Keeping your gear dry when you’re out on the water can be tricky business. If you’re like me, then you’ve tried (and failed) to keep your cellphone, batteries and other sensitive gear dry in Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers.
Enter the dry bag.
A good dry bag will keep all of your sensitive electronics, clothing, and food from getting wet and soggy. No one likes the feeling of putting on damp, soggy clothes, so investing in a watertight bag makes sense.
I’ll break down the different types of dry bags for kayaking, canoeing, and SUPing, what features to look out for and how to pick the right dry bag for you.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Dry Bags for Kayaking
Why do you need a dry bag for kayaking?
While they might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to kayaking gear, dry bags are highly versatile and a must-have for any serious kayaker.
Beyond just keeping your clothes dry, some dry bags will actually float on the surface when packed correctly. This makes it easy to recover in case you capsize. It also means you can use the bag as a makeshift float in an emergency situation.
Most kayaking dry bags come in bright high-viz colors, allowing you to easily spot your bag on the water’s surface. They’re also typically fairly light, which can be particularly useful when loading up your kayak or canoe for an extended camping trip.
Whether you’re a recreational kayaker or an avid kayak angler, investing in a dry bag or two will give you peace of mind knowing your gear will stay dry and protected.
Top 5 Dry Bags for Kayaking
How to pick the best dry bags for kayaking, canoeing or SUP?
Dry bags come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and intended use cases. Here are some of the key features to keep in mind when selecting the right one for you:
There are two main closure types used for sealing the top of the bag. Roll tops and zipper seals.
Roll tops are sealed by folding the top of the closure multiple times and then clipping the two ends together. These closures tend to have better waterproofing, plus the clipped buckle can be used as a handle.
Zipper Seals are similar to the seal on a Ziploc bag – but larger and more durable. The waterproofing is generally not as reliable as a roll top, because the seal has the potential to break. Be sure to double check these seals before getting on the water.
There are also bags that utilize both types of seals in conjunction. These provide excellent foolproof waterproofing.
The two main materials used to construct dry bags are nylon and vinyl. Many also use a combination of the two.
Vinyl is tougher, thicker and provides superior waterproofing. It’s also usually has a grippy exterior surface, which makes the bag easy to grab when it’s soaking wet. Vinyl is also easier to patch and repair yourself in case it gets damaged.
Coated nylon is lighter than vinyl, which makes it a good choice for backpackers or campers. Because nylon isn’t inherently waterproof, it’s typically coated in silicone or thin plastic to prevent water from getting in. The waterproofing won’t be quite as good as vinyl though.
Depending on how you plan to use your dry bag, straps may be an important consideration. If you’re going to hump your gear through long hiking trails, then getting a backpack style bag is a good option. If you only plan on using the bag to store gear inside your kayak, then a simple cylinder-shaped duffel should work fine.
Size is another important consideration when choosing a dry bag. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from compact 5-liter pouches up to 120-liter behemoths.
If you’re just looking for a day bag to stow your sensitive gear while you’re paddling, then a smaller 10-liter bag should work. If you’re planning on doing longer canoe or kayak camping trips then a larger 30 to 40-liter bag would be ideal.
Backpackers and campers who need to stash lots of gear and carry it from place to place should consider a larger 100 + liter bag with backpack straps.
Make sure to consider the available storage space inside your kayak’s wells/hull to ensure your dry bag will fit inside.
Your bag’s color may not seem that important but could come into play in case your kayak or canoe capsizes. A brightly colored bag is much easier to spot on the water’s surface than a dark one. This is especially important if you’re paddling in choppy or whitewater conditions.
Dry Bag Alternate Uses
Besides keeping your gear dry, dry bags have tons of alternate uses – making them extremely versatile items to have on board while kayaking.
Here are just some of the many things you can do with a dry bag:
Fill it up with cold brews or even fish, crabs and lobster! Depending on your dry bags waterproofing, you may be able to fill it with ice and use it as a makeshift cooler. This works better with heavier duty vinyl bags.
Seat / Pillow
While it may not be the most comfortable pillow on the planet, it works fairly well in a pinch. If you’re camping in the woods, then filling up your dry bag with leaves makes a pretty decent place to rest your head.
Another useful camping application is carrying freshwater. If you don’t have a bucket or other large container handy, you can fill your dry bag with water from a nearby stream or creek.
Separate Wet Clothes
Dry bags are great at keeping wet clothes separated from your clean, dry clothes. If you’re doing some kayak camping, then getting a second smaller dry bag is perfect for this.
Yes, you can even do your laundry in a dry bag! While it’s not as a good as your washer /drier at home, it will get the job done in a pinch. Simply fill up your bag with water, detergent and dirty clothes, and use it like you would an old-school laundry bucket.
Suspend Food Away From Animals
Another useful camping application is keeping food away from hungry critters. If you’re camping in an area with bears, then it’s especially important to prevent them from getting into your food supplies.
Float / Buoy
Depending on the type of dry bag you have, it may be able to float on the surface when submerged.
Obviously, this won’t work as well as a real dive float, but it can be useful as a float/buoy in case of an emergency.
Maintaining Dry Bags
Maintaining your dry bag is pretty straight forward. To clean the bag rinse both the inside and outside with freshwater. If the bag is especially dirty, then add a little mild soap as well. Then hang the bag to air dry in a well-ventilated area.
Because they’re used in wet conditions and sometimes get filled up with soggy clothing for prolonged periods of time – dry bags can sometimes develop a mildew odor.
To remove the mildew odor from your dry bag:
- Take the bag outdoors to a well-ventilated area.
- Fill a bowl with 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water.
- Wipe all surfaces of the bag with the vinegar solution.
- Wash both inside and outside with warm water and mild soap.
- Allow the bag to air-dry for at least 24 hours.
Q: Are dry bags waterproof?
A: Yes, all dry bags are designed to be waterproof. Some have higher levels of water resistance than others though. Check with your manufacturer to see if your bag will withstand being submerged underwater.
The amount of time a dry bag can be submerged will depend on the brand and materials.
Q: Do dry bags float?
A: Some dry bags are designed to float, while others will sink like a stone. Make sure you know which yours is before you get in the water!
Floating dry bags should only be loaded up to a maximum of 3/4 capacity. This traps air in the upper portion of the bag, keeping it afloat in case you capsize.
Q: How to seal a dry bag?
A: Sealing a dry bag is pretty straightforward – simply fold the top of the bag three or more times and then clip the buckles together. This forms a watertight seal.
Check out this video on how to properly seal a dry bag:
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.