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Updated Aug 13, 2022 1:04 PM

So, you’ve assembled a bunch of gear and a comfy pack to carry it all — but if you don’t have dry bags to protect it from the elements, you’re asking for trouble. A little bit of rain can destroy electronics. Wet clothes can invite hypothermia in surprisingly mild temperatures. If your plan is to stuff a week’s worth of socks into a grocery bag and trust your $1,000 phone to a sandwich baggie, I’d encourage you to reconsider.

Dry bags are some of the cheapest insurance you can get. For about $50, you can make sure that you have dry clothes and functional electronics in the field. They come in a wide range of sizes, so you can keep small items organized or protect all your gear. I even found one that can be worn as a pack and follow you anywhere. Before you start packing for your next field exercise or weekend adventure, make sure you have a dry bag that’s up to the challenge.  

Dry bags aren’t complicated, but Sea to Summit went the extra mile to make sure these can handle whatever you throw at them. The tough, 70-denier nylon lays a strong foundation and gets a polyurethane coating for a water column rating of 10,000 millimeters. The one-two punch of durability and waterproofing gets repeated with double-stitched seams that are taped to prevent any water from seeping through the stitching. These bags close with the tried-and-true roll-top design and get a D-ring to use as an attachment point if necessary.

There will inevitably be times when you need more than one dry bag or could use a different size. This three-bag set has you covered with volumes of four, eight, and 13 liters. If you want to make one purchase and be good to go, you’ve found it. The only drawback from a military perspective is the fact that these bags only come in bright colors. That’s something you can probably deal with, especially because your top priority should be finding dry bags that are totally reliable, and these definitely are.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 4, 8, and 13 liters
  • Materials: 70-denier nylon coated with polyurethane
Why It Made The Cut
  • When it comes to waterproof bags and packs, Sea to Summit is as good as it gets. This three-bag set makes it easy to keep your gear dry and organized.
PROS

Excellent materials and build quality

Set of three bags

Very tough and reasonably light

CONS

You may not need three bags

A few more muted color options would be nice

You can save a little money by buying just one dry bag, and this one from SealLine will save some weight in your pack at the same time. Don’t let the accessible cost of entry fool you, though; this bag is more than up to the challenge of protecting your gear from the elements. The 20-denier nylon is very thin, but it’s still stronger than whatever substitute the cheap knock-off brands are using. A silicone coating and taped seams add waterproof protection. Stiffer material at the opening makes the roll-top easy to use, and a lightweight buckle locks this dry bag shut.

As is the case with a lot of outdoor adventure gear, the color selection is pretty bright, and you’ll have to use some discretion when opening this bag in the field. In most cases, that shouldn’t be a problem since it’ll ride in your main pack until you need it. It also isn’t as sturdy as the Sea to Summit dry bags, but again, this is meant to be carried inside your main pack where it’s protected from scrapes and punctures. If you want a dry bag that’s light in your pack and easy on your wallet, this is what you need.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 2.5, 5, 10, 15, or 20 liters
  • Materials: 20-denier nylon coated with polyurethane and silicone
Why It Made The Cut
  • You don’t have to spend a lot to get a dry bag you can count on. This dry bag is perfect for gram-counters who want to stay light and fast.
PROS

Thin, 20-denier nylon makes this bag super light

Wide range of sizes to choose from

Get all the premium features you want without overpaying

CONS

Super light, but not as tough as our other picks

Hopefully you like bright blue and bright green

The Sea to Summit Hydraulic dry bag backpack knocked my socks off during hands-on testing and it remains one of the toughest pieces of gear I’ve been fortunate enough to use. Its 600-denier nylon body puts all other dry bags to shame. That’s because it’s designed to be used as a standalone pack in dry bag form. The thermoplastic polyurethane coating inspires so much confidence, that I’d take this pack kayaking or out to sea in a heartbeat and not think twice about it. Even the hardware that attaches the removable, padded shoulder straps and hip belt is aluminum — no corners were cut, here.

So, why would anyone not buy this dry bag? For one, it’s very, very expensive. The 35-liter option starts at $199. Second, it’s really meant to be used as your main pack rather than a stuff sack for spare clothes. Don’t buy it to put inside your ruck, but absolutely pick one of these up for kayaking, canoeing, or taking a motor boat out for a fishing trip. If you want an outstanding dry bag backpack that can ride worry-free on your kayak and carry all your gear comfortably when you make landfall, look no further.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 35, 65, 90, or 120 liters
  • Materials: 600-denier nylon with thermoplastic polyurethane coating
Why It Made The Cut
  • If you’re going to an extreme environment, this is the dry bag for you. Its toughness is unrivaled and it can even serve as your main pack.
PROS

Shoulder straps and enough room to be your main pack

No other dry bag comes close in terms of toughness

Strip it down when you don’t want to use it as a pack

CONS

Very, very expensive for a dry bag

Bulky if you want to pack it inside something else

Best for Backpacking

Part of the reason we use dry bags is to keep gear separated and organized. You don’t want dirty socks stinking up your pack any more than you want water finding its way into your sensitive electronics. You could buy dry bags in different colors and try to remember which is which, or you could buy a few of these clear ones from SealLine. As an added bonus, you won’t have to open your dry bag in the rain to see what’s inside.

This dry bag is a fantastic way to stay organized and save time rummaging through your pack. One thing to remember is that only the bottom gets rugged nylon; the rest has to be made from a polyurethane film to remain see-through. That means this is the least durable dry bag on the list and should be treated with a little extra care. Avoid blatant abuse, and you should be all set.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 5 or 10 liters
  • Materials: Polyurethane film
Why It Made The Cut
  • This clear bag lets you see what’s inside before you open it, so you don’t have to rummage through all your dry bags to find the gear you need.
PROS

Easy to see what’s inside and stay organized

Air valve for compression

Reinforced base improves durability

CONS

Not as robust as the other dry bags here

Is that air valve ever going to leak?

Things to consider before buying a dry bag

The first thing you need to think about is the amount of trust you’re going to put in your dry bag. It’s all that stands between you and a bricked phone or a week of wet socks in the field, so buy accordingly. This is not the time to experiment with knock-off gear.

Secondly, think about the volume of gear you’ll be trying to keep dry. Are you looking for a do-it-all waterproof pack, or a few small bags to organize a few key items? In general, it’s best to have a few small or medium dry bags that you can mix and match to suit your needs. The exception would be if you’re traveling by water — in that case, keeping everything airtight is a good idea.

FAQs about dry bags

Q: What is a dry bag used for?

A: Dry bags are used as a layer of waterproof protection for clothing and sensitive equipment. 

Q: What size dry bag should I buy?

A: This will vary from person to person and activity to activity, but it’s nice to have several small dry bags. This approach allows you to keep gear organized and easy to pack.

Q: Are dry bags fully waterproof?

A: The good ones are.

Final thoughts

There are several good brands to choose from when you’re shopping for dry bags, but you can never go wrong with Sea to Summit. I’ve been very impressed with every Sea to Summit product I’ve encountered, and this three-bag set is a great way to set yourself up for success. 

Methodology 

Protecting your gear from water is a high-stakes endeavor. Because of that, I took extra care to limit my search for the best dry bags to brands and products I know and trust. Even though I haven’t used all of the products on this list myself, I have used the brands you see in my greatest hits list of waterproof backpacks. Are there other decent dry bags out there? Of course — and I invite you to share your own experiences in the comments section — but I can personally vouch for the dry bags that made the cut for this gear guide.

Outside of manufacturers, I looked for dry bags in a range of sizes, because there will be times when you want to stuff all your gear in a dry bag, and times when you just need to protect a few valuables or spare sets of socks. Unique features like see-through material or removable shoulder straps got special consideration, too. 

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