Heading out for some wet and wild adventures but looking to keep the water in the river and out of your stuff? We researched over 50 dry bags and selected the top 11 to purchase and test side-by-side. From casual days out on the lake to flipped kayaks and deliberate submersions, we spent an entire summer using and abusing these bags to find out which models keep your stuff the dryest, are best suited for specific uses and will hold up to regular wear and tear. We also investigated each model's features, how it packs, how it carries, and how easy it is to find contents inside during an activity. We also covered a range of subtypes from ultralight models to backpacks and duffels. Whether you are heading out for a month long trip down the Grand Canyon or just want to make sure your towel is dry at the end of a day of paddleboarding, this review will help you narrow down your selection and choose the perfect model for your needs.
The Best Dry Bags of 2019
|Price||$289.00 at Amazon|
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|$165.46 at Amazon|
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|$20.94 at Backcountry|
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|$77.99 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Super durable, completely waterproof||Durable, easy to use, comfortable to haul around||Lightweight, easy to use||Durable, very waterproof, easy to carry||Inexpensive, durable, lightweight|
|Cons||Expensive, rigid||Expensive, large||Not for use as a stand-alone bag||Expensive, uncomfortable for long distances||Not completely watertight|
|Bottom Line||Rugged and perfectly watertight, this pack is ideal for traveling.||This product keeps out water, no matter how rough and wet things might get.||This model is your classic lightweight stuff sack with the added bonus of waterproof material.||This model is easy to carry and will keep your gear dry on caving or canyoneering trips.||An inexpensive model that provides great water resistance at a reasonably low price.|
|Rating Categories||YETI Panga 50||Watershed Colorado Duffel||eVent Compression||Black Canyon Boundary Pack||Big River|
|Ease Of Use (10%)|
|Specs||YETI Panga 50||Watershed Colorado Duffel||eVent Compression||Black Canyon Boundary Pack||Big River|
|Closure Type||HydroLok zipper||ZipDry||Roll-top||Roll-top||Roll-top|
We tested a slew of bags to make sure you have the cutting edge details on all the market has to offer. The Watershed Colorado Duffel took the crown as our Editors' Choice Winner. The YETI Panga took a close second and its specialty features earned it our Top Pick for Travel Dry Pack. For those on a budget, the Sea to Summit Big River impressed us with its all-around abilities. No matter your chosen watersport, we've covered a wide range of product types so you can find the right model for your specific needs.
Best Overall Dry Bag
Watershed Colorado Duffel
You can expect your gear to stay dry no matter how rowdy the water gets with the Watershed Colorado Duffel, as this bag is built with performance in mind. Its innovative ZipDry seal closure combined with its classic duffel design, make it perfect for overnight river trips. Unpacking is a breeze when you are ready to set up camp, and the comfortable neoprene grip makes hauling it to shore an easy task. Six heavy-duty, Duraflex D-Rings provide numerous options for attaching it to your craft and its heavy-duty material holds up to the wear and tear of regular use no matter your watersport of choice.
At 75.5 liters, this bag is a little big for day trips and takes up quite a bit of space in a kayak or on a paddle board. It also carries a hefty price tag of $185.00. For the serious river adventurer, however, the Watershed Colorado Duffel is worth the investment, especially if you plan to carry expensive hydrophobic equipment like electronics. This model is the perfect bag for the diehard river goer and is our favorite product in this review.
Read review: Watershed Colorado
Top Pick for Travel Dry Pack
YETI Panga 50
Yeti products are known for their durability and the YETI Panga does not disappoint. It's made out of thick, laminated, high-density nylon and closes via an innovative HydroLok zipper. This practically bomb-proof construction not only keeps water out but traps air in. With comfortable shoulder straps and a fairly rigid shape, this bag is an excellent the travel dry pack.
Exceptional durability and travel-ready design come at a cost. The YETI Panga weighs 5.2 lbs when empty and boasts a hefty price tag of $299.99. These drawbacks are minor if you are transporting electronics in a super wet environment or you are looking for a seriously waterproof, airplane-ready, cover-all-your-bases pack for your next international adventure.
Read review: YETI Panga 50
Best Bang for the Buck
Sea to Summit Big River
The Sea to Summit Big River features a classic roll-top design and is made out of 420D nylon, making it both lightweight and durable. Its material also lends to flexibility, so it's easy to stuff into any available crevice on your rig. It also features four welded TPU lash patches and two plastic D-rings which allow you to easily fasten it to your watercraft of choice.
While it may not be 100% waterproof, the Sea to Summit Big River keeps items completely dry when splashed and only lets in a minimal amount of water when fully submerged. It may not be your ideal bag if you know it's going to spend a lot of time in the water or you plan to carry a camera or tablet inside. If you plan to use it "just in case" and store it on-board your paddleboard or kayak, however, the Sea to Summit Big River is the perfect balance of quality and price. We loved this product for our casual days out on the water. Its high scores across the board combined with a sticker price of only $39.95, earned it our Best Buy award.
Read review: Sea to Summit Big River
Top Pick for Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack
Sea to Summit eVent Compression
Headed on a backpacking trip to the Pacific Northwest or somewhere else with high annual rainfall? The Sea to Summit eVent Compression is a must buy for your sleeping bag. This stuff sack is remarkably waterproof and will keep your down water-free and lofty. The eVent allows air to escape so it can easily be compressed but prevents water from wicking back in. It is also really lightweight, so you can leave your extra-ounce worries at the trailhead.
The Sea to Summit eVent Compression looks just like a stuff sack and is thus best treated as one. With no D-rings or other lash points and thin, lightweight material, it belongs inside another bag and doesn't function well as a multi-use model. While it may not be incredibly versatile, it excels as a waterproof stuff sack and is an excellent addition to any backpacker's kit. After all, who doesn't want to crawl into a dry sleeping bag at the end of a long day hiking in the rain?
Read review: Sea To Summit eVent Compression
Analysis and Test Results
There are a variety of important factors to consider when you are on the hunt for the perfect dry bag. We put 11 top-of-the-line models through an onslaught of testing to best assess where each model shined or where it failed to meet expectations. You'll find the resulting performance scores in the table above but keep reading for a comprehensive breakdown of each metric where we will highlight the winners and losers. Make sure to check out our Buying Advice article for a step-by-step purchasing guide as well as the How We Test article for the intricate details of our testing process. We also offer more in-depth analyses in each individual product reviews.
We scored these bags purely on their performance characteristics. This way, buyers can consider bags that fit within their budget specifically, then opt for the best performance or features they can afford. Among dry bags, a higher price tag will generally get you a better bag, but price differences are moderate until you get to the high-end. The winner of our Best Buy award, the Sea to Summit Big River, will do well in all conditions save full submersion for an easy $40. If you're looking for the best, the Watershed Colorado Duffel and YETI Panga 50 are duffel-style bags that tied for highest score. Both will keep your gear dry no matter what, with the Watershed pulling this off for about $115 less than the YETI.
The primary purpose of all of these products is right in their name - its to keep your stuff dry. Therefore, waterproofness is the most heavily weighted metric in this review and the winners in this category took home the greater share of our awards. You might assume anything carrying the name "dry bag" is intended to keep your stuff 100% dry 100% of the time, but performance in this category varied widely. While some products are designed to keep water completely out, others are meant to be splashproof and don't hold up to prolonged submersion. In order to assess each model's waterproofness, we exposed them to various wet conditions. We used them for our favorite water sports and subjected them specific tests designed to push their limits. Some products lived up to their name, while others didn't fare quite as well.
Two models tied for top dog in this metric. The Watershed Colorado Duffel, our Editors' Choice, kept our stuff bone dry throughout all of the testing. The YETI Panga is so watertight, it even trapped air inside the bag, earning it a Top Pick for a Travel Drypack. Whether faced with splashes, full-on submersion, or a 160lb man using it as a flotation device, these two models never let a drop of water inside and no escaping air bubbles were ever visible on the surface.
The Sea to Summit eVent Compression surprised us with its exceptional waterproofness. This bag is lightweight and looks like your average sleeping bag stuff sack, but even after submerging it for over 30 seconds and dragging through a lake, there was no moisture on the towel inside. Tons of bubbles escaped through the eVent, but this unique design feature worked great to let air out but prevent water from getting in.
Another top scorer in this category was the SealLine Black Canyon Boundary Pack. This product never let water inside and only a few small bubbles escaped when it was held underwater. The Black Canyon Boundary sports two separate stiffening strips at the lip of the bag which help create a more robust seal.
Our Best Buy winner, the Sea to Summit Big River, scored well above average in this metric, but a small amount of moisture did seep inside when it was held under for a prolonged period of time. Considering this bag is not intended to handle submersions this bag exceeded our expectation. Only a small corner of the towel was wet after being fully submerged and a coaster-sized portion was wet after it was dragged behind a paddle board for 30 minutes.
Ultralight bags are not designed to be completely waterproof, but the Osprey Ultralight did a remarkable job of keeping stuff dry. While the contents of this model did get a bit moist after submerging and dragging this bag around a lake, it scored well above average. This bag provides a great added layer of protection if used inside a backpack in inclement weather. The other ultralight competitor, the Outdoor Research Ultralight Dry Sack, didn't hold up quite as well in this metric. This model failed to keep moisture out of our stuff with subjected to heavy splashing and the material itself took on water when it was submerged. While it isn't ideal as a standalone product, it might serve best inside another pack as an added layer of lightweight protection.
Ease of Use
Whether you're in the middle of the river or bustling about camp packing or unpacking your gear, accessing your stuff should be facilitated, not hindered, by your carrying vessel. We set out to evaluate how easy it was to pack each model, how quickly the stuff inside could be found while the product was in use, and how each model carried from one location to another.
Once again, the Watershed Colorado Duffel was at the top of the pack. When it is unrolled, this model has a huge opening that makes it resemble a giant zip-lock bag. This shape makes it really easy to pack and organize the gear inside. It's wider than it is tall so it is easy to reach the bottom. It is also simple to open and the wide and low design makes fishing for contents easy. It carries just like a duffel bag so nothing too special here, but the neoprene grip on the carrying straps is comfortable to hold even with soggy wet hands.
The Sea to Summit eVent Compression is just as easy to stuff a sleeping bag inside as a traditional stuff sack. It has all the classic design features of your ordinary stuff sack, with the added bonus of keeping water out. An easy-to-use, waterproof model with a stuff sack specific design earned it a Top Pick as a sleeping bag stuff sack.
The Sea to Summit Hydraulic features a removable backpack style harness that makes for a great hands-free carrying option. Sling it over your shoulder and free up your hands for portaging your kayak or transporting your paddle board to and from the parking lot. The harness is also super easy to remove in-case you are looking for a more standard design. It packs similar to other more traditional models with a large cylindrical shape and an opening only at the top, but its unique carrying style earned it a top score in this category.
Our two lowest scoring models in this metric were the Osprey Ultralight and the Outdoor Research Ultralight. While packing and securing these two products is a simple task, they require the protection of an additional bag or pack for proper use and do not serve as standalone bags.
The YETI Panga scored above average in this category, but compared to the other metrics, this is where this model failed to shine. The single midline zipper makes packing and unpacking this model a bit like Tetris. As arduous as getting things in and out of this model may be, the semi-rigid form provides a bit of a buffer and makes it ideal for carrying more sensitive gear like camera equipment.
Specific features are what makes each model unique and the manufacturers of these products have adorned them with all kinds of creative features. We evaluated the functionality of each bag's features and kept track of the included lash points, backpack and other straps, closure systems, and any other unique additions. This metric is important to consider when trying to determine the perfect model for your needs and our Buying Advice article goes into more depth on how to decide which features are important for you.
The YETI Panga and the Sea to Summit eVent Compression had the most impressive bells and whistles in this category and tied with top marks. The YETI Panga is built like a duffel bag, but also has removable backpack straps that make for comfortable hands-free carrying. It also has two internal zippered mesh pockets that help make it easier to store and find small items. The closure system is also the most unique of any of the products we tested. A large HydroLok zipper runs down the midline of the top of the bag. The zipper is heavy duty, easy to close, and is simple to confirm that it has been completely sealed. Last but not least this model boasts six lash points made of webbing for easy attachment to any craft.
The Sea to Summit eVent Compression earned top marks for its unique stuff sack style design. Unlike the rest of the models, the eVent at the bottom of the bag allows for air to escape when the bag is compressed. This allows you to easily stuff a sleeping bag inside and compress it down small enough to earn a spot as part of your ultralight backpacking kit.
The Sea to Summit Big River has a more common design, but features four welded TPU lash patches, two on each side, and two plastic D-rings at the top. Such beefy lash points you can be confident the Sea to Summit Big River will stay attached to wherever you fasten it as long as your knot tying skills are equally matched. The lip of the bag is also reinforced which helps make a more complete seal when rolled and secured.
The Watershed Colorado Duffel also boasts a unique and inventive closure system called a ZipDry. It looks just like a giant ziplock baggie. Line up the grooves and press to seal. Then roll the top a few times and easily buckle it into place. This model stays securely sealed unless you bend the lip into an S-curve and move the pull tabs in opposite directions. With the right technique, it's easy to open, just make sure to read the directions. The Watershed Colorado Duffel can be attached to a craft using any of the six included D-rings. You'll find a small one on each end and two large ones on each side. This model narrowly missed another metic with top marks due to the lack of small inside compartments. One big cavern can cause small items to get lost.
The Earth Pak comes with the unique bonus of a separate waterproof phone case. We really enjoyed this added feature and found it useful even when we left the main bag behind.
You can't expect your stuff to stay dry if rips and tears provide unwanted water channels. In order to excel at its job, these products need to be tough enough to hold up to thrashings of your chosen adventure. We evaluated the (in)destructibility of the main compartment's material and the features of each model like the clips and straps.
The YETI Panga took the crown in this metric and received a rare perfect 10. Made out of super thick laminated high-density nylon, the body of this model is built to handle rocks, tree branches, and river debris, and can even stand up to the rough handling of airline baggage claims. The backpack straps are fixed with metal carabiner type fasteners that are secured to 2-ply webbing so you can have confidence that the whole package will stay in one piece no matter what conditions you journey into.
The Watershed Colorado Duffel narrowly missed tieing for 1st place. Its polyurethane-coated nylon is resistant to tears and scratches and has the advantage of a flexible and lightweight profile. The webbing is a thick single ply nylon and the D-rings are made out of a beefy Duraflex™ polymer that puts other plastic rings to shame.
The Osprey UltraLight was the only model to sustain a full-thickness tear during testing. Albeit a small whole, the material of this product was fragile enough to tear without us even noticing during casual use. On the plus side, even with a small hole, the Osprey UltraLight still managed to keep our gear fairly dry.
From paddleboarding to whitewater expeditions, dry bags are an essential part of any waterperson's gear arsenal. Whether you are trying to protect expensive electronic equipment, need backpacking specific gear, or just want to avoid waterlogged clothes for the drive home from the lake, this review covers the in's and out's of the best models on the market. We spent months learning everything there is to know about these products so you don't have to, and when it's time to pull the trigger and buy your own, you'll know exactly what to get so you can leave the water in the lake.
— Leslie Yedor