12 oz polyurethane film | Closure: ‘DrySeal’ Roll top and clip | Weight: 5L: 160g / 10L: 220g / 20L: 290g | Waterproof rating: Unstated | Colours: Clear
Reasons to buy: Makes it easy to find kit; durable build; excellent closure system; PVC free
Reasons to avoid: No grab handles; no good for dirty laundry
A highly functional storage solution from a brand that is renowned for making top-quality products for the paddling market, this totally translucent dry bag enables you to spot and access exactly what you need very quickly.
The Baja View dry bags are available in three sizes – 5-litres, 10 litres and 20 litres – all of which securely close with Sealline’s signature DrySeal system, which adds extra confidence to the standard roll-top method of sealing a dry bag, with the inclusion of some folding strips.
Made with PVC-free waterproof material, the fully welded seams and DrySeal closure system ensure that moisture stays on the outside – although, if you pack things that are damp, condensation can build up on the inside of the bag. There are D rings at the top, for lashing the bags to boats, but there are no grab handles on the Baja Views.
Overboard Waterproof Dry Flat Bag
A low-profile dry bag that folds down very small when not in use
Specifications: Design: Flat-profile dry bag | Capacity: 5L, 15L, 30L | Materials: Nylon ripstop-TPU coated super-light material | Closure: Fold and seal system | Weight: 5L: 160g, 15L: 220g, 30L: 260g | Waterproof rating: IP66 |Colours: Blue, Yellow, Black
Reasons to buy: Handy for fitting into storage hatches; durable build; good level of waterproofing; comes with a shoulder strap; PVC free
Reasons to avoid: No grab handles; no windows
Ideally proportioned for stashing in a kayak, either behind the seat or in a storage hatch, this flat-shaped dry bag from a trusted brand is made from good-quality nylon ripstop fabric with welded seams, and it offers a decent level of waterproofing – enough for it to keep H2O out during a quick full submersion, but not for extended periods. The Fold and Seal system of closure is both reliable and easy to operate, and it traps air in the bag, which ensure it will float if happens to end up in the water. The shoulder strap that comes with these bags make them easy to haul during portages or when you’re making your way to the put-in place.
Lomo Tapered Kayak Bow/Stern Bulkhead Drybag
A kayak-shaped dry bag that fits snugly into the bulkheads of boats, maximising the storage space available
Specifications: Design: Tapered roll-top | Capacity: 13L | Closure: Roll top and clip | Weight: 600g | Waterproof rating: Not specified | Colours: Yellow
Reasons to buy: Cleverly designed to make the most of available space; twist-lock purge valve results in maximum compression
Reasons to avoid: Narrow end is hard to fill properly; no window panel; no easy carry option for portaging
If you’re looking to make the most of every inch of empty space in your kayak for gear storage, then this kayak-shaped dry bag could be perfect. The tapered shape of the bag means it can be pushed right into the bow or stern of the boat. You do need to be careful not to overfill such bags with dense, heavy items, otherwise the buoyancy and performance of your boat will be negatively affected.
It’s also a bit hard to find anything to shove into the smaller end, but if in doubt, stash your spare socks down there. Made from nylon ripstop fabric, with RF-welded seams, these bags are robust. It shuts with three rolls and a clip, and there is a twist-lock purge valve at the bottom to ensure you get access air out.
The best deck-top dry bags: for storing stuff on your boat or board
Seal Line Discovery Deck Dry Bag
A high-performing family of super reliable dry bags available in all the right sizes, each with a purge valve to aid with compression
Specifications: Design: Deck bag | Capacity: 10L, 20L, 30L, 50L | Materials: 300D 18 oz polyurethane-coated polyester | Closure: Dry Seal dual-strip roll-down | Weight: 10L: 370g, 20L: 500g, 30L: 600g | Waterproof rating: Not given | Colours: Black, Orange, Blue, Lime
Reasons to buy: Robust and reliable build quality; purge valve allows excellent compression; versatile and smart design; has grab handles and lash points; comes with a carry strap; PVC-free
Reasons to avoid: No window
American brand Sealline make a wide range of excellent products designed for use in wet and wild environments, and their family of Discovery Deck Dry Bags rank highly among the very best dry bags available. They’re tough enough to survive the most epic of adventures, and they’re extremely versatile, so even though they’re described as deck bags, you can use them on and off the water for all kinds of escapades when keeping water away from your kit is a priority. But they do fit especially well in, on and around kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards, whether you’re lashing them to the deck using the D rings and grab loops, or stashing them in the storage hatches of a touring kayak.
One of the best features of these bags is the PurgeAir valve vents that enable you to push out all excess air and make the bag very compact (be aware, though, that during on-water adventures it’s best to leave some air in dry bags, so they float). They have a very durable 300D construction, with fully welded seams and the excellent Dry Seal dual-strip roll-down closure method.
The interiors are lightly coloured, to help with visibility when you’re looking for something specific inside, and the bottoms are oval shaped to stop them rolling around too much. The Discovery Deck Dry Bags come with a carry strap, which is ideal for hauling the bags during portages and when walking to and from put-in and take-out locations.
Itiwit Adjustable Volume Waterproof Deck bag
A bespoke waterproof deck bag for kayakers, which is easy to access via a robust zip
Specifications: Design: Deck bag | Capacity: 30–40L (adjustable) | Materials: Polyvinyl Chloride | Closure: Waterproof TIZIP | Waterproof rating: IPX7 | Colours: High-vis orange
Reasons to buy: Clever design; easy to access; high vis
Reasons to avoid: Care needs to be taken to close the zip properly to ensure the bag remains waterproof; maintenance required to keep zip in good working order; less versatile than other designs
Specifically designed for kayakers, SUPers and sailors, this Decathlon homebrand dry bag fits inside the cockpit of a kayak, or – better still – it can be strapped to the deck (or board, if you’re paddling a SUP). Instead of a roll-top, it has a heavy duty waterproof zip (TIZIP). With this properly closed, the bag has a waterproof rating of IPX7, which means it can be fully submerged in up to a metre of water for 30 minutes without letting in any H2O.
You really do need to ensure the zip is correctly closed, however, otherwise everything is going to end up soaked. With an adjustable volume, it provides up to 40 litres of storage. It’s best to ensure a fair amount of air is trapped inside the bag, as this improves both its waterproofing performance and its buoyancy. The bag can be securely attached to boats and boards, but it is coloured high-vis blood orange, to make it easy to locate if it does end up loose in the water.
Sea to Summit Solution Access Deck Bag
An easy-to-access deck-based storage solution for kayakers, with a dry bag inner
Specifications: Design: Deck bag | Size: 37 x 18cm | Materials: 420D Waterproof Fabric | Closure: Zipped outer, roll-top and clip inner | Weight: 520g | Waterproof rating: Not stated | Colours: Blue
Reasons to buy: Easy to access; semi-rigid design provides good protection for contents; bungee cords allow for additional storage
Reasons to avoid: Outer bag not waterproof; kayak-specific, so not as versatile as other dry bags
A specialist piece of kit designed specifically for sea kayaking and touring, this deck bag is ideal for storing items you need quick and easy access to, such as sunglasses, snacks, sun cream, cameras, a map and compass and so on. It’s made from very sturdy waterproof material, and is semi-rigid in structure, so provides excellent protection from bumps. The concave, curved design fits snugly over the profile of a touring kayak’s deck, so there’s very little movement to throw you off balance, and it can be securely attached in a couple of different ways.
The main access zip is watertight, not necessarily 100% waterproof, but the Solution Access Deck Bag comes with a 70D Sea to Summit detachable dry bag with hypalon roll-top closure system to ensure your gear stays dry. There are bungy hoops on the top, so you can stash your cag or other layers and other objects there too.
The best second-layer dry bags: for storing stuff within a main dry bag
Aquapac ‘PackDivider’ Ultra-Lightweight Drysack
Super lightweight semi-dry bags, designed for use within a larger dry bag
Specifications: Design: Second-layer, dividing dry bag | Capacity: 2L, 4L, 8L, 13L | Materials: 75D nylon, PU-coated inside, silicone-coated outside (PVC-Free) | Closure: Roll top and clip |Weight: 2L: 51g, 4L: 56g, 8L: 64g, 13L: 79g | Waterproof rating: IPX4 | Colours: Translucent white nylon with colourful (green/blue/orange bottoms)
Reasons to buy:Excellent for organising kit; great for preventing leakages; grab handle; PVC-free
Reasons to avoid: No purge valve; Splashproof, not fully submersible (by design)
Getting all you kit and caboodle into a giant reliable dry bag is all well and good, but finding the things you need mid-paddle in such a set-up can be very frustrating, and can even lead to your gear getting wet as you root around looking for something while the main bag is open in heavy rain or choppy conditions.
This family of sub dry bags is here to help. Intended to be employed within a larger dry bag, they’re mega useful on a number of brilliant levels: they provide a second layer of insurance, providing extra protection for your really important stuff, from expensive cameras to down sleeping bags; with a semi see-through main body and different-coloured bottoms, they enable you to split and organise your kit exactly how you like it; and, with PU-coated insides, they also prevent internal spillages – so if your sun cream, mosquito repellent, toothpaste tube, hand sanitizer or whatever leaks, the liquid will be contained within the smaller bag and won’t get all over everything. Genius. Each bag features a grab handle at the top.
The best dry bags for phones
Decathlon Itiwit waterproof phone pouch
A waterproof solution for keeping your phone safe and easily accessible during paddling adventures
Specifications: Design: Transparent waterproof phone pouch | Dimensions: 18 x 9cm | Materials: 100% Thermoplastic Polyurethane | Closure: Sliding bar, fold and clip system | Weight: 30g | Waterproof rating: IPX8 | Colours: Clear
Reasons to buy: Excellent waterproof protection for your phone; see-through and touchscreen compatible design allows you to operate the phone for navigation, voice calls and photography; compact; wearable beneath PFDs and cags; carry cord included
Reasons to avoid: No arm harness; must be very carefully closed to ensure waterproof protection works
Smartphones offer a wide range of functions that are useful for paddlers, from supplying mapping and navigation assistance through to operating as a means of emergency communications if things go belly up while you’re out on the water, but all of that is a bit academic if your phone is buried at the bottom of a massive dry bag.
This very affordable and wearable phone pouch from Decathlon is the perfect solution, offering an excellent level of waterproof protection (the IPX8 rating means the pouch has been properly tested and proven to keep water out even if submerged to 2 metres for 30 minutes). It can be worn beneath life jackets and you can still operate your phone for making and receiving calls, following a map and checking weather and surf forecasts, and even taking photographs – all without removing the phone from the pouch. It is essential, however, that you fold the top of the film and push the sliding bar across until your hear a click, in order for the pouch to be waterproof. It comes with a carry cord, but no harness for attaching to your arm (although, wearing a phone on your arm isn’t ideal for kayaking anyway).
The best big dry bags: for multiday expeditions
Watershed Yukon Duffel dry bag
A big-mouth waterproof hold-all, capable of swallowing and protecting all your kit during big paddling adventures
Specifications: Design: Duffel bag | Capacity: 54L | Materials: 420D Cordura ripstop nylon | Closure: ZipDry mechanism | Weight: 1,400g | Waterproof rating: IP68 | Colours: Orange / Blue
Reasons to buy: Massive amount of storage space; wide opening makes it easy to locate kit; extremely waterproof; great handles
Reasons to avoid: No lash points; too big for many kayaking adventures; heavy
When you’re embarking on a real paddling odyssey, sometimes you have to take a lot of kit.
With a massive amount of storage space, the Yukon Duffel dry bag is made for kayakers, canoeists and rafters taking on big multiday trips. Its wide-mouth design enables you to pack it nice and easily, and also find what you’re looking for at the other end without too much hassle. It’s made with super tough 420-denier Cordura ripstop nylon, boasts a heavy matte polyurethane finish (which makes it easy to clean) and the seams are RF-welded to supply guaranteed leak protection.
The Yukon closes via an innovative ZipDry system, which means it can be fully submerged to 6 metres for an hour without letting in water.
The best environmentally friendly dry bags
Passenger Tide Recycled Dry Bags
Good-quality dry bags made entirely from recycled materials
Specifications: Design: Cylindrical dry bag | Capacity: 2.5L, 10L, 30L | Materials: 100% recycled 600D nylon with a TPU laminated coating | Closure: Roll top and clip | Waterproof rating: Material has a hydrostatic head of 10,000, but not designed to be fully submerged | Colours: Yellow / Black / Patterned
Reasons to buy: Fully recycled; good capacity; thick and robust; comes with carry handle
Reasons to avoid: Can’t be submerged; no purge valve
Although many manufacturers have, thankfully, moved away from employing environmentally harmful PVC-based materials to make dry bags, the use of other synthetic, non-biodegradable plastics still isn’t brilliant, so it’s great to see brands such as SILVA and Finisterre producing dry bags from recycled materials.
This family of dry bags from Passenger is another great example. Made from really robust 100% recycled 600D nylon they’re available in three sizes and with some funky designs. While the material is extremely waterproof, the closure method isn’t designed to be submerged, but these will keep your kit nice and dry in the majority of scenarios. While they lack technical features such as lash points and purge valves, they do come with a carry strap, which is useful during portages and when getting to and from put-in points.
Buy it now from Passenger
How to choose the best dry bag for kayaking
When choosing the best dry bag for kayaking or canoeing, you need to consider various factors, many of which will depend on your preferred form of paddling. Certain features, however, should always be taken into account, such the quality of the waterproofing protection supplied by the product.
If you’re a committed kayak tourer or multiday expedition canoeist or rafter, you will need a large-capacity dry bag, and probably some smaller, thinner bags to help organise all your kit inside the main sack. Day paddlers, however, might be more than content with a medium-sized easy-access deck bag, and perhaps a waterproof phone pouch. For general usage, 15 to 25-litre dry bags are ideal, as they easily fit into the storage hatches of kayaks.
Following the outdoor industry’s move away from environmentally harmful PVC-based products, most modern dry bags are made with PU-coated Taffeta nylon or ripstop polyester. Both of these synthetic materials are robust and hardwearing, but polyester is probably the superior (and more expensive) fabric for a dry bag. However, arguably it’s more important to look at the D number than the material. The D stands for denier, and the number next to it is a unit of density, which describes the thickness of the fibres in the fabric used to make the dry bag. The bigger the number the tougher the bag will be, but the flexibility of the fabric will reduce as the D number gets higher.
There are more features on the best dry bags than you might expect at first glance. Beyond the all important closure system, it’s good to look for things such as purge valves that can be used to expel excess air, grab handles, D rings and other lash points that will allow you to attach the bag securely to your boat, and clear windows that provide visibility of the contents.
Most dry bags are closed by rolling the top of the sack over at least three times, and then clipping the ends together. If the dry bag doesn’t have a purge valve, you might need to ‘burp’ air out of the bag after the first roll, by pushing your hands towards one another – however, when kayaking, it’s worth keeping some air in dry bags because it helps them float.
Other methods of closure include various designs of zips or sliders – great care needs to be taken with these to ensure they are fully and properly closed, otherise the bag will not be waterproof at all.
Many of the best dry bags will state how waterproof they are by quoting a rating code that begins with IP, which stands for ingress protection. The first number after those two letters relates to keeping dust particles out – the second one is the most important for dry bags. If that number is 4 or more, then the product is rain proof, but ideally you’re looking for a bag with a rating of 7 or over, which means it can be fully submerged for a period of time without letting in water.