The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The Best Dry Bags of 2019

Wednesday September 18, 2019
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Does your next wet and wild adventure require a top-notch dry bag? In this 2019 review, we researched over 50 of the best dry bags and selected the top 11 to purchase and test side-by-side. From casual days on the lake to flipped kayaks and deliberate submersions, we took our time abusing each bag to find which keeps your stuff the dryest. We investigated each model's features, how it packs and carries, and how easy it is to find contents inside during an activity, covering everything from ultralight models to backpacks and duffels. Whether you are heading out for a month-long trip down the Grand Canyon or just out on a paddleboard for the afternoon, we'll help you find exactly what you need.


Top 11 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 11
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $185 List$299.99 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$31.40 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$26.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$27.76 at Backcountry
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Pros Durable, easy to use, comfortable to haul aroundSuper durable, completely waterproofLightweight, easy to useNearly watertight, durable, lightweight, white interior helps you find thingsWaterproof for short submersions, lightweight, easy to close appropriately
Cons Expensive, largeExpensive, rigidNot for use as a stand-alone bagWill leak under duress, no easy carry straps, seams taped not weldedVery tall and skinny shape, compression is awkward, fabric eventually soaks
Bottom Line This product keeps out water, no matter how rough and wet things might get.Rugged and perfectly watertight, this pack is ideal for traveling.This model is your classic lightweight stuff sack with the added bonus of waterproof material.An inexpensive model that provides great water resistance at a reasonably low price.Mostly waterproof, though a bit awkward to use.
Rating Categories Watershed Colorado Duffel YETI Panga 50 eVent Compression Sea to Summit Big River Outdoor Research Airpurge
Waterproofness (70%)
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Specs Watershed Colorado... YETI Panga 50 eVent Compression Sea to Summit Big... Outdoor Research...
Weight (pounds) 0.3 lb 4.3 lb 3.2 lb 0.5 lb 0.3 lb
Size We Tested (liters) 75 L 50 L 20 L 35 L 20 L
Closure Type ZipDry HydroLok zipper Roll-top Roll-top Roll-top
Included D-Rings? Yes No No Yes No
Style Duffel Duffel Roll-top w/ lid and compression straps Roll-top Roll-top w/ compression straps
Material Polyurethane-coated nylon Laminated high-density nylon 70D nylon 420 Denier heavy duty nylon 70D with TPU-coated nylon

Best Overall Dry Bag


Watershed Colorado Duffel


Editors' Choice Award

$185 List
List Price
See It

95
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Waterproofness - 70% 10
  • Ease of Use - 10% 9
  • Features - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8
Material: Polyurethane-coated nylon | Closure Type: ZipDry
Keeps contents bone dry
Easy to pack in
Heavy-duty construction
Uncomfortable to carry for long distances
No internal stash pockets

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 paddleboard. It also carries a hefty price tag. 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


Top Pick Award

$299.99
at Backcountry
See It

92
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Waterproofness - 70% 10
  • Ease of Use - 10% 4
  • Features - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 9
Material: Laminated high-density nylon | Closure Type: HydroLok zipper
Very durable
Air and watertight
Easy to carry
Rigid shape
Heavy

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 bombproof construction not only keeps water out but traps air in. With comfortable shoulder straps and a fairly rigid shape, this bag is an excellent travel dry pack.

Exceptional durability and travel-ready design come at a cost. The YETI Panga weighs 5.2 pounds when empty and costs an arm and a leg. 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


Best Buy Award

$26.95
(37% off)
at Backcountry
See It

80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Waterproofness - 70% 8
  • Ease of Use - 10% 8
  • Features - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8
Material: 420D nylon | Closure Type: Roll-top
Watertight up to brief submersions
Durable material
Lightweight
Simple and easy to use
White interior lightens inside
Will leak under duress
Seams are taped rather than welded

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 its low sticker price, earns our Best Buy award.

Read review: Sea to Summit Big River

Top Pick for Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack


Sea to Summit eVent Compression


Top Pick Award

$31.40
(30% off)
at Amazon
See It

84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Waterproofness - 70% 9
  • Ease of Use - 10% 7
  • Features - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 7
Material: 70D nylon | Closure Type: Roll-top
Stuff sack construction
Surprisingly waterproof
Lightweight
Not a stand-alone bag
Poor versatility

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

Top Pick for Long Hauls


NRS Bill's Bag


Top Pick Award

$129.95
(13% off)
at Backcountry
See It

69
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Waterproofness - 70% 7
  • Ease of Use - 10% 5
  • Features - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 8
Material: 21 ounce TobaTex | Closure Type: Roll-top
Intensely durable
Easily removable backpack harness
Large capacity
Simple to use metal clips
Will leak under duress
Metal hooks slower to use
Difficult to stay organized

If you're headed out on big waters for a long adventure, the NRS Bill's Bag has got you covered. It's the same simple design as any little roll-top bag but with some upgrades wrapped up in this 110-liter version. A flexible storm flap along the opening helps to seal this behemoth bag better while a single velcro strip inside makes lining it up for rolling it down even easier. With four straps to hold the top closed and cinch it down tight, this oversized bag becomes a much more manageable size. Comfortable backpack straps help you easily haul it out of the raft and up to camp each evening and back down the bank every morning. To pack it into your craft more easily, this entire backpack harness easily comes off in a few seconds with the same kind of handy clips used to close it. And unless you plan for your bag to become trapped under a rapid for prolonged periods, its thick TobaTex construction with double sewn and welded seams will keep your things dry through most misadventures.

With that being said, the Bill's Bag will leak if really under duress. It does much better packed completely full, so unless you have 110 liters of stuff to bring with you, you might consider the 65-liter size instead. Its exceptional size also makes it difficult to stay organized, as it is just one large compartment. You're practically forced to use additional organization sacks within the Bill's Bag - fumbling around inside a wide-open 110L cavern without any sort of system is unlikely to make you want to keep using it. But with some extra tricks, the added space can easily encompass your regular travel bag, backpack, or camera bag in its depths. If you've got a summer's worth of clothes and gear heading into the Amazon rainforest or on a small fishing boat, the capacity and easy-to-use design of the Bill's will help keep your life drier.

Read review: NRS Bill's Bag


Why You Should Trust Us


Our expert team is led by water-loving gearheads, Leslie Yedor, Maggie Brandenburg and their friends. Not only has Leslie spent hours playing with dry bags on the lakes and rivers, but she's spent a hefty bit of time contributing to the testing Stand Up Paddle Boards (SUPs) review, looking at over 50 different models. Maggie has been an adventurer of waters big and small since she was a small child. From wild whitewater to serene seas, she has kayaked, rafted, canoed, and sailed all around the world. Maggie also leads our inflatable kayak and life jacket reviews. Her background in science and Leslie's current career as a hard-working scientist guide them to take their skills of inquiry and apply them to the testing of gear.

Testing dry bags isn't just fun but objective in nature. We stuffed them full of clothes and other water-phobic things, dragged each through the water, and deliberately submerged them to see which truly did stay "dry". We filled them with water and to see how they hold up and carted them on all our water adventures. We used them while testing SUPs and kayaks on lakes and down rivers. Our tests push the boundaries of each bag, defining the true limits of each.

Related: How We Tested Dry Bags

The eVent is a nifty piece of technology that allows this model to be both compressible and waterproof.
The Earth Pak waterproof is an inexpensive model best suited for casual use.
This model's thick material was scratch free at the end of testing  but our stuff was soaked after being dragged through the lake.

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 shone and where it failed to meet expectations.

Related: Buying Advice for Dry Bags

Value


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. While those models will cost you a pretty penny, you can be sure they'll keep your gear bone dry no matter what you go through. Some other options offer solid performance under all but the most extreme circumstances for a less-extreme price tag, like our Best Buy award winner, the Sea to Summit Big River.


Waterproofness


The primary purpose of all of these products is right in their name - its to keep your stuff dry. Therefore, waterproofness by far 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 varies 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. To assess each model's waterproofness, we exposed them to various wet conditions. We used them for our favorite water sports and subjected them to 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 170 pound 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 Watershed Colorado Duffel let no bubbles out and no water in with a full 30 second submersion.
The Watershed Colorado Duffel let no bubbles out and no water in with a full 30 second submersion.

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. The similar style OR Airpurge is also impressively waterproof, also with an air-permeable but water-impermeable strip. It impressed us with its ability to keep water out, even with very thin fabric. However, when submerged for long periods of time, it began to soak up a tiny amount of water. While the contents stayed dry during our testing, we're not confident that after hours of submersion we could say the same thing. But for splashes and brief dunks, it performs impressively.

The eVent allows air to escape but keeps water from seeping back in  making it easy to stuff and easy to trust it to keep your sleeping bag moisture-free.
The eVent allows air to escape but keeps water from seeping back in, making it easy to stuff and easy to trust it to keep your sleeping bag moisture-free.

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. Considering this bag is not intended to handle submersions, this bag exceeds our expectations. 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 kayak for 30 minutes.

The two black stiffening strips at the top of the Black Canyon help create a tight seal.
The two black stiffening strips at the top of the Black Canyon help create a tight seal.

The NRS Bill's Bag is also worth mentioning in this category, and is our Top Pick for Long Hauls. Made of super-thick, 21-ounce TobaTex with sewed and welded seams, it's well-built to keep out moisture. A storm flap along the top helps to make this bag watertight, though during our testing we discovered it also matters how you pack it. The fuller the bag is packed with gear and clothes, the better it keeps water from entering. When not totally full, the extra space inside works against this bag. Pressing against air, the Bill's closure system is much less secure but pressed tight against 110 liters of contents, the seal is watertight. It's something that requires a bit of trial and error to get it right, but finding that sweet spot is worth it.

Only a coaster sized portion of our towel was damp after being dragged around the lake.
Only a coaster sized portion of our towel was damp after being dragged around the lake.

Ultralight bags are not designed to be completely waterproof, but the Osprey Ultralight does 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, that's really not what ultralight bags like this one are made for. Instead, this bag provides a great added layer of protection if used inside a backpack in inclement weather.

Even with a tiny hole from abrasion  our towel only had a few spots of moisture after being fully submerged.
Even with a tiny hole from abrasion, our towel only had a few spots of moisture after being fully submerged.

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 is to pack each model, how quickly the stuff inside can be found while the product is in use, and how each model carries from one location to another.


Once again, the Watershed Colorado Duffel is 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 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 Watershed Colorado Duffel is a giant zip-lock that rolls into a compact duffel shape.
The Watershed Colorado Duffel is a giant zip-lock that rolls into a compact duffel shape.

The Sea to Summit Big River and Osprey Ultralight also do well in this category, with simple designs that are simple to use. Neither has any additional straps for carrying them, but both have a good shape and are straightforward to pack and close. Though they are taller than they are wide, they both have good proportions that help them to not be too tall and skinny. That being said, any bag that's taller than it is wide is a bit more challenging to root around in and pull out something hiding in the bottom. Organization and strategic packing are key, though both the Big River and the Osprey are easier to dig through than many other similar-styled packs we tested.

We love the white interior of the Sea to Summit Big River  which makes it easier to see inside your bag and find exactly what you're looking for.
We love the white interior of the Sea to Summit Big River, which makes it easier to see inside your bag and find exactly what you're looking for.

The Sea to Summit eVent Compression is just as easy to stuff a sleeping bag inside like a traditional stuff sack. It has all the classic design features of your ordinary stuff sack, with the 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.

Stuffing the Sea to Summit eVent Compression is as easy as any other sleeping bag stuff sack to pack.
Stuffing the Sea to Summit eVent Compression is as easy as any other sleeping bag stuff sack to pack.

The Sea to Summit Hydraulic features a removable backpack-style harness that makes for a tremendous hands-free carrying option. Sling it over your shoulder and free up your hands for portaging your kayak or transporting your paddleboard 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.

The Sea to Summit Hydraulic boasts a comfortable backpack frame thats easy to remove.
The Sea to Summit Hydraulic boasts a comfortable backpack frame thats easy to remove.

Features


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.


The YETI Panga has the most impressive bells and whistles in this category. It's built like a duffel bag, but also has removable backpack straps that make for comfortable hands-free carrying. It features 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.

Durable lash points and removable backpack straps earned the YETI Panga top marks in this metric.
Durable lash points and removable backpack straps earned the YETI Panga top marks in this metric.

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.

Use the pull tabs in opposite directions to curve the lip and easily open the Watershed Colorado Duffel.
Use the pull tabs in opposite directions to curve the lip and easily open the Watershed Colorado Duffel.

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.

Welded lash points allow you to securely fasten the Sea to Summit Big River to your craft.
Welded lash points allow you to securely fasten the Sea to Summit Big River to your craft.

The NRS Bill's Bag, Sea to Summit Hydraulic, and SealLine Boundary all have comfortable backpack straps that can be removed when you don't need them. Both the Boundary and the Hydraulic have useful additional straps like a sternum strap and webbing waist belt to help you cart your gear easily from place to place. The Bill's Bag also has these features, but the sternum strap is so low as to be basically useless for anyone shorter than 6 feet. The Boundary's backpack harness is very involved to remove and reattach, with straps that have to be unthreaded and several straps and buckles that are left behind on the bag after the harness is off. In contrast, the Bill's Bag and Hydraulic harnesses are both easily removed by aluminum buckles, making it a matter of seconds to turn your dry bag into a backpack when you need it.

Taking the backpack harness off the NRS Bill's Bag is a cinch with these large  easy-to-use aluminum hooks.
Taking the backpack harness off the NRS Bill's Bag is a cinch with these large, easy-to-use aluminum hooks.

The Sea to Summit eVent Compression is also noteworthy for its unique stuff sack style design. Similar to the OR AirPurge, the event has a special panel at the bottom of the bag that allows 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. We like the eVent better than the AirPurge for its better compression functionality. The eVent has a lid over the top to help compress the contents just like a regular compression sack. The AirPurge has no lid, and rather narrow compression straps to crank down on your gear, combined with an exceptionally tall and narrow shape that ends up bending as you compress it. It makes a fairly overall awkward package and also covers the daisy chain on the side, rendering it basically useless.

Air rushes out of the eVent when stuffing so you can easily compress your sleeping bag and save on space.
Air rushes out of the eVent when stuffing so you can easily compress your sleeping bag and save on space.

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.

Durability


You can't expect your stuff to stay dry if rips and tears provide unwanted water channels. 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 takes the crown in this metric. 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. We have a hard time imagining a more durable option than the Panga.

The YETI Panga is made out of extremely durable material and holds up to off-label uses like a comfortable backrest or seat.
The YETI Panga is made out of extremely durable material and holds up to off-label uses like a comfortable backrest or seat.

The Watershed Colorado Duffel also offers particularly impressive durability. Its polyurethane-coated nylon is resistant to tears and scratches and has the advantage of a flexible and lightweight profile. The webbing is thick single-ply nylon and the D-rings are made out of a beefy Duraflex™ polymer that puts other plastic rings to shame. The NRS Bill's Bag is made out of intensely thick TobaTex, with beefy straps and aluminum clips designed to see you through the worst of it. The Sea to Summit Hydraulic is similarly built, with impressive durable fabric and aluminum buckles.

Thick webbing and beefy plastic D-rings provide confidence in this model's ability to withstand intense use.
Thick webbing and beefy plastic D-rings provide confidence in this model's ability to withstand intense use.

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.

A small tear appeared in the bottom of the Osprey Ultralight early on in testing.
A small tear appeared in the bottom of the Osprey Ultralight early on in testing.

Conclusion


From paddleboarding to whitewater expeditions, dry bags are an essential part of any water person'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.


Maggie Brandenburg & Leslie Yedor