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. And below is the table of contents for our best dry bag picks of the year:
- Best Overall
- Best Budget
- Best Day Bag
- Best Multiday Bag
- Best Compression Dry Bag
- Best Hands-Free Carry
- Best for Accessories
- Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Dry Bag
The Best Dry Bags of 2021
Best Overall: YETI Panga 75 Dry Duffel
The Panga stands out among waterproof duffel designs. It’s been a few years since this YETI bag was released and we’ve been continually impressed. It’s super durable, holds a ton of gear (the 75L is 11 x 12 x 15.5 inches), and is incredibly adaptable in the ways it can be strapped to a boat. The Panga ($300-350) comes in both 50L and 75L versions.
“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.
Best Budget Dry Bag: NRS Bill’s Bag Dry Bag 65L
Bill’s Bag ($159) 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 snags. 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 Day Bag: Watershed Chattooga 22L
The quality and durability of the 22L Chattooga ($135) set 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 tiedown points. And two compression straps squeeze the load together. 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 Multiday Bag: Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bags
Sea to Summit’s Big River Dry Bags have been a staple for watergoers everywhere for a while now. The bags come in different sizes, are made with durable material, and our staff’s bags have lasted for years. We love a whole lot about these dry bags: their durability, features like lash points, and price, to name a few!
The Big River Dry Bags come in sizes ranging from 8L, 13L, 20L, 35L, to 65L ($25-65). They are made with TPU-laminated 420-denier nylon, Hypalon attachment points and lash points, fully taped reinforced seams, and an oval-shaped base to resist rolling around.
This assortment of bags weighs from 2 to 12 ounces. They are waterproof, a good balance between lightweight and durable, and just plain great for protecting your gear.
If you are organizing a group whitewater or river trip, or even a friends and family float trip, these bags are the best for easy organization and packing: you can color coordinate bags with contents with choices of six different colors across various sizes.
Best Compression Sack: Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack
Trying to cram as much gear into your bag as possible? It’s time you met the eVent Compression Dry Sack ($32-52). 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 Hands-Free Carry: Sea to Summit Lightweight Sling Dry Bag
This new dry bag from Sea to Summit marries a lightweight (but still protective) dry bag fabric with the carrying convenience of a hands-free bag.
The Sea to Summit Lightweight Sling Dry Bag ($24-29) is 10 or 20 L, and can work for day or overnight river trips. It’s made with a 70-denier waterproof fabric with a 10,000mm water column rating, a Hypalon durable roll-top closure, and a D-ring attachment point at the buckle. At first, I was a bit skeptical of the sling design. But it works and carries great.
The other great feature of this dry bag is the roll-top closure and buckle configuration. The strap is on a swivel ring, so it always orients the right way — making this bag just as easy to use as any other rolltop.
Our tester wore this sling bag against her bare skin, against a swimsuit, and with a PFD on several different occasions and loved its fit, feel, and convenience. Read our full review.
Best Accessories Bag: SealLine Discovery View Dry Bag
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 Dry Bag ($30-40) easy to pack and unpack frequently.
That’s on top of the Discovery Dry Bag’s other awesome feature: visibility (not just a plastic window) via the translucent fabric. 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.
Size and 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 the chance of a 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.
What Size Dry Bag Should I Buy?
If you are a minimalist paddler and just want a dry bag for the essentials: phone, keys, GPS device, a 3-10L dry bag works great. Same goes for beginner paddlers: If this is your first dry bag purchase, start with one on the smaller volume side.
If you are running a full day or longer day trips, I find an additional 10-20L bag to be helpful — this can hold anything from your extra layers to a camp chair to a packed lunch, and more.
Ultimately, the size dry bag you need depends on a lot of different factors: the length of your trip, the time of year, the amount and weight of your gear, and how often you’ll be hitting the water.
You’ll also want to consider factors like durability and price. Are you going to be using that 5L dry bag on a weekly basis? Maybe upgrade to a slightly larger size dry bag or one with a more durable material to give yourself (and your gear) some wiggle room.
How Many Dry Bags Do I Need?
This also all depends on how often you find yourself on the water, and what types of trips you usually take. If you only take a river trip once or twice a year, you probably only need a few dry bags.
If you paddle year-round, you’ll probably want a collection of bags: a 5-10L, a 30-40L, maybe a 60L, and a few heftier ones (100L+) for the big adventures.
If you aren’t sure which dry bag will work for you best (even after our recommendations!), consider getting two different types: a duffel or backpack dry bag and a rolltop bag. And if you know you need a specific size bag for a certain trip or to fit in, say, a rented raft or kayak, you may find yourself purchasing one or two to start.
Pro tip: If you are covering a lot of mileage and rivers, you’ll want at least three bags for gear, of varying sizes. For short- to medium-length trips — whether it’s whitewater or flatwater — I recommend one bag for your shelter, sleep system, and clothes; one bag for your food and stove; and one bag for day access: things like snacks, maps, and emergency items.
For me, these bags tend to be three different sizes. (And if you plan ahead like me, you can even color-code them!)
How Many Times Should I Fold a Dry Bag?
This is a great question, and one every brand approaches differently in terms of design. Once you buy a dry bag, there should be a tag (sometimes even printed instructions!) on the top inner portion of the roll-top bag.
The magic number is usually three to make sure there’s an airtight and watertight seal. But the amount of times you’ll roll a bag also depends on the amount of gear inside.
Always be careful not to overstuff a dry bag — there should be room to roll it to fold that seal. On the other hand, if you only have a few items stored in a larger bag, make sure you roll out the extra airspace for easier packing on the water. Alternatively, you can roll the bag a few extra times.
Which Dry Bag Is the Best?
With any of the dry bags on this list, you can’t go wrong! For backcountry-based trips where I am carrying a lot of gear, I’m partial to having only as many bags as I need (one to three for an overnight and maybe three to five for a weeklong trip), and as many of my bags as lightweight as possible. In order to do this, I usually have a few different types of bags with me.
If you are also traveling in a smaller vessel with limited space (like a sea kayak, paddleboard, or packraft), I’d recommend the NRS Bill’s Bag (the most versatile large hauler) or the Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bags (the most versatile in size on our list).